What's the message?

I read a lot of papers - regular ones, and online - as any media junkie/PR person should. So, while reading the papers, I look at it from a PR perspective and more often than not, I just sit there shaking my head and wondering what the thought process was for the person speaking.

So, this past week a few gems popped out at me.

From the Arizona Republic came an interesting story about homeowners who have sold their homes at what they hope is the top of the market, moved into an apartment, and are looking for the market to correct itself. It's an interesting investment strategy, but two things jumped out at me.

Kurt Nishimura is taking a calculated ride on Arizona's real estate wave. He sold his home in the Willo neighborhood, believing its value has topped out, and is renting an apartment in the Arcadia area for a year, hoping to buy something after the wave has crested.

Kurt, however, is the vice president of acquisitions for Pivotal Group. Pivotal Group is a "strategically sophisticated investment and development company." Yes, they are in the business of developing residential communities (among other high-quality real estate assets). Okay, so following this thought ... your VP of acquisitions tells a local paper that he thinks the market is over valued and is getting out? Must have been a fun day in the office that following day.

Here's a great PR lesson: make sure that only qualified and media trained executives speak to the media. There was no reason Kurt should have been contacted ... unless he's going out on his own. There's a reason we have PR people: to create messaging. I am pretty sure ... this was not on message.

From USA Today, about the lawsuit against Nickelodeon and Kelloggs because, well, kids are fat comes a great quote.

"Going out on a limb here, perhaps her (Carlson's) kids want these foods not because of ads, but because they're children," said Dan Mindus, spokesman for the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Now, just a guess, but that was probably not the message that was meant to get out: so, your kids are fat not because there are Kellogg's products with Nickelodeon characters, but, hey, they don't exercise and you are a crappy parent who folds when they whine for certain products.

I have to admit - I agree with the guy. What happened to the Presidential Fitness Tests where we would get the certificates in front of the whole school? Yes, the pudgy or non-athletic types would feel bad, but we (yes, I was one of the non-athletic types) would work harder the next year to not feel so ashamed. There's nothing wrong with peer pressure like that.

But, man, I am sure that was not the message that was supposed to get out. Funny, but not on message.

Also, from USA Today ... Amazon is working with Bill Maher. Yes, I know everyone loves podcasting and video podcasting and how streaming videos are great ... but what's the upsell here? Commercials at the beginning of each show? Why not just sponsor KSSX or Rocketboom?

"This is the next step," says Kathy Savitt, Amazon's vice president for strategic communications. "The mission or common thread through all of these series is to offer innovative and interactive opportunities for customers to discover ... new films, music and books."

Okay, and it gets people to buy films, music and books ... how? Maybe I'm being dense, but from a PR standpoint it seems like another instance of stunt PR. How about making the shopping experience better? That might work as well.



  1. If Nishimura's firm is taking a "sabbatical" from residential work for the time being -- say, to concentrate on other types of projects -- then he's spiking the pool for his competitors.

    Great menu of options: "Will you be having the stupid or the sleazy with that, sir?"

  2. Jeremy,
    About the Amazon.com issue. You wrote, "How about making the shopping experience better? That might work as well."

    Sure, sure it would. But isn't that too hard? Surely it would be easier to use novelties and wondrous new technology rather than fix an obvious problem. Like a store changing its layout when the real problem is the lousy customer service. Unfortunately, people often fall for this - for a while. Use enough smoke and mirrors and you can fool anyone. Clever, heck yes!

    Plus, as we know, being the first to do something in the mind of the consumer is a huge benefit. Let's see what happens.

  3. It's interesting what Amazon is doing. It certainly seems risky, but I'm sure Amazon's consumer research team has been doing its homework. However, Amazon seems to be a leader in advertising. The company clearly dedicates a lot of energy toward filtering itself through advertising clutter. I have noticed how Amazon seamlessly, yet noticeably enters into my world.

    For instance, in one episode of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw is deciding on a book cover for the book she's written. She and the girls look at book covers together in a bookstore. At one point Charolette sneaks away to look for a book "Starting Over Again" in the Self-help section of the store. Charolette is kind of embarrassed that she's looking for that book in the first place. Then she notices all the weirdoes accompanying the self-help section, so she pretends she's meaning to look for the travel section.

    At the end of the show, right before Carrie reveals her big lesson, it shows Charolette ordering her book at Amazon.com and Carrie voicing-over how Charolette got to get the book she wanted, in the privacy of her own home thanks to Amazon.com.

    That's quite an ad for Amazon! It was placed in the show at the perfect time, right at the end--the part we all want to see, and without the hoakiness of product planting.

    Whether it's Amazon or HBO, the two have a distinctly positive working relationship. I'm not too sure about this new program they're about to run, but if anyone can make it work, it's probably HBO and Amazon.

    I agree that Amazon needs to pay attention to the shopping experience, but if Amazon is the first place that comes to mind when I'm shopping online for books, the company has conquered half the battle.

  4. But, that's the problem Paige. You think of Amazon just for books (and maybe CDs). The company has done a terrible job explaining the rest of the stores or getting people to think of Amazon as that one place on the Web to get whatever you want.

    And, yep, Luke. Let's put a band-aid on something that might need to be excised and fixed.

  5. Ahh, I remember when I was a kid and simple cartoons and advertisements force-fed me twinkies. And to think, I could have been a thin, healthy child. Oh wait, my parents just told me "no" when I wanted too much to eat.

    Anyway, about this Amazon.com business. I really am intrigued. I am not sure how watching the show is going to make people buy more dvd's and books either.

    Are they expecting people to hear about the show and visit the site to watch and, while they are there, buy something? It seems to me people would have to find out about the show by visitng the site while they were already searching for a book.

    Also, while we are being critical, I visited amazon.com to see the site and personally I think they just have too much going on on the front page in the first place which reflects what seems to be haphazard marketing to me. Honestly, with their competitive book and dvd sales, what are they doing trying to sell engagement rings on there? they should leave that to ebay.

    The show seems like a really good idea at first, but if it isn't fitting in strategically to a marketing plan or goal, then why do it at all?

  6. Yeah, I see what you're saying. What would ever make me think to look on Amazon.com for Valentine jewelry in the $50-$200 price range? I think of Amazon as an online book store or media store. So I would only look there for things I would normally find in a Books-A-Million or something like that.

    Looking at Amazon's website, in a column on the left, it names its "featured partners." Perhaps if Amazon steered from promoting individual products like no-calorie chocolates and started connecting the name Amazon with the name Godiva people would begin to associate Amazon as a retail ebay.

    Now that I see what all Amazon has to offer on its site, my personal opinion is that the company seems a bit greedy. Amazon isn't offering any unique service or product, it's just trying to sell, sell, sell.

  7. Ashley, today that would be called child abuse. ;)

    Yes, my parents did cut us off of sugar, but I had an underground network ... called school. If kids want something bad enough, we're gonna go get it.

    Don't get me wrong, Paige. I love Amazon (notice the gift list to the left) but all-in-all I wonder what these streaming media thingies do for PR and the brand. That was just my question on that one.