Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday trampling death at Walmart store is the result of Idiot Consumerism

Walmart, one of the most well known and most often mismanaged brands, has once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and shown how they really feel about the American consumer.

The Black Friday trampling death of a temporary worker at a Walmart store in New York is a bleak reminder of how insane one aspect of branding has become. I've chosen to call it "idiot consumerism." In normal consumerism, the smart consumer looks for good deals on the goods they want to buy - for themselves or for gift giving. Manufacturers turn up the volume and supply distributors and retailers with all this stuff. Retailers lure customers with low prices. So far, so good. The smart consumer shops around, checks the circulars and makes the purchase.

Now here's where it all goes horribly, horribly wrong:
For the past several years now, the American consumer has been conditioned to begin the holiday shopping season on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. The idiot consumer believes the retailers, in an effort to "get back into the black" after a lackluster year, will offer once in a lifetime deals on all the stuff he wants to buy. And by the way, it's perfectly normal to go out to a shopping center at midnight, in your pajamas. It's the idiotic side of consumerism, and retailers are more than willing to pander to this dark side of human nature.

Here's what happened this weekend at the Mecca of idiot consumerism, Walmart:
According to the NY Times account of the incident, a crowd of more than 2,000 had gotten out of control, and banged and pressed against the doors. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over.

In idiot consumerism, the consumer apparently loses control and any sense of common decency. Forget about being polite, these Black Friday buffoons will literally trample you to death for standing between them and a good deal on an X-Box or Tickle Me Elmo. I could see the scene somewhere in the vicinity of that Walmart this Christmas morning as the Long Island soccer mom says - "Merry Christmas, Billy. Looks like Santa got you just the video game you wanted. Unfortunately, some poor bastard was trampled to death so this year we're going to church so we can feel a little better about ourselves. Come on, get dressed!"

Right about now you might be wondering - what was Walmart's response to this tragedy? Predictably, it was a typically inadequate boilerplate corporate statement -

“The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this tragic time.”

Your top priority? Really? Then why was this man killed? I'll tell you why. Again, according to the NY Times story, the Nassau County police said the store lacked adequate security, called the scene “utter chaos” and said the “crowd was out of control.” The police said criminal charges are possible against those who were responsible for physically crashing through the doors and trampling the man, but I think it would be much easier to indict Walmart in this matter. They are the ones who are criminally responsible for this man's death.

And the Black Friday idiot consumers? Let's hope they shop online next year.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

2008 Sarasota International Design Summit was really something

Kudos to Larry Thompson, Mary Craig, Christine Meeker Lange and all the people from Ringling College of Art + Design who put together the International Design Summit this year. My firm was a sponsor of the 2008 edition of the Summit, and it was well worth the investment. I also got to meet and hear from some brilliant minds in the world of design and technology: Jennifer Magnolfi of Herman Miller, Tom Wujec of Autodesk, Franco Lodato of Pininfarina Extra and Michael Alexin of Target Corporation, just to name a very few. Great event. Very thought-provoking.

My friends from the EDC of Sarasota County were there to run the registration tables. Sitting with Dr. Thompson at Lunch on the final day, I was reminded that the Design Summit concept came out of a discussion of the EDC's creative services cluster group. This successful event is a reminder for us all of the importance of these ongoing discussions.

Why I hate politics

My previous post about the Obama campaign not withstanding, I should say that I have always hated politics. At the same time, however, I confess to being fascinated by the whole damn process. The media. The campaigns. The bloggers - especially the deluded ones on the far right - it is all so crazy. And sometimes so far removed from reality. It occurs to me that perhaps one of the reasons for Ad Age's pick of Obama as Marketer of the Year is that the McCain campaign has been so incredibly lame. When you think about it, it has been nothing more than predictable - the typical fear mongering and hate mongering that panders to the far right, then as the polls began to go against them, some moves and messages that seemed so defensive, they could only be called desperate. No wonder he continues to slip, and even in traditionally conservative states like Florida, Obama is basically kicking his 72-year-old ass. A powerful brand indeed, that Senator Obama.

Makes you wonder - now that we're less than 48 hours away from election day - what the state of McCain's campaign would be if he had used the kind of forward-thinking tactics that Obama has used, or if he had been able to raise - and spend - the kind of money the Obama campaign is spending in the media.

Barack Obama is Ad Age's 2008 Marketer of the Year

Ad Age recently announced that its pick for 2008 Marketer of the Year was Barack Obama. Their story points to the campaign's fundraising prowess - the ability to spend $2.5 million per day - forgoing public funding and able to outspend the McCain camp by miles and miles.

Obama's campaign has been a phenominal example of using online media and social netwroking - not just to augment the old fashioned means like direct mail, but to use social networking as the very core of their efforts. That's significant. To quote the Ad Age story, his campaign team has had a firm grasp of branding, messaging and old-fashioned political ground organization. It's also been able to balance mass marketing with social media and niche marketing. The team has also gotten a boost from the kind of consumer-generated media that mainstream marketers would die for. In fact, much of this consumer-generated material has been produced by professionals. When entertainer put together a music video featuring celebrities reading an Obama speech, it climbed to the top of YouTube and sat there.

Recently, one of the advertising/branding editors compared Obama's brand to Target - style, substance, etc. I think that's a pretty fair comparison. As for McCain - he was compared to AOL. That pretty much fits - generic, dumbed down for the masses - I would go a step further and compare McCain-Palin to Wal-Mart. Nuff said.

Trojan breaks from traditional media, takes message online

Trojan is in the midst of its largest-ever online campaign, which represents a fourfold increase in spending over the previous year, according to Craig Lambert, chief digital officer at Colangelo, Trojan's lead digital agency. Trojan hopes to overcome the stigmas that prevent condom use among teens and young adults with a wide-ranging online push that leans heavily on shareable content.

For its "Evolve One, Evolve All" push, Trojan has partnered with various up-and-coming artists to create a dozen pieces of unique content that address situations and excuses for engaging in risky sexual activity. It is cataloging the content on, which is part of Viacom's network, but the content is designed for embedding throughout the Web.

Trojan wants to align itself with the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But it's previous reliance on traditional media has run into twin problems in reaching the important youth demographic: many media outlets won't run its spots, and young consumers are spending more time elsewhere. It is hard for me to reconcile that traditional media has been so slow to accept condom advertising when the very same channels are filled with sexually charged content. You will note that I didn't say I was surprised, I just can't put it together. Indicative of the kind of hypocrisy that plagues American society and prevents us from being all we can be. It's unfortunate that, in traditional media, we often have to look overseas to be enlightened by the possibilities. Maybe this online attempt is a great thing, and I wish Trojan well, but when will those traditional media outlets wake up and get it together?