Saturday May 25, 2019
 

Was It Always This Way?

General Electric’s CEO is trying to stop infighting between divisions and to focus the corporation on quality and management.  The question arises whether it was always this way, even under the legendary Jack Welch?  A company that is turning out profits can cover a lot of sins.  When the money machine stops, all sorts of problems surface and a vaunted management style is found wanting.  One can point at Jeff Immelt and say he wrecked the company during his tenure as CEO and chairman, but that would be too easy.  Welch left a company that was overly dependent on its finance division, which ran aground during the meltdown of 2008/2009.  Today, GE is a shadow of its once greatness.  Larry Culp has set goals for its slow turnaround, but there is little chance that it will regain its reputation for greatness, and the publicity surrounding its decades of past success now rings hollow.  Sic transit….

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Not Dead Yet

What happens to an electronic product that died of bad PR?  Usually, one never sees it again.  But, the Google Glass has discovered a new life as an enterprise item to use while working in factories, doing maintenance and repair and other work.  It doesn’t take much recall to remember how it was hyped as a consumer gadget, how it went into distribution and how it failed spectacularly, largely because of privacy concerns.  Give Google credit.  It didn’t give up. Rather, it improved the Glass, found a niche for it and started marketing it again.  They have been successful enough to spin it off internally as a new company.  It might never be introduced to the public again, but it can claim a life as a B to B offering and do well.  That’s quite a turnaround from a few years ago.

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Curious Marketing

Taco Bell is opening a hotel for a short time that will have its restaurant themes throughout it. While it is creative, it is curious marketing.  What does Taco Bell have to do with rooms?  It is a stretch to say that Mexican food has deep relationships to room service and overnight stays.  And how do you square a swimming pool with tacos and chalupas?  Sometimes, marketers can buy strange ideas. In their favor, the news that it is launching the location in Palm Springs has generated media copy, but is that worth the money spent?  The company must have reasoning behind this stunt.  It would be worth knowing what it is.

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A Challenge

What kind of marketing and PR do you need when your customers are moving away from you?  This is the challenge facing cable companies.  Millions are cutting the cord to cable TV.  Industry executives continue to say it is not a problem, but at some point they will need to face the issue.  There are too many entertainment, news and sports services out there now, and price-conscious consumers can pick and choose among them.  It might help if cable cut its rates and unbundled its channels, but it could be too late for that.  What remains for the cable giants is internet service.  Customers are dumping TV channels but not broadband delivery.  Rather than building on that, cable companies are taking a punitive approach.  They charge more for broadband if one doesn’t take TV channels with it. It’s a monopoly move and ultimately will attract regulators’ interest.  Cable companies need a better solution, and so far they haven’t found one.

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Stating The Truth

Uber’s IPO sank as soon as it hit the market.  Uber’s CEO stated the truth about stock price in a masterful memo to employees.  He didn’t sugar-coat the need for company performance in order for the price to rise and recover.  He didn’t inveigh against the fickle nature of markets.  He said clearly and cogently that the future is in the hands of the employees and the company. Their work will make the difference.  Uber is still a long way from profitability and it will take prolonged efforts to turn it around.  So, while employees are holding shares that are underwater, they have an incentive to help them bob to the surface.  It might not help morale right away but the memo provides a clear direction for everyone from the top down.   

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What Will It Take?

Carbon dioxide levels have reached levels unknown since the rise of humans, and there is only one epic, Pliocene, millions of years ago when it was equaled.  What will it take for humans to understand that global warming is real?  There are signs that Americans are coming around to accepting it in spite of its leader, who resolutely refuses to engage with the issue.  Wild weather and warming temperatures appear to be at the heart of persuasion.  PR campaigns have echoed what nature is doing but without teeth until recently.  But, global warming requires global solutions.  One country can’t make a difference.  This puts an onus on Third World nations who are struggling to raise their citizenry’s lifestyles from poverty.  Moving away from the gas engine would impose a burden on them. They probably won’t do it unless fuel becomes too expensive, but that will require dismantling the global energy industry — no mean task.  

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Military PR

Can the business of death have PR value?  This weapon contains concern for civilians at the same time it is wiping out enemy fighters.  It is a step forward in killing combatants but not innocent men, women and children who happen to be near them.  Concern for civilians has been a sore point for the military since terrorists have blended in with the population.  This weapon is a nod to the fact that explosives are indiscriminate and wipe out those near a target.  If it works as described, it will dramatically reduce injury.  This is a step forward for which the military should be congratulated even though killing is at the heart of the weapon. 

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Needed PR

The best kind of PR is that which you didn’t seek but got anyway for what you do.  Tesla has been criticized for its autopilot technology on its vehicles because it hasn’t worked in well-publicized crashes.  It must be heartening then for the company to get kudos from drivers who say the technology has saved their lives or prevented worse accidents.  Admittedly, the reports are open to investigation, and the drivers themselves might have taken evasive maneuvers without realizing it.  Whatever the truth, the positive publicity helps to bolster Tesla’s reputation for safety, which it needs.  The more stories that come to light, the better it is for the company and for public confidence in the vehicle.  Tesla still has a hard road to travel as a car company.  It continues to lose billions.  It needs all the help it can get. 

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Losing The Base

What do you need to do in communications and marketing to solidify an eroding base? Prime Minister Theresa May is finding out.  She is losing her coterie of big donors over the gut-level fight of Brexit.  There is a strong need for backroom deal-making and arm twisting, but thus far nothing has worked and no one in parliament is moving toward a deal.  May is putting off a call for another referendum, but time and internal strife may force her hand.  There are no good slogans, magic words or prestidigitation in the works.  It is mano a mano with each side bloodying the other and preventing progress.  As May’s donors turn on her, it might be the key to a solution, even if it is one May doesn’t want.  Whatever the outcome, the British are sick of Brexit and just want it to be over.

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When Silence Isn’t Golden

NASA and SpaceX have clammed up.  They aren’t speaking about the failure of a manned-crew capsule, called Dragon, on a test stand.  Apparently, it blew up when its rockets fired.  No one was injured but the anomaly, as they are calling it, may have set back NASA’s plans for months for a crewed flight to the International Space Station.  No one at the agency or at the company is giving any kind of explanation for the explosion.  Officially, it did not happen even though a video of the incident made it to Twitter right away.  There is no good reason for silence, and all it has done is increased speculation about the flight worthiness of the capsule.  Both SpaceX and NASA have a lot riding on the success of Dragon in reaching and returning from the ISS safely with astronauts aboard.  Maybe they are hiding to protect the mission.  If so, it could be a terrible mistake, especially if something goes wrong during the eventual launch.

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