Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cola Wars no more.

In a move that was both ethically sound and a PR coup, PepsiCo not only reported an act of industrial espionage, but actually helped the FBI catch the criminals. According to this BBC article, PepsiCo notified their arch-rival CocaCola to the fact that someone had been filching their fizzy-recipes. They then worked together with the FBI to catch the criminals in the act.

It might seem counter-intuitive that a company that would have so much to gain from a little underhandedness, but in this case Pepsi not only gained the moral high ground, but also a nice positive mention in every news story that covers this case.

It wouldn't be surprising if the initial Press Releases regarding this case were issued by PepsiCo or their PR firm. This is exactly the type of Guerrilla Marketing that small businesses can emulate. Have you contributed to a charity event, hired a new executive level manager, or done anything that could be notable if it were taking place at a company like Pepsi? Throw together a press release, there are many templates available online, and send it to your local paper and any local business magazines. And since a fax is just a button away, why not send a release to the major regional papers. This kind of marketing puts your name out there, and if you end up in the business section at the cost of typing up a press release, it's infinitely cheaper than paying a marketing firm to do the same.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Scotch, Scotch, Scotch.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur of whisky and whiskey. So when I read an article on about one of my favorite brands being purchased I perked up. Because unlike a brand name, Scotch whisky is a designation. By law, if the bottle says Scotch, it must have been produced in Scotland. So while Ford can remain an American company, its parts can be made in Canada or Mexico and shipped to the US for production, and the end product will still be considered Made in America.

But for Scotch, the maturation and bottling can take place anywhere, so long as the malting and distilling takes place in Scotland. I've even had a whisky that uses Scottish barley and peat, but distills in Oregon. It was good, but it was not Scotch.

Whyte and MacKay owns several other brands as well as the brand bearing their own name;
Dalmore | Fettercairn| Invergordon | Isle of Jura| Tamnavulin
I'm not that much of a fan of Dalmore, but my old roommate and I were particular to the Isle of Jura brand. I would recommend it to anyone who is familiar with Blended Scotch Whisky, but would like to tread off the beaten path of tastiness.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On a lighter note.

In business, one can never escape from two issues: Customer Service problems, and neckties.

Now I've talked about customer service before, so I'll take a crack at ties today.

First off, how to do I tie it? Easy, let this German dude show you all the knots you'll ever need, plus some you'll never figure out.

Now let's talk about style. Everyone knows about the Power Tie, and the impact that had on 80's fashion. Everyone, that is, who cares about ties. If you haven't spent an afternoon reading up on the vaguery's of mens accessory fashions, here's the options for ties:
  • The power tie. This will be striped diagonally, and usually a mix of bold colors. The Brit's refer to this as an Old School Tie, because each of the private(and exclusive) boarding schools in England have their own colors and style tie.
  • Monochrome(the Regis look). Made popular by Regis Philbin on Who Wants to be Millionaire, this pairs a tie of the exact same color as the shirt its worn with. It's getting to be a bit passe, because unless you're extremely careful, your shirt will fade with washing/dry cleaning, while your tie won't. And nothing shouts "I'm lazy about my appearance" as a mismatched monochrome look.
  • Novelty. What could set a better precedent for a business relationship than a tie covered in little tiny guitars? Or maybe it's an interweaving of the Corona logo with little bottles? Or best yet, an LED flashing pair of lips. Do Not Ever Wear These Ties!

  • Plaid, or tartan. My personal favorite necktie patterns is based on the Scottish Clan Tartan. Initially, person would wear a necktie of the same pattern as their kilt(this would be the paleoRegis look), but with time many patterns and color schemes have become available. Especially thanks to Burberry and other high cost clothiers, brand tartans are just as popular and populous as authentic Tartan patterns.
Here are a few examples of classic, and updated tartan patterns.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

USB Plug and Play

Lately, I have been trying to install on my home computer a USB external hard drive, and an MP3 player. The issue I'm running into is that these are "Plug and Play" devices, and don't actually have a driver. I've checked the company website for the hard drive, and am unable to locate anything except for Firmware Updates. Now these are useful, but only if your PC recognizes the device in the first place.

According to the OS manufacturer:
After identifying each device, Plug and Play determines the system resources that each device requires, stores the configuration in memory, and assigns those resources to the device. After the devices have been configured, Plug and Play identifies and loads the drivers that each device requires.
Now what happens if Plug and Play does not recognize the driver? Can I update the Plug and Play source files? I don't know. And I'm not an IT guy, so I'm helpless.

This illustrates a problem that can come up with any scheme to make a customer life easier. When your solution is the ONLY solution, even if it's intended to streamline the end user experience, inevitably it will fail. If only because it takes all control by the end user out of the equation, you have taken away the possibility of positive end user control.

Similar to this is the Automatic vs. Manual transmission debate. While an automatic transmission allows for the end user to do all sorts of things instead of monitoring and configuring the clutch position(shifting), the automatic transmission does it for you. Which frees you up to put on makeup, drink coffee, play air drums, and send email on your Blackberry*. What it doesn't allow you to do is shift at a lower RPM to maximize fuel output, disengage the clutch on hills or while braking, or in the case of failure of the Starter Motor or battery, allowing you to push-start the car.

So for the sake of illustration, we'll use the car analogy:
My automatic transmission car(hard drive) has a broken starter motor(driver). Because it has an automatic transmission(plug n play), I can't push start it(reinstall the driver) to get it running and get home.

So keep in mind the fact that just because the easiest process is in place currently, it doesn't mean your butt is completely covered. In fact, you might just want to build in a back door of some kind.

This is what I look like