Friday, November 14, 2008

Gum Galore

Week after week as I stand in line at the grocery store to buy my milk, beer and bread (the essentials), perusing over the tabloids and Altoids, I'm struck by the countless number of confectionery treats that line the aisle. I think more gum and candy brands exist today than ever before (tempting to insert an aside here on America's obesity issues, but I'll pass).

The number of brands is matched only by the variety in which they're promoted at retail. By "at retail," I mean the packaging and branding that takes place in the store. This includes the pretty colors, fonts and designs they use to catch your eye in the aisle. Ever wonder why gum and candy are always in the check-out aisle? Look at me. Or your kids. Inundate the consumer with your eye-catching products at eye-level (or at least for someone a little shorter, um, like a kid) in a narrow passageway through which they must pass to exit the premises. It's effective. They know.

"Funny though," I always thought. "Gum is gum." Don't tell that to the manufacturers.

"Wrigley" could conjure up two images depending on where you're located geographically. Fabled Wrigley Field and the Cubbies, bless their hearts, or Wrigley gum. Chances are if you're in Chicago, you know them both.

Headquarterd in the famous, you guessed it, Wrigley Building in Chicago, the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company is the world's largest manufacturer and marketer of chewing gum, with global sales of $5.4 billion. That's a lot of gum. From Wrigley's Spearmint (I can't even say "Spearmint" alone, it has to be "Wrigley's Spearmint" - darn effective branding) to 5, there's seemingly a stick for everyone.

Some gum packages look like mini-laundry detergent tablets (health conscious, hard working middle-somethings?) while others look like iPhones (club-hopping hipsters with their fresh breath and, well, iPhones?).

Yes, it would appear that Wrigley has created (or acquired through major mergers and acquisitions) a bubble-gum brand for nerly every person and every occassion...

You know, like if you want to view an "Eclipse" (a phenomenon caused by the "Orbit" of the moon and Earth, not "Mars") in the "Winterfresh" air with your "Hubba Bubba" at "5" before you catch the "Big League Chew." Just make sure there's an "Extra" piece handy; it's a "LifeSaver." I tried.

Lest you think I'm jabbing the gum giant here; I'm not (hard). I raise Wrigley and the gum/confectionery marketing topic to demonstrate how a seemingly archaic industry has used effective marketing and public relations to earn more than $5 billion annually. It's not always who you are; it's who the consumer thinks you are.

For more examples, see Blue Rhino, Repreve and Vespa.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Communicating on the Go

People love instant gratification.

Fast food. Instant messaging. Real-time updates. The fast lane. All-in-one phones. The world at our fingertips. That's how we live and we expect nothing less.

With a tech-savvy society that lives to communicate, why then, as a 2006 survey by Response Insurance suggests, do 57 percent of American drivers not signal when changing lanes? If that number doesn't jump off the page, try this one: 23,000 fatalities occur every year on U.S. roads because of unintended lane changes, e.g. people that don't use turn signals. Turn signals.

We're talking about one of the oldest (invented in 1929, although not standard until the 60's) and most widely available communication technologies that exists today. Not to mention one of the easiest and most practical to use technologies. You know, the little lights on either side of your automobile that let people know when you plan to turn?

It befuddles me how few people use turn signals!

My wife and I discuss this on a daily basis. How, in a society ruled by the "now" and the instant transfer of information (much of which is frivolous - "Sale at Coldstone on Wendover Ave!" - actual Twitter message I recently received), can we somehow fail to let each other know when we may collide and cause serious bodily damage at 65+ miles-per-hour?

The Chicago Sun-Times reports more findings from the Response Insurance survey:

  • "Men are less likely to signal than women, and drivers under 25 are less likely to signal than older drivers.
  • 42 percent said they didn't have time,
  • 23 percent said they were lazy,
  • 17 percent said they don't because they forget to turn it off,
  • 12 percent said they changed lanes too frequently to bother,
  • 11 percent said it was not important,
  • 8 percent said they don't because other drivers don't. And, most disturbing of all,
  • 7 percent skipped the signal to "add excitement" to their trip." Seriously?
I have an idea. Ford and Microsoft developed Sync technology (and did no small amount of promotion - Sync YouTube contest), which allows you to voice-activate music playlists, cell phones/Bluetooth, internet searches, GPS systems and the like. Now we can listen to music, talk to friends, text, order pizza and get directions simultaneously while driving - upon arrival we even have cars that park themselves!

So how about a voice-activated turn signal? A high-tech auto-option that actually contributes to driver safety etiquette. "Turn right." (Click, click, click, click...) Whoa.

I'm hoping to see auto-related communications, or better yet, common communications sense head that direction, but I've yet to see a turn signal.

Day 3 - Overnight Success is Overrated

Insurance companies are always hiring. It doesn't matter whether the economy is in recession or banks are lending or whether people even have jobs and money to purchase insurance. Nope. Doesn't matter. Insurance companies are always hiring.

But the glass is half full. Really. I've only drank half of my afternoon glass of milk. And I'm confident that my means of self promotion are effective (if done correctly). Covering the basics of job hunting:
  • I have my random ramblings on Blogger (you're looking at 'em) - I like the functionaility of this blogging site. Pretty straightforward "wysiwyg" (what you see is what you get) formatting, easy linking and image uploads, editable posts and posting options, and chances are you're already registered with Google: Picasa, iGoogle, Gmail, YouTube, Alerts, etc.
  • LinkedIn profile is updated and I'm requesting/receiving recommendations from past colleagues.
  • The 'ol resume is being planted on job search sites: Monster, Career Builder
  • I've updated my profile with PRSA (surprised to find how outdated certain aspects of this site are - job postings for one :)
  • And I'm networking, or trying to. Wanna go to lunch?

"Patience and perserverence have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." - John Quincy Adams

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank You

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 1 - Optimism

The morning is bright, the air is fresh and the carpet is vaccumed. Perfect start to my first day of nitty gritty job hunting! I've spent nearly two weeks just updating my resume/portfolio and getting samples and the like together - not to mention kicking off a certain blog. I highly recommend the occasional 30,000 foot view of your accomplishments. It's almost certainly better than you think. It's getting others to take notice that is the challenge!

So where does a public relations and marketing professional begin their job search? Perhaps through a previous work contact? A friend of their mother's neighbor's babysitter? Nope. Try Craig's List. I admit I have about as much experience with Craig's List as the Detroit Lions do with winning football games (oh! that's a good one). But I figure this could be my gold mine - I may spend hours panning for precious stones and end up with mud and rocks. BUT, I could hit it big. Don't know unless you try, right?

I'll give the 'ol Charlotte Chamber of Commerce site and the local business directories a good looking over as well - and here's to hoping there are plenty of potential businesses! I need all the odds on my side. And hey, if my career's yellow brick road doesn't inersect with Craig's List, well, there's always that friend of my mother's neighbor's babysitter :)


On a side note, I came across earlier today (not a job site, but kinda cool). This site is meant to be a Craig's List/YouTube hybrid. At the very least it's another good example of how social media continues to merge and evolve. Admittedly I haven't gone through the site completely, but it has potential and relates to Craig's List - so there you have it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Help a Reporter Out

Prior to my current state of unemployment (not a big fan, feel free to rescue me :), I worked with Quixote Group, a PR, marketing and market research agency in Greensboro. The folks at QG can do great things, sort of like Ghostbusters - "no job is too big, no fee is too big!" ~ End ex-employer plug ~

During my time with QG, I did my fair share of media relations. You name it - email pitches, cold calls (hate that), mailings, desksides, gifts, tours and all the like while establishing relationships with more than a few media contacts along the way. The one gripe they all have with PR folks is that many of us spam the hell out of them with off-target pitches (in general, this obviously doesn't apply to everyone in the profession). "Why don't more of you take the time to learn about our publication and pitch the appropriate editor?" they would ask me. "Well, I thought that's what we did..." (Insert naivity comment)

As simple a concept as this may appear, I'm still surprised to hear how many PR people fail to pitch on-target and seemingly refuse to do so despite clear and concise feedback from the media. Alas, my griping about the obvious has a point to it today!

There is a young "CEO, Entrepreneur and Adventurist" named Peter Shankman who developed a newsletter (more of a service really), called Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Nuts and bolts: media from across the country send story requests to Shankman who then emails them to PR and marketing pros so that both parties can get what they want (you can sign up here). Media get expert sources and relevant story content, and PR people get their clients in front of media that actually want to cover their product, idea, story, etc. It's a win-win situation. The network is well over 30,000 strong now with regular inquiries from the likes of USA Today, NY Times and many regional, industry, consumer and other media across the country. Tip: Don't think you can sign up and then blast irrelevant pitches to these media - Shankman will out you in front of the entire group; I've seen it happen (pretty funny actually :)

So basic. So genius. So check it out!