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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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November 2009 - Posts

Does Your Company Block Social Media Sites?

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

Love. Wear. Return.  Works for me

Okay guys ... now you can give your significant other an $800 - $1,000 dress ... for a day. Enter Rent The Runway, the Netflix of online dress rental.

Here's how it works:
1. Pick out a dress designed by folks like Diane Von Furstenberg, Hervé Léger, Proenza Schouler or many other designers that I've never heard of ... but women know all too well.
2. Pay $50-$200 for a 4-night loan
3. Dress gets shipped to your door
4. Your significant other can wear it and have fun
5. In the morning pick the dress off the floor, put it in the pre-paid envelope and drop it in the mailbox

The site appears to be in some sort of beta mode where you have to request to be added to a wait list, but it seems like a good idea.

Does Your Company Block Social Media Sites?
Big corporations are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to harness the benefits of employee participation in social media while mitigating the risks. Clearly there's no one-size-fits-all.

As many as 40% of companies deal with the issue by blocking social media sites altogether. If your company falls into that category, it could be to its benefit to reconsider. A better option may be to turn to your communications department to develop internal employee Internet guidelines that set clear expectations and monitor them.

If you are an executive, keep in mind that social technologies including blogs, social networks and Twitter are communications that should be integrated with your existing communications channels and goals.  If your company is delving into the social media world, consider developing a strategy to guide employees who will be representing your brand online. A written communication plan in place now is better than a crisis plan enacted later.

The company that pays me to write this blog can help you deal with social media issues. Email me at chip.martin@bmpr.com

No Wonder Ralphie Wanted a Daisy Riffle

According to the ad, shooting "will make it a Christmas to remember."

For more vintage Daisy ads click here ... there's even an ad for creating an indoor rifle range for your Daisy rifle ... for those "rainy days when you can't play outdoors."

At least the Daisy ads are better than this Iver Johnson Revolver ad (below) from a 1913 Saturday Evening Post. Six dollars for a killing machine that won't harm your daughter if she plays with it in bed ... not a bad deal.

Apparently Your Cleanser May be Watching You Shower?

Okay, until I saw this commercial for the "Household Products Labeling Acts," I didn't know that those little "scrubbing bubbles" stuck around to watch you shower. In this case we see a woman enter her shower only to be confronted by a gaggle of horny bubbles who leer at her and begin chanting Loofuh! Loofah! Loofah!"

Funny and creepy all at the same time.

Sometimes Being Green is Just Ink

The name "Ecosense" implies some kind of crunchy environmental friendliness, doesn't it? It's even written in green right on the package. So why does the package also have the disclaimer, "not intended to imply environmental safety either alone or compared to other products"?  Apparently being "green" just means they've used green ink on the label.

How Many Times?
How many times would you like to hear from me or see me each week ... (Go ahead; pick a number that's more than once but less than ten. Do it!)
Now multiply that number by two.
Add 5.
Multiply by 50 ... I'll wait while you get a calculator.
If you've already had your birthday this year add 1759. If you haven't had a birthday yet this year, add 1758.
Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should have a three digit number. The first digit was your original number in step one.  The next two numbers are your ___________. (You'll recognize the number because it'll mean something special to you ... I promise.)

Who Knew Garbage Collectors could be too Thorough?

I always think it's a nice service when city garbage collectors haul away old, unwanted appliances. But when they haul away your brand-new appliance, you've got a problem.

That's what happened to a West Virginia couple, whose dryer disappeared from in front of their house before they had a chance to install it.

According to an affidavit, "The old washer to be hauled away was right beside the trash bin and the dryer that was taken was new and about 70 (feet) away, sitting on a concrete pad." The new washing machine had been delivered and installed several days prior. 

The city is considering reimbursing the couple for the cost of the dryer.

The Pitfall of Gift Cards

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

The Pitfall of Gift Cards

Consumer Reports recently took a full-page ad in the New York Times warning consumers about the pitfalls of giving and using gift cards this holiday season. Their telephone survey found that 27% of all gift cards go unused. They also estimate that retailers took in an extra $8 billion because of unused, lost, and expired gift cards. But depending on the state, unused gift cards may be classified as unclaimed property. The value is then turned over to the state in a process called "escheatment." In WI a gift certificate that expires before it is used escheats to the state. (I have no idea what that means.) However in some states, the stores do get to keep the money.

This PDF gives a breakdown of how the laws generally apply state by state.

Here are tips from Consumer Reports for making the most of a gift card.

  • Register it. Some cards must be registered with the issuer, especially if the card is used for purchases online or by phone.
  • Spend it quickly. Use the card as soon as possible, especially if it expires or has a monthly maintenance fee.
  • Spend it to the last penny. If the card balance gets so low that there's nothing to buy, ask a merchant to do a split-tender transaction. That involves using the remaining card balance for part of the transaction and another form of payment for the rest.
  • Hold onto it. Don't throw out the card when the balance is zero. Some merchants require it for returns.

Everything Should Taste Like Bacon

They have a Web site, a blog, a Facebook group, a MySpace page and they're on Twitter. They are J&D's, which produces Bacon Salt, Baconnaise, Bacon Popcorn, Bacon Ranch and now bacon-tasting envelopes called Mmmvelopes. (I just found gifts for all of the "hard to buy for" individuals on my Christmas list.)

You can never have too much bacon. They even have Kosher Certification. Click here to visit their Web site.

Pizza Hut Web Site Doesn't Deliver

Below is a screen shot of the Pizza Hut Web site where a disgruntled customer vainly tried to order a pizza for $6.99 ... as the Web page shows. But to the potential customer's dismay, the page kept magically totaling his one topping pizza at $14.74.

As a result, here's what the disgruntled potential customer posted all over the Internet.

OK, Pizza Hut...I saw your ad about 20 times Sunday while watching football. You got me, I want a pizza. Too bad your site can't make good on the deals in your TV ads.

The deal is supposed to be a large 1-topping pizza for carryout @ $6.99. I went to your site and found the coupon that matched the ad. I added the coupon to my order. I ordered a large 1-topping pizza for carryout.

No matter how I tried the order (pizza first then coupon, coupon first then pizza), it would not work properly. I went all the way through the checkout process and still no love for your own coupon. The confirmation email about my order didn't even mention the coupon! (The cost for the pizza kept showing as $14.74.)

I thought about emailing you, Pizza Hut, to complain about your site, but you don't provide an email address for doing that. You want me to fill out a form on a webpage and there's no place for attachments. Sorry, but I don't have time to debug that part of your site, too.

The moral of course is to always provide a way for your customers to contact you directly with their complaints or else they're likely to contact the world via the Internet. After a lot of on-line coverage Pizza Hut announced that its web site is now working correctly.

Strip Poker

From our buddy, Mark Mosio: This 20 second commercial for Centrum Silver is a little old ... but still funny.

Nordstrom Does it Right

This sign in the window of Nordstrom seems rather refreshing.

How Much?

I couldn't pass up this photo from a Walgreen's store. Un-alert buyers may not notice that the bags of Cheetos are printed with .99, while the store's price is $1.29. Nice profit.


Don't Blame Yourself ... Blame Marketing

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

Don't Blame Yourself ... Blame Tony the Tiger

Thanks to Gene Mueller for alerting me to this: A new study says that cereal makers target children with ads that tout their most sugar-laden fare.  If you're searching for the newsy part in this story, you're not alone.

As a marketing guru, I feel obligated to point out that all companies target their advertising at those most likely to want the products that they're selling. Commercials for sugar-laden cereals target children because that's who the cereals are made for; and the manufacturers have been peddling their products this why since before Captain Kangaroo was a private.

Blaming General Mills, Post and Kellogg's for kids' rotten teeth, poor nutrition and dietary woes is wrong.  Let's see ... where should we put the blame? Oh, I know! How about ... "parenting?"

If you think today's cereals are bad for kids, see how many of the following old brands you remember eating ... and surviving.

And my least favorite of all time ...

For more old time cereal examples, click here.

A "Poo Explosion"

Via AdFreak: Whatever you call it, "a poo explosion" or "number 3" this commercial for BabyLove Diapers is pretty darn funny. In the commercial mom can handle No. 1's and No. 2's, but when the kid unleashes a No. 3 in her SUV, she can't hide her disgust.

Click here and laugh.

True or Not True?
In the 1600's people used to use urine to tan animal skins. Families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery.......if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor." But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot ... they "didn't have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of the low.

Slaw and Order ... Some See "Felony Franks" as a Crime

From The Wall Street Journal: When James Andrews opened a hotdog stand on Chicago's rough West Side, he thought he was doing a community service by hiring ex-convicts. But some in the neighborhood think the name he chose ... Felony Franks ... is a crime.

An alderman has refused Mr. Andrews permission to hang a new sign or build a drive-through lane. Members of a neighborhood association have vowed to stay away from Felony Franks until the name is changed and the décor ... including paintings of cartoon hotdogs in prison stripes ... is removed.

"I don't understand it," Mr. Andrews says. The 64-year-old businessman has long employed ex-convicts at his main business, a company that supplies paper goods to restaurants.

He says he thinks people deserve a second chance and felons need stable jobs so they don't add to homelessness. He thought of opening a hotdog stand three years ago while driving past one. The name "Felony Franks" just popped into his head, he says.

Whatever you think of the idea, you have to give Mr. Andrews props for creative menu item naming: Felony Frank, Misdemeanor Weiner, Accomplices (side orders) Slaw and Order and many more here, at the restaurant's Web site ... which includes video.

Another Advertising Sham

In 1914 Listerine became the first over-the-counter mouthwash sold in the United States. By 1921 it was already falsely marketing its product. (In the ad above the guy has his head wrapped in bandages because he didn't use Listerine?!) Declaring itself a cure-all for common cold ailments like sore throats and coughs, a dandruff preventative, an anti-shave tonic, and a safe way to protect yourself from cuts, bruises, wounds, and stings, Listerine was slapped with numerous false advertisement lawsuits.

In 1975, the Federal Trade Commission ordered the company to spend $10 million in corrective advertising, seeing as their product was no more effective in treating colds than gargling warm water. Even then, the mouthwash giant didn't really learn their lesson. In 2005, the company was slapped with another lawsuit. This time because Listerine claimed it was as "effective as floss" after rigging clinical trials.

Now if you're looking for a refreshing example of "truth in advertising" you don't have to go any farther than the late Dave Thomas who gave us great ads, like the one below.



PR Problem for Goldman Sachs

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

PR Problem for Goldman Sachs

While thousands of at-risk Americans wait, some big Wall Street banks have already secured the in-demand swine flu vaccine for their employees. Goldman Sachs has received 200 doses -- the same amount as many hospitals.

A couple of Saturdays ago Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler devoted their segment "Really?!? With Seth and Amy" to the subject.

SETH: I mean I know that to you guys swine flu is almost as terrifying as drinking tap water or sending your kids to public school but really?

AMY: Can you not read how mad people are at you? When most people saw the headline 'GOLDMAN SACHS GETS SWINE FLU VACCINE' they were super happy until they read the word 'vaccine.'

SETH: Also, Centers for Disease Control, you sent the vaccine to Wall Street before schools and hospitals? Really? Were you worried the swine flu might spread to the Hamptons and St. Barts? These are the least contagious people in the world. They don't even touch their own car-door handles.

Click here to see a video of the entire segment.

Puppets Rule Google for a Week

Google celebrated Sesame Street's 40th anniversary by offering a different logo each day, paying homage to a different prominent character daily. The last version was the group shot, above.

See the rest of the Google/Muppet logos here.

Government Controls How Many Fruit Consumers Can Purchase

Thanks to The Grinder: "Chris Pether, 70, was told by his local Asda superstore in Aberdeen that health and safety rules prevented the sale of more than one loose lemon, orange or grapefruit. A supervisor explained the policy had been introduced to protect the public because local youths had been throwing fruit at people."

There you have it: Old men in the UK can no longer buy fruit because of a prevailing public opinion that fruit is most typically used as a missile hurled by thugs at passersby. A number of British science-fiction writers are increasingly looking prophetic instead of merely grouchy.

A Lying Sack of Schlitz

"Health with Enjoyment" ... I'm on board.

Copy says: "Beer is good for you - but Schlitz, the beer with Sunshine Vitamin D, is extra good for you. Drink it daily for health with enjoyment."

If the "sunshine vitamin D" makes it so good for you why does everything seem too bright when you try to open your eyes the next day?  (I remember those early aluminum cans. But I don't remember the "Sunshine Vitamin D" on the label. Almost looks like they're selling orange juice.)

The Steering Wheel Desk

Here's a brilliant idea ... a laptop desk for your car. And below is a typical Amazon buyer's review:

280 of 288 people found the following review for the Steering Wheel Desk, helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars
The greatest thing ever invented! October 26, 2009
By T. Meadows (WV)

"Wow is this thing is great! I use it as a "mini bar" when the friends and I go out to the bars. I can quickly fix multiple shots of tequila for myself and the friends as we drive from one bar to the next. We also discovered that if you place a pillow on top of it and turn on the cruise control you can catch a quick nap on the interstate."

Below is a photo of Mr. Meadows' car ... I think it's the one under a semi.

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