Kel Kelly

Hey, thanks for swinging by my blog.

Whether it's topical news, internet happenings, social media, public relations, marketing, start-ups, mobile shiz or whatever, I promise to wade through the bullshit and give you my unbuffered perspective.

You'll note I never take on a "corporate tone" — whether I'm chatting you up at a party or speaking to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, my voice never changes. I say what's on my mind and I'm often the champion of the underdog.

I'm a social media junkie and smoke Google Analytics in a crack pipe to get my day going. I hope my immersed insight and offbeat view make you laugh. More importantly, I hope you take a second and share your thoughts by posting a comment. If you have any ideas on how to make my blog better, shoot an email to kel@kelandpartners.com.

Peace out.

Money Can Buy You Happiness

Thursday, Jul. 29th 2010

If ever a brand needed to be repositioned, it’s “money.” Mention the word “money” and people think nothing but negative thoughts. Viscerally, most people associate money with something bad and always in the context of earning and spending. The economy hasn’t helped money’s brand image. It is a reference point in every negative story from unemployment to housing to the GDP. Money has been cited as the #1 reason couples fight and subsequently divorce. Hell, even BP drove the bus over money’s back. I can recite the line, “The BP disaster has cost the Gulf Coast region $23 billion” in the same way I can recite lines from children’s books I have read 1,000+ times — “Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light, and the red balloon…”

You would have to have lived under a rock to have never heard the quote, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” It is this very quote that sums up the negative brand image money is dealing with today. I think it’s time for a money brand makeover. I believe money can buy you happiness and some of the happiest moments in my life revolved around an experience with money. The difference is that it involved giving it away, not spending it.

About seven years ago, I read the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America. My daughter was entering high school at the time and the book was required summer reading. The book is about the author who goes undercover and tries to live on various minimum wage jobs. Needless to say, she can’t survive on minimum wage and and the emotional and physical toll it takes on her is extremely disheartening. Having read the book, I have not been able to encounter an adult making minimum wage without wondering how difficult his or her life situation must be. Since reading the book, I have started a regular routine of finding a minimum-wage employee who looks like he/she needs a break and giving them $100 cash. Of all the wonderful things I have experienced in my life, I can say aside from the birth of my children, my wedding and my nephew being declared cancer free, nothing has brought me more happiness than these random acts of giving.

I remember being at a dumpy iHop on Easter morning a few years ago and watching a waitress race around frantically trying to keep up with what was clearly too many tables to manage. People didn’t look at her when they spoke to her and if they did, it was because they were yelling at her for something. She looked so ragged and defeated. I walked over and gave her $100. She burst into tears and hugged me as she told me of the horrific bad luck she had experienced and how much she needed the money. I proceeded to open my wallet and give her everything I had in it. While it made me incredibly happy to make her happy, the sadness I felt for her situation was overwhelming.

I look at what Bill and Melinda Gates are doing through their foundation and can’t help but see money in a positive light. I look at Alex’s Lemonade Stand and tear up hearing Alexandra “Alex” Scott raised over $1 million to find a cure for the disease that took her life when she was eight years old. The positive stories about money are endless and I find them awe-inspiring. These peeps are motivated by money in a way that will change the world one penny at a time.

So how does money reposition itself? Good question. Perhaps like many brands it needs to create a new category and dissociate itself from the current category. Maybe there should be something called “Good Money” and it can only be used in the context of giving, not accumulating, hoarding and spending. Instead of today’s money which creates a terrible divide between people, maybe Good Money can be used as a bridge to connect us. My guess is that Good Money could buy you happiness, love and a whole lot more.

What are your thoughts on how to change money’s brand image?

Please note: Comments on this blog are moderated. Any comments that are focused on personal attacks, bullying, threats or overall negativity will be removed.

Posted by Kel | in Featured, Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Dunkin Donuts: Good or Evil?

Wednesday, Jun. 30th 2010

I have a place in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. For those of you not familiar with the area, Wellfleet is a quaint coastal community in lower Cape Cod. Thanks to President Kennedy, from a development perspective, not much has changed in the lower Cape since 1961 when he signed a bill creating the Cape Cod National Seashore. In essence, the bill ensured land that was not developed at the time would remain untouched and so it has. Wellfleet’s business ecosystem had been made up of local businesses and until recently, there wasn’t a chain store in the town. That all changed a week ago when a Dunkin Donuts opened.

Who knew donuts and coffee could be the center of a raging controversy? Many locals and visitors are up in arms at having a DD in Wellfleet. They equate the chain with evil. They worry about the impact it will have on other local businesses. Many see DD as a “gateway drug” that will lead to an invasion of even bigger chains. I totally understand and respect their perspective, but I have a different one.

I don’t see DD as evil. I also don’t see chain stores as black and white. There is a lot of grey. The first Dunkin Donuts was opened as a Mom & Pop shop in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1950. It has since grown into a successful brand that is loved around the world. DD serves 2.7 million customers a day. Clearly they are doing something right and are valued by many people. Their customers are mostly blue collar workers. I think they offer a great cup of coffee at a fair price and have consistent quality. Unlike many local coffee shops, Dunkin Donuts offers its employees full medical and dental benefits, something many lower Cape residents desperately need. The employees at the Wellfleet shop are welcoming locals who appear happy to be employed by the chain.

I think Dunkin Donuts did a nice job maintaining the brand while integrating into the quaintness of the town. The best thing they did was upgrade a fugly, deserted building that had been an eye sore in the town since the A&P supermarket closed back in the seventies (I think). They put in a bunch of landscaped islands filled with ornamental grass throughout the parking lot that made the vastness of the empty lot more visually appealing. They also added visual enhancements to a building that for too long looked like an out of place, abandoned strip mall.

Although I now get my coffee at DD, I still buy local 99% of the time when I am in Wellfleet. I buy my produce at Hatches produce stand and get my fish next door at Hatch’s Fish Market (yes, they spell the names differently). I only eat at local restaurants when on the Cape. My three oldest kids work in restaurants, so I tip generously because I understand restaurant staff live and die by their tips. Every other commerce transaction I have in Wellfleet is with a local business. I honestly don’t believe going to DD is a bad thing and believe you can still support local businesses while occasionally frequenting a chain.

Dunkin Donuts good or evil? My vote is for good! What’s your vote and why?

Please note: Comments on this blog are moderated. Any comments that are focused on personal attacks, bullying, threats or overall negativity will be removed.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 33 Comments »

The Memorial Day Brand

Tuesday, Jun. 1st 2010

I started yesterday morning by sitting in silence and reflecting on the soldiers who have died while serving our country. The loss of lives is beyond comprehension. My thoughts moved to how the mothers of all these brave men and women manage to to get through any day — never mind this holiday — without being overwhelmed with emotion. As the mom of four children, I think I speak for most moms when I say that one of our biggest fears is that we will outlive our children. To lose a child so tragically, as they bravely put the interest of their country ahead of their own safety, must come with such mixed emotions of pride and sadness.

During this time of reflection, it dawned on me that Memorial Day as a brand has lost some of its true meaning. To many Americans, Memorial Day signifies the start of the summer rather than a day to pay homage to our fallen soldiers. Often times, the mention of Memorial Day invokes thoughts of BBQs, beaches and a day off from work. Many American companies leverage the Memorial Day holiday as an opportunity to have a sale. From car manufacturers to mattress sellers, we have all been on the receiving end of “blowout prices” to celebrate Memorial Day. I don’t think any American or any company has deliberately pushed fallen soldiers to the background, but unfortunately, I think the day, from a brand perspective, has evolved into something far different than what was originally intended.

So here’s the question — who owns the Memorial Day brand to ensure the brand association to the fallen soldier is not lost? The American people? American companies? The US government? I think in the end, we all do. I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that remembering fallen soldiers is the primary association to this important day. How do we make that happen? I don’t have all the answers but here are some thought starters. As Americans, I think it is important that on Memorial Day, we take the time to do at least one thing to honor fallen soldiers. It doesn’t have to be a trip to the cemetery — although that is certainly a great option. It can be as simple as a donation to the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund, a college fundraiser for kids of fallen soldiers. Honestly, what if 1,000 people donated a dollar? It would be a wonderful way to positively impact the lives of children who have lost a mom or dad in the line of duty.

I also think American Companies have a big responsibility and should realign their Memorial Day promotions so there is some benefit to the fallen soldiers’ families. There are thousands of causes that do just that. Car manufacturers could make a donation to one of these causes for every car sold during its Memorial Day sales event. I’m sure ad agencies would love the opportunity to come up with fantastic, unprecedented ideas to ensure that fallen soldiers are front and center in any Memorial Day promotion. Let me be clear, I don’t think companies should leverage fallen soldiers to drive sales. I am only suggesting they stop leveraging Memorial Day for pure self promotion and bring it back to the holiday’s true intent.

Finally, I gotta give props to the media for its Herculean effort in reminding us all of the true meaning of Memorial Day. Across the board, I think media outlets do a superb job in illuminating the day through real-world stories about our military. I find the tributes incredibly moving and find it impossible to get through them without shedding many, many tears. So in spite of all the pig piling that goes on when it comes to the media in general, I think we all need to acknowledge their unwavering commitment to ensuring the memory of fallen soldiers takes priority overs BBQs and beach outings.

What else can we do to realign the Memorial Day brand?

Please note: Comments on this blog are moderated. Any comments that are focused on personal attacks, bullying, threats or overall negativity will be removed.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

The Catholic Brand

Sunday, Apr. 18th 2010

I think it is important to start this post by saying I am agnostic and a recovered Catholic. I left the Catholic church long before the sex scandals broke. I watched how the church ostracized my Mom after her divorce and was appalled. I started to see cracks of hypocrisy in what they preached and wanted nothing to do with the religion. As an agnostic, I believe in God, but don’t connect with him/her through any formal religion. I fly direct. I respect all religions and have seriously considered both Episcopalian and Judaism as two religions for personal affiliation.

To say the Catholic brand image has taken a beating is like saying Tiger Woods had a fleeting moment of indiscretion. Catholicism gives new meaning — both figuratively and literally — to the term “fall from grace.”

A brand is a brand is a brand. Whether we wear it, drive it, hit a ball with it or kneel before it, the brands we associate ourselves with says a lot about who we are and what we value. I have watched a tsunami of my friends leave the Catholic church lately. I have also watched many friends struggle with their decision to remain a Catholic even as they recite a laundry list of the Church’s views that they disagree with. That short-list is usually pretty consistent: response to the sexual abuse scandal, treatment of gays, marginalization of women, stance on abortion, opposition to the use of contraception and the required vow of celibacy. The magnitude of that short-list makes it jaw-dropping that the Catholic Church still exists. It’s like saying, “Yeah, I’m a member of the KKK, but I really like blacks.” I find it difficult to see how the two can be separated with any credibility.

It takes tremendous courage to speak out or act in disagreement with something as powerful as the Catholic Church. I applaud the East Longmeadow priest who called for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Reverend James Scahill stated, “Any who deny the truth deny Christ, and we, as people, must reclaim our church. Those in authority must be willing to admit to the truth, admit their horrific crime of cover-up, and beg for forgiveness, and until that happens, there will be no healing.’’ Amen to that! The Vatican knowingly allowed hundreds of thousands — possibly millions — of children to be molested over 100+ years in virtually every country and deliberately chose to protect its pedophiles. Let’s net it out — children were raped. The Church knew it and did nothing about it. I am not sure how people can reconcile the rape of children. What if it were the rape of their children? Would it be different? I hope not. A child is a child is a child. They are innocent and defenseless at the hands of a sexual predator and we, as adults, need to protect them and be their voice when they need to be heard.

I have heard people argue that Muslims are in the same boat as Catholics because their religion is being tarnished because of a handful of terrorist. I don’t see it that way. In the case of Muslims, a few extremists are causing the bad image. With the Catholic Church it is the Vatican — the leaders of the Church — who are responsible for the laundry list of rationalization points cited above. These knuckleheads actually went as far as to blame child abuse on homosexuality. Excuse me? Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who also serves as the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said, “Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.” Way to go Cardinal….when in doubt, blame the gays.

What is the Catholic brand to do? I’m with Rev Scahill — be accountable, ask for forgiveness and evolve the religion to make it more relevant in today’s world. Gays are not evil. They are creatures of God. Celibacy is absurd. It goes against nature. Women should be treated as equals. Contraception is a reasonable form of birth control. Abortion is a personal choice; put it in the context of rape or incest and it should be viewed as a viable option. And, pedophilia is wrong. The world changes and thinking needs to change with it. There was a day when slavery was considered OK. Thankfully, people stood up against it and perceptions evolved. There has been absolutely no evolution of thinking in the Vatican and it is long overdue.

The essence of goodness that was the foundation of Catholicism is what keeps many of my friends with the Church. They believe and have faith in that essence. The Vatican owes it to them to evolve the Catholic brand. To give them a religion that is 100% reflective of their values and does not need to be communicated with an asterisk of disclaimers. A recent Pew Report cites that most Americans have changed religious affiliation at least once and that within this dramatic religious churn, Roman Catholicism is the biggest loser. The study also finds that four times as many Catholics are leaving the faith as are joining it. The Catholic brand evolution needs to start immediately. If it doesn’t, twenty years from now crossing paths with a Catholic will be as rare as crossing paths with someone who is wearing Vidal Sassoon jeans and a Members Only jacket.

Many brands have successfully evolved and even risen from the ashes. When Martha Stewart finally took responsibility for her issues, the brand began to recover. Tylenol hit a wall with the cyanide poisoning scandal, but the brand quickly recovered based on the immediate actions implemented by Johnson & Johnson. Hell, I think Tiger Woods will rise again — no pun intended. The common denominator in all these cases is accountability. It is rare that accountability is usually not followed by forgiveness at some point. Judging by my friends who remain devout Catholics, the religion still has worshipers who are exceptional human beings but who remain conflicted by the hand the Vatican has dealt them. The Church needs do the right thing and make Catholicism a source of pride again.

What do you think of the Catholic brand image?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

Toyota Needs To Accelerate

Wednesday, Mar. 3rd 2010

In 2006, then 29-year-old Kuoa Fong Lee was driving his pregnant wife and their extended family home after attending Sunday services at his church. According to his account, he said he pumped the brakes on his car as he exited the highway, but they failed. As a result, he went barreling through a red light at an intersection and hit two other cars. A 33-year-old man and his 10-year-old son who were in one of the cars were killed instantly. In addition, a 6-year-old girl was left paraplegic and later died from her injuries. Prosecutors argued that Lee purposely had his foot on the gas, accelerating as he approached the intersection — essentially eluding that the act was an intended suicide mission. The prosecution prevailed and Lee is now serving eight years in prison for vehicular homicide.

In 2006 this story would have been interesting, but certainly would not have raised a lot of eyebrows. Oh, did I forget to mention, Lee was driving a 1996 Toyota Camry? A meaningless point in 2006, but a game-changing point in 2010. Lee has maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal. He was recently quoted from prison as saying, “I am so sad. To the victims’ family and everybody else, this was not something I intended to happen. I tried to avoid this situation to the best of my abilities.” At the trial, relatives of the victim begged the judge to give Lee the maximum sentence. In light of today’s Toyota debacle, these same relatives now support Lee and are working with a lawyer to help get him exonerated.

While I respect the way Toyota has handled its recall crisis since the story broke, I am disheartened at the thought of how long they knew about the issues and did nothing. Toyota executives testified before Congress last week and disclosed that the sudden acceleration problems were more extensive than they originally thought. They also apologized for underestimating the issue. Smells like an admission of guilt to me.

I think Toyota has an opportunity to go where no brand has ever gone before when responding to a product safety issue. Recall is the minimum ante and everyone does it, usually because of public pressure and liability issues. I passionately believe Toyota should take its army of resources — legal, financial, public relations, whatever — and ignite a proactive, all out assault to get Kuoa Fong Lee out of prison as soon as humanly possible. This time Toyota should accelerate and not put its foot on the brake until Lee is free. I’m sure legal experts will say that this would be an admission of guilt and put the company in a position of being financially liable to Lee. And I’m sure they’re right, but who gives a shit. They admitted (before Congress) that they knew about the problem and did nothing. There is a man behind bars because of Toyota’s actions. There is a wife at home without a husband and a toddler without a Dad. Never mind the three people who were killed as a result of this accident. This is about doing the right thing and doing it immediately. This is not about minimizing a company’s financial exposure. If Toyota is sincere about making amends with its customers, I can’t think of another Toyota owner — out of the millions of people who own a Toyota — whose name should be at the top of the list.

What do you think?

If you believe Kuoa Fong Lee deserves to be free, I ask that you tweet about this story and/or use whatever other social media platform you choose to help bring awareness to Lee’s situation.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

SeaWorld Sees Green

Sunday, Feb. 28th 2010

Today — a measly four days days since whale trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was violently killed by a whale — SeaWorld resumed its killer whale show. Clearly, SeaWorld must be using Tiger Woods’ PR firm for advice on how to handle crisis PR. Maybe they offer a special promo for Florida-based eff-ups? Seriously people. WTF? A woman was brutally and traumatically thrashed and drowned in front of a crowd of people, including a bunch of children and SeaWorld thinks four days is the magical number to resume shows. How insensitive and unaware can people be? Let’s not forget this same whale was involved in two other deaths. In an act that can only echo the stupidity of the Catholic church relocating priests who were known sexual predators, SeaWorld purchased Tilikum from a park in Canada but only to be used as a stud, not in performances. What was the catalyst for the decision to let Tilikum go from stud to performer? Was there a meeting in a SeaWorld conference room where some employee advocated on behalf of Tilikum saying “we owe it to him because he has done a great job knocking up a bunch of female whales.” If you were a parent, would you hire a convicted child molester as a babysitter? Probably not. This situation is just as absurd. The whale had killed. Twice. No sane person would allow that situation to be repeated.

Let me be clear, I do not blame the whale for the death. It is unfathomable to me that these amazing creatures — who were meant to swim the vast oceans of the world — are being held in captivity in tiny tanks. What creature with a beating heart and brain would not go crazy in that type of environment? The cruelty is unimaginable.

There can only be one motivation behind SeaWorld’s decision to resume the killer whale shows and that is money. After four days they have managed to compartmentalize the death and can now only see green. What else could be behind the decision? It’s not like there are throngs of children protesters sitting in strollers outside SeaWorld holding signs that say “Bring Back The Whale Show.” The decision was based on pure greed. SeaWorld appears to rationalize this decision by saying no trainers will be in the water with the whales. Oh that’s a good plan. That makes everything better. It’s kinda like charging tickets to see Charles Manson but promising he won’t be within striking distance of any human beings. SeaWorld’s delusional plans are further amplified by citing in-water interactions between whales and trainers will resume after a “completed review and new policies” are made. Ummm….do you think you might want to review the findings before you state that you’ll be tossing the whale version of human popcorn back in the water. Dudes, unlike the cigarette industry who denied for decades that cigarettes caused cancer because there was no concrete evidence, this death was witnessed by many people. These whales kill. Who in their right mind would make a statement that essentially says “yeah, we’ll take a look at things but no matter what we find we promise to put human beings in the same risky situation in the future.”

What are your thoughts on SeaWorld’s decision?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Really…Really John (Edwards)…Really!?!

Thursday, Jan. 21st 2010

Before you read on you REALLY want to view this link!

Back on August 9, 2008, I wrote a blog post entitled “Edwards Wins Gold For Mea Culpa.” The net/net of the post was about giving props to John Edwards for having the balls to not only admit his affair, but to explain why it happened. As I cited, previous political mea culpa’s have ranged from “I apologize…but I did nothing wrong,” as illustrated by Idaho Senator Larry Craig, to “I am deeply sorry I didn’t live up to what was expected of me,” as stated by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, to the cowardly telephone admission of “…the fact is the honest answer is yes” by Newt Gingrich when asked about an affair. The one common denominator to every one of these political affair-related mea culpas is that none of these men had the decency, courage and/or awareness to take the next step and explain why it happened. Since Edwards did take that step, I felt he was deserving of a gold medal for his mea culpa.

Today, I am stripping him of his gold medal. When Edwards was interviewed by ABC News’ Bob Woodruff on August 8, 2008 he admitted having an affair with Rielle Hunter but denied being the father of her child. Really!?! Really John!?! Really!?! Dude, WTF were you thinking? Today, you joined the ranks of the cowards. You released a written statement (lame) that you are the baby’s father. Really!?! You had the opportunity 17+ months ago to air everything and put this scandal behind you and your family. But no, instead you pull a Tiger and deny, deny, deny. Really!?! Did you really think this wasn’t going to come out? Really!?! Had you not seen photos of little Quinn who is the spitting image of you in a bonnet? Really!?! Did you not think about your terminally ill wife and the implications of putting her through another scandal 17 months later? Really!?! Did you think putting your buddy Harrison Hickman on the Today Show this morning to take the bullet for you was the right thing to do? Really!?!

Why is it so hard for people to do the right thing and come clean in one fell swoop? We have all witnessed countless politicians, sports icons and celebrities fall victim to flaming a scandal by not disarming the media through full disclosure. Why do people think they will be the one exception and somehow manage to keep other dirty little secrets under the rug? It’s not like we haven’t seen this movie before. We know how it ends.

What do you REALLY think of John Edwards at this point?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

From Tiger To Pussy

Wednesday, Dec. 30th 2009

I have purposely waited to blog about the Tiger Woods controversy. I wanted to see how this sports titan would handle the crisis. And now, I can safely say that he has gone from a Tiger to a Pussy in just a few weeks.

I mean honestly, where the eff is Tiger? For someone known for his unwavering focus and ability to come from behind (no pun intended) to win a title, he has totally missed out on an opportunity to deal with this crisis head on.

Say what you want about Mark Sanford’s ramblings about finding his soul mate or John Edwards’ unthinkable act of cheating on his terminally ill wife. At least when their cats came out of the bag, they took a “suck it up” pill and fell on their sword for the entire world to see. Aside from a carefully worded post on his website using confusing words like “transgressions,” Tiger has yet to come out of the woods.

If Tiger had a PR firm worth the millions I am sure they are being paid, why aren’t they telling him to do the following?

  1. Hold a press conference and take full responsibility for his actions.
  2. Disclose that there were X number of other women who he had affairs with who have not been identified. He needs to uncover everything so there is nothing left to keep the story alive.
  3. Announce that he is going into rehab for sex addiction. Addiction is the only way to explain his reckless behavior. No human being in their right mind — particularly a high profile celebrity — would think that he or she could get away with such an ongoing and visible laundry list of affairs unless there was some sort of addiction. By the way, I think Vegas now needs a new tagline because clearly “What goes on in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.”
  4. Apologize to his family. Acknowledge that no woman on the planet deserves to be treated the way he has treated his wife Elin. He is a donkey and if the universe truly had its way with him, he will never get laid again.

There is no way he can stuff this genie back in the bottle so he needs to address it immediately. This will not just blow (no pun intended here either) over. The longer he waits, the more his reputation will deteriorate to the point of no recovery. At this point John Daly looks like a saint compared to Tiger. The public is capable of forgiveness when someone takes responsibility for his or her actions. Think Martha Stewart. However, when someone denies, or even worse, sticks his or her head in the sand, the public will keep the controversy alive and continue to ridicule. Think the Catholic Church.

Tiger needs to put this nightmare to bed as quickly as he can for himself, his family and his fans. If he ever wants to be a winning golfer again, he needs to take the spotlight off him ASAP. I don’t care how talented you are or how laser-like your focus is, having a bunch of drunken golf fans screaming at you on the course will ruin anybody’s game. I get almost giddy thinking about the one-liners:

  • “Hope you get it in the hole big guy!”
  • “Pull out your big wood!”
  • “You can use your wedge on me any day stud muffin!”
  • “18 holes are better than one!”
  • “Can I borrow your cell phone, I need to text a stripper?”
  • “I hear you play well in the rough!”
  • “Drive those balls like you did in Vegas!”
  • “Just do it…with your wife!”

Do you think Tiger will ever be able to salvage his reputation?

Posted by Kel | in Featured, Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

I’ve Approved This Message

Monday, Nov. 30th 2009

On December 8th the State of Massachusetts is holding a special election primary to fill the Senate vacancy caused by Ted Kennedy’s passing. The final election will be held on December 15th. This is considered a big-ass election for obvious reasons and the peeps of Mass are being bombarded with campaign ads by the candidates.

I have to wonder if anyone else sees the lack of originality in the ads. The ads are void of any fresh content and the candidates’ messaging showing the perfect family with the perfect upbringing makes me want to gag. It always goes something like this:

  • Dad was a <insert blue collar job here>
  • Mom was a stay at home mother
  • Went to an Ivy league school
  • Video of Norman Rockwell Christmas with children dancing around the tree surrounded by “perfect” relatives
  • Childhood photo of little boys in ties and girls in dresses and white gloves standing in front of church

The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as the perfect family. When I was a kid I used to think everyone else had the perfect family. As an adult, these friends have now shared their own stories about how screwed up their family was. One story that stands out is from a former teammate. I thought her family had it all — huge house, lots of money, country club membership, uber-athletic kids and more. A few years ago, my friend told me her family life was absolute hell. Her parents would get bombed every night and it wasn’t unusual for her mother to chase her father around the house with a knife trying to kill him. Fo’ shizz.

If the reality is that most American voters didn’t grow up with the perfect family, why don’t the candidates reveal their own imperfections? These ads would truly stand out. The messaging wouldn’t be overused and reheated and I believe people would respect their honesty and connect with them in a way they can’t today. Even better, what if they proactively disclosed everything that would be viewed as a “skeleton in their closet.” Now, there’s an ad that will keep voters from changing the channel!

Although I will never run for public office because the personal agendas would make me crazy, if I did, the content of my ad would be something like this:

  • My parents were divorced. (50% of marriages end in divorce, so I’m thinkin’ this will resonate with voters)
  • My Mom was a single working Mom long before it was commonplace.
  • My Dad was an alcoholic and his alcoholism created a very chaotic home life. Note: He has been recovered for 25 years and I am so proud of him and love him immensely. (Over 9 million Americans are alcoholics and I bet 100+ million people who love them are affected by their drinking. This is yet another transparent opp to connect with voters.)
  • I was sexually abused as a child by a really effed up uncle. (Statistics on sexual abuse vary, but a conservative numbers estimates 25% of children have been sexually abused. It is horrific and we should have a “one strike you’re out – life in prison” law.)
  • I went to shitty state college. (There are only eight Ivy league schools and the overwhelming majority of Americans did not attend them.)
  • Because I was a tomboy, any photos of me would probably show me in Sears Toughskin jeans holding a fishing pole….while climbing a tree ’cause my Mom was trying to drag me to church.

I have no skeletons in my closet because I never try to hide anything about me. The following things are often used by candidates to discredit a political rival, so I am and will always be upfront about them:

  • I am gay and I am married — because in Massachusetts we believe in providing basic human rights to all our citizens. I know this attribute would make me unelectable in many parts of the country, but I would never try to hide who I am.
  • In college I did a lot of drugs — I think the only things I didn’t do were crack and heroin and that’s because they really weren’t around.

While I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone, I wouldn’t change it and I am who I am because of it. I am resilient, compassionate and honest. I am the person you want by your side in the middle of a crisis. Why? Because I grew up in chaos, I am calm and level headed in the midst of it. I am always the defender of the underdog and will go toe-to-toe with any bully — without exception. Hell, I am not perfect and am far from it, but neither is the American voter.

I’m Kel Kelly and I approved this message.

Who would you rather vote for? Someone who is upfront and honest or someone who tries to spin the perfect background?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

Howard Stern: A Misunderstood Brand

Tuesday, Oct. 20th 2009

Howard Stern is a lightening rod for criticism. Honestly, I think the only person who ignites more of an electrical charge in people is Hillary Clinton, but we will save that for another blog post. I listen to Howard on Sirius satellite radio every single day. I consider myself a huge Howard fan.

I was driving into work this morning listening to Howard’s show. Last week, they had an intern named Pete join Howard in the studio for a conversation. Pete has Tourette syndrome. Turns out Pete is a great guy. His self-effacing, authentic personality was endearing and clearly Howard enjoyed his interaction with Pete. Anyhoot, this morning they had Pete sing Purple Rain via karaoke. When I tell you Pete gave a jaw-dropping rendition of Purple Rain, I am not embellishing a thing. He was phenomenal. I was grinning ear-to-ear while driving. Suddenly it dawned on me that Howard really is a misunderstood brand. I thought about how Pete’s life would never be the same again because of the opportunities Howard has given him over the past few days. Lucky for Pete, Howard is also consumed with the fact that Pete has only had sex once in his life. Howard is now obsessed with getting him laid. Haha!

When those who do not really know Howard describe him, they are likely to use the following words: smutty, disgusting, sex-driven, and controversial. Interestingly enough, all of those words are pretty damn accurate. However, those who know Howard through listening regularly would also add the following words to the list: monogamous, honest, compassionate, and respectful. Therein lies the disconnect when it comes to Howard’s brand.

Let’s break it down:

Monogamous: Is Howard sex driven? Absoeffinglutely. The guy is obsessed with sex. Even better, he is gifted at getting celebrities to talk about their sexual escapades and his listeners love hearing about it. Howard must be doing something right. In addition to being the most fined radio personality in the U.S., Howard is the highest-paid. He even makes more money than the racist, homophobic Rush Limbaugh who has a cult-like following. The point that gets lost by those who don’t know Howard and really don’t care to get to know him is that he is in a monogamous relationship with his wife Beth Ostrovsky. If you listen to his show, you would know Beth is the center of Howard’s universe. He often talks about how he would never cheat on Beth because it would put the thing he values most in life at risk. Perhaps Letterman should have followed Howard’s lead on this one.

Honest: Howard Stern is the most honest man in the world. How is that for a statement? Why do I say this? Because what other man do you know who would go on a radio show with millions of listeners day after day and talk about his small penis. Ummmm….I’m thinking zero. Howard is a tell-it-like-it-is kinda guy. He never pretends to be anything he is not, even if that means putting himself in a position of vulnerability. My guess is there is nothing more vulnerable to any man on the planet than being viewed as having a small penis.

Compassionate & Respectful: One of the secret sauce recipes for success for Howard was when he discovered early in his career that people are intrigued by lesbians. Having lesbians on the show was a big catalyst that propelled Howard to his current position of “King of All Media.” Many think Howard exploits lesbians and makes fun of them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Eleven years ago, gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was found barely alive and tied to a fence. Beaten, robbed and left to die by two local roofers around his age, Shepard was discovered by a bike rider and taken to a hospital. He later died. In a recent interview, Matthew’s Mom Judy said Howard Stern’s pro-gay marriage stance and overall attitude towards gays is “brilliant.” Judy says “I thank Howard for his comments …I think it’s wonderful.” I can’t think of a person who would have more of a right to identify a gay-hating monger than Judy Shepard. Her endorsement of Howard’s true intentions screams volumes about his character.

What can we as marketers learn from Howard being a misunderstood brand? Stay true to who you are. Seriously, no matter how hard you as a brand may try, some people just aren’t going to see you for who you are and aren’t going to give you a chance. That’s OK. Eff ‘em. If you’ve done your homework correctly and you are truly meeting a need — as Howard clearly is — you will have more brand advocates than you will know what to do with. Never compromise the integrity of your brand by kowtowing to a small number of people who you may offend. Be true to yourself. Take a risk. Howard sure in the heck did and in his case it turned into a $500,000,000 contract.

What are your thoughts on Howard?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Boston Sports Club Offers Free Pool Hair! All You Can Eat!

Wednesday, Sep. 16th 2009

Companies spend a lot of time on what their messaging should be — although truthfully, I think this is still an afterthought relative to the time they spend on the visual aspects of a brand. However, as I have stated in numerous other blog posts, in the end, the brand experience the consumer has will always say more than any words the company chooses to put in print. The company messaging can act as a catalyst to get peeps to try the brand, but if you fail to deliver on a positive brand experience, you might as well have just said “we suck” in your messaging.

So what does Boston Sports Club (BSC) say to me based on my brand experience? It says “Free Pool Hair!” and unfortunately that overshadows everything else about the brand.

I joined the Westborough Boston Sports Club last winter when I started training for a triathlon. The facility was brand spankin’ new and quite simply, stunning. It was huge, well lit and featured all new equipment. The pool was phenomenal with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that ran the full length of the pool. Ed, the man who signed me up, was a great personification of the brand. He was super attentive, physically fit, and genuinely engaged in hearing about my fitness goals. I walked away thinking the company had done a fantastic job in creating a brand experience that would prompt me to be a “repeater” and tell all my friends. After all, positive word of mouth marketing is nirvana for any brand in any segment in any country. However, it can be a double-edged sword. Negative word of mouth communication can stop a brand dead in its tracks.

So what happened? Unfortunately, it was a deja-vus experience because it had happened to me once before and involved the same person. Last night I went for a swim. It was late, so nobody else was in the pool when I started — quiet, peaceful and meditative. About twenty minutes into the swim, I could see someone entered the lane next to me. No big deal, it’s better than having to share a lane and playing bumper car swim with that person. I continued doing laps and noticed the woman kept stopping after she swam one length of the pool. Then the epiphany hit me like a knife in a low budget horror movie — it was her — Hair Woman! This woman has long, thick, dark, unruly, black hair. Her routine was to swim a length, take her hair out of the elastic band, dunk it in the water, squeeze the water out with her hand, put the elastic back in, swim a pool length and repeat. I swear on my four kids’ lives that I am not making this shit up. I lasted about 3 more minutes and after seeing floating hair through my goggles I felt too ill to continue. I got out of the pool and went to talk to one of the pool attendants. I was calm and respectfully explained the situation knowing full well she wasn’t in the conference room at corporate headquarters when BSC decide to offer all you can eat, free pool hair. The pool attendant said, “That is disgusting. I agree with you. Unfortunately, the corporate policy doesn’t require bathing caps.” I told her that I appreciated that she was not responsible for making policies and promised to try to leverage Web 2.0 to try to get this resolved.

I began a spew of tweets on the subject:

boston sports club: allowing peeps w/ long hair swim w/out bathing cap is disgusting. change ur policy. if not, i’ll put video on youtube.

boston sports club: woman pulls long hair out of elastic after every swim lap, runs fingers thru it & puts back in. youtube video will rock!

boston sports club: a pool filled w/ long hair is terrific. it’s effing awesome to have someone elses hair in mouth when swimming.

boston sports club: since u don’t require bathing caps, why require bathing suits? no suits will help promote more floating hair. wtf peeps?

boston sports club: suggest ur ceo write blog post on all the compelling reasons why u don’t enforce swim cap policy. is floating hair #1?

Now one of the things I love about the world is that almost always, there are two perspectives on virtually every subject on the planet: sports teams, healthcare, politics, religion…you name it…but not when it comes to floating hair. Aside from those acid-tripping hippies in the musical Hair, I think the perspective around the world is that other people’s hair in your pool or food is not a desirable experience. I received a tsunami of responses on twitter and Facebook on my BSC hair tweets. Without exception, everyone thought it was nasty. Not one person said, “Really? I love pool hair. It takes me by surprise and tickles my skin as it floats over my body. And I find it tasty. I will actually play a game and try to catch as many floating hairs in my mouth as possible. My personal best is seven in one lap!”

Now, if you go to the BSC website, the About Us section has messages about:

  • a multitude of option
  • wide range of group exercises
  • fully equipped
  • innovative programs

…all that is effing great, but you know what I think of when I think of Boston Sports Club — pool hair! You know what most people who read my tweets, Facebook status and blog will think — pool hair! Even if their brand experience to date has been positive, they will always have “pool hair” as one of their many references.

The good news is that BSC has a simple fix: institute a bathing cap policy. It won’t take a long time, it’s not expensive, and customer satisfaction will go up.

The moral of this story is that that companies need to own the brand right through every aspect of the brand experience. Even overlooking one, little part of the brand experience can derail and overshadow every other branding initiative.

What are your thoughts?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 26 Comments »

Bad Agency Karma

Friday, Aug. 28th 2009

I live my life under the belief that “no deed goes unnoticed, no debt goes unpaid.” Simply translated this means doing good things will bring positive things into your world and being a dick will come back to haunt you, as life’s pendulum swings back and bitch-slaps you when you least expect it. Although I have no formal religion in my life, this guiding principle influences my actions in both my personal and professional worlds.

To say PR agencies have a bad reputation is an understatement. It’s unfortunate that the bad behavior of a few PR agencies/people has affected the reputation of an entire industry. We can sit around and whine about it or we can conduct ourselves in a manner that changes people’s perspectives.

I am going to put a big-ass, stinky turd on the table. The scenario goes something like this:

An agency puts financial growth ahead of everything: ethical behavior, employee happiness, client satisfaction, et.al. This agency chases new business like whore in Vegas chases a John. They trample over anyone and anything in their path, fiercely focused on the prize of landing a cache piece of new business — one that will somehow validate their importance as a playa’. They look like the teenage girl trying to come between a boy and his existing girlfriend. When the targeted client communicates they are happy with their existing agency, the agency on the hunt starts to sling mud to attempt to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about the client’s existing agency. Therein lies the biggest tragedy of all — in doing so the whore agency adds fuel to the fire of the negative perspective that exists within our industry. They become more of a PR-attacking terrorist than Michael Arrington could ever dream of being.

It’s time to stop the madness and get your self-centered, egotistical-driven ass on the high road. I suggest the following to ensure good karma:

  • Never — under any circumstances — try to come between an agency and a happy client. A happy client/agency relationship is good for our whole industry because that client now becomes a repeater and amplifier of how positive a PR agency experience can be.
  • Compete on results vs. trash talking. If you are in an agency review, scream to the high heavens about the great results you have delivered existing clients. Look to win the biz based on those results versus slamming your competitors. You are hurting everyone, including your own agency, when you verbally shit on a competitor. And remember, what goes around comes around — last I heard, getting shit on sucks.
  • Evolve your business. Web 2.0 has changed everything in the PR world and it’s fantastic news. Immerse yourself in it, so you can compete successfully based on the merits of your core competencies instead of acting like a ‘Ho by pimping yourself at the expense of a competitor. Moreover, evolve so these PR terrorists won’t have any more eff-ups to point to when they put us on the dirt-bag short list that includes child molesters and Michael Vick.
  • Proactively turn a prospect over to a competitor. Yes, you read that correctly. Try doing something completely selfless and something most businesses on the planet would never do. The good karma that flows from that single act will be overwhelming.
  • Although most agencies would never admit it, there are agencies they respect and admire. When you lose a piece of new biz to one of those great agencies, tell the client they made a great decision and that you would have hired that agency if you were in their shoes.
  • Let your agency’s reputation and the results you deliver drive new business to you versus chasing any tail you can get like a horny drunk right before last call. The model is simple: Deliver great results for your clients and they will refer other clients to you at a rate no full-time, competitor-bashing Biz Dev person could ever achieve.
  • Never act like the anonymous, industry-slamming, pussy “PR Veteran” did when commenting on a Silicon Alley Insider post about a PR agency. (His comment are #11 & #13). If you insist on slamming another agency have the balls to do it under your real name. The bad karma this dink weed will get as a result of his actions will leave his head spinning.
  • Evaluate your success on non-financial metrics like employee happiness and client satisfaction. As soon as you stop worshiping the alter of the almighty dollar, you will find ethical behavior becomes core to your DNA and good karma will be on your side.

Life is about karma. Even Earl figured that out. Our industry could use a few more Earls and a few less Joys.

What do you think?

Posted by Kel | in Featured, Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

Social Media Diarrhea

Monday, Jul. 27th 2009

So I haven’t had a blog post in three weeks. Peeps assumed my blogcation was tied to my two week personal vacation. Not true. I only write a blog post if I feel like I have something insightful and/or funny to say. Social media diarrhea has become an epidemic. Diarrhea is loosely (no pun intended) defined as excessive and frequent evacuation of shit. Honestly, that’s how I feel about a lot of the content that is squirted via blogs and twitter and other social media platforms. Too many people just spew content whether it’s meaningful or not. Whatever bug is causing the diarrhea is clearly contagious. It’s as if a new type of STD has emerged, only in this case it’s a Socially Transmitted Disease contracted via social media contacts. The social media version of sleeping around is best illustrated by the ridiculous number of “friends & followers” everyone has in the Web 2.0 world. Like the stud who bags a lot of women in the physical world and has an ego inflation like Speidi, many peeps with a high number of friends and followers feel a self-anointed influence. As such, they believe they must impart their perspective as often as possible to their kingdom via social media content. Eff that. Truthfully, I just don’t feel important enough to weigh in on every subject that becomes a hot topic in the social media landscape. I feel like if I don’t have something original to say then I am better off keeping my trap/blog/tweet shut. It’s not that I think my shit doesn’t stink. It’s just that I try to minimize it through limited content. Pass the Pepto.

What are your thought on social media diarrhea?

Note: I apologize for any nasty visuals this post may have caused.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

Governor Sanford: Shut Your Trap Dude

Thursday, Jul. 2nd 2009

On June 24, 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford held a press conference where he admitted that he had been unfaithful to his wife. The problem is that he hasn’t stopped talking about it since. Seriously, the dude has brought the term TMI (too much information) to a whole new level. When I see the clips from his interviews, I find myself squirming in the same way people squirm at the thought of their parents having sex. Yesterday, the Today Show ran a segment of a Sanford interview that was so awkward and uncomfortable that the only thing that I could think was “shut your trap dude!”

The guy had an affair. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. I don’t condone it because many people get hurt from affairs. However, Sanford isn’t the first politician to find himself in this situation. I think the right thing for a political figure to do when holding a press conference in this type of crisis pr situation is to confess, take responsibility, apologize to the people who have been hurt and stop talking. We should have known Sanford wasn’t going to stick to this playbook when it took him six minutes and four seconds to actually utter the words “I have been unfaithful to my wife.” From there and for the past seven days, the Sanford shitshow has gone on and on and on and on and on.

The following are a few of the over-sharing quotes that have come out of Sanford’s mouth in the past week:

  • “I was frightened and I was scared, and I knew the consequences. This was a whole lot more than a simple affair. This was a love story. A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.”
  • “I will be able to die knowing that I had met my soul mate. But it was one of those things, I knew the cost.”
  • “I don’t want to blow up my time in politics. I don’t want to blow up future earning power, I don’t want to blow up the kids’ lives. I don’t want to blow up 20 years that we’ve invested. But if I’m completely honest, there are still feelings in the way. If we keep pushing it this way, we get those to die off, but they’re still there and they’re still real.”
  • “It’s about incredibly deep conflicts, between one’s heart and one’s value system, and an 8 1/2 year wrestling match on that front.”
  • “I remember there was an older couple sitting to our right, and I remember them watching us, in the way that we interacted. They could see a spark, or, I don’t know what you’d call it, but there was something there.”
  • “No, she knew I was coming. Didn’t believe I was coming, but I got down on one knee and said I am here in the hope that we can prove this whole thing to be a mirage.”
  • “…well what’s different between left brain and right brain, is what it is. One was about these different concrete things I’ve been working on. And the other, the other is tied to (long pause) the pursuit of happiness. Whatever that is.”
  • “Everyone of us is going to be at that death bed one day and we’re going to look back over the whole of our lives and we’re going to ask, you know, was or what we’re willing to risk certain things that may be viewed as a stupid trade-off by the rest of the world but that’s for each person to determine. And so if you end up 50 years here on earth and you know, alright, maybe I get another 30 and if you come into connection with a soul that touches yours in a way that no one’s ever has, even if it’s a place you can’t go, this notion of knowing that you know, for me, became very important.”
  • “What I would say is that I’ve never had sex with another woman. Have I done stupid? I have. You know you meet someone. You dance with them. You go to a place where you probably shouldn’t have gone … If you’re a married guy at the end of the day you shouldn’t be dancing with somebody else. So anyway without wandering into that field we’ll just say that I let my guard down in all senses of the word without ever crossing the line that I crossed with this situation.”

Dude! Please spare us all the drippy details. Ick. Those are best left for a book after your wife kicks your sorry ass from here to Argentina. When Michael Jackson passed away a day after you admitted the affair, the Universe gave you the biggest gift. Everyone was going to be consumed with that news. All you had to do was shut your mouth and keep it shut and the story would fade. Remember US Representative Gary Condit? That guy had the media up his butt over the disappearance of Chandra Levy. It was a media firestorm for six painfully long months and Condit couldn’t escape it. Then September 11th happened and the story instantly died because the media became consumed with 911. A combination of Michael Jackson’s death and a shut trap would have had similar results with you, but nooooooooo….you had to make sure everyone knew that you had a soul-mate and that old people saw a spark. Dude!

Human beings have an amazing capacity to forgive. Think Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, and Bill Clinton. However, forgiveness will never happen if you keep the story alive through your own spoken words. It’s time to zip it…and I’m not just talking about your fly.

What are your thoughts on Sanford’s ramblings?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

Prove Twitter’s ROI? It’s Free Dipshit.

Sunday, Jun. 14th 2009

Recently I had the opp to speak on a panel at an MITX-hosted gig called: To Tweet or Not To Tweet. I usually pass on speaking opps. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that I like to do my own thing and fly below the self-promotion radar. However, I think MITX is one of BoTech’s (Boston Technology…yup, I just made that up) biggest assets. In a recent blog post I talked about how Boston’s tech brand image sucks eggs. In this case, it is the perception that trumps reality because there is actually a lot of hot shizz going on here. Like anyone playing in BoTech I think we all have a responsibility to improve the perception, so I agreed to participate. Moreover, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to help Kiki Mills, MITX’s straight shooting Executive Director. We need more people like Kiki who leave the bullshit behind and tell it like it is.

The panel included a lineup of hot shits who didn’t have a drop of ego juice flowing through their body: CC Chapman, Co-Founder/Managing Partner of The Advance Guard, Phil Johnson, CEO, PJA Advertising & Marketing, and David Puner (aka Dunkin Dave), Media Relations Manager, Dunkin Brands. These guys kept it real and weren’t there to promote their own personal brand like so many of today’s social media icons and their subsequent nonversations. I’m pretty sure all the panelists could make a living doing stand up and this translated into an insight-rich, comedic-infused 90-minute thread of discussion.

Many peeps in the audience were interested in how you measure Twitter’s ROI. There was a honkin’ live discussion with the panel and I received a ton of follow up inquiries, emails, and tweets on the subject after the session. My perspective is quite simple: Twitter is free, therefore if one positive thing happens you have a positive ROI. Seriously dudes. If a single tweet from Dunkin Dave acts as the catalyst for the sale of one donut, the ROI has just leapfrogged the ROI of all other marketing initiatives combined because it didn’t cost a penny.

I totally empathize with the marketing and PR peeps in the audience who have some MBA-crowned CFO up their butt pushing them to prove the ROI. Earth to Finance dipshit, show me some other communications initiative that is free and positively impacts sales and brand perception while allowing for an ongoing dialogue with your customers. I suggest the CFO step out of his or her comfort zone that hasn’t changed since he/she first started making love to spreadsheets. What cracks me up most is that the marketing and PR peeps — who are viewed by some Finance heads as gum on their shoe — have actually produced a marketing initiative that is free yet they are being interrogated like a prisoner of war regarding ROI. What’s up with that? Here’s an idea, once you have launched Twitter, take all the money out of the research line item in the budget. Don’t reallocate the money to any other marketing program, just let it go to the bottom line. In addition to the gajillion other things Twitter can do, it can replace all the expensive, highly-limited perspective a company gets from traditional research initiatives like focus groups.

What are your thoughts on Twitter’s ROI?

Disclaimer: In this post I am poking fun at the stereotypical Finance head. Not all Finance peeps have this perspective…in the same way all PR people are not flaks looking to pitch lies to the media, all Sales peeps are not self-centered, money-driven slobs and all lawyers are not ambulance chasers. Just havin’ some fun while hopefully imparting insight.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 21 Comments »

It’s “Agency” Not “Slavery”

Saturday, May. 30th 2009

Before you read this post, you need to view the YouTube video The Vendor Client Relationship In Real World Situations. I laughed my tail off when I watched it because the execution amplifies the delusional approaches some companies attempt when it comes to paying for work/services from agencies. I can’t imagine there is anyone who has worked at a creative agency that has not had a company try to use any of the following arguments for not paying and/or reducing fees:

We don’t have it in our budget: Oh really…then what the eff are you doing standing in front of me and asking me to to do work for you? Last time I checked we didn’t have a sign outside our office that said “Free Marketing Services.”

We want everything but can only pay for a portion: Didn’t your mother teach you that you can’t always get what you want…and if she didn’t, The Rolling Stones should have. Here’s an idea, use your brain and put together a plan within your budget. I’m pretty sure that’s what you were hired to do…or did the employment ad say “Looking for someone to take our marketing budget and build a marketing plan that costs four times that amount.” I’m gonna let you in on a secret — agencies were not put on this earth to make up for client budget shortfalls.

I can get it cheaper from <insert name>: You get what you pay for homey. This week I actually had someone tell us she could get a logo done by her friend who is an “artist” for less money. Good luck on that one sista’. If you want to have someone who is good at pottery design the iconic image for your brand then you go for it!

I can pay more next time: Ummm…no you can’t and you won’t. There is not a company on the planet that will go from having a laughable marketing budget to a well funded one. Why? Because some schmo — usually the CFO that allocated the budget — thinks spending on marketing is wasteful and that’s why you were given an inadequate budget to begin with. That person’s perception will never evolve. Remember these people wouldn’t know a kick-ass marketing campaign if it kicked them in the ass.

Let’s use this project as a test: In other words, “if you do well with this project that we are paying jack shit for, we will give you more work and pay fairly for it.” Honestly, do they expect that person from the agency to jump up and down while clicking their heals and clapping their hands to squeal, “That sounds great! I love tests! When can we get started!”

This is an opportunity: No, it’s not. Spending a month in Darfur is an opportunity. This is a screw job. It won’t be long before you question why you bent over to pick up the soap.

I ordered three but only used one: This one always makes me wonder how much crack is actually smoked on the job. The agency is retained to do three separate projects which they complete. Something happens inside the company — usually a budget reduction — that only allows them to execute one. As a result, they now don’t want to pay the agency for the other two that they now won’t be able to use. And really…why should they…I’m pretty sure agencies exist for the sole purpose of absorbing every budget reduction that hits a company. Pass the crack pipe dude.

Show us how to do it so we can do it in-house next time: No problem. I’m happy to take my intellectual property that was developed over many years and give it to you so you don’t hire us again. <visualize two thumbs up with a big grinning face>

Wikipedia defines slavery as a form of forced labor in which people are considered to be, or treated as, the property of others. I’m sure every employee working at an agency reading this post just shit a Twinkie at how accurately that definition describes their world when it comes to some clients.

What’s an agency to do? It’s quite simple:

Make sure your pricing is fair: Always fair. Don’t raise it if you think the client can pay more. I believe you get what you give. By giving fair pricing you will receive it from the vendors you deal with.

Walk away from every situation described above: Seriously. Without exception. Don’t compromise your integrity or the value you deliver. Yes, it’s a tough economy but acquiescing to any of the above scenarios is unhealthy because you are being used and because you then become an enabler to this dysfunctional behavior.

If they are rude or bullying, laugh in their face: Sometimes the person at the company seeking your services is just the messenger in the above scenarios. Often times they are being told to say those things by someone else. In those cases it’s important to be empathetic and respectfully explain why the situation will not work for your agency. How-effing-ever, if the person communicating the message is rude and/or tries to bully you, laugh in their face at their suggestion. Trust me when I tell you that you will probably be the first to have done it. I hate bullies. The thought of someone using intimidation to take advantage of someone sends me through the ceiling. If you can’t do it, tell them you heard Kel Kelly may be able to help them and send them my way. Haha!

Disclaimer: The good news is that the peeps who try pimping the above scenarios are the exceptions. The vast majority of marketing people seeking agency services are honest and hardworking. Quite frankly, having the opportunity to help these people is one of the many reason I and others like me do what we do.

Posted by Kel | in Featured, Uncategorized | 34 Comments »

Chicken Little Had Emotional Issues

Monday, May. 11th 2009

Chicken Little was a hysterical, paranoid bird with some really effed up emotional issues. An acorn fell on her head and she ran around telling people “the sky is falling,” and as often happens with hysteria, others started to repeat the story. Swine flu anyone?

I feel like the same thing is going on in the tech sector. Seriously, I swear the proverbial Chicken Little now has a Twitter account and is tweeting up a storm over the mistaken belief that disaster is imminent in the tech sector. This bird sure has a lot of evidence to tweet about to prove her theory correct. Tech unemployment is soaring. Venture capital is tighter than a…’er well I’ll let you fill in the blank here. Tech startups are going under left, right and center. Even for many tech startups still alive, monetization remains as elusive as a fat-free, low cal, low carb food that doesn’t taste like ass.

I often think of tech waves in the context of wildfires. Wildfires usually occur in cycles just like technology. Certain regions become known for their wildfires just as Silicon Valley and the Bay Area have become known for their technology. And in spite of much chaos, wildfires serve a purpose as much next generation growth is dependent on them, just like in tech. How quickly we forget.

Remember the day when Wang Laboratories, Prime Computer and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) ruled the tech landscape? With the demise of those companies came tons of job loss, financial collapse and uncertainty. However, the next wave of technology that emerged — the PC — spread like wildfire, positively impacting lives and creating great economic opportunity around the globe. How quickly we forget.

Remember the DotCom bubble (Web 1.0) when it popped? Tech startups went under in epidemic proportions, unemployment soared, and venture capital dried up. Sound familiar? But then came the post wildfire growth — Web 2.0. Soon Web 2.0 was its own wildfire with companies like Facebook burning up the tech horizon. Venture capital investment was flowing, job creation was abundant and user adoption had a hysteria of its own. Anyone else’s Dad on Facebook too? How quickly we forget.

Today we’re being hit by acorns. The future opportunities in tech are there, we just need to separate the healthy trees from the burning forest. Need help seeing through the smoke to find the next wave of tech? Keep an eye on TechCrunch to see which startups are successfully raising capital these days. You can bet your last buck any VC coughing up dough right now has done some pretty bad-ass due diligence. Last week’s announcement that FUHU, a startup that produces virtual avatars, secured $6.25 million certainly has some great insight regarding the future of tech. What I love most about TechCrunch is that it helps you keep your pulse on hot tech startups and it doesn’t cost a penny. Good times. Good times.

Looking for something more real world? Attend upcoming gig: What’s Next in Tech: Exploring the Growth Opportunities of 2009 and Beyond. It’s on June 25th in Boston. The $40 registration fee ensures it’s affordable to all. Direct round trip flights from San Francisco to Boston are only $250 and hotels are a steal these days. This bomb diggity night looks like it’s going to be jacked with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other techlebrities discussing the future of tech including sizzlin’ hot sectors like cloud computing, robotics and clean tech. Also, there are lots of stealth-mode startups on the speaker list — a great way to see where the tech puck is headed.

It’s your choice. You can run around jumping on Chicken Little’s bandwagon and hang with her mentally off-balance friends Henny Penny, Cocky Lockey and Goosey Loosey. Or you can bitch-slap that bird and look to the future of tech as an exciting wildfire waiting to be ignited.

What do you see as the future of tech?








Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Missing Link(edIn)

Monday, May. 4th 2009

I just don’t get LinkedIn. I must be missing a link or something. For the record, I know it’s me because there are over 39 million people on LinkedIn, so the company must be doing something people value. I think maybe it has to do with how I’m wired. In a million years, I would never use someone to get to someone else. It goes against who I am. I am happy to make an introduction for someone I respect and/or care about, but I would never leverage an impersonal third party, like LinkedIn, to do so.

I don’t value people based on their title, where they have worked or where they have gone to school…and let me be unequivocally clear, I’m not saying people who use LinkedIn do. I’m just trying to wrap my arms around the attraction people have for it. I value people for who they are as human beings. Maybe that’s why I like Facebook. I am much more interested in hearing that someone joined a group to feed hungry children than to hear that they joined some professional group. I am much more excited to be on the receiving end of a tweet about something funny that happened to someone on vacation than I am to see a LinkedIn status update about a business trip. I get jacked spending time on Facebook and Twitter and I would feel anything LinkedIn-related would be obligatory and a little dull.  Don’t get me wrong, Facebook can still be a powerful business tool to connect you to other professionals — the thing about Facebook is that it’s multi-dimensional and you can get to know someone beyond their business world.

Like most peeps, I barely have time to scratch my ass these days, so I choose my activities carefully. Honestly, I don’t do much outside my work window that is work-related. I have never attended on social networking event here in Boston. I just don’t have the time and quite frankly, I’m just not interested. I would rather be home having dinner (take-out) with my kids.

What am I missing?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 18 Comments »

Brand: Perception Trumps Reality

Wednesday, Apr. 22nd 2009

Today’s brand association for Wall Street is best represented by the word “greed,” even though the vast majority of employees on Wall Street are honest, hard working human beings. The brand association for McDonalds is aligned with “unhealthy,” even though the restaurant sells salads. For many, the brand association for the Catholic Church includes “homophobia” even though every Catholic I know disagrees with the church’s position on gays. Unfortunately, the brand association for Iraq includes “terrorism” even though the majority of Iraqis are peaceful people who do not condone violence. And the brand association for Fox News is “conservative” even though….ummm….well….that one won’t work.

Why am I droning on with all these brand association examples? Because when it comes to branding, perception trumps reality. In my last post I discussed how the image of the “Boston’s Tech Brand,” ‘er…well I believe I said, “sucks eggs.” I had a couple of people who were offended by my premise. One in particular, posted links and went on a diatribe about a bunch of hot, Boston-based social media companies and icons. Unfortunately, if you were to play tech brand word association with people and said Boston, 99% of them would not say “social media.” That means even though we have pockets of hot companies in social media…and clean tech and robotics and whatever, our brand perception is not aligned with those sectors. Remember, it’s all about perception and often times the perception does not mirror reality. In other words, Boston doesn’t own mindshare for those categories of technology. Unlike the Bay Area who totally owns the perception of kick-ass internet companies, I believe Boston does not have an undeniable brand perception for any new, cool, or hip technology sector. Given that someone from Governor Deval Patrick’s administration called me after reading the post, it’s clear I am not alone in having this perception.

I also said in my post that we own that perception. As a region, we need to shift the focus from the stale, reheated regional tech icons who haven’t done anything in decades to people, companies, and organizations whose personalities mirror the image the Boston tech brand wants to reflect. Here are a few random examples:

  1. Tom Gerace : Tom is a repeat successful entrepreneur. Back in the dot-com day, Tom and his brother borrowed money from their parents and started Be Free, a pioneer in affiliate marketing. Tom took the company public and then sold it for hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, Tom is the founder & CEO of Gather.com, a hot Web 2.0-based user-generated community for a niche demographic. Tom is wildly successful, approachable, real, cool, hip and doesn’t have a drip of Boston elitism in his body.
  2. Chris Hughes : Chris is one of the co-founders of Facebook who was also credited with single handily developing and executing the social media strategy that put Obama in the Whitehouse. Chris recently joined Boston-based venture capital firm General Catalyst as an Entrepreneur in Residence. Although he may be a recent transplant, he is ours now and we should be pimpin’ him as the personification of the brand image/perception we want to own. He is a young, hip, fresh face that represents the antithesis of the existing good-old-boy face of Boston’s tired tech brand.
  3. Josh Bernoff: When it comes to well respected voices in the tech world, Josh is at the top of the list. He is an VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester and co-author of Groundswell — Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Josh is as respected on the West Coast as he is on the East Coast and believe it or not that is a big, big deal. And unlike other East Coast authors of social media books, Josh Twitters, blogs, uses Facebook and truly immerses himself in that world.
  4. Scott Kirsner: Scott is an author, writer and blogger. His new book, Fans, Friends & Followers , deals with one of the central challenges that creative folks face in these digital times: how do you cultivate an audience and a business model that will support your work? What I love about Scott is he doesn’t allow the bullshit to flow. He is known to call out peeps who misrepresent and inflate their position of importance in the Boston tech world.
  5. Helium: Helium is one of Boston’s greatest success stories when it comes to today’s hot technology start-ups. While traditional media hits a wall at 100 miles per hour this citizen journalism hub has thrived. Big-ass publishers like Hearst have flocked to Helium to grab a lifeline in the tsunami social media has unleashed on the traditional publishing world. And unlike many Web 2.0 early stage companies, CEO Mark Ranalli has successfully monetized their business, something even companies like Facebook are still trying to figure out. <Disclaimer: Helium is a Kel & Partners client>
  6. MIT: MIT has it all going on: smahts, hot geeks, edginess, sex, sizzle, and a laid-back attitude — something the Boston tech scene needs to master. When it comes to tech innovation, I believe Stanford gets more pimpin’ than MIT due to the lift from the West Coast tech buzz. We gotta change that!
  7. Kiki Mills & MITX: Finally a tech organization that isn’t about wearing suits, bad hotel chicken and stuffy awards. Kiki Mills and the gang have done a fan-effing-tastic job transforming MITX into Boston tech’s version of MTV awards. However, it’s time to lose the “M’s” association to Massachusetts. This org should be national, yet Boston-based.

There are tons of other people, companies and organizations that would be a great representation of the hip, edgy, cool, fresh, new tech brand Boston needs to build. Who do you think they are?

Note: There has been quite a bit of rumbling about elitism emerging in Boston’s social media scene. I highly discourage this elitst approach. “Elitist attitude” is something we need to shed from our Boston tech brand image. The beauty of Web 2.0 is it brings the power to the people and the diversity of opinion is the essence of what makes the user-generated-content world great. Some people choose not to compete on number of Twitter followers and I find their insight to be slamadamadingdong.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Boston’s Tech Brand

Monday, Apr. 13th 2009

When it comes to being a hot technology brand, Boston sucks eggs. Unfortunately, the problem is bigger than a simple rebranding strategy and it’s not something a new logo or tagline is going to fix. Why? Because the personality of a brand can only represent the personalities of the people behind it. Here in Boston, our technology brand image continues to be driven by the same good old boy network of faces, many of whom haven’t changed in over a decade. Like the polyester suit that lets the world know you are out of touch with today’s trends, Boston continues to pimp “leaders” who had their glory days over a dozen years ago and haven’t done anything hot since. For the record, this isn’t about sexism. There are many fantastic, edgy new male personalities here in the Boston area who aren’t part of the “club.” The problem is that many don’t get the visibility or platform to emerge and help put a new face on Boston’s technology brand.

There is no judgment here, only a feeling that we are responsible for our own image. Compared to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, the Boston area looks like a bunch of uptight peeps. When you go to a Web 2.0 Expo and Tim O’Reilly gets up in jeans and sandals, it screams the personality of the West Coast brand — hip, innovative, fresh, risk-taking, and relaxed. You can feel it the second you walk into an event. From newly minted Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) to repeat icons like Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Ning and Netscape) to three-peat icons like Max Levchin (co-founder PayPal, Yelp and Slide) their personalities really are the West Coast brand image — they are successful, casual, laid back and approachable. They live, eat, breathe and get totally cocked on the Internet-driven world we live in. Unlike our Boston area reheated icons, in a million years, they would never write a book on social media without being an insatiable blogger who smokes Facebook like crack and twitters to the point where their significant other is ready to kill them…or even better, their significant other twitters too.

What’s a Boston area peep to do? Own the brand. Change your ways. Vote suits off the island and for God’s sake people, lighten up. Better yet, shake it up. Have some fun. Throw away the PowerPoint and jump on Mac’s Keynote. We have all the ingredients to be a hip, cool, iconic beacon on the hot technology horizon. From being a kick-ass city to “wicked smaht” peeps from MIT to cool Web 2.0 start-ups like Helium to social media mavens like Laura Fitton (aka Pistachio), we got it all goin’ on. It’s time to start struttin’ some new stuff and usher in a fresh lineup of companies and peeps to represent the Boston area tech world. Obama hopes to put a new face on the United States brand. Isn’t it time we put one on Boston’s technology brand?

Are ya’ with me?

Note: I understand much of the tech world in Mass is outside of Boston. However, the rest of the world thinks “Boston” whether the actual physical location is Waltham, Woburn, Burlington or beyond.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 26 Comments »

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor…

Sunday, Mar. 29th 2009

I think Silicon Alley Insider (SAI) is crackadelic. It is my #1 source for keeping my pulse on everything and anything going on with businesses in today’s digital-dog-fight world. Their style is bullshit-free rapid fire reporting — just how I like it. It’s like an all-you-can-eat fast food restaurant but the quality of what you consume is hot, fresh and energizing.

Last week SAI had an edgy piece called Magna Cum Lousy — Where Today’s Bad CEOs Went To School. The story is brought to life via a slideshow. There is a slide for each school including the University of Chicago, NYU, Columbia, U Penn (Wharton), Princeton, Dartmouth, MIT, Yale, and Harvard. Each slide highlights a list of the fat cat graduates who are responsible for the current economic shitshow the world is facing. The lists includes prominent bankers, politicians and regulators, all of whom had their hands on the wheel when the USS Titanic hit an iceberg the size of Mars. Notable titans include MIT graduate and Former Merrill CEO, John Thain, NYU graduate and Former Lehman CEO, Dick Fuld and the “Decider” himself, Harvard’s George W Bush.

I can’t help but chuckle when I see something like this. For the record, I went to a less than notable state school. Back in the day, it was called Southeastern Massachusetts University and has since been renamed the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I grew up in a single working mother household long before single working mothers were a common thing. My Mom worked like a dog to raise three kids on a secretary’s salary. She would take the bus into Boston five days a week from the suburb we lived in, work her tail off, and then ride the bus home at night. By the time she got home she was exhausted. She didn’t have the education or energy to keep tabs on my school work. As such, school just wasn’t a priority for me. At the time, I didn’t know it needed to be. I’m not even sure my Mom saw all my report cards because I used to make my sister stand by the mailbox and grab them before my Mom got home from work. I think the only reason I even got into college was because I could play basketball.

My Mom may not have taught me that education mattered, but what she did teach me I have found to be far more valuable than the imparted wisdom of an Ivy League school. She taught me that everyone matters, particularly those who are less fortunate than me. She taught me to always stand up for the underdog…probably because she was one herself. She taught me resiliency and as Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” She taught me — unknowingly and through her own actions — my work ethic will always say more about me than I can ever say about myself. And she taught me that everyone in life needs a break and to give opportunities to those who have had to push a boulder up a hill for most of their life, something she knew how to do all too well.

Why the eff am I telling you this? Because I never seek out the best educated person when I am looking to hire. As a matter of fact, I usually look for the person who went to a state school — someone who never had anything handed to him or her. Someone who has student loans up the ying yang. Someone who doesn’t have an endless list of prominent alumni to call to help get a plum job. Someone who just needs a chance and will deliver beyond my wildest dreams because the opportunity I just gave him or her is something they have dreamt about for a long time.

Every time I hear the line from nineteenth-century American poet Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” I can’t help but think it’s how I approach hiring and how I live my life. As she so eloquently wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” It’s ironic that these words appear on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty, a stone throw away from where so many of these greedy CEOs sought “the best of the best” in their hiring and then brought them and their families to the bowels of hell.

Disclaimer: I realize the majority of graduates from the prominent schools cited above are nothing like the fat cats listed in the SAI slideshow and many come from modest or challenging backgrounds themselves. This is yet another example that we should never judge an entire category of people based on the extreme actions of a few.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

Today’s Social Marketing: Chicka Chicka Yea!

Sunday, Mar. 22nd 2009

I remember driving in the early 1970s, rolling down the window and tossing out an empty bag of McDonald’s. As disgusting as it is to think about, everyone littered and nobody knew any better. A common afternoon in the seventies included eating a baked potato saturated with a stick of butter for lunch, having a few drinks before getting behind the wheel of a car to drive to the beach, and smoking cigarettes while holding up a silver reflector to get a tan on skin that was soaked in baby oil. Seriously. WTF were we thinking?

What happened to not only change my perspective, but the perspective of a nation when it came to littering, drinking and driving, smoking and skin cancer? The answer is social marketing. Wikipedia defines social marketing as “the systematic application of marketing along with other concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good.” In 1974, the anti-litter Public Service Announcement (PSA) “The Crying Indian” launched. The spot featured a native American canoeing through polluted water, landing on a beach littered with trash and turning to show a tear rolling down his cheek. Sounds corny to today’s oh-so-cool and jaded consumer but back then it acted as the catalyst to ignite a change in behavior that still lives today. The PSA won two Clio awards and AdAge picked it as being one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century.

Back in the day when McDonalds chicken included knee caps, elbows and ear lobes, social marketing was primarily executed through TV and print. There was really no viral spread beyond word-of-mouth limited by traditional communication channels: face-to-face, phone and letters. Today’s Web 2.0-driven world has acted like a steroid injection to social marketing. A campaign that used to take months, if not years, to have an impact now sees action in a matter of days or sometimes even prior to the campaign launch.

As an example, look at the campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word.” The campaign’s thrust is to get people to recognize and rethink (and hopefully stop) their use of the “R-word” as it is offensive to the friends and families of the millions of people with intellectual disabilities. The “national awareness day” and official launch of the campaign isn’t until 03.31.09, yet social media has already given the message a platform, voice and following. The Facebook group alone has close to 1,000 members. Yes, the membership number may be modest, but remember the campaign has not even launched yet. Given time, hopefully it will rise to the level of the Feed A Child With Just One Click Facebook group and its 4.1+ million members.

Think about it. A marketing campaign having impact and getting traction before it’s official launch and before any money has been spent. Chicka chicka yea! For us marketeers, life doesn’t get any better. For those who the campaign is intended to benefit, one can only hope that their life does in fact get better. Thanks to Web 2.0, it certainly has a better chance of making that happen.

What social causes have you supported through your social media activity?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

“Value” Is The New “Black”

Sunday, Mar. 15th 2009

I saw a print ad this week that made my jaw drop. The advertisement was for Frontgate. For those of you not familiar with Frontgate, their tagline says it all — Outfitting America’s Finest Homes. Frontgate sells products for the home that are so high-end that the prices are almost laughable. From a $7,778 stainless steel outdoor grill to a $7,999 eSommelier Wine Inventory System to the $1,650 Hammerhead Resort Pool Cleaner, Frontgate has been supplying the best of the best to the peeps who never had to think about price…until now.

The reason the ad has such a shock and awe effect is because its key message is all about “value” — an attribute that has never been within earshot of Frontgate’s brand and up until now would have made its customers’ noses turn up. The Frontgate brand has always stood for “unprecedented quality.” This particular ad is for World Class Resort Cotton Towels, something you can hear Thurston Howell, III asking Gilligan to get him in a tone dripping in elitism. In its execution, Frontgate highlights the $19.99 price as a representation of the value. The funny thing about Frontgate calling attention to the price is that in previous communications, price has only been used to show a products high-end quality. Also interesting is that these resort towels are the only thing on the site that I could find whose price ended in 99 cents, a tactic places like Walmart choose to employ.

Deliberately or not, Frontgate has just taken its brand to a place were Sonic , America’s drive-in restaurant, sells jr. deluxe burger, chicken strip sandwich, and jr. breakfast burrito for $1 on its Everyday Value Menu. For shizz dudes. For most of us, value used to be what we got when we bought a big-ass bottle of shampoo that gave us 25% more for free. And now, value is something Frontage want to bring us too.

The economy has changed everything and value is the new black. Value is white hot and consumers across all income demographics are looking for it in everything they buy. I recently read an article on how the Palm Beach crowd torched by Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme are all now shopping the sale racks at retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks. It’s a world gone mad! Thank God for private sale sites like Gilt. They have been a lifeline for those who summer in the Hamptons or on Nantucket by giving them their hoity toity brands at value pricing. Value says, “low cost, cheap & inexpensive” in a vernacular that is still palatable to the Lily Pulitzer crowd.

I totally respect and understand why Frontgate is beginning to reposition their brand around value. They are doing it for pure survival. There isn’t a single item on its site or in its catalog that isn’t considered “discretionary spending”…although given the economy, the $349 Premium Margaritaville Frozen Drink Machine might get put on the must-have list with electricity and prescription drugs.

Have you seen any interesting value plays in the brands you come across?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

Pimpin’ To Teens

Monday, Mar. 2nd 2009

Recently, I was logged into my fifteen-year-old son’s Facebook account. Simma’ down now…I wasn’t spying on him. He asked me to login to upload a wrestling video from his Flip. As most of you know, Facebook serves its ads based on all the granular demographic and psychographic data it pulls from your profile. Many of you will recall my previous post called Facebook Reality Slap where it became clear through the ads it served me that Facebook thought I was a fat, wrinkly, hairy woman on a surfboard. Nice. Anyhoot, it was a complete trip seeing what gets pimped to teenagers.

There was one ad that literally made me spit on my Mac when I saw it. For Shizz. The headline was “Get Cash For Your Calculator.” The body of the ad went on to say something like, “Sell us your TI-83 now for cash…You know your Mom will buy you a new one.” No shit. Forget all the subliminal messaging most brands use to pimp products to kids, these guys put it right out there and told the kids specifically what they wanted them to do.

Just a year ago, I had to buy three of these effin’ calculators for my three teenagers in high school. At $100 a pop, that total cost was the exact same price I paid for my first car — a 1969 VW bug with psychedelic seat covers and a roach clip hanging off a bandanna from the rear view mirror (everything I needed at the time). Every year I would ask what happened to the calculators I bought the previous year and I always got some lame excuse about it getting lost or being broken or having been loaned to a friend. Now I can’t help but wonder if they sold them for cash. Remember, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you!

I clicked on the Calculator ad and really marvelled at its succinct and incredibly powerful messaging. I laughed at the “Mom will buy you a new one” message because in most cases this is true. And then I went around the track a few times to figure out whether I appreciated the savviness of the ad or whether I should be upset. In the end, I give props to the peeps who created the ad. Social media text ads give a minuscule footprint for a company to get its message across. These guys did it in a way that had great stopping power and in a way that I would imagine ignited the desired action. And for me, what the Calculator peeps did was no different than what Nike or PlayStation or any other big brand does when they advertise to tweens and teens. In the vast majority of these cases, any product being pimped is going to have to be purchased by the parents ’cause the rat-fink kids don’t have the money for things like a $125 pair of sneakers. I chuckled again when I thought of the control-freak Moms who push legislation and speak to Congress about the bad language in music. These Chicks would shit a Twinkie if they saw an ad like this. The good news is they are probably not on Facebook and have never seen this type of ad. The bad news is they probably don’t allow their kids on Facebook because in their bubble of delusion they think the only adults on it are pedophiles trolling for children.

What do you think of the Calculator ad? Smart or just plain wrong?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 22 Comments »

Entrepreneurs: The Bad-Boy Love

Wednesday, Feb. 18th 2009

I love entrepreneurs. It’s like lovin’ the bad-boy in high school. I know you know the type. They are self-absorbed and only want to talk about themselves. Their financial situation sucks and they never have any money. They are scattered and often cancel plans at the last minute. They are dreamers with “big plans” and lots of promises of future commitments. They are notorious for having a wandering eye to see if they can do better, but they always stay because they know few understand them like I do. And, I will never try to change them. I know loving them is wrong, but it’s like a drug. I want to be with them all the time. I love the way I feel when I am with the bad-boy entrepreneur. People tell me that I can do better and I should be with someone more stable. I know being with them puts me at risk and it’s a little dangerous, yet the rush is exhilarating. I know they may disappear someday and leave me high and dry.  I don’t care. They make me crazy, but I love them. I’ll always love them.

What about you?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

Crisis PR Advice For Bailed-Out Boneheads

Tuesday, Feb. 10th 2009

As a PR professional, it absolutely blows my mind every time a bailed-out bank steps in another pile of shit. Last night I turned on NBC Nightly News to see yet another story of a bailed-out bank spending money on an event in Vegas. Doh! Have they not seen that movie before?! The ending sucks and everyone looks like a bunch of self-centered, greedy fools.

I offer the following low to no cost, Web 2.0-based crisis PR advice to these deaf, dumb and blind bankers:

  1. Assess: The first step in any crisis PR situation is to assess the issue and identify whether you are in fact responsible. That should take a freakin’ nanosecond. Spending taxpayer money on Vegas boondoggles is a big, fat, hairy no-no. And I’m sure nobody was goaled with driving their bank into the ground and pushing the world economy to the brink of a depression. So if those were not the targeted goals in your bonus plan, then why are you nutbags being paid bonuses?
  2. Take Responsibility: Now that we have established that you bailed-out banks are at fault, the next thing you should do is take responsibility. I’m all about leveraging Web 2.0 and its low to no cost opportunities, so here’s what I suggest. Go buy a Flip for $100 bucks and pay for it out of your own pocket. Have your CEO record a raw, unscripted apology to the American people. Vote script writing off the island and just open up and genuinely fall on your sword. Use a vernacular that all blue collared Americans would use. Say that you effed up. Say it was one of the dumbest things you have done in your life and you are embarrassed to look at yourself in the mirror. Say that you can’t sleep at night in knowing you let your employees spend hard-working Americans’ money on slot machines. Say that you now regret tipping a stripper $100 when you know that a single working mother facing bankruptcy could have used it towards the cost of a loan modification. Say whatever you have to say to raise the American people’s eyebrows so they say, “Holy shit! I can’t believe he just said that!” Anything short of that will be viewed as lip service.
  3. Identify Changes & Open Channels of Communication: The next step is to identify a list of things you will do to ensure it never happens again. Start with making a list of all the marketing events you canceled and the savings associated with those cancellations.Go a million steps further and tell Americans you plan to push for a bill that would make misusing taxpayers’ bail-out money a felony. Put all this info on a Web 2.0-driven platform that will allow the American people to post comments. You owe them this because you really blew it. Encourage Americans’ feedback through this user-generated platform. Let the American peeps have their voices heard. Listen like you have never listened before. Respond to comments. I also suggest you set up a Twitter account called “Bailed-Out Boneheads” and tweet about each despicable thing you hear an employee has done and include their name and termination date. For shizz dudes. This is the type of thing you need to do if you ever want to restore faith to the American people and bring integrity back to your bank.
  4. Tell Top-Talent To Screw: Seriously…when I hear bankers say they need to pay millions in compensation to retain top talent I can’t help but laugh. Where is this so-called top-talent going to go? There isn’t a healthy bank on the planet these days so relocation is not an option. And oh by the way, what makes them “top talent?” They were the ones with their hands on the wheel when their Titanic-like bank hit an iceberg and began to sink pulling down an entire country of passengers down with it. When you tell this self-anointed top-talent moron to screw, record the communication on a Flip. Post the video on your Web 2.0 platform and let all Americans enjoy the encounter.
  5. Pray: I’m agnostic. I respect all religions, so I don’t care who you pray to, but I suggest you get down on your dirty little hands and knees and pray like you have never prayed before.What should you pray for? I suggest forgiveness and a miracle. You need the former and the American people need the latter.

Do you have any crisis PR advice for these bailed-out boneheads?

Disclaimer: There were/are a lot of innocent, well intentioned employees at these bailed-out banks, many of whom have suffered immensely. They are not the target of this post.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 31 Comments »

Losing My Virginity On Video

Friday, Feb. 6th 2009


Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 26 Comments »

Death Threats At TechCrunch — WTF?

Wednesday, Jan. 28th 2009

This morning Michael Arrington, the iconic figure for TechCrunch, announced he was taking a leave of absence. The straw that broke this blogger-camel’s back was being spat on yesterday at a conference in Europe. Michael also revealed that he and his family had recently received death threats and were forced into hiding while paying $2,000/day for private security. WTF? What is wrong with some people?

I have written many posts illuminating my stark contrast of opinion when it comes to Arrington’s perspective regarding PR people and the PR industry as a whole. At times I find his opinion slanderous and highly discriminatory and his tone usually wreaks of disrespect. I think judging an entire group of people based on the actions of a few to be unacceptable and never leads to anything positive. However, Arrington is entitled to his opinion without having his life threatened. Despite our differences, my heart goes out to Michael, his family and his employees. The only people who deserve to be on the receiving end of a death threat are the ones who have molested children or done something as repulsive.

While I love Web 2.0 and all the power it brings to individuals’ voices, there is a dark side that often overshadows its greatness. In the physical world, you often learn of a nutbag’s level of craziness after he/she has committed some type of violent crime. The very “after-the-fact” nature of traditional media limits the visibility into this underbelly of society. However, the blogosphere brings it out for all to see. The hatred and outright rage spewed in many people’s responses to blog posts can be incredibly alarming. I often think “WTF is wrong with these people?” Their comments are not in response to posts on rape, murder or other violent crimes where one could understand such venom. We’re talking about comments in response to a post about an internet start-up. Even more frightening than the hostile response is that it is not one fruit loop with one response, it is an army of imbalanced people terrorizing the world through their keyboards.

The harsh reality is that this situation is not going to get better. What can we do? I think it is important to do less lurking in the blogosphere. It’s important for people to comment on posts and share their thoughtful, non-threatening perspectives. Nothing could be safer because the blogosphere allows for anonymity if one so desires. More posts from reasonable people would dilute the vitriol that often dominates a thread.

What do you think?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Steve Jobs’ PR Peeps

Sunday, Jan. 25th 2009

There has been a firestorm of blogosphere/media chatter around the January 20th announcement of Steve Jobs’ leave of absence. The net/net of the fury is linked to Jobs’ ongoing denial that he had any health problems, followed by what appeared to be an abrupt leave of absence. In the 10 days since the announcement, there has been a tsunami of coverage, most of which is centered on outrage and rumors of a cover up. From Dan Lyons unleashing a wrath on punk’d CNBC reporter (which I believed was well deserved) to Fred Wilson’s announcement that he dumped his Apple shares, almost without exception, Apple (AAPL) PR peeps are being blamed (along with Jobs himself) for keeping Jobs’ health issues a secret.

I’m here with a big pin in my hand charged with popping a bubble of delusion. So here I go…the army of Apple PR managers making $60,000 +/- a year had no freaky deaky idea of the truth regarding Jobs’ health. Does anyone actually believe that Steve Jobs really confided about the true nature of his health challenges to a bunch of PR employees 5+ layers deep in his company?  Do people think there was a meeting at Apple led by Jobs with the entire Apple PR staff in attendance where he said something like, “Hey guys, I’m really sick but I don’t want anyone to know, so I would like you to lie on my behalf. Are ya with me?!” Seriously, it’s time to take the PR gum off everyone’s shoes and get a grip. It is rumored that Jobs’ inner circle of friends had no idea of his dire health situation. It’s laughable to think the PR people were privy to this info, yet they are repeatedly being thrown under the bus.

What I don’t know is if Apple’s top PR dog knew the truth and then knowingly instructed his team to lie. Lyons indicated something to that effect in his CNBC interview. If true then that would be a tragedy for the entire PR industry. For it is the action of one or a few that often drives the perception for an entire group. For example, it is this “guilty by association” perspective that has unfairly positioned good-hearted Muslims in a negative light. It’s just unfair and quite frankly sad.

For the record, I think Dan Lyons is a God. He tells it like it is and thrives on weeding out the bullshit. He has also been an outspoken supporter of PR people, as illustrated in his contribution to my Put The Turd On The Table Interview in March of 2008. Fred Wilson is also someone I admire immensely. I remember trying to raise a round of funding through his firm Flatiron — right before the internet bubble burst — when I was at Toysmart.com. Wilson was the consummate professional always communicating in a respectful manner. If anything, Wilson should know the guilty by association challenge all too well as VCs often get run over by the same bus as the PR industry. In both cases, I don’t think Lyons or Wilson were trying to harm innocent PR professionals, but I think general comments only adds to the pigpile that already exists. To be clear, I am as guilty of making general statements about a professional group as anyone. I have accused VCs as “eating their young” and I need to think about this as I move forward.

What’s the lesson here? Don’t judge an entire group of people by the actions of a handful of idiots. The world would be a better place.

Have you ever been thrown under the bus for the actions of one reckless dope?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Ghosts In The Blogosphere

Sunday, Jan. 18th 2009

Although moving at glacial speed, the fog is slowly lifting from many Web 2.0 naysayers and they are finally acquiescing that this “blogosphere thing” is not going away. These people were like smokers who insisted smoking was fine as they hacked up a lung leaving a spray of spit in your face. My experience is that many of these people had achieved business success in a day when there was no such thing as the blogosphere, memos were sent around in yellow envelopes and dinosaurs roamed the earth. Their previous success is their biggest liability in today’s Web 2.0 world, because their over-inflated egos have blinded their ability to recognize that what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today because the world has changed.

Up until recently, if my agency suggested this Web 2.0 naysayer write a blog as part of his or her company’s overall PR strategy, we would usually hear an arrogant chuckle followed by something like “over my dead body.” More recently, however, we have seen a shift. We now hear “ok, but someone else can write it” or even worse “ok, but you guys can write it.” Ummmm…homey don’t think so. Having someone else write your blog is called ghost blogging and as far as I’m concerned it’s as wrong as faking you have cancer so people will send you money. Why? Because it is deceitful and at it’s very core sits a big, fat, hairy lie.

“Ghost writing” is something that has been going on in the traditional publishing world since the day those naysayers were able to smoke in their offices. Nobody really cared. Ghost blogging is a completely different thing. In a Web 2.0 world the single most important attribute is authenticity. Through a blog, a blogger’s perspective, personality, tone and voice needs needs to emerge. This cannot happen through a ghost blogger. And having someone else blog for you is like having someone dress up like you to go work in an orphanage for a photo opp while you vacation in the Amalfi coast. It just wreaks of artificial scum and is a scam waiting to be exposed….and exposed it will be. If the blogosphere smells a rat, they will shoot is for all the world to read. Even traditional media know better. Two years ago, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann mocked Congressman Tom Delay for ghost blogging and the blogosphere spread the story like wildfire.

As PR and marketing peeps, we need to stand united as Web 2.0 Ghostbusters and never support a ghost blogging strategy. I can tell in a nanosecond if a prospect is someone I want to work with based on how they respond to push back on ghost blogging. I believe my personal reputation, my agency’s reputation, and the PR industry’s reputation would be at risk if I were to ever knowingly promote a ghost blog.

What are your thoughts on ghosts in the blogosphere?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 21 Comments »