It’s a Dog’s Life

“When I die, I want to come back as your dog,” is a compliment often paid to dog owners who spoil their dogs with a lavish lifestyle that is anything but a dog’s life. And we humans tend to have more than one dog in our lifetimes. Both reincarnation and the role that dogs play in our lives are the subjects of a recent movie, A Dog’s Purpose that has been met with surprising controversy.

Its a Dog's Life image

Photo Courtesy of: BrilliantDogTraining.com

The movie that intended to display the unique love we share with our dogs was targeted in an excerpt of a German Shepherd appearing to be forced into rushing water despite the dog’s reticence. Members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) the largest animal rights organization in the world and animal lovers alike reacted by dragging A Dog’s Purpose under rushing waters of criticism leaving the filmmakers in a fight to stay afloat. The conveniently-timed video release forced the studio to cancel the press junket and premiere prior to releasing A Dog’s Purpose in more than 3,000 locations following PETA’s urging of a boycott on social media.

In an attempt to regain the trust of the public, Dennis Quaid, the star of the film, expressed on NBC’s “Today” Show that the video was manipulated and spliced to look as if the dog was being abused. The presence of the American Humane Association during the filming of this scene was offered as defense that the dog could not have been abused. The AHA responded by saying that the video was “misleading and edited.”

Both parties, the filmmakers and protesters alike, used the media to advantage in a battle attempting to defend or destroy the film and their points of view.

Despite the activists’ attempts to drown the film and perhaps, unintended publicity,  A Dog’s Purpose was able to tread water and broke the 18.4 million dollar mark as the #2 movie in its debut weekend. Decide for yourself!

Do Your Homework!

Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers and Mark Twain all quipped, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

President-elect Trump’s candidate for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, failed to make the grade and tested the patience of yesterday’s Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Photo Courtesy of: Blog.Ted.com

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) a longtime proponent of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) confessed to MSNBC that she was very concerned that Ms. DeVos seemed confused or unfamiliar with the fact that the IDEA is a federal law that the Secretary of Education would be charged with enforcing! It is a law that hits close to home for many, including Senator Hassan.

The prospective Secretary of Education continued to display her lack of Readyness when she repeatedly asked Senator Al Franken (D – Minnesota) for clarification on a policy of measuring proficiency vs. growth that he deemed, “a subject that has been debated in the education community for years,” then proceeded to say, “it surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”

Not only was Ms. DeVos vague on her answers, she failed until the very end to bridge to points she should have come to make : her qualifications, her passion for “children and education with 30-years as a voice for parent, uh students, and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D – Conn) who’s been very vocal on gun control since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary, asked, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools? You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

“Well,” Ms. DeVos responded, “I will refer back to uh, Senator Enzi” (R – Wyoming)  “I would imagine there are guns in the schools there to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Clearly, this applicant failed to educate herself on the questioners, learn the questions that would be dearest to them and give honest, informed answers. Why didn’t she research the subject? Why didn’t she hire a “tutor” to practice mock interviews with video feedback and constructive critique? Why didn’t she do her homework?

The most telling question of all came from recent Presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders (D – Vermont) who challenged her as the teacher’s pet: “If you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to the Republican Party, would you be sitting here today?

Ms. DeVos’ admitted, “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility.”

Be Ready

“Be ready,” is the lesson marketing executives must now take, according to a recent New York Times article, “Planning for Unexpected Criticism by Trump.” Crisis consultant Andrew D. Gilman, who has counseled such brands as Johnson & Johnson, General Motors and Pepsi during crises advises “prepare for Mr. Trump as you would for a natural disaster — an event that is highly unpredictable but poses a big risk if it happens.”

Photo Courtesy of: bceforensics.com

Photo Courtesy of: BCEforensics.com

Mr. Trump’s trigger-finger tweeting is prompting some brands to preemptively draft informal contingency plans, and others, like H&R Block, to spend money shoring up their reputations. One contingency is to line up a third-party spokesman who can help if the brand’s image is dinged. That is essentially what H&R Block did in signing Jon Hamm, the “Mad Men” star and an H&R Block customer for years.

“The fit between H&R Block and myself,”  Mr. Hamm commented, “seemed copacetic and natural. And the tone of the creative was clever and outside the box for something as humdrum as taxes.” Even before the election, Mr. Trump offered to “put H&R Block out of business” with his plan for a simplified tax code.

And what if your company is trampled?

Scott Farrell, a specialist in corporate branding and the president of Golin Global Corporate Communications, said “The only thing that applies, no matter what the issue, is speed. Slow kills companies fast in a Twitter conversation.”

Vanity Fair’s swift response after Mr. Trump reacted to a negative review of a restaurant in one of his buildings by saying the magazine was “dead” could be an example for others to follow. Mr. Farrell explained, “its message — including banner ads on its website calling itself “The Magazine Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You to Read” and asking for subscriptions — captured the magazine’s voice and identity. More than 40,000 people signed up for new subscriptions.”

“If you’re a CMO, Mr. Gilman, concluded, “you need to put another filter on your plans. Normally, you’d never have to worry about a president singling out your company. Now you do.” Amen.

 

 

If the Shoe fits …

A number of media faux pas (literally false steps) were made recently at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in New York City.

puma

Photo Courtesy of: HIGHSNOBIETY

Winning the Retailer of the Year award, Ronnie Fieg, a New York footwear and clothing designer had “no comment” when asked about his collaboration with New Balance, the brand that “put its foot in it” in November. Their spokesperson seemed to endorse President-elect Donald J. Trump and the comment prompted shoe burning and trashing by its young customers. The moral, know your audience.

“I’m not going to speak on that,” I don’t get political,” Mr. Fieg said. Media coaching would have helped him be more positive about his sponsor.

Cuba Gooding Jr., the actor, was more prepared for the media, putting brands in a positive light. Given that the Shoe of the Year was a sneaker, he was asked whether he was a sneaker man.

“No, but I used to be,” he said. “I used to be a breakdancer back in the ’80s, and you weren’t worth your weight unless you wore Converse high-tops.” Now, however, he’s all about the work boot. “I live in my Blundstones,” he said. “I have eight pairs. They’re all black.”

And the whole point of having a celebrity spokesperson is, well, that she is a spokesperson. Rihanna, who received the Shoe of the Year award for her collaborative project with Puma, the Creeper (above) refused interviews. That put the shoe on the other foot for Puma’s Director of Brand and Marketing who offered glowing reviews of the singer-cum-designer, noting that the partnership had cast the brand in a new light.

But one attendee, the Icon Award winner, Iris Apfel, 95 (interior and fashion designer and business woman) left a footprint of levity on the evening’s festivities.

Stepping up to the stage with the help of Michael Atmore, the editorial director of Footwear News, and another younger man, she noted: “It’s nice to be old and have two pieces of beefcake escort you … whomever they voted for.”

In My Own Words

It’s said that justice is blind. But justices can be blindsided, too.

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg promoted her new book, My Own Words in an interview with Katie Couric. Seeming not to have availed herself of media training before her book tour, Justice Ginsburg found herself giving an opinion on a topic with which she was unfamiliar. Famous for her outspokenness on the Court, the justice was asked to comment on several athletes’ refusal to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of their games. She acknowledged their right to protest, but added that they would only exercise that freedom “if they want to be stupid.”

An opinion heard round the world, more for its source than for its sentiment. Justice Ginsburg was one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2015,’

Ms. Couric did exactly what an investigative journalist is meant to do: elicit answers to provocative questions. Being Ready for an interview means preparing answers ahead of time (Why I wrote My Own Words) (Some of my more controversial decisions have been …) (How the world and the court have changed since I went on the bench in 23 years ago in 1993) to smoothly address to questions.

After learning more about the athletes’ reasoning and intentions from a different bench, Justice Ginsburg swiftly apologized for her “harsh” comments. Because, even a Supreme Court Justice can sound unjust in the court of public opinion.

Pro-testing!

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” became Paul Newman’s mantra in his 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke.

Recently, popular San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick failed to communicate his reason for taking a knee vs. standing to observe the national anthem. Protesting police brutality of blacks is a justifiable cause by the football star who finally was quoted as saying “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

colin-kneeling

Photo courtesy of: USA Today

But Mr. Kaepernick failed to announce his stand (or in this case, not standing) beforehand, perhaps in a press conference or media interview and, therefore, his protest was totally misunderstood.

Notably, during the 28th annual salute to the military hosted at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, retired Navy Seals parachuted into the stadium to present a giant American flag to a crowd filled with former and current military. But Mr. Kaepernick continued to not stand. An angry fan described the action as, “extremely disrespectful,” and even argued that the quarterback “shouldn’t be playing football if he can’t stand up for his country and support the men and women who put their lives on the line.” Additionally, Mr. Kaepernick’s retaliation against police brutality exists within city justice systems, and does not extend to the military on a national level.

Other athletes have used their position of fame and influence to speak out against these same issues. NBA superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul used presentation skills of poise, humility and persuasiveness to stand together at the opening of the 2016 ESPY Awards and verbally deliver a call to action.

“Kap” hasn’t had the media training that savvier pro-testers have … to know how to use the media as a communications tool. It’s all part of learning the media game and how to play it!

Fly Me to the Moon

How many EpiPens does it take to buy the CEO a corporate jet? At over $600 each per dose, you do the math.

That’s what Congress did when Mylan CEO Heather Bresch showed up in her corporate jet for hearings on the 600% increase in the cost of the life-saving drug over the last two years!

epipen

Photo Courtesy: Chicago Tribune

Taking a jet to a hearing in which she was cast as getting “filthy rich” at the expense of public health may not have been ideal, CNBC pondered after Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said,

“It is a little stunning to see that so much money could be spent on whether you’re traveling around on a jet while we have this discussion here about whether Americans are being bilked for a lifesaving drug like EpiPen.”

And it appears to be a family affair. According to USA Today, Mylan’s EpiPen4Schools program requires that schools that entered the program had to sign a noncompete agreement. Those schools didn’t know that the president of the National Association of State Boards of Education who was lobbying them to join it was actually Ms. Bresch’s mother.

In her defense, Ms. Bresch retored:

“I certainly thought it was a cheap shot to bring my mother into this.”

And Ms. Bresch’s cheap shots didn’t begin with Mylan.

Fortune Magazine, in a tough profile, once described her career as being full of “ethically messy mishaps and public relations gaffes.” At least two involve her own father, Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.

The most scandalous occurred in 2008 shortly after she was named the company’s chief executive and focused on the master’s degree in business administration from West Virginia University that was listed on her resume. It turns out she never got it. An investigation by the school, prompted by a newspaper report, found that some administrators had added courses and grades to her transcript to make it look as if she had completed the required coursework.

In 2015, Ms. Bresch caused another firestorm when she merged Mylan with a company in the Netherlands. The transaction is known as a “tax inversion” and involves joining with a foreign entity to move a legal corporate headquarters abroad. Doing so provides a major advantage: trading U.S. corporate taxes, which at 39 percent are among the highest in the world, for a tax bill from a different country that is presumably less. Such moves are so unpopular with the American public that only a handful of U.S. companies have attempted them. Members of Congress — including her father — denounced such tactics as undermining the U.S. economy.

According to CBS Chicago, the EpiPen is now so expensive that many families are struggling to cover the cost of the potentially lifesaving medicine. A standard 2-pack now costs between $600 to $700 and it expires every year. The price has prompted outrage among many consumers who have taken to social media to complain that they can no longer afford the potentially lifesaving medicine.

How Mylan pulled this off is a textbook case in savvy branding, combined with a massive public awareness campaign on the dangers of child allergies. Parents are encouraged or frightened into believing that the life-saving medicine is needed everywhere … in the car, in the kitchen, at grandmas, at school, on the playing fields! Along the way, EpiPen’s wholesale price rose a sickening 400 percent from about $57 each when Mylan acquired the product.  In a live interview on CNBC, Ms. Bresch admitted that “we do subsidize the rest of the world, which is why the prices for EpiPens are much lower in Germany and Canada.”

Then there’s the matter of Ms. Bresch’s salary and other perks, which are unusually high, even in this era of crazy compensation for company executives. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, while Ms. Bresch’s reported compensation fell to $18.9 million last year from $25.8 million in 2014, her total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 from 2007 to 2015. That’s a striking 671 percent increase. That period coincides with the time when Mylan acquired the rights to EpiPens and steadily hiked the average wholesale price from about $55 to $320.

Similar recent unexplained price hikes by Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals have pretty much ruined the companies and forced their CEO’s to resign.

Private jets not withstanding, we wish these executives a healthy retirement!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off the Record

The media is never “off the record,” and now Joe Ledington knows this all too well. He’s the nephew of Harland David Sanders, also known as KFC’s founder and fast food emperor, Colonel Sanders. In an interview with freelance reporter Jay Jones for the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Ledington revealed a handwritten recipe of “11 herbs and spices” on the back his late aunt’s last will and testament.

Mr. Jones was writing a piece about Corbin, Kentucky, the hometown of Colonel Sanders, as part of a travel feature and published the recipe, ingredient for ingredient. He wrote that Mr. Ledington had shared his aunt’s photo album as well as stories of his adolescence working for the Colonel. When they happened upon the recipe, Mr. Ledington confirmed it as the very copy he referenced to mix the ingredients for his summer job.

“These are the original 11 herbs and spices that are supposed to be so secretive.”

Photo Courtesy www.gossipkatta.com

Photo Courtesy www.gossipkatta.com

 

Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, made this statement:

“In the 1940s, Colonel Sanders developed the original recipe chicken to be sold at his gas station diner. At the time, the recipe was written above the door so anyone could have read it. But today, we go to great lengths to protect such a sacred blend of herbs and spices. In fact, the recipe ranks among America’s most valuable trade secrets.”

We have to admit, the “secret recipe” is a clever marketing ploy. KFC claims the Colonel’s handwritten recipe is kept in a 770-pound safe behind two feet of concrete, motion detectors and video cameras. They even order ingredients from multiple companies so no one will crack the blend. But surely feathers were ruffled at the perceived legitimacy of Mr. Ledington, who claimed that the “special ingredient” he remembers from his younger days was the white pepper.

He served as a “loose cannon,” which a brand can ill afford, and why group media coaching becomes so valuable for all concerned.

Although the chickens have come home to roost, homemade Kentucky fried chicken probably won’t beat the price or  convenience of the 12-piece Original Recipe Bucket Meal anytime soon!

Publicity Pitfalls

In today’s media climate, celebrity endorsements can be a slippery slope. Sloppy social media posts are one thing, but how do brands react when the public figures they sponsor receive bad publicity? Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte made international waves surrounding the scandal of the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which he accused Brazilian police of robbing him and two fellow swimmers at gunpoint. The allegations proved false, leaving Mr. Lochte in hot water with his sponsors!

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

But the choice to abandon an athlete is not as simple as it sounds. Internet analysis conducted by marketing technology company Amobee showed that social commentary on the incident was generally neutral and sometimes positive.

Depending on the misdemeanor, it can actually benefit a brand to maintain their sponsorship and support. Earlier this year, tennis player Maria Sharapova received a two-year suspension after failing a drug test, but major sponsors Nike, Head and Evian applauded her as a “role model and woman of integrity” after her public apology–and social media largely agreed.

Gold medal companies Speedo and Ralph Lauren quickly dropped their sponsorships of Mr. Lochte amounting to $1 million. Speedo made the statement: “We cannot condone behaviour that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.” But such brands must be careful, too, when making statements about actions “counter to the values” for which they stand. Speedo was also accused of “technological doping” with their performance-enhancing LZR Racer suits, banned from the Olympics in 2010.

Renowned swimming teammate Michael Phelps has shown support for Mr. Lochte, long after he was dropped from sponsorships himself amidst public scrutiny–most notably in 2009 from Kellogg’s for a controversial photo in which he was shown smoking marijuana. Mr. Phelps has since recovered his image and made his scandal a thing of the past.

Whether it benefitted Speedo and Ralph Lauren to leave Mr. Lochte or not, he seems to be moving forward as other brands are diving in. Most recently, he has teamed up with Robocopp, a company that produces personal alarms, and this is a commercial you’ll have to see to believe:

Video Courtesy News Views 88,70,423

Even Mr. Lochte must recognize how unbelievable the irony is.

Remembering what’s important

With decades of experience in coaching, we understand the importance of encouragement in the face of struggle and frustration. A touching moment between a coach and a player at the Little League World Series was caught on live television, warming hearts across the country. The coach also happened to be the player’s father.

It was the first game in the series for Pitcher Isaiah “Bugsy” Jensen, who had not pitched much in the Northwest Regional either, but he’d had quite a game on the biggest stage for Little Leaguers. Bugsy pitched four innings with six strikeouts and only two singles. Then, he began to lose control in the fifth as wild pitches walked a hitter from the opposing team: Italy. Joel Jensen, coach for Bend North in Oregon, gave son and pitcher a pep talk that brought him the courage to strike out his next and final hitter. And eventually, his team won the game.

Photo Courtesy www.sportsgrid.com

Photo Courtesy www.sportsgrid.com

I just came out to tell you … I love you, as a dad and a player, okay? You’re doing awesome out here. One more hitter and I’m going to bring in _____ (alternate pitcher). This is your last hitter, okay? You understand? Come right after him… Hey, cheer up, have some fun, come right after him. Okay? Let’s go!

It was a moment not only seen and heard by the crowd of 7,000 at the series, but also by national audiences of ESPN and ABC News. The video serves as a reminder to dads and coaches everywhere: support and validate your children, players, and students. They need it most when they lose faith in themselves–that message may be the push they need to end on a high note.

Unfortunately, ESPN might be seen as Red-Faced after commercializing the touching moment with corporate sponsorship from Kellogg’s. They branded the video as a “Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Let Your Grrrrreat-Out Moment.”

Our disclaimer: No Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes contributed in the making of this moment.