2. Be your own parent (not like a child) when it comes to nutrition
3. Enjoy a nice walk anywhere, anytime
4. Eliminate sugar from your life
5. Get enough sleep
I walk in and see an enormous array of shops, storefronts and
eateries. I want to stop at all of them. Especially the one that says
"20 Minute Teeth Whitening Here." And Brookstone – they're flying
gadgets in the aisle over there. And the others ones too.
The problem is, I'm whirring past them fast trying to make sure that I
get through the TSA on time to get to the gate.
And when I get through the TSA line, what do I see?
And a couple of other no-name stores. (Let's not forget Hudson News,
boy is that exciting!)
There must be some regulation preventing the good stores from living
behind the TSA line.
When I get to the gate, G-d help me, all I see is a Quizno's, a
Pizza-Hut Express, and some other no-name place selling Budweiser.
What happened to the fun places? What happened to the Disneyland of
brands that existed seemingly so long ago?
If retailers want to make money at the airport, they should locate
their stores inside the area where the gates are if possible. That's
where you really have a captive audience, eager to do something with
their time besides juicing up their devices.
Consider these examples:
• The "Soup Nazi," made famous on Seinfeld because if you said one
thing wrong he wouldn't let you in
• Big-city nightclubs where the draw is precisely that the bouncer
will probably exclude you
• Fraternity hazing rituals, traditionally humiliating, often
dangerous, and sometimes illegal, that typically involve an assault on
• Gang initiation rituals (see above – and yes, gangs are a form of brand)
• Exclusive co-ops, country clubs, etc. that don't admit "just anyone"
• The Devil Wears Prada (entire fashion industry) with its cruel
idolization of the anorexic waif
• New York, period.
In Miami there's a pizza place that serves salad, Pizza Rustica.
Unfailingly they get the order wrong – every time. They make me wait
forever. They play the music so loud I can't hear anything. The tables
are dirty, and the Parmesan cheese is usually missing.
I won't eat anywhere else.
Why do we patronize rude brands?
From a rational perspective, we think these brands must have better
quality and can afford to be rude.
From a psychological perspective, being drawn to a rude brand is the
same as insisting on an impossibly high level of customer service. It
goes back to an unconscious issue that the person has, stemming from
needs that were not met (or that were abused) early in life.
It's sort of like why people are drawn to high school cliques that are
bad for them.
If you are building a brand, you can calculate rudeness into the
picture in order to draw a certain kind of customer.
On the flipside, you can become the Four Seasons of your industry,
being excessively solicitous of your particular customer.
Either way, remember that when you're playing to an unconscious need,
that issue can come back to bite you, if you're not careful and hit
the customer's trigger the wrong way.
Generally, the trick with rude brands is to distance the customer, but
then bring them in just a bit so that they have the idea that they may
eventually gain a form of "acceptance." But never truly accept them –
always keep them back just a bit.
With super-customer-oriented brands, you need to pay attention to the
finest details. Let nothing escape you. Anticipate their needs before
they even articulate them – that is the way to stay ahead.
On the customer side, if you are confronted by a super-rude or
super-solicitous brand, you may want to ask yourself what you're
really buying. If it's the positive treatment you're getting, is the
price premium really worth it? I just bought a coffee for $1.49 that
didn't have half the solicitousness of a Starbucks, but it was twice
On the other hand, sometimes an attitude is worth it, even a bad one.
That salad is worth the hassle; I would buy quality soup even from a
rude store owner. And there are times when gaining access to certain
social circles requires you to stomach a certain amount of
mistreatment. But if you're a masochist who just likes getting hit,
maybe you should visit a therapist instead of the "Soup Nazi."
What an eventful 9 days it has been.
On a positive note, I am emerging from Week 1 of the Atkins Diet Plan relatively unscathed by the usual trio of "induction flu" symptoms: brain fog (left me literally dumb), tiredness, and a bit of muscle pain. Thank G-d for Google and the many Internet sufferers who reminded me to drink a lot of water, take calcium and potassium (salt), and be patient.
Also a note of thanks to Chicken of the Sea for coming up with packets of wild-caught tuna and salmon that you can take anywhere and rip open at a moment's notice, relatively discreetly, so that you don't starve while in the company of others who aren't suffering quite the same way as you are. I am buying these for $1 apiece at CVS, which is a pretty good deal, and you can get them online too.
While I'm on this I will note that although I don't endorse any company or brand, Chicken of the Sea has a nice FAQ section on their website that addresses typical questions about mercury and other nutritional issues related to the foods they sell.
I will also note that if you are on Atkins and you are going to take literally the advice that you can smother your food with oil (healthy fats preferred but any mayo will do in a pinch), you may want to ask your table-mates to avert their eyes as you start pouring. (Let's be frank: Plain fish in a pouch needs a little help if we are going to get through Induction. I've lived by tossing it with spinach, olive oil, parmesan and salt, but when the oil starts flowing it really freaks people out no matter what bed of greens it's on.)
OK so you are waiting for me to get to the point. Will do.
During this vacation I have visited many a shopping establishment. I saw salespeople both good and bad. But one thing that really stood out, which applies whether you're behind the counter of a Starbucks, selling shoes, or dealing with people in general is:
No sale is too small.
Meaning: You are never so high and mighty that you can afford to blow people off.
Meaning: Don't decide how you will treat people based on their looks, their mannerisms, their title, or the price of the item they are considering buying.
Here are two stories that illustrate. Details altered to protect the innocent from an annoying email claiming it didn't actually happen this way.
Example #1: Expensive product, average-seeming customer (me)
I go into an establishment to inquire about a particular product. It costs a lot.
Salesperson - fully, artificially manicured and featuring Bath Fitter-type teeth (gleaming but with no indentation between the teeth, as if someone had fitted shocking white dentures over the normal set) - asks what I want politely. I explain. Salesperson says, "Give me your email address. I will send you some information, and then follow up."
Email never arrives. Salesperson seemed sincere. But it was all just an act.
Needless to say I got the message: "You don't look like someone who would buy what we sell, so I am not going to waste my time on you."
Example #2: Inexpensive product, also average-seeming customer (me)
I go into establishment and order a sandwich. (This is before the Atkins thing.) We're not talking 99 cent special here, and it's not the million-dollar truffle hamburger, just an average sandwich from an average place that sells them.
I sit down thinking that the sandwich will arrive soon.
Ten to fifteen minutes later I am still waiting.
I go up to the cash register and ask politely where my sandwich is.
The cashier seems not to recognize me. Then I repeat my order. She points to the back of the sandwich preparation area, where two or three similar sandwiches are lined up.
She says, "We have a big party here today. You will have to wait."
The message there was clear as well: "Big sales come before little ones."
In both cases, the salespeople employed faulty logic.
First, they both assumed that the sale began and ended with the sole interaction, and wouldn't have any consequences later on.
Second, they assumed that it's the dollar amount of the sale that determines the way one treats the customer, and not the fact that the potential customer had taken their time and chosen, out of a plethora of choices available, to visit that establishment.
The reality is, I carry the memory of both of those interactions with me. I wouldn't patronize those establishments again. And given any opportunity, I will tell other people what happened specifically and in a more general way.
Eventually, retailers who approach customers at any point of interaction, with anything less than respect and minimal keeping of promises, are going to find themselves at a huge disadvantage versus those who instinctively act with basic human decency.
These days, with the economy so tight and the competition for jobs fierce, you can never afford to alienate a potential contact. And you also never know whether the person looking out at you from the no-name outfit is average or simply an influential person who tends to dress a little shleppy. (Especially in D.C.)
Moral of the story: All the old adages are still true and I will now mix old and new. "Don't judge a book by it's cover," because "It's the content that counts," and regardless of how much the potential contact can bring to you, "Treat others the way that you would want to be treated yourself."
I am strongly against resorting to artificial sweeteners unless you have to.
Overall, this is a nutrition bargain that someone will actually eat.
1/2 cup oatmeal, unprocessed
1 cup water
3 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 tablespoon Whipped cream
1. Boil water
2. Add oatmeal and let cook on low 5 min
3. Top with brown sugar, walnuts, and whipped cream
If you're on Atkins, emphasize the greens, proteins and olive oil and watch the carbs. For low-fat diets, you can season it with lemon juice. I try to avoid processed dressings with artificial ingredients.
This salad makes me feel great. Enjoy!
3 cup spinach, arugula, or spring greens
1/2 cup chopped roasted eggplant
1/2 cup artichoke hearts
1/2 cup red onion, thinly chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, sliced
1/2 cup olives, black, chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, matchsticks
1 cup tomatoes, fresh, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, matchsticks
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, in oil, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, roasted or minced
1/4 cup basil, fresh
1 cup sliced hardboiled eggs
1 cup albacore tuna, plain, water-packed
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoon olive oil or dressing
1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Get a big mixing bowl, cutting board, and sharp chef's knife
2. Assemble whichever of these ingredients you like
3. Chop everything fine
4. Add oil or dressing of choice (preferably all-natural)
5. Grind and add salt and pepper
6. Mix thoroughly
7. Serve right away
"In the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in
conformity with man and even with children."
In other words, he seems to be saying, "Excuse us for not doing
anything all these years—we thought the sexual abuse of children was
I don't believe that this is what the Pope meant at all. But still, it
doesn't sound good. Singer and prominent Church critic Sinead
O'Connor, wrote a furious open letter to the Pope that reads, in part:
"Exactly who held the theory [and]….Why in all the years since these
scandals broke out was yesterday the first mention of this
information?....The Holy Spirit requires you to familiarize yourself
with honesty and respect if you retain any desire to salvage the
remains of the church which has been ruined by its being allowed to
live by its own laws and not God's."
I am a huge fan of Sinead O'Connor. But I don't think she read the
message right. Rather, I agree with mainstream interpretations, like
that of Washington Post, which saw the Pope's remarks as a "remarkable
demonstration of public soul-searching."
I'm not sure if the Post saw the same thing that I did in the message,
though. What was brilliant about it for me was the way the Pope called
attention to the sociological phenomenon called "deviance." Basically,
deviance occurs when society defines a behavior as something that
stands outside the norm and punishes it. Many kinds of people are
considered deviant, but the most important category is the criminal.
We criminalize certain behaviors as a survival mechanism: By punishing
and banishing the criminal, we ensure the survival of the group.
In any case, the Pope's statement that pedophilia used to be
considered part of the normal spectrum of behavior (shocking—like who
were the Church elders hanging out with?) and therefore went
unpunished leads directly to his point: Child sexual abuse is rampant
because society has made it normal, both in religious institutions and
outside of them.
The Pope is telling Church leaders, but also the world, that it is our
collective responsibility to stop, dead in its tracks, the
sexualization of children in any institution or area of life, whether
that is the church, the synagogue, the mosque, the family, the daycare
center, the elementary/middle/high school, the sports club, or
anywhere else in society that this culture manifests itself.
In short, we must make it absolutely deviant to sexualize a child. Not
just as a crime to be enforced in a court of law, but as a set of
social norms and values that center on the preservation of childhood.
Its innocence. Its freedom from the intrusion of adult wants and
All of this may sound pretty obvious. Preachy, even. But if you look
around at our world, it's evident that the Pope's message is somehow
not getting heard. Definitely not getting heard in some of the
institutions that affect kids most.
The worst thing of all is that not only are adults harming children,
but children are buying into their own exploitation and destruction.
So that the adults don't even have to recruit them anymore – kids
nitpick and henpeck each other to conform to a sexualized ideal that
is way beyond their years.
A few examples:
• The entertainment industry is centered on taking innocent children
and turning them into objects of adult desire. How many celebrities
have been "role models" to our kids in their journey from Mickey Mouse
to way-too-adult attire? Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Miley
Cyrus are just a few examples that come to mind and we have seen their
"crash and burn." Even the child stars have even younger siblings
joining them in Hollywood – like Dakota and Elle Fanning, just 13
• Now Hollywood stars are taking their own branding a step further by
birthing or adopting branded "mini-me"-s, then introducing them to the
world of commerce virtually from the moment they enter the world.
These children are either parent-accessories or businesses in their
own right. Think of Suri Cruise, the Brangelina brood, the Jon + Kate
Plus 8 kids (coincidentally so angry they were expelled from school?),
the Spice Girl kid now starting a line of sunglasses.
• The fashion industry routinely recruits young, innocent waifs to
participate in a world that is way too sophisticated for their
maturity level. Those kids take the money, put on skinny jeans and
tight tops with plunging necklines and cutouts, and then the kids who
watch them influence other kids to buy similar items.
Unfortunately, marketers have been complicit in this phenomenon by
branding to kids virtually from infancy. Everyone is getting used to
being either branded or living in a world defined by brand choices. If
you don't speak or live the language of brands you are functionally
The Pope is telling us, in his message, to question this. Because it
seems like no coincidence that we are witnessing, as he puts it, "the
psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are
reduced to articles of merchandise…a terrifying sign of the times."
Also, it is no coincidence that "in the modern culture, child
pornography, drugs, sex trafficking are seen as normal and not unduly
For those who care about ethics in marketing in branding and life, the
Pope's speech is a call to action.
Apparently McD's defended itself in part by saying it's "common knowledge" that processed foods are less healthy than unprocessed foods.
Actually in my experience this assertion is far from true. Just the opposite sometimes - there is the thought that if someone has "cooked the hell out of it," processed and pasteurized it and sealed it up tight in plastic, then it's much more safe than "unprotected" natural food.
I myself did not know there was a difference between chicken nuggets and regular chicken, actually, because so often you see things like "100% white meat" on the package.
Similarly I really thought Papa John's tagline, "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza" was a statement of fact.
I am no rocket scientist but I do have a Ph.D. And I have been working in and studying marketing for decades.
Are you going to tell me that most people are savvy disbelievers by nature?
I think what's common knowledge is that people are frequently easily fooled.
And even if they are cynical - are you then going to argue that the entire marketing industry is built on open lies that people can easily unravel? Or that it should be?
It's common knowledge that nobody trusts a liar.
Woman is shown holding up a tray of steaming-hot, freshly-baked, drizzling-sweet cinnamon buns before her gaspingly grateful husband and children.
Of course all is orderly at this family dinner table. Mom's love, represented by cinnamon rolls, keeps everyone seated and smiling.
In the fantasy world that advertisers create, food is love. More specifically, commercially prepared fast food is a stand-in for the fantasy of the perfect mother - or father.
The real wish of the child, of course, is not for food. Kids, and adults, want attention and nurturance most of all. But since there is no way to commercialize this, we are bombarded with substitute symbols. We are supposed to feel that preparing and eating these foods either means giving love, or being loved by a caring parent.
The culture during holiday season reinforces this. It's all about either shopping or parties or food. And for those who can't afford extravagant things and who aren't invited to fancy parties, "food is it." People take great pride and go to great lengths to make the perfect holiday meal.
But looking around nowadays, one can't help but wonder if the use of food (the exploitation of food) as a substitute for love has gone too far. We are glorifying and overconsuming all the wrong things, and marginalizing the right ones - i.e. no one brings a bag of organic apples to a holiday party.
It's time to rethink our priorities and take back our "food culture" from the advertisers.
For too long, the ad industry has relied on their audience to be idiotic. The fashion brand Diesel doesn't mince words. It tells us directly: "Be Stupid."
Are we really dumb? Or is Diesel just smartly confronting us with our intelligence, and then telling us to let go? More on that in a bit.
But first: How pliable are consumers, still? Do we carelessly absorb marketing messages the same way Silly Putty picks up the ink from a cartoon book?
Clearly, marketers think so, or want to. It's hard to understand, since social media is so mainstream now, and everything is on Twitter in about five seconds. They know Wikileaks is coming for them, and yet they still embrace terms like "neuromarketing."
The fact of the matter is, despite all the talk about "engaging the bloggers," marketers continue to put the reputation of the industry at risk by doing things to purposefully deceive and confuse the customer. They flood people with enticing images and create a peer-pressure effect to try and induce initial and repeated purchases.
If they can't bring the customer in, and if they can't co-opt the social media, they will simply ignore or shun the critics – people who analyze their activities and provide the customer with another point of view, with research and facts that don't conform to the idealized image. Just a few examples from the daily deluge:
· Deception: Remember Papa John's tagline, "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza"? Marketing B.S. (Which led to a famous lawsuit by Pizza Hut, which Papa John's won – a completely puzzling outcome. Why pay for this tagline if it doesn't influence customer behavior?)
· Neuromarketing: Put a baby in an ad. Watch product sell. Enough said.
· Confusion: McDonald's smoothie ads proudly proclaim they have "real fruit". That is true. But what they don't tell you is that the fruit, combined with the added sugar, adds up. There are 70 grams of sugar in a large McDonald's strawberry-banana smoothie. Will you be healthier after drinking it, or climbing the walls?
· Brainwashing: A sociological study once showed that if you put a law-abiding citizen into jail and into jail clothing, within 2 days they will act like a hardened criminal. Similarly, if you expose a normal pre-teen girl to "kid-oriented" television shows pushing makeup, sexy clothes, and fast food – either eaten by the show's characters or on the commercials that play during the breaks – guess what? That girl will want to eat McNuggets and wear makeup and adult-looking clothing. And she'll want it more if she sees those images repeated in magazines, on billboards, and promoted by her circle of susceptible peers.
· Shunning: Have you ever noticed that people who take a strong, public stand in favor of consumers and natural solutions, and against deceptive marketing practices, are treated by the mainstream as "extremists" or "weirdos"? If you have ever seen anyone suffering from cancer or a degenerative disease, think about whether you want to trust marketers with your health or someone who has comparably far less to gain. A single crusader might need to sell a book or a line of products in order to eat. But a huge conglomerate, and its associated huge ad agency, needs to move millions and even billions of product in order to hit their sales targets.
It's interesting. I remember recently that I had to discard a can of caffeine-free Diet Coke (I hadn't drunk from it, because the last time I started drinking Diet Cherry Coke I got major sugar cravings that lasted all night.) I watched the brown liquid as it seemed to ooze down the sink drain. At the time, I thought to myself, "Can you believe that people regularly put this into their bodies?"
Shortly after I saw an ad for Diet Coke at a bus stop: It said I would "be extraordinary" by drinking it. Extraordinarily what?
But then, I know Coca-Cola has something intelligent in mind, because they have a place where they study how people shop (source: recent CNBC special on the company). So they must do enough mystery shopping, competitive intelligence, and focus groups to know that that particular tagline will set people's brain cells ringing. Even as the fake sugar in the soda does…what to people's brains?
Anyway, my point is that people are not really stupid. That is why the Diesel campaign is so smart. I imagine they understand that people gain hard-won intelligence by dealing with things like: birth defects, disabilities, parents, two decades of school, bullies, bosses, friends, enemies, getting fired, starting a business, bankruptcy, buying a home, foreclosure, real estate, divorce, the loss of a loved one, jail, addiction, natural disasters, terrorism, violence, car accidents, doctors, illness, aging and more.
So Diesel pokes fun at all that. The company says, relax a bit. Buy our clothes and be stupid for awhile.
Many other ads are not that smart, or self-aware. They truly think they can brainwash people.
In the past this approach may have worked. Primarily because the world is so complex that people have relied on major social institutions to tell them what to do. On trustworthy brands to help "guide" their decisions. Otherwise life can easily become unlivable with all the choices one must make.
However, in 2011 this isn't going to work. You can't tell anyone what to think or what to do. You can trick them, true, but only for a short time, before they find out and get so angry that they do not listen to you anymore. Even if the telling is in the form of an ad, which really seeks to engage people in the "brand story," it is critical to walk the fine line that says, "here's the honest truth, I invite you in to make the choice."
Look at the recent ads for Johnson & Johnson, where they talk about being transparent about ingredients. About giving people information about the products so that they can make an informed choice. That's what I'm talking about.
Maybe J&J is looking at marketing research that bears my supposition out. If you want proof of modern cynicism, just look around. We see it not only in the total non-response that ads get, and in the cynicism of the modern workplace, but also in the realms of politics, the media, and even religious institutions. People trust each other, not the "system" and not even charismatic leaders. That's why brands stand on such shaky ground.
The system started to fall apart with the rise of mass media. It accelerated with the explosive growth of the Internet and social media. Suddenly no one was in control. The same scandals kept happening as before, but now it is exponentially more difficult to hide misbehavior. Sexual abuse of children in the religious community is a good example. If you can't trust people who wear the mantle of G-d, then really, what is left?
At the same time, people are a lot less bound by social convention than they were in the past. They don't care about authority. For one thing, they haven't been able to count on their parents – the huge divorce rate is Exhibit 1. Their jobs are not secure either, and even if they follow the rules and go to school they can't count on having a job in the future. They rely on their friends and not their parents for their social norms. Facebook has taken convenient advantage of this fact. And your friends can change a lot more fluidly than your family and its traditional values can.
Facebook also introduced to us the new "morality" of the Internet age, which is that any privacy is inherently bad and reflects a certain amount of hypocrisy. If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't need any privacy at all, right?
Wikileaks, in the form of Julian Assange, preaches from the same song sheet. Enabling the pilferers of secret information, he says, "Look how much corruption there is going on behind your back. I'm the good guy, keeping everyone moral, keeping markets free."
He says, too: Don't mistreat your employees, because they will shine the light on everything you've done wrong.
And you know what? Call him what you will – accuse him of causing irreparable harm and you may be justified – but Assange has a large audience and probably many peers who are poised to do the same thing as he has done, if given the chance.
I completely disagree with destroying the possibility of privacy. I am frightened at what could happen if people started recklessly dumping everyone's private information out into the public space. But what I think and feel are separate from applying one's judgment to assess the mood of the moment. And my assessment is that Wikileaks and Facebook are squarely in the middle of it. To cope successfully, every single company and institution must prepare to get transparent immediately. Radically so. Or they face serious, serious danger.
The process of laying it all out there is undoubtedly painful, especially if you're not used to it. But once that's done – once nobody can hold over you a skeleton in the closet – you are poised to renew your relationship with your audience on more adult, more honest footing.
The basis of the new marketing relationship is that you are giving people a choice. You tell them who you are and what you're made of, and you say: It's up to you.
You say: Knowing what my company or my leadership style is all about, here is how my offering can satisfy your physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. You attempt to move beyond physical need quickly – because it is easily commoditized - to win consumers where it really counts - in their hearts, social circles, and connection to the eternal. You let them, essentially, vote with their pocketbooks. And you don't cheat them out of money they don't need to spend.
So the marketer of the future will be able to answer 4 questions:
1. Cost-benefit analysis: What is this going to do for me? Can I believe the claims? What are the risks? Is there a cheaper, equivalent alternative? If so, why should I buy from you?
2. Emotional need: Should I buy/accept this, even if it's not the most logical choice, just because I like the way it makes me feel?
3. Social need: Will buying/accepting this make me feel included as part of a community?
4. Spiritual need: Was the product sourced and made ethically? Will buying/accepting this bring me closer to a higher goal?
Although it may seem that people are really bent on surviving first and then feeling, making friends and connecting to G-d later, it's exactly the opposite: We are all connected to the eternal, the spiritual, the life that comes before and after this physical existence. Eternal life is more vital than this physical plane. We don't worry about survival needs unless we have to.
All of this is why Fast Company's recent article on the future of advertising was only partially right. Selling is not about learning to code HTML or finding new and more annoying ways to intrude on the customer's life. (As if a more sophisticated banner ad is any less obnoxious than the old-fashioned kind). It's not about "targeting" people by secretly tracking them online. It is about good old-fashioned integrity, coupled with insight: Delivering something of value, and then wrapping it in an evolving, appealing story.
As Barry Diller recently told the Wall Street Journal (see the most recent issue of WSJ magazine), it's more valuable to have one liberal arts-educated person on your staff than a million techies. This is because the future is about doing what's right, understanding the customer, connecting with them, and helping them to grow.
Value, transparency, decency, fun, connection and spirituality—that is where I think consumers want to be. Me included.