About the Steve O Zone

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Long A.A.R.M of Steve O...


Assemblage of 


Musings of an over-caffeinated, slightly ajar yet well-meaning writer/content creator and strategist.

Before I get to today's A.A.R.M., I wanted to make reference to the title. It is merely my very SEO-unfriendly title I use from time to time when I just want to spout off on anything that's on my mind. 


Fans of Seinfeld, of which I am most assuredly one, will instantly recognize the name Jackie Chiles. The Johnnie Cochran-inspired attorney is one of the classic of all the Seinfeld recurring characters.

Well apparently the folks at Jim Beam feel, that despite the show being off the air for 15 years and counting, Jackie Chiles is still relevant and as such can help move product.

Oh sure there's a philanthropic angle to this campaign but Jackie Chiles? Really?

Look don't get me wrong, I love the character and I am as nostalgic as the next guy but why do I get the feeling this is another example of someone at the client (Jim Beam) saying to someone at their agency they're a big Seinfeld fan and how 'bout we do something Seinfeld-related with one of their characters? 

In other words, the client likes Seinfeld. The agency wants to keep the client happy so they concoct an idea whereby they revive Jackie Chiles and thus the client can meet and mingle with someone they've loved, albeit a fictional character just so they can tell everyone they made a commercial with Jackie Chiles.


In keeping with the nostalgia theme the Wisconsin Department of Tourism decided they too wanted to tap into what once was and reached out to local sons the Zucker brothers to create an ad touting the benefits of visiting their great state.

The idea for the ad, cue the nostalgic theme music, is reunite two characters from their classic film, Airplane.

So the Zuckers got back together with their partner Jim Abrahams in Los Angeles recently to begin shooting the commercial which will feature Robert Hays and the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

Here's some stills from the set courtesy of The Business Journal:

This is NOT the first time they've gone to the Airplane well, however, as this spot below which aired earlier this year starred Hays and was directed by David Zucker. 


Anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer in the power of social media from a branding, advertising and marketing perspective. 

However from time to time we see the dark side of social media and such was the case not long ago when Facebook inadvertently used the image of a young girl who had hung herself in a Facebook ad for a dating service.

The girl, Rehtaeh Parsons
, hung herself in April as a result of cyberbullying, according the New York Times

The NY Times article reported that the site which used the photo, ionechat.com, "apparently pulled news photos of Ms. Parsons off the Web after reports of her suicide and used them without authorization in the ad. The owner of the site, which has been shut down, told The Toronto Sun that he had used the photo by mistake and wasn’t aware of the girl’s background. Facebook said it had blocked the company from submitting future ads."

In a statement following the removal of the ad in question Facebook said "This is an extremely unfortunate example of an advertiser scraping an image from the Internet and using it in their ad campaign. This is a gross violation of our ad policies and we have removed the ad and permanently deleted the advertiser’s account. We apologize for any harm this has caused.”

Look, there is enough blame to go around here. I realize Facebook has no way of knowing if an otherwise innocuous image someone submits for use in an ad is that of someone who took their own life. 

But something clearly needs to be done to ensure this never happens again.

There's lots of smart people working at Facebook and surely they can come up with a way to prevent this from occurring in the future. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11th - Not Just Another Day

There are days throughout the year that have a "feel" to them, be it a holiday or a birthday, etc. These are not just another day(s) in our lives. We must add September 11th for it will never be just another day.

The post below is something I wrote years ago and I repost every year on this date. The reason I repost it is for the simple reason I want people to always remember what it felt like on September 11, 2001; to never forget what it was like that day. My fear is that people already have or will in the future treat September 11th just like any other day.

Kramer: What's today?
Newman: It's Thursday.
Kramer: Really? Feels like Tuesday.
Newman: Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel, Sunday has a feel...
Fans of Seinfeld will of course recall this classic exchange. As was the case with most things Seinfeld, this was an example of something we all could relate to. I mean days do have a feel, don’t they?
But it’s not just days of the week that have “feels” associated with them.
How does January 1st feel? Well that probably depends on what you did the night before.
How 'bout April 15th? Tax day. Doesn’t mean much cause you always get your taxes filed early, right? Or perhaps you are an habitual late-filer and this date causes you to break out in hives.
July 4th? Cookouts. Burgers. Dogs. Fireworks. Summer. Any of these ring a bell?
October 31st? Halloween. Costumes. Scary ghost stories. Soon as night falls it takes on a whole new feeling, doesn’t it?
December 24th? Anticipation. Excitement. Expectation.
December 25th? Family. Presents. Children. Santa. Snow. A certain euphoria and sense of family comes over us on this day, doesn’t it?
Your birthday? Your spouse's birthday? Your children's birthday?
ALL of these are special days in our lives each with their own unique feel to them.
These are all Not Just Another Day in our lives and on our calendars and in our blackberries and cell phones.
Well I think we must add September 11th to the list.
Right or Wrong, September 11th will NEVER just be another day. It can't be.
For if we allow it to become just another day, then we will have failed.
We will have failed to honor those lost that tragic day. Their memory will die. And we simply cannot nor should not allow that to happen.
September 11th? Personally it evokes feelings of: Fear. Anger. Outrage. Bewilderment. Disbelief. Revenge. Shock. Sadness. Innocence lost.
September 11th will NEVER just be another day.
Mark it down.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When A Brand Promise Backfires

Like every other marketing-related word or phrase, the term "brand promise" has its fair share of definitions. The one I like best is one that I think captures the essence perfectly for it speaks to the relationship marketing aspect.

It was written by Jean Wilcox, one of the authors of the book AbuLLard's ABC's of Branding: "A brand promise is the statement that you make to customers that identifies what they should expect for all interactions with your people, products, services and company. It is often associated with the company name and/or logo."

Wilcox also believes a brand promise is also the tagline for a given brand - and she's right.

Case in point:
  • Coors Light – “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer”
  • Geico – “15 Minutes Or Less Can Save You 15% Or More On Car Insurance”
  • Nationwide Insurance – “Nationwide Is On Your Side”
Three classic examples of a brand promise and tagline doing the same thing.

The Promised Land
With a not-so-indirect homage to The Boss, what happens when a brand promise backfires? Well, there may or may not be a "dark cloud rising from the desert floor" but, it can cause damage to the brand itself for sure.

Remember a few years ago when the whole News Corp. brand promise took a major blow? It's promise was to legally investigate and report news and a phone-hacking scandal and questionable journalistic activities did not exactly deliver on that promise now did it?

The brand's actions had a direct impact and effect on its brand promise.

Not long ago I became aware of a restaurant in New York city called Sushi Yasuda which made headlines when they announced they would no longer accept tips from its patrons.

To me this had red flags written all over it.

How great that you no longer have to worry about how much to leave your server.

Sure sounded like a good idea from a consumer's perspective.

Or did it?

And then there was the marketing perspective.

Shouldn't a restaurant's brand promise have something to do with providing not only great foot but great service? And inherent in that great service are the people delivering that service; that experience.

How would their attitude change knowing they are not receiving a gratuity?

Julia Carcamo, a brand strategist with a number of years of experience in developing food and beverage brands ranging from fine dining to casino buffets says what while the prospect of making a dining experience easier on a guest is always exciting,  eliminating tipping seems to be a quick way to fail at delivering on a promise of great service.

And it all comes down to the people delivering on that promise.

"Like most brands, the rubber hits the road at the point of guest contact," she said. "You have to hire the people that will deliver on the promise, knowing that promise is even bigger now that you've taken the guests' ability to determine whether their experience was worth a tip and how much it was worth."

Jan Talamo, who is partner in the award-winning restaurant Catelli Duo (and as CCO of the ad agency Star Group knows a thing or two about marketing/advertising), agrees with Carcamo in that this idea is novel and would generate buzz.

However he doesn't believe it's practical for the everyday establishment.

"I believe it would border on entitlement and service would suffer," said Talamo. "There's something about tipping that keeps it honest and everybody striving to deliver the best guest experience."

He adds that tipping plays a role in performance appraisals of employees.

"At the end of the day the amount written in the gratuity line of the check doesn't lie. From an operators standpoint, we have technology that rates each server by the amount of gratuity they register, hence, another metric to gauge guest satisfaction and server performance."

Laying Down The Law
Carolyn Richmond is a partner in the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. She is co-chair of their Hospitality Practice Group which represents and counsels employers in the hospitality industry, specifically restaurants.

She too agrees that an official ‘no tipping’ policy isn’t necessarily a bad idea. She thinks the answer lies in our state legislatures and Congress revising the wage and hour laws and addressing the epidemic of abusive litigation.

"Eliminating tipping is not a final solution, and what lies at the root of this issue are archaic laws that are on the books," she says. "We have different needs than in 1938. The wage and hourly laws need to be changed with A-to-Z reform."

Image Source: Google Images