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June 2014 - PS Insights

ENTITLED?

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It is customary to refer to a former political official by their last highest-ranking title. So Mitt Romney is referred to as “Governor Romney,” and Bill Clinton as “President Clinton.” NPR made a subtle, intriguing decision last week. They referred to Hilary Clinton as “First Lady Hilary Clinton”—a title she earned by marriage—rather than “Secretary of State Hilary Clinton”—a title she earned by merit. How do you identify and label your content and are you consistent in how you go about it?

RISK ASSESSMENT

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We’re okay with risk—it’s foolishness that puzzles us. North Korea took a third U.S. citizen into custody a couple of weeks ago. All we can wonder is, “What were those Americans thinking?” On the State Department’s web site it says, “The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea… North Korean authorities have arbitrarily arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally crossed into DPRK territory.” Does a warning get any more clear than that? How do you evaluate “acceptable” risks?

NO WONDER

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Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, fired 15 people when the report came out over the faulty ignition switch fiasco. 15 people in a chain of command to manage one ignition switch? That in itself should have told her everything she needed to know. The US Army only has eight ranks from private to general—and they fight wars on two continents! If you’ve got 15 people with some degree of responsibility in your chain of command, we can guarantee they’ll screw up; it’s just too cumbersome. How do you streamline the flow of information and manage excellence in your organization?

THE BIG EVENT

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Big Event Advertising is more important than ever—from the Super Bowl to the Olympics to the Oscars to the current World Cup. High concept stuff, long form, emotional and celebratory — of the event and the brand. So far, from the celebrations in Brazil, two spots stand out: McDonald’s delightful “Trick Shot” commercial  which everyone seems to like and Beats by Dre which is a hit among Millennials. How do you use big stages to take advantage of unique marketing opportunities?

QUOTABLE QUOTERS

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We were watching an HBO special about Stephen Sondheim—a brilliant composer and lyricist who is eminently quotable. In discussing how he worked, Sondheim gave credit to William Faulkner. “The three keys are experience, imagination and observation. You can get through life missing one of them–but not two.” Do you have all three?

DOGGED OPTIMISM

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We both have dogs who are forever chasing squirrels and chipmunks. They have never caught one, but they keep on trying. Their dedication and enthusiasm reminds us of a quote from Sir Winston Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” How do you chase dreams or give up on the ones that will never come true?

IT’S ALL IN THE LANGUAGE

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We were thinking about the term “bubble,” the other day. A word economists and business editors use to describe an overheated part of the economy that’s due to pop like, well, a bubble. If you think about it though, “bubble” is just a euphemism for a Ponzi Scheme perpetrated by more than one individual. Have you ever gotten sucked into something because the language made it sound appealing?

TAG, YOU’RE IT!

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Burger King just killed its classic tagline “Have it Your Way.” The new line is “Be Your Way.” Really? It makes us nuts. One is about serving food the way you want it. The new one seems to be some commentary about personal fulfillment. Taco Bell now tells us to “Live Más.” So we know that can speak Spanglish. But don’t you think “Think outside the bun” was a much better slogan for a Mexican restaurant? The Quick Serve Restaurant business is in enough trouble not to sacrifice classic equities for pie in the sky taglines. What do you do to protect your hard earned assets?

UBER PLAN B

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Uber—the urban app that lets you order up a cab (at “market prices”) has gotten flak from a variety of sources. The two main complaints being price and turning street-hailed vehicles into app-hailed private car services. Uber is fighting both complaints—but also looking for new ways to expand their service. One of our readers just got an e-mail blast from Uber’s new UberRUSH package delivery service! How are you finding and turning inspired simple ideas into game changers in new market categories?

NETIZENS

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We’ve commented on both sides of the “Big Data/Big Brother” issue. A reader recently sent us a link to a study that links Web, social and mobile usage to voting habits. Big data is now capturing what kinds of netizens we are. How are you evaluating your relationship to the web?