Thursday, March 12, 2009

Great advertising, terrible PR

Apple is regularly hailed as one of the pinnacles of advertising that other companies should strive for. I have to agree. However, it seems when it comes to PR, Apple seems to feel that outright lies are the way to go. After all, they have to defend the almighty stock price right? After lying about Steve Jobs health for months, saying he had a minor illness, which turned out to be a major and potentially crippling health condition, Apple has pulled another doosey.

Apple has denied denied denied rumors that it laid off staff recently. However, some of the very people laid off had a different story to tell. Apple did, in fact, lay off about 50 people. It's not a huge number, considering the size of the company. And considering they could make a case that the layoffs were inspired by a shift in corporate philosophy, rather than financial troubles, it begs the question why they decided to lie about it in the first place. I can only posit that it's the result of a very backward PR philosophy that's building growing distrust for the once pristine company. If Apple's not careful and doesn't change their approach to public relations, they could end up irrevocably marring the image that they've spent so many years and millions building.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Crickets don't know fast from reliable

Listening to a radio spot by local cell carrier Cricket Wireless recently, I was reminded of how easy it is to pull a bait and switch if you do it quickly and confidently enough. In the spot, two characters are talking in a pretty classic problem/solution format. It's a pretty fast spot, so if you're paying attention, you'll completely miss them dodging a major cell issue.

The guy who's looking for a good cell carrier is listing things he wants from a carrier, and the solution guy is naming all of Cricket's relevant benefits. Carrier seeking guy say, "I want a reliable network." Solution guy replies, "Cricket has a 3G network."

The problem is, of course, that 3G addresses the speed of the network, not the reliability. You can ask just about anyone with an iPhone 3G in a major urban area exactly how "reliable" 3G really is. Who needs service in places like downtown Houston or the central business district in Chicago? 3G has to do primarily with the speed of the network in regards to downloading data like songs or streaming video.

So, props to Cricket for pulling a fast one. Answer a question with a technical term that not everyone understands and you get to substitute speed for reliability. I wish all product benefit shell games were that easy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Should they stay or should they go now?

If you're wonder what makes and models of cars are going to stick around and which are going to get the axe, here's the latest from Yahoo Autos. While talks and plans change every day, this list is probably pretty close to where things are going. Getting rid of under-performing products. Who'd of thought it would come to this?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Want advice? Ask someone with a vested interest!

My new favorite billboard on my gruellingly long commute is one for Realtors. Its says, "Is now a good time to buy a home? Ask a Realtor." And of course, this billboard was put up by some sort of association of Realtors.

It's unfortunate, because they probably are some of the most knowledgeable people about that question. However, I don't care who you are, if you have a vested interest in the answer to a question, I'm going to be have a hard time taking your advice. Realtors only make money when they sell houses. No houses selling, no money. Who in their right mind is going to tell you not to buy a home if their entire livelihood (today a very battered livelihood) is 100% dependent on you doing exactly that? If I sell apples and someone says, "Is now the time to buy apples?" It would be stupifying for me to say, "No, now is not a good time to buy apples." Of course I'm going to tell you to buy what I'm selling, just like the Realtors are. And it's unfortunate, because there's a good chance their advice is good, despite their built-in bias.

I think everyone needs to take a course in third-party credibility.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Direction Proof

I see a veritable plethora of billboards on my way to and from work every day, and the importance of proofing never escapes my thoughts. The most recent offender is a huge billboard for Lone Star Ford.
The billboard says "exit Shepard," which is unfortunate, because to get to Lone Star Ford, you really have to exit Shepherd. I can see a confused driver or two saying, "Was that the exit?"

Location-specific billboards with directions on them are a great way to drive people to a location, and can be very effective, even devoid of creativity. However, you have to make sure to point your potential customers in the right direction, because two letters can be the difference between ka-ching and "Was that our exit?"