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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Kate's Take: Of Tweet & Veet

by Kate McMahon

Two brand blunders are dominating social media this week, one shockingly cringe-worthy and the other just stupidly insulting.

We are talking about The Tweet, and the Veet commercial.

The pornographic tweet occurred Monday on US Airways’ official Twitter feed, with more than 400,000 followers. A link that was supposed to take an unhappy flier named “Elle” to a customer service site instead revealed a revolting lewd photo of a nude woman and a toy airplane. Enough said.

It gets worse. The photo was on the site for almost one hour before US Airways yanked the “inappropriate image” and apologized. But cropped, blurred and even unedited versions are everywhere. The airline said it was investigating how the XXX-rated shot that was posted to its feed by another user and then red-flagged “inadvertently” ended up as an official response. It appears to have been human and/or computer error, not an outside hack job.

This has already catapulted to the top of the worst-ever corporate Twitter fail list, but I am stunned that a major airline’s social media team didn’t catch this calamitous tweet sooner. One hour is more like a century in the Twitterverse, the most real time platform of all social media.

In fact, the apology was retweeted 4,000 times in just 20 minutes.

The response on Twitter and elsewhere? Shock, and not surprisingly, a slew of posts ranging from humorous to raunchy.

The Veet commercial is an example of a self-imposed really bad idea imploding on social media.

The hair removal brand promised its 300,000 plus Facebook followers a sneak peek of its new “Don’t Risk Dudeness” commercial before it premiered on “Dancing with the Stars.” Veet should have pulled the plug right then and there.

The first commercial of the series shows a couple lazing in bed in a hip urban apartment. But when the hunky (and practically hairless) guy goes to reach for his girlfriend’s leg he is shocked and horrified to find a fat, bearded hairy guy in a pink camisole. “I know. I’m a bit prickly,” the character says in a high-pitched voice. “I shaved yesterday.”

Seriously? Less than 24 hours?

The other ads showed the same hairy oaf (think Zach Galafianikis) in a dress being snubbed by a cab driver and scolded by a masseuse for stubble.

The tagline was: "Don't risk dudeness. Feel womanly around the clock.”

The internet lit up with criticism in less time than it takes to rip off a waxing strip, starting with Veet’s own Facebook page, and the posts slamming the ads far outnumbered the “Geez, lighten up ladies” comments.

For example:

• “You've managed to offend just about everyone - the ads are sexist, homophobic and transphobic. The body shaming is deplorable.”

• “You just alienated your entire target audience. Bravo.”

• “When this commercial aired I was sitting at a table of two women and three men, and ALL FIVE of us found this to be completely offensive and degrading toward women.”

Veet got the message, pulled the entire campaign (even from YouTube) and its marketing team responded on Facebook , saying "We just wanted to let everyone know, we get it - we're women too. This idea came from women who told us that at the first hint of stubble, they felt like 'dudes.' It was really simple and funny, we thought. To be honest, the 3 of us could really relate to these real-life moments and they made us laugh. Not everyone appreciated our sense of humor.”

They should have tested that “humor” with a larger female audience. And remembered that women are more inclined to purchase products (even/especially hair removers) that make them feel good about themselves, as Dove’s successful Real Beauty campaign has illustrated.

Though The Tweet and the Veet campaign are two drastically different scenarios, there is a shared business takeaway. Good, bad or unintentionally pornographic, a tweet or Facebook post can go viral in less than a minute. Ditto backlash.

Companies must be prepared to react even to the unexpected immediately and apologize if necessary, or face the consequences.

Comments? Send me an email at .

Wednesday Morning Eye-Opener: Crossing The Fowl Line

by Kevin Coupe

Okay, this is one of the weirder ideas I've ever heard of.

USA Today writes that KFC has developed a prom season promotion that consists of "corsages showcasing the Colonel's famous fried chicken drumsticks resting on a bed of baby's breath. The corsage kits sell for $20 and come with a $5 KFC gift card so teens can select their preferred style of chicken (Original Recipe, Extra Crispy or Kentucky Grilled Chicken), according to Nanz & Kraft's website, the florist company working with KFC on the promotion."

The kits can be ordered online, and then customers go to their local KFC to get the chicken to attach to the corsage. And then, one presumes, it is off to pick up their dates.

According to the folks at Nanz & Kraft, the kits are selling like hotcakes. (Albeit hotcakes that smell like chicken.)

When I saw this story, I immediately checked the date. But it seems legit.

Weird, but legit.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

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Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Tesco Back On Its Heels With Announcement Of Financial Results

Tesco this morning announced that its annual trading profit dropped from the equivalent of $5.78 billion to $5.54 billion during the most recent fiscal year, on sales that were flat at about $118 billion. It is the second consecutive drop in annual profit, and combined with estimates from Kantar Worldpanel that its March sales were down more than eight percent and its most recent quarterly sales were down more than two percent.

The Financial Times, in its analysis of the situation at the world's third largest retailer, said that CEO Philip Clarke faces five major challenges: rebuilding a troubled UK business, sorting out the company's global businesses, dealing with a perceived lack of bench strength in management and at the board level while simultaneously "experimenting with new management structures in stores," finding a way to rebuild confidence and eliminating what has become a "culture of fear," and defining a sustainable approach to pricing that will deal with the competitive threat created by the growth of discounters such as Aldi and Lidl.

"Our results today reflect the challenges we face in a trading environment which is changing more rapidly than ever before," Clarke said in a prepared statement.

KC's View: That may be the understatement of the year. Stiff upper lip and all that, I guess.

Whatever the specifics of Tesco's challenges, it seems clear that the company has simply lost touch with the marketplace and somehow, despite all the vaunted research capabilities that it has, lost touch with individual shoppers.

When Tesco blew it to such a great extent in the western US with Fresh & Easy stores that seemed utterly out of synch with the needs of many shoppers, my assumption was that it was an inability to deal with US marketing realities that did it in, as it had so many other global grocery players. But the extent of its issues, and the speed with which Tesco seems to have experienced all these problems, makes me wonder if there was a kind of arrogance - let's call it epistemic closure - that infected management.

Maybe Tesco had had such a strong run that it began to believe that the world was the way it wanted it to be, rather than the way it actually is.

What I don't know - and I'm not sure if even Tesco's top leadership knows - is whether reality has set in, or whether it continues to flail around because it is convinced of its rightness.

Then again, I could be wrong. Maybe Tesco is just going through one of those cycles that hits many great retailers, and things will be fine if they hang in long enough.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

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The Early Reviews Are In, & The Amazon Dash Is Getting Positive Notices

The Wall Street Journal reports that early users of the Amazon Dash, the retailer's new handheld grocery ordering device, are responding positively to the technology.

According to the story, the device - free for now and available only to Amazon Prime Fresh customers in Los Angeles and San Francisco who are invited to test it - "allows users to order goods by scanning barcodes of everyday groceries. When there is no barcode - as on a pineapple - a microphone and voice recognition technology allow users to speak their additions to a shopping list."

It is early yet, but shoppers are saying that they find the Dash easy to use, that it increases their shopping on Amazon, and while there have been some glitches, it also results in other, related products being recommended to users.

KC's View: There are a number of people like me who continue to wonder why Amazon made the Dash a device instead of building its capabilities into a smartphone application. Maybe it'll do both things, if the tests prove the concept and it rolls out the Dash program on a wider scale.

There will be one key metric, I'd guess. Does it sell more stuff?

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

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Facebook Looks To Get Into Mobile Payments Business

The Financial Times reports that Facebook has applied for regulatory approvals - in the UK - to develop a mobile payments system that would allow it to gain access to customers' wallets.

The Wall Street Journal, following up on the story, writes that "it's long been rumored that Facebook might start a mobile-payments system. Like PayPal, Facebook could charge a commission for each transaction and collect a portion of payments, giving the company a new revenue stream beyond just advertising … A mobile payment system would also allow Facebook to gather even more personal information about people that it could use for targeted advertising, which is at the core of the company’s business. Knowing the spending habits of its customers also could allow Facebook to match purchases with ad campaigns, helping the social network prove the efficacy of its advertising.  Right now, Facebook partners with third party data brokers to accomplish that goal."

KC's View: I read this story, and the first thing I think about is the line from "Marmion," by Sir Walter Scott: Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

I'm sure this makes all sorts of sense from the Facebook perspective, for some of the same reasons that it makes sense for companies like Amazon to develop mobile payments systems that will give them a piece of other retailers' businesses.

But I have to be honest. As a consumer, this all makes me very nervous. Not "keep money under the mattress" nervous, but nervous nonetheless. This complex latticework of companies and consumer data seems like it is just screaming out for breaching and corruption.

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Taxing Matters: Starbucks To Move European Headquarters From Holland To UK

Reuters reports that Starbucks will move its European headquarters from the Netherlands to the UK, following criticisms last year that it located its offices in Holland to avoid corporate taxes. In fact, Starbucks paid no corporate taxes in Britain in the year leading up to September 2012, which led some lawmakers there to call for a review of corporate tax policies.

According to the story, "Starbucks said it would pay more tax in Britain following the relocation, which it expects to come into effect before the end of the year, although globally its bill would remain 'relatively neutral'."

Howard Schultz, Starbucks' CEO, is quoted as saying that the company has no intention of raising prices, citing concerns about a still-fragile economic recovery.

KC's View: Without casting aspersions on either approach, it is worth noting that Starbucks is making this decision at the same time as an investor group tries to convince Walgreens management to move its headquarters from the US to Paris as a way of avoiding corporate taxes. I do think that in this case, Starbucks is making a decision that takes into account public perceptions … especially in the UK market, which is described in the Reuters story as being "its biggest and fastest-growing market in Europe." No sense annoying the customers … or even a percentage of them.

Walgreens execs may want to think along the same lines. Some folks may think that moving the headquarters to France won't upset US consumers, but I think there will be a sizable percentage that will decide to shop elsewhere.

I go with what Gene Hackman, as "Popeye" Doyle in French Connection II, said: "I'd rather be a lamppost in New York than the president of France."

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• The Bergen Record reports that Inserra Supermarkets, which owns and operates 22 ShopRite stores in New York and New Jersey, plans to open a PriceRite store in Garfield, NJ, in a former A&P. It is Inserra's first PriceRite, though Wakefern - which originated the low-price format - has 55 of them in six other states.

As the Record, "While the ShopRite brand was built on low prices, PriceRite's motto is 'impossibly, incredibly, inconceivably low prices everyday.' The brand, which was launched by Wakefern in Massachusetts in 1995, competes with limited assortment, budget chains such as Aldi rather than full-service supermarkets."

• The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) yesterday announced the 25 finalists in the Supermarket Chef Showdown, the competition that is scheduled to be held at this year's FMI Connect trade show in Chicago, scheduled for June 10-13.

According to FMI, "the finalists represent retailers from across the country, including: Balducci’s, Dorothy Lane Market, Inc., Farm Fresh Supermarkets, Foodland Super Market, Ltd., FRESH by Brookshire’s, Fry’s Food Stores, Hy-Vee, Inc., Kowalski’s Markets, The Kroger Co., Meijer, Inc., Orchard Fresh, Publix Super Markets, Inc., Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Co., ShopRite, Whole Foods Market, and Winn-Dixie. The reigning champion from the 2012 competition, Keoni Chang from Foodland Super Market, will also return to defend his title."

The 25 finalists, FMI said, "entered their recipes in one of five categories: Healthy Meals; Family Meals; Ethnic Meals; Dessert; and Side-Dishes/Mini Meals/Snacks. In order to qualify, the recipes used at least three eligible sponsor ingredients and took 20 minutes or less to prepare."

Salon reports that there is a "rampant banana disease" called Fusarium wilt TR, or Panama disease, that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns could threaten the world's banana supply.

The story says that "the fungal disease recently spread from Asia, where it’s already caused significant losses, to Africa and the Middle East, and the FAO believes Latin America could be next. That would ramp the crisis up considerably: About 70 percent of the world’s banana exports are grown in the region."

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Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Your Views

…will return.

From The MNB Sports Desk

Yesterday was an important anniversary for Major League Baseball - it was 67 years to the day that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. If you watched any game yesterday, you would see every player wearing his number - 42 - honoring the man who paved the way for so many other players of color.

KC's View: I've always felt that Robinson was one of the most important people of the 20th century. Not just one of the most important athletes, but one of the most important people.

But it was fascinating this week to read the USA Today story that pointed out that just 7.8 percent of major leaguers are African-American, compared with more than 18 percent in 1981. There actually are three teams without a single African-American player - though to be clear, this is more a shift in interest by African-Americans than it is any sort of institutional racism. And MLB reportedly is investing a lot of money in urban development programs to recapture the attention of African-American young people.

And it was alarming to read that when Hank Aaron recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of his record-setting home run breaking Babe Ruth's record, and he gave an interview suggesting that there is still racism in this country, the Atlanta Braves were besieged by letters and emails using the worst kinds of racial slurs to describe Aaron. Which sort of proved his point.

We've come a long way. But, it seems, we continue to have a long way to go.

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