Friday, October 28, 2016

The NFL: Everything’s Fine, Just Fine

Minutes from the weekly NFL Disciplinary Committee Meeting, Roger Goodell, chairman.

GOODELL: Let’s get this thing started. I have to be uptown at the Youth Football Awards Luncheon. We’re giving them $500 and a Peyton Manning jersey to their concussion prevention awareness campaign. What’s on the docket this week?

JOHNSON: Oh, the usual: unnecessary end zone celebrations, uniform violation, the National Anthem thing, and domestic abuse.

GOODELL: Let’s start with the easy stuff.

JOHNSON: Odell Beckham made the list again. He was penalized for an end zone dance when he cradled the football like a baby and pretended to sing to it. Two of the other players stood next to him and pretended to shush the crowd.

GOODELL: Ha, Odell cracks me up. Fine him five thousand dollars.

JOHNSON: Except the next time he scored, he held the ball but pretended he was crying. Some of the sports pundits claimed he was making fun of the league’s anti-celebration stance.

GOODELL: Like who?

JOHNSON: Well, Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

GOODELL: Those guys are a-holes, but they shout a lot, so they must be right. Five thousand for the first one, and then $15,000 for the second for denigrating the league.

JOHNSON: We also had a questionable call against Cody Kessler, the Browns’ quarterback. The Bengals’ defensive end, Carlos Dunlap, threw him to the turf. The Browns’ fans were livid on social media.

GOODELL: What kind of social media reach do the Browns have?

JOHNSON: Remember the opening crowd shots in the movie, Major League, when it was just the four fans?


JOHNSON: Like that.

GOODELL: Ah, good. Is Kessler a marquee player?

JOHNSON: No, but he did leave the game with a concussion.

GOODELL: No fine. Speaking of marquee players, was Tom Brady involved in anything?

JOHNSON: Well, one of the Steelers taunted him when he sacked Brady, but that was it.

GOODELL: Find that guy and fine him $20,000, and send Brady a fruit basket.

JOHNSON: One of the Colts’ third-string linebackers wants to commemorate his grandfather, who died heroically saving 30 orphans and puppies from a burning building, all while shielding the American flag with his body and filing a legal motion to prevent illegal dumping of toxic chemicals in a community swimming pool. He wants to wear a small patch at next week’s game.

GOODELL: No way. That will interfere with our Reebok sponsorship.

JOHNSON: Keep in mind, this is actually a one inch patch that will be worn underneath his jersey where it won’t be seen by anyone at all.

GOODELL: Hell no. Send the lawyers to the locker room to personally seize the patch and set fire to it. And then fine him $10,000 dollars for even asking.

JOHNSON: We’ve got a lot more players kneeling during the national anthem.

GOODELL: Well, we still don’t have a clear majority opinion in this country. NFL Opinion Research said Facebook is pretty evenly split on it, so we’ll leave that one alone until we’ve got a clear and definitive winner.

JOHNSON: A lot of fans believe Colin Kaepernick should be fired, have his salary stripped, and have his life completely ruined because he won’t stand. Some of the owners are even saying it.

GOODELL: Yeah, but it’s a freedom of expression issue, and we can’t be seen as oppressing the rights and expression of our players. They’ve got just as many rights as everyone else.

GOODELL and JOHNSON both laugh.

GOODELL: Oh man, I almost said that with a straight face. Look, fans are going to be upset either way, but most of them don’t buy tickets or jerseys. And the ones who keep buying Kaepernick’s jerseys are setting fire to them, so we still make money. Either way, I’m glad the NFL is being seen as leading the charge for open and frank discussion about this one small issue. It makes people stop talking about Tom Brady.

JOHNSON: And finally, Josh Brown the Giants’ punter, is back in the news. There are new reports that he has been abusive to his wife over 20 times over the years.

GOODELL: Didn’t we suspend him for a game earlier this year for this?

JOHNSON: Yes, back in August.

GOODELL: The whole game?

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

GOODELL: Huh. And that wasn’t enough for people?

JOHNSON: Apparently not. Many of our female fans are screaming for blood. Even our male fans are accusing us of being insensitive to domestic violence.

GOODELL: Seriously? We already give 11% of our pink gear sales to breast cancer awareness. Isn’t that enough sensitivity?

JOHNSON: They claim the two issues are completely separate.

GOODELL: Alright, suspend him for two more games. It worked for Ray Rice, didn’t it?

JOHNSON: Actually, the Giants already fired him. He’s off the team. And Ray Rice hasn’t played since he was suspended in 2014.

GOODELL: Wow, that seems kind of harsh. Alright, fine him 50 bucks, and let’s see if we can’t get those guys back to work. I don’t see what people are so upset about.

Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr, Creative Commons

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Would You Eat Broccoli if it Tasted Like Chocolate?

What's the difference between broccoli and boogers?

Kids don't like to eat broccoli.

I don't blame them. I hate broccoli.

There, I said it. I hate broccoli. I don't like it, I don't like the way it tastes, and I avoid eating it whenever possible. I'm like that episode of West Wing where President Bartlett didn't like green beans, and the green bean farmers of America clutched their pearls in despair.

(Just to be clear, I don't eat boogers either.)

It's not that I'm opposed to eating vegetables. Not even resistant. It's not like I refuse to eat vegetables. It's just that when I'm given the option of eating them versus not eating them, I don't always make a mature choice.

Sorry, ever. I don't ever make a mature choice.

I mean, when you have a choice between a salad and a cheeseburger, I think most people would like to choose the cheeseburger. And those who don't are lying.

That's not to say they will actually choose the cheeseburger, they would just like to. I'd bet there are even some vegans who still sigh and gaze fondly off into their childhoods when they think about cheeseburgers. With bacon. And the cheese is a little drippy. And the bun is shiny. And there's some burger grease running down your wrist.

But what if you could taste that delicious wonderful cheeseburger, without actually having to eat it? My wife would be thrilled; she worries about me.

What if you could make your salad taste like a cheeseburger, or broccoli taste like chocolate?

According to a story in The (London) Daily Mail, such a device now exists. The Taste Buddy is a small electronic processor, with some wires connected to an electronic tab nearly an inch wide. You place the tab on your tongue, where it will heat up or send weak electrical currents that stimulate specific taste receptors, and certain foods will taste sweet or salty, even when they're not.

By doing this, you can trick your taste buds into thinking that normally terrible and repulsive foods, like broccoli, are sweet like chocolate, or that your cauliflower tastes like a cheeseburger.

Professor Adrian Cheok of City University of London, who led the team of inventors, is excited about what this could mean for the health of its users, especially those users who would choose cheeseburgers over broccoli. He said they want to eventually expand its capabilities and target the other flavor receptors of the tongue, sour and bitter.

The article mentioned a fifth taste receptor called Umami, which was added to the list of taste sensations in 2009. But the name sounds stupid, so I won't discuss it any further.

In the meantime, researchers are also working on — Seriously, Umami? Ooh mommy?! It sounds like something invented while meditating over their bowl of granola and turbo flax. Who says ooh mommy, except maybe a little kid trying to get her mother's attention?

"Ooh Mommy, there's a pony!"

"Ooh Mommy, I want a balloon!"

"Ooh Mommy, my broccoli tastes better than my boogers now!"

(To be fair, the word is actually Japanese in origin, but I had already written those jokes by the time I learned that, and I wanted to keep them.)

The article said it could even one day be possible to make people think that tofu tastes like steak. I don't think I could go for that, no matter what it tasted like. I've eaten tofu, and it's got a mouth feel of congealed snot. The only thing that will get rid of the taste of tofu away is broccoli.

But maybe I'm cooking the tofu wrong. Another method I could try is to sauté the tofu in Irish butter, with minced garlic, shallots, some freshly ground pepper, and then throw it in the trash.

Eventually, Cheok and his colleagues hope to fit the Taste Buddy into normal dining utensils and drink cans. That way, when you sit down to your fifth meal of broccoli in as many days, you don't have to have to futz around with this small box on your table.

But trust me, if it made broccoli taste like chocolate, I'd wear a car battery around my neck.

Instead, you'll just grab your special spoon, switch it on, and power through as much chocolate-flavored broccoli as you want. I just hope other scientists are inventing a set of goggles to make my broccoli look like a sundae.

And maybe a small kitchen incinerator for the tofu.

Photo credit: Quadell (Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Love Letter Marketing

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2005, mostly because we don't think anyone is reading these things anyway.

One day this past spring, I was lying in my hammock, drinking a beer, and relaxing. I was just starting to nod off, when I heard a quiet "ahem."

I opened my eyes and spotted my young neighbor, Jeremy, who had nearly finished the 6th grade, and was considering the leap to 7th grade in the fall.

"Hey, Mr. Deckers," he said. "Taking a nap, huh?"

"No flies on you, lad, although I wish you had a better sense of timing," I said. "What services may I bestow upon you, young Jeremy?"


"What do you want?"

"I need some advice. Mrs. Deckers said you were pathetic with girls when you were my age."

"Oh she did, did she? Mrs. Deckers didn't even know me back then. How would she know about my past performance?"

"She said you were pretty hopeless until you met her. I figured that if you were that dorky, but you still got married, you must have done something right."

I couldn't fault the young man's logic, but I was going to have a word with Mrs. Deckers later.

"So what do you need?"

"I need some help with a love letter. I'm trying to get Caitlin Herrera to like me." He held out a neatly folded piece of paper. I looked it over and immediately identified his problem. It looked like something I would have written at his age: 'Dear Caitlin, I like you. Do you like me? Sincerely, Jeremy.'

I turned it over. "Where's the rest of it?"

"That's it. It's short and to the point."

"It needs serious help."

"What's wrong with it?"

"Well, it lacks finesse. And style. And grace. And a clear call to action."

"A what?"

"A call to action. It's what we marketers use to get a prospective client interested in buying our product."

"I don't want to sell her anything," said Jeremy, "I just want to get her to like me."

"Then you came to the right place. I've been a professional marketer for years."

"I don't think this is the kind of help Mrs. Deckers had in mind."

"Mrs. Deckers—!" I said, then I looked around quickly, and lowered my voice "—isn't here right now. You want my help in getting this girl to like you? This is going to help you."

I grabbed a pen from my pocket and started scribbling notes on his paper.

"First you need a USP."

"What's that?"

"Universal Selling Proposition. It's what sets you apart from your competitors."

"My what?"

"The other boys. Now, your USP tells Caitlin why she should pick you over them." I scribbled a few more notes.

"What about an Attention Getter and Benefit Statement?"

Jeremy said he had no clue what that was.

"What's one positive thing Caitlin would get by choosing you?"

"I have my own ten speed bike."

"Good, but that's a feature. A benefit is what she gets. How does your bike help her?"

"I could give her a ride somewhere."

"Excellent." I scribbled more notes. "Now we need a call to action. Research shows that giving a respondent a call to action increases your chance of a positive response."

Jeremy could only nod silently. I scribbled some more. "What do you think of this?"

'Dearest Caitlin, You have captivated my soul with your sparkling eyes and ruby smile. Be my love and we can fly anywhere your heart desires. If it is in your heart to say yes, please ask Gretchen to tell Kevin. I yearn for you, Jeremy."

He eyed me suspiciously. "Are you sure about this?"


"Is this how you got Mrs. Deckers?"

"No, that's a whole other story. Now rewrite this in your own handwriting and give it to Caitlin."

Jeremy still looked unsure, so I started to lecture him about word-of-mouth marketing when he said he heard his mother calling and ran off.

A few days later, Jeremy interrupted another nap.

"What happened?" I asked. "Did it work?"

"Well, yes and no. Caitlin is already going with Tyler Marlowe and he nearly beat me up."

I offered my condolences, but he held up his hand.

"But," he continued, "she showed it to her friends, and now three girls like me."

"Wow, referral marketing. I'll bet you're pretty excited about that."

Jeremy put on a pair of sunglasses. "You bet. Now I need to do drop in some variable data so I can A/B test a few iterations. I can up my response rate 20 percent if I gear the copy toward specific buyer personas."

I've created a monster.

Photo credit: The Love Letter, Johannes Vermeer (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain in both the country of origin (The Netherlands) and the United States)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Talking About Hurricanes and Power Outages

"Okay, nobody panic. We prepared for this."

"Of course we paid the bill!"

"You did pay the bill, didn't you?"

"I never doubted you."

"Well, they asked, and that made me wonder."

"Buddy, go see if the neighbors' lights are out."

"There, see? Either the power is out on the street, or everyone on the block didn't pay their electric bill."

"No, of course not. What are the odds of that happening?"

"Well, no, I don't actually know. That's something your grandfather would know. He taught statistics."

"No, I'm not going to call him."

"Because the power is out!"

"Of course I charged it. There's just no point in wasting my cell battery just to call my dad."

"Because he won't actually know the odds of 10 families not paying their electric bill on time."

"If you want to know, you figure it out."

"No, don't look it up!"

"And don't ask Siri. She won't know either."

"Because she's just a voice-activated computer program. Besides, it wastes battery power."

"Sweetie, don't play games on your phone."

"I know Netflix is out."

"Because the power is out."

"Were you even listening before? We paid it."

"Look, the hurricane knocked out the power. That's it."

"So don't waste your battery playing games."

"Yes, the batteries are charged up. But those are for emergencies."

"Not having Netflix is not an emergency."

"No, Buddy, we don't have a battery for the TV."

"For one thing, it would be pretty big. "

"Well, I didn't feel like spending several hundred dollars just to watch TV."

"Yes, and the Apple TV."

"No, you can't watch it on your laptop."

"The wifi is off."

"Yes, we paid our cable bill!"

"For one thing, the wifi router runs on electricity."

"No, we need the cable box."

"I know the rabbit ears would work."

"Because the — you know, go ahead and get them. They're in the garage."

"The flashlights are on the entry table."

"I put new ones in yesterday."

"Check in the green tubs. I think it's in the one marked 'Electronics.'"

"No, I'll let him figure it out."

"Got them? Great, now just unplug the cable from the TV."

"That's right. And that cable goes into the TV."

"Remote's over there. Your sister has it."

"Don't shine the light in her eyes."

"Not in my eyes either."

"Really? Why do you think that is?"

"Because the TV runs on electricity."

"Yes, the whole house runs on electricity."

"No, Honey, you can't call your friends."

"What good are they going to do us? They're in Indiana. Safe, dry, hurricane-free-for-six-billion-years Indiana."

"Because I don't waste you to your battery right now. We may need it to communicate during an emergency."

"Look, it's really simple, you guys. No calls, no Netflix, no FaceTime, no Skype, no texting, no games, and no Netflix."

"I know I did. You weren't listening when I started."

"No, no Hulu either. That chews up the data plan."

"We need to conserve the power for a real emergency. Not having a TV is not a real emergency. We can read, play games, or just talk to each other."

"You could always go to bed."

"Then find a book."

"Man, it's getting warm in here."

"Yes, I know the power's out!"

"Oh God! We don't have any air conditioning! This is terrible. Quick, go outside and see if you can plug the battery pack into the AC unit."

"I don't know. Ask Siri!"

"I'm not kidding around! This is a real emergency! Where's the fan? Someone plug the fan in."

"What do you mean, it won't work?"

"Did you pay the bill?!"

Photo credit: Satellite image of Hurricane Earl approaching Belize on August 3, 2016. Taken by Naval Research Laboratory Monterrey, NASA (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.