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A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin
Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends, news from the world of puppets and ventriloquism, bits of humor and other interesting but useless information. I post every Tuesday and Friday.
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June 2009 - Posts

Using Social Media to Engage Employees

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin
Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends, news from the world of puppets and ventriloquism, bits of humor and other interesting but useless information. I post every Tuesday and Friday.

My Background
What I Do
About Brown & Martin, Inc.

No Hangover Wine Available ... Some of Us Can Celebrate

Ever since Managing Editor, Cullen Murphy, interviewed Dale for a 10 page article on ventriloquists in 1989, I've enjoyed reading The Atlantic. (Trivia note: Mr. Cullen is also the author of the "Prince Valiant" comic strips.) In The Atlantic's latest edition I ran across an intriguing story about Dr. Hennie van Vuuren, of the University of British Columbia's Wine Research Center. After 16 years of research the good Dr. has figured out how to genetically alter yeast to remove the headache-inducing properties of red wine and many white wines. (This man should obviously be canonized and receive a Nobel prize of some sort.)

If you're a wine lover who's prone to headaches but you oppose genetically-modified crops, you now have a dilemma.

The yeast in question, called ML01, became commercially available in 2006. Consumers of U.S. wine, however, have no way of knowing when it's used--unless they buy organic wine, in which case it's not. U.S. labeling laws do not require producers to reveal the presence of GM ingredients. (There's a big controversy there that I won't get into.)

The Wine Institute, which represents many California wineries, decreed that "no genetically-modified organisms be used in the production of California wine." At the same time, California's sole distributor of ML01, American Tartaric Products, Inc., said that it was doing an active business with several vineyards. (Those two sentences combined gave me a headache. Pass the ML01.)

Beginning this year though, American Tartaric no longer distributes ML01. In fact, Dr. van Vuuren is currently the sole distributor "at this stage," serving 40 clients in the United States and Canada, the only other nation where GM yeast is currently not banned.

To see the complete article from The Atlantic, click here

A Sip of the Past

Speaking of hangovers, according to Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) ... (I need to meet some members of this organization...) the American cocktail scene which has been infatuated with newer, faster and sweeter drinks, is now giving way to older, slower and pre-prohibition era cocktails.

For instance, Rye whiskey, a key ingredient in many old-fangled cocktails, hasn't been popular since the Great Depression. But last year the liquor saw sales jump over 30%. The entire spirits industry on average sees an increase of only 6% per year.

"It's worth bringing these drinks back because they're about balance and flavor," said Alyssa Shepherd, a member of the Boston chapter of LUPEC, which was founded in Pittsburgh in 2007 and now has branches around the country. Shepherd's group describes itself as "a classic cocktail society dedicated to breeding, raising and releasing nearly extinct drinks into the wild."  (Last night I caught a few of those drinks that they released and today I feel like I'm nearly extinct.)

"Classics" are drinks whose formulas were concocted before or just after prohibition. Famous ones include Manhattans, Tom Collins, Old Fashioneds and Juleps.  Back then drinks were formulated so that imbibers actually tasted the alcohol. For instance, a simple bourbon Old-fashioned is advertised as "Nothing more than a slug of good whiskey on the rocks, with a couple of dashes of bitters, a little sugar, and a twist of lemon peel to take the edge off." (I think I took so much "edge off" last night that I nearly hit center.)

According to LUPEC, more and more bars are going back to listing drinks under headings such as "Sours & Daisies," "Collins & Fizzes," "Old Fashioneds, Flips & Sangarees" and "Royales." For the uninitiated, flips are made with a whole egg and royales are doused with Champagne or sparkling wine.

Now I'm going out to find a member of that association ... even if it means having to stop in every bar in town. I'm nothing if not a tenacious researcher.

Why This Blog Lost ... a Commentary

Brown & Martin, Inc. recently entered this blog and the B&M newsletter in the Paragon Awards of the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Our informative and entertaining bi-monthly newsletter has been continuously published for the past 17 years and has earned a wall full of awards. This year was no exception as B&M brought home a plaque or a trophy or something else that says we're doing an adequate job of producing a newsletter for our clients. I don't know what we received because no one saw fit to take me along to the banquet which was held at the Metavante Club inside Miller Park. I really wanted to go because my Uncle is a bat and I thought there would be a chance of seeing him at Miller Park.

This blog was also entered in the competition. I didn't win. If it was possible to wripe this smile off my face, I'd do it.

Two professional communicators judged the quality of my work. One judge raved about my blog's "cheeky" style and engaging content. She gave me an "Excellent" in almost every judging category. Based on her score, I should have easily won top honors.

However, there was a second judge. The second judge started out by writing, "Posts to blog are engaging and made me want to read more." She gave me an "Excellent" for "Creativity: Originality of design, scripting, or execution." So far, so good. Unfortunately that was the high watermark.

Here's her next comment.  "Didn't understand why "Dummy" has a line through it on the blog." Huh? She's kidding right? The last person who called me a "Dummy" got a kick to the groin. I'm a Mannequin American. It says so at the top of each blog post. I think anyone who doesn't understand the joke should disqualify themself as a judge of my blog.

The rest of her comments were thoroughly contrary to what the first judge had to say. And while the first judge's scores were all "Excellent" and "Above Average" the second judge saw fit to give me mostly "Average" or "Below Average" marks. I don't mind the "Below Average" because this blog isn't meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It has a specific audience. So some will like it and some will not.  (Apparently the second judge falls into the latter category.) What really irks me is being labeled "Average." How many other Mannequin Americans do you know who have their own blogs?  "Average?" I think not. "Sucky" maybe. But not "Average."

So I didn't win. Disappointing? Sure. Everyone likes to win. Bewildering? Somewhat. How can two "qualified judges" have such opposing views of the same material? And if they have opposite opinions, which one is right?

I'll probably give the competition another shot next year in hopes of learning through constructive analysis ... which is something that I really didn't get this year. But maybe I'm expecting too much. After all, I'm just a Dummy Mannequin American. Get it?

More Companies Using Social Media to Engage Employees?
According to a survey by the Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation, employers faced with reduced communication budgets are turning to social media to keep their workforces engaged.

Almost four-fifths (79%) of the respondents reported they use social media frequently to engage employees and foster productivity, outranking even e-mail. (I find that hard to believe because the same study says 56% percent of top executives are not using social media at this time. If top management isn't engaging employees with social media, who is?)

According to the survey company blogs are the most popular social media tool currently in use (47%), with discussion boards ranking the highest for future planned use (33%).  (That means almost 1 out of 2 readers of this blog should also have access to blogs from their employers. Again, I find that hard to believe.)

The IABC says, "Companies are moving away from one-way communication models where they send out information hoping people will read it. Using various social media tools, companies can now engage employees in discussions and foster conversations between teams across geographic and other boundaries."

In our firm's experience, larger companies block employee access social media venues like Facebook and MySpace. So I'm not sure how these types of outlets could be used effectively to engage employees. And what about employees who work out in the factory or at construction sites or anywhere else where they don't have easy access to computers? But what do I know ... I'm just a Mannequin American.

Find out for yourself. For more info on the study go to: http://www.iabc.com/rf

Dale wrote an article for Biz Times about his take on employee engagement during the recession. Read it here.

Gas-X Relieves Embarrassment
I enjoy a good "fart" reference as much as the next Mannequin American, but a new series of print ads for Gas-X seem so basic that they may only be entertaining to fourth-grade boys. Copy in the lower right says, "Gas-X Relieves Embarrassment.

What do you think?

There will be no blog on Friday, July 3rd. I'm going fishing with a relative ... which means I'm going to be using a bamboo pole.

Still a Place for Humor in Marketing

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip MartinMannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends, news from the world of puppets and ventriloquism, bits of humor and other interesting but useless information. I post every Tuesday and Friday.
My Background
What I Do
About Brown & Martin, Inc.

Your "Brand" (Name, Reputation, Image, etc.) is an Asset. Start Treating it as Such
Here's yet another reason not to cut your marketing budget during a recession or anytime for that matter...whether or not you're income stream seems to rationalize it.

A new survey drives the point home by pointing out that most corporate executives see marketing as a cost center, not as an investment.  But this study apparently removes all doubt that brands are assets and should be managed as such.

To simplify things, the study reveals that building a strong brand via marketing reduces risk and raises a company's overall value ... which can be of special help during a downturn.

Well, there you have it. Now go out and increase your company's asset value by marketing effectively. (Call me. I can help.)

A Use for Those Old Barbies
I ran across this somewhere in the ether. It's a Barbie foosball table. Finally you can do something with all of those old Barbies on the floor of your daughter's closet. A little creepy without arms, though.

Yes, There's Still a Place for Humor in Marketing

Charlie Chaplin rose to fame because he dared to make people laugh during the Great Depression. And he often dealt with serious subjects. Humor and its chief side effect, laughter, are inherently therapeutic. Let's face it; humans are hard-wired to appreciate fun.

Companies that incorporate humor in their marketing and employee communications appear confident, approachable and trustworthy. All of those things help to sell products and communicate messages during a sour economy. Humor doesn't "degrade" your image. To the contrary, it "enhances" your status. That's why company executives hire me to take part in empolyee meetings and ask questions that employees would love to have the opportunity and the nerve to ask.  I get away with it because I provide some levity. But the answers that company representatives give are serious. The fact that they're confident enough to use humor in an employee meetings makes them appear more approachable, confident and credible.

Yes, "brands" can be humorous while remaining smart, informative, useful and responsible. (You're reading an example right now.) So dare to be entertaining. Seriously, it's important. And it's effective.  (Call me. I can help.)

Where are the Environmentalists on this One?
Thanks to Gene Mueller at 620WTMJ for this.
We spend millions of dollars every year to remind people to "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute,"to"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,"and "Think Globally and Act Locally," but when 40,000 of us get together to watch a baseball game ... that crap goes out the window. When we're through with something at the ballpark, what do we do with it? We drop it where we sit.  Which begs the question: Why do we do at the ballpark something we'd never THINK of doing anywhere else?

Just to underline how gross this all is, take a look at the cleanup process in the bleachers after a game at Wrigley Field. It's a good thing Mannequin Americans aren't built with gag reflexes, or I think mine would have been triggered.

I like the Monte Carlo, but ...

Here are some things that I like.

  • I've always liked the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, so I assume I'll like the recently opened refurbished version as well.
  • I like clever, thought-provoking and humorous marketing messages.
  • More often than not, I appreciate the intelligent and sometimes not so intelligent, use of sex in marketing.

Here are some things that I don't like.

  • Over-the-top use of sex in advertising. (Even a Mannequin American has to have standards.)
  • Stupid copy that adds nothing to the visuals.
  • The new ad campaign for the Monte Carlo.

Below is a print ad for the new Monte Carlo, with the tag line, "Unpretentiously Luxurious." 

First of all, what's "luxurious" about "Debauchery" ... ooops, sorry "Duh Botch Or EE"? (That's so stupid I won't even make a comment about it.)

Let's see, there's a woman laying on the bed with her underwear around one ankle and a sleep mask on her head, a camera on the bed, lots of empty champagne bottles, at least four empty champagne glasses, a phone off the hook, a guy apparently passed out on the floor, another person's feet are visible laying on the floor behind the partially opened door and I think there's an apple with a bite taken out of it lying on the bed.  Now that can all add up to a lot of things, but "Unpretentiously Luxurious" isn't one of them. (If they read this, I may never work at the Monte Carlo again.)

You can view three more print ads from the series here, here and here.

How Original is 30 Rock?

Okay this made me laugh and also resulted in my never again being able to watch one of my favorite shows, 30 Rock, without thinking of the Muppets.

Brian Lynch has written a humorous post on his blog alleging that the NBC comedy 30 Rock is a rip off of The Muppet Show. This is a tongue in cheek article, but the similarities are actually kind of striking and very funny.  Click here to see them.

Social Media Numbers Don't Add Up

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin
Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends, news from the world of puppets and ventriloquism, bits of humor and other interesting but useless information. I post every Tuesday and Friday.

My Background
What I Do
About Brown & Martin, Inc.

YouTube Replaces Traditional Web Site
I'm a little behind on this one. A few other marketing-related blogs wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, but I wasn't inspired enough to check it out. However one of my loyal readers, comedy stand-up David Robinson,
http://www.ontheroadwithdave.com/ sent me the link and encouraged me to watch it ... which I did. I was blown away.

Now that YouTube has reached maturity, you can find several creative examples of its manipulation emerging. In Charlotte, North Carolina, ad agency BooneOakley replaced its Web site with an interactive YouTube video. (I didn't even know this was possible.)

Rather than the typical agency Web, this site tosses convention aside. In a cartoon they even "kill" an employee on the site. It's really entertaining, interesting and does a good job of selling the agency's creativity.  See for yourself.  The opening story is pretty funny ... and often true.

Post Your Photos on the Internet at Your Own Risk

If you were looking for another reason not to post family photos online, how about this ... a Missouri family's photo ended up in Prague and is being used to sell groceries.

That might not be the most disturbing thing that could happen, but it's still pretty freaky.  The family recently learned that a Christmas photo of theirs was posted in the window of a Czech shop. A friend happened to see it and sent a few photos by cell phone to Danielle Smith of O'Fallon, Mo. "This story doesn't frighten me," Smith said, "but the potential frightens me."

Potential indeed. The next time you post pics of your kids, be aware that they could end up in the hands of someone who uses them for something far more reprehensible than selling groceries. Just a thought.

YouTube Says This is Real. I Wish it Wasn't.

Apparently wiping with a fancy stick is a bold step forward in our personal sanitary habits. The video on the Web site uses an overweight guy to acknowledge that he needs help sanitizing his crevasse, at which point the voiceover says the product helps people retain their dignity. I cringed. And I kept looking for The Onion's logo in the corner ... but it's not there. The female announcer says it's as easy to use as a shower brush. I cringed again. Then I watched the video again. Click here to go to the Web site. The video will automatically run.

Sometimes Social Media Numbers Don't Add Up
While the mainstream press and most digital marketing firms are convinced that social media are changing our consciousness and habits, two recent studies suggest otherwise:

  • Only 5% of blogs are updated more than once every 120 days, and less than a million are updated every day.
  • Out of 133 million blogs included in the 2008 survey by Technorati, most are abandoned after the first post or two
  • While blogging has subsided to levels last seen somewhere in 2005 or so, about half of Twitter's micro-bloggers post, or tweet, less than once every 74 days. Most of the platform's traffic is generated by 10% of its users, according to a Harvard study

Those are still staggeringly large numbers. But the underlying suggestion is that people aren't using social media as much as we're led to believe. To use an old-fashioned cliché to describe this modern issue ... "time will tell" if those "actively" involved in social media are a small cadre of individuals who are merely talking to one another, or are they evangelists spreading the word to millions of others?

And Yet, Another Puppet-related Ad

This ad for Mr. Min, "The new fragrance for wood," freaks me out a little. First there's the teenage Pinocchio guy in the ad ... I thought he was supposed to become a real boy before puberty? Then there's the suggestion that teenage wooden boy wants to smell good. Why? The answer may lead us to the "wood" reference with the "Mr. Min" sign strategically placed (or am I reading too much into that??).  I'm not even going to talk about the furry thing that he's lying on.

Then there's his nose. Apparently puppet boy has continued to lie about something. That leads me right back to the "wood" reference. (or am I reading too much into that?)


Three Questions Companies Should Ask About Social Media

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip MartinMannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends, news from the world of puppets and ventriloquism, bits of humor and other interesting but useless information. I post every Tuesday and Friday.
My Background
What I Do
About Brown & Martin, Inc.

"No Company ‘Wants' to be Responsible"

From AdRants: "We at GM have been screwing your tailpipe for 100 years. And now with your help and the inefficiency of the American government, we're gonna screw you again."

Get that and more from this most excellent GM Reinvention spoof complete with detailed
Web site that includes these news items: "GM says planned obsolescence now obsolete," "Auto dealers worried we'll start buying cars that don't suck," and "Hummers to become sought after collector items for douche bags."

Click here to see the 60 second "retarded" commercial spoof that's funny enough to send to your friends. It's written so well that I could have been the author.

Two "Firsts" at One ConVENTion
1. Jay Johnson will do a new, scaled down version of his Broadway hit, "The Two and Only" at the International Ventriloquists' Convention in July.  This will be the first time that Jay will perform the new show, "Exhibit ‘J'".

2. And for another first, Dale is going to the convention without me! Airfare regulations now include paying for checked baggage which makes my attendance too costly for my cheap, contemptible, despicable partner. (The third checked bag is $125 each way making my trip in the baggage compartment more expensive than Dale's seat in the plane.) I call that Mannequin American discrimination!

Three Questions for the Social Media-Crazed
Social media is showing no signs of slowing down in terms of growth. By and large this is a good thing ... except when your marketing department is always jumping on the latest and greatest new platform at the expense of building something that supports your brand in a consistent, measurable and profitable way. You can avoid the shiny-new-object syndrome with a few simple questions suggested by Andy Sernovitz.

  1. Are your customers/prospects there yet? If not, chances are you don't need to be either.
  2. Can you do it well?  Success in a new social media space requires commitment, so always consider the resources required for a new community and how it may affect your relationship with customers/prospects elsewhere.
  3. Is the product here to stay? Your job isn't to pioneer new technologies, your job is to find places to do great marketing, build the best relationships and get a profitable ROI.

Polka No Longer a "Category"

Last week the Grammys dropped Polka as a category. Multi-Grammy winner Frankie Yankovic (who we frequently used to run into at Ziggy's Bar in Sheboygan, WI) and Weird Al Yankovic (I just now realized for the first time that the two accordion players have the same last name!) must be weeping.

What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?

It's very funny to see what this guy is willing to do for a Klondike Bar in this 20 second spot. Click here.

If You Can Afford a Porsche, You Can Afford to Name It

Here's a reason to dislike Porsche owners even more. Porsche is now helping owners to name their cars or to put phrases on them such as "back off."  Words can be made for all of the 911 models ... Cayenne, Boxster and Cayman.

The service costs $450 for 5 letters (are you kidding me?!) in gray or black. Extra letters cost $60 each and chrome or gold letters cost an additional $90. Your choice of text can be ordered online and will be sent to you via UPS within 30 days. So I guess you have to install the letters yourself ... probably not likely for a Porsche owner.

A Pizza Commercial to Laugh At

New York Pizza, which is
not in New York, is out with another strange commercial just in time to be compared to the recent Miller commercial that is being pulled after complaints from the Italian American community.

In this pizza commercial you'll see the stereotypical mafioso type who owns "other businesses" and envisions a "Damn Hot" pizza promotion that, in the end, doesn't go so well.

The tantalizing New York Pizza's Rollergirl surprises a little boy, makes a dad's day, shocks mom, gets lost, accidently hangs with prostitutes and ultimately gets arrested. After all of that the mafioso boss concludes, "Eh, bad idea" and realizes all that really matters is a "damn tasty pizza at a damn cheap price."

Go to the Web site http://newyorkpizza.nl/ and click on the commercial in the upper left. Office friendly and pretty darn funny.

Maybe a Little Too Subtle

The caption in the lower right of this ad for Gain Detergent is "It smells that good." The visual is very subtle ... even in its full magazine spread size. Can you see it? If not, look at the janitor's right hand for a hint. This is one of several ads using the same theme. See the rest here, from Ads of the World.

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