The new Truth anti-smoking ad fails.

The new Truth anti-smoking ad has taken a new approach to curbing teen smoking. It represents a move from the grotesque ads of removing skin and teeth to talking about the salary differences between smokers and non-smokers. I find the ad interesting, but it illustrates two problems all to common with many brands today.

Research does not always tell the whole truth

The ad claims that young smokers could earn up to $10,000 less than non-smokers. It backs up that claim by citing the Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers Bureau for the second quarter of 2016 report by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  The problem is that particular report says nothing about smokers vs non-smokers. The question of whether or not a respondent smokes isn’t even asked as part of that report. In fact, the words “smoke” or “smoking” are mentioned zero times in the report.

This ad also has a screen shot of an article written in 2013 by two economists from the Federal Reserve of Atlanta who found smokers earn 20% less than non-smokers. However, that finding is a correlation not causation because it does not factor differences between age, race, or socio-economic status. Its like saying people who drive to work tend to have a glass of water before they go to bed.Truth anti-smoking

If Truth wanted to cite real research, it should have cited a recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine that shows that people who smoke have a harder time getting a job and, yes, they actually do earn less. But the mean age in this study was 48.

I don’t feel like what is citing here matches up with the facts they are citing, even if I personally suspect there is something to this idea. This, unfortunately, is the problem with a lot of research claims. Companies tend to make some pretty big decisions based on what they consider research.

We see brands do it all the time. They ask people about what characteristics they prefer in products or services, and then ask how the brand stacks up in those characteristics versus the competition. They take that data and immediately set forth an action plan to improve their areas of deficiency relative to the competition. Based on that, those brands expect people to switch.

The problem isn’t the research but the interpretation. The best thing a company can usually hope for is being equal to its competition in those values. Companies often cite research that they are not up to snuff compared to the competition on those values, so they work to improve them. That is fine, but those values then become table stakes. They are not what are most important.

This is not to say that all research is misleading or using research to substantiate a claim is bad. Brands just need to be very careful of what they are citing and how they are interpreting it.

Understanding your target market is keyYour market is unique

The Truth anti-smoking ad is also completely meaningless because it isn’t an accurate reflection of the target audiences – kids and young adults.

There are a number of sources that show the vast majority of smokers start before they turn 18. The ad is completely ineffective in getting them to not smoke. The argument that the ad presents is far to rational for them. Kids have been trained since birth to believe they can do and accomplish anything. They base their relationships with others on how many likes their social media posts receive. Few kids in high school are thinking about how much they are going to earn relative to their peers.

Kids at this age are earning minimum wage. When they graduate, if they don’t go to college or trade school, they will likely start at minimum wage. These kids see those around them as earning the same as they do. The non-smoker will not start at $5 more per hour than their smoking counterparts.

Smoking is irrational

The choice to start or quit smoking for kids is certainly not about money. The fear of losing money because of smoking is a rational fear. Smoking in and of itself is not a rational act to begin with. So how do you convince them to quit with a rational argument? You can’t.

The decision to smoke is highly emotional. In today’s world, I don’t think there is anyone who would actually agree that smoking was a good idea. The days of doctors promoting the health benefits of smoking are thankfully long gone.

Today, everything is about instant gratification, especially for this target audience. Human beings by their very nature are irrational and smoking is irrational. Getting kids to quit smoking or avoid it altogether requires a gut punch, an immediate and shockingly painful jolt that completely knocks the air out of you. The message has to be so arresting that it stops kids in their tracks and becomes an insidious voice in their heads every time they are tempted to have a cigarette. It’s not a rational message. It’s an emotional one that actually is reflective of them and affects them instantly.

Telling kids to stop smoking because of something that may or may not happen in the future is spitting in the wind.

Facebook as news. Where will it stop?

Do we now view Facebook as news? Is it a news source?

After a live, 10-minute video of a police officer shooting a black man (Philando Castile) in Minnesota was posted on Facebook, there is a great deal of chatter about Facebook’s role in news and its responsibility because it seemed it was a media outlet posting NEWS. Facebook as NEWS has become a topic of discussion.

Philander Castille and Facebook as newsI want to say right from the start that this blog post will not touch on the footage or the event. Neither will it speak to the shooting of police officers in Dallas. This blog is about Facebook as a news organization.

Should Facebook post live videos of events? Does it have any responsibility of content? To my thinking, Facebook is schizophrenic on this subject. It censors copyrighted material. You can’t post a video on Facebook of your children at a playground if you have placed a sound bed in the background of a popular song.

Facebook wont publish it. I can’t post a photograph on my Facebook feed with text in it (like a sign that says STOP for example) because Facebook has a policy of not boosting a post with an image that contains a certain percentage of words in it. Nudity is not allowed.

Where is this going?

Facebook as news
Nick Berg

But you can post a live video of a young man bleeding to death. The images are abhorrent. No one argues with that. But where does it stop?

If Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a live video of his beheading Nick Berg, do you think Facebook would allow it? Not on your life.

If it did, the uproar from society would unfathomable. It seems to me that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Think abut this. Would nudity be OK on Facebook as long as it was a live video of a rape? Where does our voyeurism end?

Facebook is a part of our lives to be sure. But Facebook as news should not be.

Are we to blame for Facebook as NEWS?

Why has this happened? Why is it that for many, social media has become their news source?

Facebook as news and Fox NewsI know a good deal about branding. I know that a need in a target market creates demand. I know that meeting that need is a predictor of success. I know that we get what we deserve as often as we get what we need.

The real issue here is a turning away from real news and substituting it with pop-culture drivel. Broadcast news is just entertainment masquerading as news. The public gets affinity news broadcasting (broadcast news that sells an agenda and bias) because it does not want news.

It wants agreement with our own ignorance (from the root of IGNORE). In our hearts we know that what we see on Fox and CNN is not news. Its bent entertainment. Facebook as News. Cronkite never dreamed of it

When CBS decided that its news bureau needed to be a profit center rather than a public service, more than just personality died when Walter Cronkite passed away. We lost NEWS.

Think about the demise of the newspaper. Subscriptions are in decline. Reporters are being let go and readership is running for cover.

There is responsibility in live postings

Facebook as news and Marshall McLuen
Marshall McLuen

To my thinking, I am upset that Facebook posts crap like this. There is no editorial ownership, as there once was with CBS. Facebook thinks it is doing a public service by showing our lives in its raw experiential form. I think we have enough reality TV, thank you very much. I don’t need to see everything in its raw form.

I need that as much as I need the bizarre talking heads on Fox News spinning everything they report. I’m hungry for knowledge, not to witness the wost of humanity. Will Facebook spend time and money making sure that similar videos are edited for agendas? When will we be finished as a modern society of Peeping Tom’s?

I think the killing in Minneapolis would have been real news without the Facebook post. The news was not the shooting. The news was that it was “captured live on Facebook. Marshall McLuhan was right. The medium IS the message. Too bad. Too bad.

Thailand buddhist temple tigers

Thailand Buddhist Temple Tigers

buddhist temple tigersThe news about 40 dead tiger cubs at the Thailand Temple makes me cringe. So I ask, what is your personal responsibility in embracing a brand of Buddhist Temple Tigers as your own?

I’m going to make the argument that it is a deadly serious responsibility. One that most of us ignore (the root of the word ignorant).

Why should it surprise any of us that any tourist venues (and the Buddhist Temple resplendent with tigers was just that) that have us interact with animals in what appears to be an unnatural way is a form of exploitation. When we participate in this charade, we endorse it. It becomes our personal brand.

I remember as a kid my folks took my sister and I on a station wagon vacation. These types of vacations were the norm for my family so it wasn’t until my 16th birthday that I first rode in an airplane. My Dad drove us everywhere, but that is a meaty story for another day.

It was the summer of 1964 and our family began a cross country trek from our home in New Jersey to Yellowstone National Park. Mom and Dad were not the adventurous type and I don’t remember doing any REAL hiking in the park. On the contrary, my experience in the park was restricted to boardwalk pedestrian access to hot springs, photo oportunities and point of interest.

Buddhist Temple tigers are like bear jams

The highlight for me, the nine year old, was certainly the bear jams. A bear or a mother bear and her cubs took up a begging position on a main road and everyone filed out of the car to feed the begging animals candy, cookies or chips. When the ranger finally arrived and forced everyone to leave (because we were all in some danger, being inches away from a wild animal) the bear jam dispersed and everyone piled back in their cars seeking the next jam a mile or so up the road.

No one mentioned the danger TO the poor bear. No one said it was unnatural and unhealthy for a bear to become habituated to people, reliant on hand-outs for food and, worse still, nourished on a diet of human junk food.

Ten years later and the bears were gone. The National Park Service began to really crack down on tourists who stopped and fed bears. It closed the dumps in the park where bears congregated for easy food and installed bear-proof trash cans everywhere in the park.

Today, there may be an occasional bear jam but it is when a brownie or grizzly is spotted hundreds of yards away moving in its natural habitat. When you visit Yellowstone today, your brand is that of an unspoiled naturalist. Good for everyone. Including the bears.

But, as I scan Facebook for the comings and goings of friends and friends of friends, I can’t tell you how many, otherwise smart people, go to swim with the dolphins and think the animals are perfectly happy to haul humans around on their dorsal fins. My God. Watch The Cove and see just how these animals are captured and the amount of tranquilizers they must be fed to keep them docile and only a little crazy.

Outrage over the movie Black Fish has pressured Sea World to change its focus on Shamu (at least a little bit of change) and Ringling Brothers has retired its elephants.

How ignorant can we be?

Buddhist Temple TigersBut we are surprised that the Buddhist Temple tigers in Thailand, which has become de rigueur for Bangkok tourists who pay $100 to have their picture made with adult Tigers, is natural? What is it about these Buddhist monks that makes these solitary uber-predators docile? That’s easy. It’s called mistreatment. Tigers don’t care about your philosophy, vegetarian diet or religion. They don’t even care if you practice non-violence. Tigers are tigers.

They need our protection not domestication. Its easy to recognize that something terrible is actually going on.

So when you visit a dolphin enclosure, the Buddhist Temple Tigers, a circus (with trained lions and tigers) or a Sea World-type park, your brand is not innocent tourist. Your brand is exploitative human. Selfish and ignorant.

Fight For 15, minimum wage increase

April 15th, tax day, is here. It happens at the exact same time each and every year but for many it always seems to come as a surprise. Today, however, for millions of Americans who struggle to make ends meet today marks a different kind of day. It is a day of raising awareness for a living wage and brands, if they know what’s good for them, should take note.

Let’s forget for a moment that today’s minimum wage does little more to raise people out of poverty than EBT or housing subsidies do. The reality is that, for most of the people who are making only minimum wage, they are still relying on federal and state assistance programs. Let’s do the right thing and help people out of poverty rather than keep them in it.

How Fight For 15 becomes a brand opportunity

But this blog is not about a social commentary. This is a business and branding blog. Fight for 15 represents a unique opportunity for brands with the fortitude to make a stand and think long term.

Let's pay fast food workers what they deserve.
Let’s pay fast food workers what they deserve.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if McDonald’s announced that it was raising its minimum pay to $15 per hour. It would have lines out the door of people wanting to come work for the fast food chain and the PR spin wouldn’t be bad either. They could even wrap it up in their “new” re’launch of ‘Lovin It.’’ McDonald’s could say:

“Because McDonald’s wants to put more Lovin’ into everything we do, we are taking the lead in raising the minimum we pay to our workers to $15 per hour because it’s the right thing to do.”

Forget revamping the menu or introducing artisan chicken, the goodwill alone would be offset by a reduction in advertising expense, not to mention the increased productivity by workers.

Eventually, other brands would have to follow suit – a good thing for everyone. But the one who takes the lead will have an advantage, whether it is McDonalds or another company.

I really don’t think it is a question of if it will happen but when will it happen. A brand can use this as a sound strategic business decision by taking a cause and turning it into sound business. This kind of thing is what they write business cases about and there is always a winner and many losers. Which side of the Fight For 15 do you want your company to be on?