The Pepsi Spot Is Brilliant

Every human in America, seemingly, has piled on in the unending criticism of Pepsi for its “tone deaf, ” “inauthentic” spot featuring Kendall Jenner. I think the spot is brilliant.

What did Pepsi hope to accomplish with the Kendall spot? I wasn’t privy to their team’s planning sessions but my guess is: To generate buzz, to stir emotions and to build brand name awareness. Bingo, bingo and bingo.

The controversial spot features a well-known celebrity who walks away from her photo shoot to participate in something more meaningful. Which cause are the marchers supporting? That remains vague. Is it a “resistance” march? Is it a campus “free speech” march? Is it a “Black Lives Matter” march? Doesn’t matter. People who might’ve marched (or wanted to march) for any cause during the last couple of years are likely to pay attention to the spot.

The payoff comes when Kendall hands a can of Pepsi to a security person. (Maybe a policeman, maybe a campus cop, maybe a private hire—not a threatening hard ass with a billy club.) It’s a nice gesture.

The blowback was instantaneous. One imagines the Pepsi team knew the spot would be polarizing, but not to what degree. In short order, the spot was pulled. But we have seen it again and again on social media and on TV news shows. Exposure was not unlike those Super Bowl spots that are “banned” because they are too controversial or racy. Those “banned” spots then get millions of views on Youtube, as has the Pepsi spot.

The Pepsi spot was parodied this weekend by SNL. An op-ed in the New York Times called it “a spot that says that racialized police brutality is really a big misunderstanding that can be solved with a soda and a Kendall Jenner fist bump.”

However, comments on the K-104 website (KKDA-FM, a Hip-Hop radio station in Dallas/Fort Worth) include these remarks: “BEAUTIFULLY DONE PEPSI, YOU TOOK ON A RELEVANT AND SOMETIMES SENSITIVE ISSUE & MADE IT POWERFUL AND NOT OFFENSIVE,” “I dont see anythin wrong with it… i love it and i am black,” and “Blends all cultures and it’s about togetherness.”

According to several analyses I read about the Pepsi spot, it was not “genius” like that “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” spot from 1971.

I recall many of us, back in the day, thought the Coke spot was a bunch of “Up With People” mindless “feel good” pap in the midst of the ugliness of the Vietnam War, the Nixon/Agnew regime and unrelenting racial tension in America. (I think the final episode of Mad Men may have something to do with the current renewed affection for the Coke spot.)

To me, the Pepsi spot, despite its many perceived flaws, reflects the culture and vibe of its day more accurately than the Coke spot did.

Once again: Did the Pepsi/Kendall spot generate buzz? Yes. Did it stir emotions? Yes. Did it burn the name “Pepsi” into the nation’s collective consciousness? Yes. But will it help grow Pepsi’s market share? Let’s check back in a few months and find out.

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Random Media Notes

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  1. I concede. I have long insisted that media is the plural of medium. But, based on common usage, I now accept that media can be a singular term as well as plural.
  2. The New York Times “Truth” ad campaign is genius on many levels. However, just because a story appears in the New York Times, that alone does not make it necessarily true.
  3. Memo to those whose Twitter bios contain the words “Retweets are not endorsements.” Actually, they often come off that way.
  4. Judging from my Twitter feed during the Oscar show, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Love is Love is Love” thing does not apply to Mel Gibson.
  5. PriceWaterhouseCoopers is the world’s second largest accounting firm. Not only will they will survive the Oscars flub, awareness of the firm’s name and services it provides will actually increase.
  6. It’s easy to understand why Charter would want to rebrand as Spectrum. But it seems that the changeover has been glacially gradual.
  7. Speaking of branding, it turns out that the real name of the actress Cush Jumbo is… Cush Jumbo! Great name.
  8. Speaking of branding, it was clever to repackage DVDs of old romance movies (such as Somewhere In Time) with black and white graphics similar to the now familiar 50 Shades graphics.
  9. Have you noticed how the attention-getting power of the term “Breaking News” has been diminished over the last couple of years?
  10. If I were in the news biz and wanted to do something related to immigration, I’d do a feature on Global Foods in Kirkwood (MO).
  11. The most recent Nielsen radio ratings strongly indicate that St. Louis listeners prefer older music to newer music. Have young people stopped listening to radio?
  12. Can you find yourself on a map? No, not on your phone. On a map. In an atlas. Or on TV. Apparently, many otherwise intelligent people cannot. Click HERE for link.
  13. Got an email recently that said it was from “Hamilton, the Musical.” It was NOT from Hamilton, the Musical. I deleted. But only after I unsubscribed.
  14. Am I the only person in the English-speaking world who detests the word “eponymous?” It just sounds so pretentious.
  15. If you write for money, please obtain and read the book Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. And put its guidance into practice. Thank you.

Photo credit: squidsoup.org. http://www.flickr.com/photos/8191354@N04/8704884335, via http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Rule Number One: Be Skeptical

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When we consume information, it helps to be skeptical. It’s a good idea, of course, to be dubious of anything that comes from extremist organizations. Not just their “fake news” but also items that seem plausible.

We should also be skeptical of news and information we receive from the “mainstream media.” Whether it’s a hard news report from Washington or a puff piece in the neighborhood paper, numerous factors determine the content that’s delivered.

Questions worth asking: Is the reporter a friend or nemesis of his/her source? Did the subject of an upbeat item spend ad money on the outlet? Did an editor remove a key element of the piece because somebody took her/him out to dinner? Did a PR person offer an exclusive scoop in exchange for a prominent placement? We can’t know the answers, so everything we read, see and hear should be subject to that healthy skepticism.

No matter the source of information, it’s important to consider that there is no such thing as absolute objectivity. All of us are subject to influences of our upbringing, our schooling, our past and current professional relationships, as well as personal friends and acquaintances.

Mass gullibility is not a new thing. Mistrust of news media is not a new thing. Nor is mistrust of elected officials. (Remember the Maine!)

It’s often necessary to get info from multiple sources in order to obtain the full scope of an issue. The New York Times may play up a certain aspect of global warming, for instance, whereas the Wall Street Journal may try to poke holes in the NYT’s version of facts. The exact truth may lie somewhere between their respective takes.

As a consumer of information, you should be able to know what is being shared as factual information and what is labeled as comment or opinion. Print and online outlets generally do a good job of differentiating. Broadcast and cable outlets sometimes fail to make clear which is which.

In these days of extreme polarization, an open mind can help you get the full picture. Certainly, many individuals will always be steadfast in their beliefs and their prejudices. Some people will believe anything they hear from conservative-leaning outlets and others will put full trust into anything they get from liberal-leaning outlets.

Wherever you receive your information, be it a trusted source or one you view with caution, maintain your healthy skepticism as you determine your own version of the facts. As they used to say on the X-Files, the truth is out there. You just have to find it.

For more on determining the validity of news we receive, you may want to check out these thoughts from NPR Morning Edition anchor Steve Inskeep. Click HERE to link to his article. Even if you perceive NPR to have a particular agenda, you may find his “finder’s guide for facts” useful.

(photo credit: Bruno Meyer Photography; http://www.flickr.com/photos/55293868@N08/31907319405; http://photopin.com; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0)

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Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

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2016 saw many celebrity deaths. With each obit, we flashed back. To Ziggy Stardust, Growing Pains, Star Wars and others.

It’s easy to languish in memories, good and bad, of days gone by. Classic rock, classic movies, Throwback Thursday on Facebook and other time trips are fun. But don’t get carried away.

Today, let’s think about tomorrow, not yesterday. What do you want to accomplish? And when do you want to achieve these goals?

Often, plans are made for a vague “someday.” What are your plans for the NEAR future—this month, this spring, this year?

Do you have specific results in mind? A certain sales or salary level? A career change? A new place to live? A trip to Hawaii? Early retirement?

Do you have a strategy to get there? (No, I’m not going to refer you to a financial advisor—they will find you.) Are you continuing your education? Are you putting as much as you can into your 401-K, Roth plan, etc.?

Are you reaching out to individuals and organizations that can help you advance your career or refer you to new clients?

Are you carefully monitoring your personal health? Your future only happens if you stay alive to experience it.

Learning from the past is important. But being stuck mentally in your glory days can keep you from having a happy future.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” I’ve always thought that was a dumb job interview question. Because most any answer a person gives can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It is, however, a good question to ask yourself. And to answer honestly.

When you have your answer, don’t wait four-and-a-half-years to start reaching your five-year goal. Start today.

 

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Is Facebook The New TV?

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Last summer a friend who was about to launch a big venture asked me to give her a quick assessment of major social media channels.

I made this analogy: Twitter is like AM radio. Instagram is like FM radio. Facebook is like TV.

The news, views, noise and chatter that fill my Twitter timeline are similar to what I hear on AM radio. News, political talk, sports talk, intelligent commentary and idiotic commentary. It’s all there on the AM band and on Twitter.

On FM, most stations play music. There’s less talk, generally speaking. While AM has more information, FM has more entertainment. Instagram is a pleasant alternative to Twitter with its focus on the visual. Food, babies, dogs, cats, landscapes and other lighter fare rule. Yes, politics and commentary do appear on Instagram, but more of the posts in my feed are non-controversial.

Facebook is the big dog because so many people go there on a daily basis and because it is, for many, a better advertising venue than Twitter and Instagram. Facebook delivers the noise and chatter we find on Twitter and the AM radio band but also features

Additionally, Facebook has been more successful with its Facebook Live streaming video than Twitter has been with Periscope. The video aspect provides Facebook with TV’s key element.

Much of the news and other info delivered by traditional broadcast media (whether via over-the-air, cable, streaming or satellite) has been verified to some degree, whereas info shared on social may be rumor or hearsay. This fact explains why Twitter is often the best source for immediate news, though not necessarily for accuracy in those early tweets.

Whether these analogies are valid or are just the result of goofy thinking on my part, my main message to my friend was each social channel has its own characteristics. Content that has value on one may not necessarily work as well on another.

The best way to learn about social media channels is to use them.

 

 

 

 

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I Want Less!

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Here’s what I want in 2017. For me. For the world. Less. Fewer.

I’m already using less hair gel and less laundry detergent. Working on less sugar and salt.

Planning on less Facebook, Twitter. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Fewer words. Shorter sentences and paragraphs. Judicious editing.

Let’s have less whining. Please. And less snark. Unless it’s really funny.

Less redundancy. Too much of what I read/hear is the same stuff posted, shared, spoken yesterday/last week/month/year.

Less regret. What’s past is past.

Less fear. Of people and ideas that are different.

Less arrogance. Be proud but don’t be obnoxious about it.

Less FOMO. If I miss something today, I’ll catch up later. Or maybe… I’ll just miss it!

Less coffee. Wha…? Interesting concept. Ain’t gonna happen.

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Disruptors: Threat Or Menace?

Disruption

Disruptors get attention. Because they are new and different. Or they appear to be. AND because historically we have praised and honored successful disruptors, especially those of the recent past.

Disruptors are often greeted with skepticism—rightly so in many cases. Because their ideas are too outlandish. Or because they don’t live up to their promises. Current examples include Theranos and Lending Club.

But sometimes… a few believers join a disruptor’s cause and the fever spreads. Investors bring cash. Media give airtime and column space.

Innovators or Repackagers?

Disruptors may or may not be innovators. They often take ideas from other sources and reconfigure or refine them. Donald Trump’s proposed wall is not unlike the wall built centuries ago in China or the fictional one that protects the north on Game of Thrones.

Bernie Sanders’ socialist ideas are not new. But his message has resonated with young people who haven’t heard that message in their lifetimes and with older Americans who haven’t heard those ideas touted in the U.S. in nearly half a century.

Steve Jobs did not design or construct the first Mac, the iPod or the iPhone. He DID supervise their development and demand they deliver solid function along with graceful form. And he was a master promoter.

Classic Disruptors: Uber, Blackberry, iPhone, Social Channels

Disruptors often ignore what is legal. Look at Uber’s and Airbnb’s disregard for local ordinances across the U.S. and the world. This has not been a problem for Uber users who have found the service preferable to their local taxis.

Disruptors need to continually refine their product, whether that product is an idea or a hard good. The Blackberry was a big disruptor in the late 90s and early 00s, but its makers’ efforts to update and adapt failed. The “must have” item of 15 years ago now rests atop the tech junk heap. Meanwhile, the great disruptor of 2007, the iPhone, has continually improved its features and its sales.

We’ve seen Facebook and Instagram work to stay fresh. Twitter is making big changes. An outlier is Craigslist, a major disruptor that has made few revisions during its existence.

Why We Should Appreciate Disruptors

Disruptors, successful or not, are valuable to our professional and personal lives because they offer up new ideas and concepts that we may have never considered. Or, if we considered them, we found them too unrealistic to have merit. Circumstances such as time and market conditions may prevent today’s disruptor from gaining traction, but that same concept may return later and become a hit.

More importantly, disruptors force those who have become leaders in a category to keep their eyes and ears open to those who want to take their places. That’s why the brightest leaders pay close attention to all who would challenge their status.

For marketing pros (ad, PR, social, etc.), communicating a disruptor’s story to target audiences can be both exhilarating and frustrating. On one hand, the new/fresh/different thing may be easier to pitch. On the other hand, if the thing is too far from the norm, it may be quickly dismissed.

 

 

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