Monday September 16, 2019
 

And So, They Fall

There is another dropout among Democratic candidates for President — Jay Inslee.  That makes three with many more to come.  It is a sign of hubris for so many to be in the race.  They should have known the chances of rising to the top were slim at best.  Yet, they launched political marketing organizations and spent millions — all for naught.  They all seem to have had the same idea — oust Trump, who is becoming more vulnerable daily — yet the political calculations were against them, if not mathematical ones.  It takes ground-level organization to win the nomination for President — and that’s expensive.  Candidates have been able to tap into small-dollar donations but there is a limit there too in how much people will give.  Look for a dozen or more to give up by early next year.  Once the primaries start, the public will have its say, and there will be no where for candidates to turn.

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Political Publicity

Presidential candidates and their minders are quick to pick up on any medium that gets their names out to voters.  Now they are concentrating on podcasts and YouTube shows, media that barely registered in the last election.  There is a good reason for doing so.  They reach more young voters than any other type of broadcasting.  As the story says, “YouTube claims to reach more of those voters in an average week than every cable network combined, citing Nielsen data. By 2020, those age brackets (millennials combined with Generation Z, roughly) will be the largest voting bloc in America.”  There are other advantages to using this publicity channel.  Candidates are not caught on an overloaded debate stage trying to shout down others while speaking in sound bites.  They can take their time and discuss issues in depth.  It won’t be long before politicos at all levels seek to use these outlets.  Can the mainstream media keep up?

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How Long Will This Last?

The CEOs of 200 companies have issued a new purpose for the corporation that gives shareholders a back seat.  It’s heartwarming publicity but the proof will be in performance.  Will it last only as long as the next stock meltdown and pressure from institutional investors?  A CEO of a troubled company would be foolhardy to ignore the primacy of  owners.  It might cost the executive a job and a career.  From a PR perspective, what the executives want to do is on the mark, but the world intrudes quickly, especially in an era when large shareholders have become activists about company performance.  Will the CEOs get sustained board support for their new view?  Time will tell.  Pardon me if I’m skeptical that this pledge will be kept for the long term.

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Limits of Planning

Disney, hotel operators and everyone connected to its amusement parks thought the new Star Wars attraction would be a smash hit.  So far, they are wrong.  The 14-acre section of Disneyland has been an early flop.  What happened?  And, if Disney, the entertainment giant, can’t get planning right, who else can do better?  Disney, after all, has grown to a mighty company through understanding and fulfilling the desires of the public.  How could it have missed so badly after the hoopla of building and promoting Galaxy’s Edge, the formal name of the exhibition?  It is a reminder that the “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley, ” as Robert Burns penned.  That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t plan, but in marketing and PR, one should always allow a huge risk factor and fallback if a “sure thing” turns out to be a dud.  Disney fanned expectations, as only Disney can.  It raised prices to deter the mob of early attendees.  Local hotels did the same.  Everyone waited for the crowds to come.  They didn’t.  The might eventually.  Meanwhile, Disney has a futuristic white elephant.

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Dinosaurs?

For decades, the gold standard of scientific papers was the peer-reviewed journal printed on paper and expensive to publish and purchase.  With the internet, this has changed and printers of these scholarly works are feeling the heat.  Scientists are revolting against the cost and slow pace of publishing.  They get much of their information for free now although it might not be peer-reviewed until later, if at all.  Academic publishers are dinosaurs lumbering to extinction.  There isn’t much they can do from a marketing perspective.  They have to prove they are worth their cost to deeply skeptical customers.  So far, they haven’t done so.  The academic journal is as much a racket as text books.  But text book publishers are moving online to cut costs and to update their works regularly.  Universities are struggling to contain costs and are no longer a cash-rich field for printers.  It’s about time.

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Serious Danger

Airbnb, the online home-sharing service, is in serious danger.  The threat is bed bugs.  Users have been afflicted with bites, welts and rashes while sleeping in rooms let through the company. If Airbnb can’t control the spread of the creature, it will lose its customer base.  The challenge is that the company does not have direct control over lodging.  It can give advice to homeowners or drop them from its service.  Meanwhile, the burden of controlling an outbreak belongs to the owner who might never have had an issue until renting through Airbnb.  It is expensive to get rid of them and the homeowner bears the initial cost with a make-good from Airbnb.  The ongoing challenge for the company is that bedbugs have been around for tens of thousands of years, and they are not going away even with strong efforts at extermination.  The company must be vigilant and fast-acting when receiving reports of infestations.  It is an essential cost of doing business.

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Priceless Publicity

Porsche has always been a master of publicity and this is no different.  It let an auto journalist test its new EV over and over in fast acceleration. Not surprisingly, the vehicle performed extraordinarily well, launching time after time from 0 to 220 Kilometers per hour.  In other words, the car is pure Porsche.  It meets the requirements of a sports machine but without anything related to a reciprocal engine.  Typical of Porsche, the company’s engineers redesigned everything to optimize performance.  The car has two motors and a liquid cooling system to avoid early battery exhaustion.  No word yet on the range of the vehicle, but it is likely to be as good or better than a Tesla.  Buyers will pay a hefty price for its performance, but they will have a lot to show off and brag about.

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Testing Limits

Hong Kong’s protesters are testing the limits of China’s patience.  They might yet find themselves in a police state without any freedoms they are striking for.  It would be terrible PR for Beijing to order troops into the city, but it might not stop them.  One can’t forget Tienanmen Square where activists were mowed down by police bullets. The open questions are do the strikers understand how far they can go, or are they living in the moment without concern for what China’s leaders might do?  It would be a pity if the city and its environs were cordoned off and turned into a controlled environment.  China is doing that already with Muslims in the Western part of the country.  Protesters need to keep a weather eye to the west and know when to pile their signs and go home.  

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Suspect Marketing

Amazon has formed partnerships with police departments to give them access to its Ring video doorbell recordings.  The company considers crime prevention a good marketing strategy.  The problem is that Amazon didn’t make it public that it was doing this, and it didn’t ask householders whether they are willing to cooperate although the police will need to do so.  Moreover, some police departments were offering the video doorbell at a discount or free to homeowners as long as the homeowners give up their video.  The potential for invasion of privacy is enormous.  Someone at Amazon should have thought of this before launching what is now a suspect marketing campaign.  The online universe has taken the company to task, and there have been numerous stories about the partnership.  Look for Amazon to back off.  It is a creative idea badly executed.

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Intrusive Marketing

Restaurants are beginning to Google customers to learn more about them.  The claim is they can serve their patrons better.  On the other hand, it is intrusive marketing.  Do you want to know that your background is a factor in the attention you get in a fancy restaurant?  One would expect the same level of service for everyone.  Also, is there really a need for an establishment to know that much about you?  Nevertheless, some are doing it and customers need to get used to it.  

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