Category: CSR


“In the darkness, we found the light. Introducing a new era of electronic driving.” – Volkswagen’s new advertising campaign tagline

“Hello, darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk to you again …” – Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s, “The Sounds of Silence”

Is the best defense a good offense?

Is the most effective present-day defense utilizing a Baby Boomer anthem and harkening back to the 1960s with its brightly colored Volkswagen Beetles and (Hippie) Microvans?

After being rightfully bashed and bloodied starting in the autumn of 2015 for deploying defeat software to deceive anti-pollution testing of its vehicles (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche), heads rightfully started to roll at Volkswagen AG corporate headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

On the line with “Dieselgate” was Volkswagen’s brand, but also the reputation of Germany’s legendary designers and engineers. Consider, there is probably no nation on earth that prides itself more than Germany for its commitment to the environment (note the recent electoral successes of die Grünen).

The Volkswagen cheating scandal was akin to catching a falling knife. Using another well-worn metaphor, the shocking story has legs and has been running unabated for nearly four years.

The scandal started in September, 2015 when the U.S. EPA charged Volkswagen with using illegal (air quality testing) manipulation devices. A related Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation was launched. Volkswagen’s chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn was fired.

A continuous chorus of charges, fines, lawsuits, increased governmental regulation, falling stock prices and recalls mounted against Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries. Last year, German authorities indicted Winterkorn on aggravated fraud charges.

Almost DailyBrett noted that Volkswagen did not follow to the letter the four basic tenets of Crisis Communications: Tell The Truth, Tell It All, Tell It Fast and Move On. In many ways Volkswagen management was just hoping this mess would simply subside.

Volkswagen management, employees, shareholders and even Kanzlerin Merkel and the German government had to confront the metaphorical Scheisse-Sandwich … you don’t nibble.

Back To The Drawing Board

At some point, the world’s largest automobile designer/manufacturer would have to go back on offense.

In doing so, Volkswagen realized it could not assume a business-as-usual approach.

Ultimately, Volkswagen appreciated that it has to acknowledge its wrongdoing, beg for forgiveness, and somehow, someway commence the hard work of rebranding … essentially moving on.

Volkswagen of America hired New York’s Johannes Leonardo advertising agency, and secured the rights to “The Sounds of Silence.”

The question posed to VW management: Can a major ad buy (part of a reported $2 billion campaign) for its 1:45 second spot featuring a Baby Boomer/Yuppie anthem make everything right in the world for Volkswagen?

In and of itself, the answer is obviously: no.

Almost DailyBrett has always believed that Volkswagen is engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. Volkswagen’s story, which began in 1937, deserves another chapter.

Americans are credited for being an understanding people. They will not forget, but are they willing to forgive and give … even a corporate entity … another chance?

The Johannes Leonardo creative, which debuted with the NBA Finals and the NHL’s Stanley Cup last week, is edgy as it literally starts in the darkness with a news announcer directly referencing the Volkswagen scandal.

One suspects that securing VW’s management approval for an open acknowledgement of moral failure was easier said than done. As Chairman Mao found out, the long-march back starts with the first step.

In our world of advertising bombast and overkill, it’s the extremely clever advertisement that stops the viewer in his or her tracks and commands attention.

The dark Sounds of Silence images convey going back to the drawing board. The result is the coming resurrection of the VW microvan … a concept vehicle for now … with the message the company’s environmentally friendly electric vehicle does not contribute to climate change. Volkswagen envisions 22 EVs (electric vehicles) by 2028, and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Volkswagen has stumbled for nearly four torturous years. The questions are with its new ad campaign and beyond: Has the company finally learned its lesson, and are we as consumers willing to forgive, while certainly not forgetting?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEvNL6oEr0U

https://www.fastcompany.com/90359361/volkswagen-aims-for-feel-good-redemption-in-new-major-ad-campaign

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a27784322/vw-hello-light-commercial-column/

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/dieselgate-timeline-germanys-car-emissions-fraud-scandal

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/business/winterkorn-volkswagen-emissions-scandal.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkiley5/2019/06/06/vw-goes-back-to-the-future-in-new-ad-campaign-to-put-dieselgate-in-rear-view/#1026a00d3aa5

https://www.vw.com/

http://johannesleonardo.com/

A “memorable” $211,703 Porsche or Land Rover?

A “visible” $86,423 Rolex?

And let’s not forget the applicable taxes on these two giveaways: $179,977 and $38,005 respectively.

For those scoring at home, Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) provided $516,108 in goodies to one man: newly minted co-CEO Keith Block, 57.

The Salesforce.com Compensation Committee justified the corporate largesse in its proxy statement filing:

“In this case, the committee approved this award because it believed that recognizing Mr. Block’s leadership and success in achieving company goals was warranted, and that doing so in a memorable and visible way would be motivational not only for the executive, but for other employees who observe exceptional performance being rewarded in exceptional ways consistent with the company’s philosophy of paying for performance.”

Paying for exceptional performance?

Does Block walk on water? Does he change water into wine? Does he dole out loaves and fishes to feed the hungry?

Before being named co-CEO last August, Block was already earning $2.3 million annually in salary and bonuses (not including stock option exercises) as the company’s vice chairman, president and chief operating officer.

Almost DailyBrett extensively researched and taught the relationship between fiduciary responsibility (doing well) and corporate social responsibility (doing good) as a master’s student at University of Oregon and later as a PR professor at Central Washington University.

Your author also served as the director of Corporate Public Relations for LSI Logic (NYSE: LSI) for a decade including preparing 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K news releases and regulatory filings for financial media and the SEC.

More to the point, Almost DailyBrett is a long-time Republican, free-enterprise supporter, and up-to-now a more than satisfied shareholder of Salesforce.com founded by fellow USC alum Marc Benioff.

Let’s state here and now: giving away a cool car and groovy watch (plus paying related income taxes for these two goodies) is inconsistent with Salesforce’s fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders … including not trying to be SaaS-see,  yours truly.

God help the company’s corporate PR department.

Ready to make chicken salad out of chicken feces?

How do you defend the indefensible? How do you stand-up on behalf of the untenable? Did the Compensation Committee discuss its decision with the PR types before giving away a Porsche and a Rolex to Monsieur Block?

And where is Salesforce.com located? San Francisco.

Do you think Bernie, Kamala or Elizabeth supporters residing in the Sodom and Gomorrah by the Bay are going to seize about this outrageous caper as an example about everything wrong with corporate America?

Occupy Salesforce?

Publicly traded corporations (e.g., Salesforce) provide the products we need (e.g., enterprise software), employ millions (e.g., CRM, 29,000) and provide a return on capital to millions investing in their retirement, health care or children’s education.

Buy-side (i.e., mutual funds, retirement systems) and sell-side (i.e. Goldman, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley) institutions hold 82 percent of Salesforce’s 774 million shares outstanding.

In contrast, Almost DailyBrett is a lowly Charles Schwab retail investor with 300 shares.

If your author threatened to sell all of his shares because he is upset by the Keith Block giveaways, would company even notice, let alone care?

Heck, your author’s holding is a friggin’ corporate rounding error.

Salesforce has demonstrated by its regulatory filing temerity, it really doesn’t take fiscal stewardship and fiduciary responsibility seriously.

Actions speak louder than words. The perception and reality both stink.

No carefully massaged explanation and no amount of corporate social responsibility (CSR) – including calling for local tax increases to take care of the homeless – are going to change the undeniable fact that giving away a luxury car, a costly watch and paying the related taxes for one lousy executive … is wrong.

Dead wrong to be precise.

Almost DailyBrett editor’s note: According to Business Insider, the company did not disclose the exact make or model of Keith Block’s new car and watch. However, an educated guesstimate was made by the digital publication based upon the disclosed sales prices and related tax payments for the two luxury items. If the company actually bought Block a Lamborghini instead of a Porsche, your author will accept personal responsibility for the egregious mistake.

https://www.businessinsider.com/salesforce-ceo-keith-block-car-watch-2019-4

https://www1.salary.com/Keith-Block-Salary-Bonus-Stock-Options-for-SALESFORCE-COM-INC.html

https://www.salesforce.com/company/leadership/bios/bio-block/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

 

 

 

“Can’t decide whether you are a Democrat or a Republican …”

Bless these two students, who on separate occasions, refreshingly relayed their puzzlement to your author.

Almost DailyBrett does not believe that classrooms should ever be the venue for the indoctrination, let along the formation of young warriors in the fight between noble socialism and evil capitalism.

Gee … maybe … just maybe these students are smart enough to make up their own minds on these issues?

Even though long-time Almost DailyBrett readers and contemporaries know or at least suspect your author’s political predilection, it was rewarding to know at least some of my students weren’t so sure … and that is how it should be for all professors or instructors.

There seems to be a contagious disease among tenure-track or tenured academic types (e.g., professors and instructors) that university students are there to endure for hours on end their personal political pontifications and bloviations.

Is that why students are taking out loans averaging $30,000 each, waiting tables or asking mom and dad to dig deep … real deep … for their college education?

Don’t think so.

Buy Low, Sell High

As Almost DailyBrett fondly looks back to more than five years teaching public relations, integrated marketing, corporate communications and investor relations, one particular moment always brings back tears to the eyes.

More than 30 of my Central Washington University PR students chanted in unison … “Buy Low, Sell High!” … at my retirement party.

Upon receiving the Central Washington University Department of Communication Faculty Spotlight Award, they gathered around me for a group picture. Your author will always remember this moment.

Isn’t Buy Low and Sell High the essence of capitalism, particularly publicly traded corporate capitalism?

The answer is “yes.” Keep in mind that buying low and selling high is easier said than done. More importantly this phrase is the backbone to the practice of fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the 54 percent of Americans investing in stocks and stock-based mutual funds.

America’s investor class — planning for retirements, funding higher education for their children, opening up a new businesses — require accurate and complete communication about a company’s business plan, financials and simply … how does a corporation make money.

The highest expected communications professional compensation levels … usually in six figures … are directed to students adept at financial communications, who are studying at today’s schools of journalism and mass communication.

Almost DailyBrett believes wholeheartedly the purpose of universities/colleges is to prepare students to attain and sustain salaried professional positions with full benefits … and maybe even employee stock purchase plans (ESPP) and/or stock options.

Universities and colleges should be professional schools, providing students with lifelong learning skills and tools to succeed in our increasingly complex digital world … including beating artificial intelligence (AI).

If students wish to Occupy Wall Street that should be their choice, not their command.

By the way, how did that movement work out?

Students should always be fully aware of the imperfections of Capitalism. For example, watching The Smartest Men In The Room (Fortune’s Bethany McLean’s tome on the Enron bankruptcy) was required for each of your author’s Corporate Communications/Investor Relations classes.

In addition to the aforementioned Fiduciary Responsibility, a publicly traded company needs to complement this requirement with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Besides doing well, a company should be mindful of doing good … including giving back to communities, protecting the environment … that make success, possible.

Certainly, students can be taught to live in tents, recite cumbersome theory or rail at the world back in their own bedrooms at mom and dad’s house.

They also can learn how to decipher an income statement, a balance sheet, a cash-flow statement and to understand the significance and formulas associated with market capitalization, earnings per share (EPS), and price/earnings (P/E) ratios and related multiples.

Looking back at your author’s professorship, there is no doubt about political disposition. There was also a comprehension that students are to be prepared for the professional world, and many of these graduates have done well, real well.

And if a couple of students or more, can’t tell whether Almost DailyBrett or any other professor/instructor, drifts left or right that’s the way … it should be.

 

 

 

Ever wonder how Venezuela became … Venezuela?

Almost DailyBrett at one time expected that Amazon would announce Austin, Texas as the recipient of HQ2 with its estimated $50 billion total investment and upwards to 50,000 technology positions with full benefits.

As a major technology hub, Austin offers a well-trained workforce, the capital of a right-to-work state, no state income taxes, and politicians’ favorably predisposed to corporate capitalism. In addition, Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, which is based in … Austin.

Instead, Amazon selected Northern Virginia with it well-educated workforce and proximity to the infinite wisdom emanating within the Beltway. The other choice, which raised more than a few eyebrows, was heavily unionized and über-taxed Long Island.

The original thinking was Amazon would be welcomed with the prospect of providing 40,000 real positions with annual salaries averaging $150,000 and full benefits – not strip mall jobs – and $27.5 billion in new tax revenues during the course of 10 years. Yes, there were $3 billion in tax incentives from the State of New and New York City and these are always controversial.

Let’s see $3 billion in exchange for $27.5 billion in new revenues and 40,000 direct high-paying positions, not counting all the indirect economic activity supporting Amazon HQ2 in terms of suppliers, vendors and utilities.

Buy Low, Sell High?

Alas the United States is a divided nation, not just Democrats vs Republicans … but more to the point: Socialism vs. Capitalism.

Some wish to punish Amazon and its wealthiest dude on the planet boss, Jeff Bezos, for pioneering digital retail, employing 613,300, generating $232 billion in annual revenues, and stimulating $798 billion in investor market capitalization.

Amazon was greeted to Gotham by a buzz-saw of those who disdain capitalism in favor of command-and-control socialism.

As a former gubernatorial press secretary, the author of Almost DailyBrett imagined what it would be like to be relaying really bad news to the boss – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – and answering the flood of media calls.

The alternative of a root canal is looking real attractive right now.

Ever hear the one about banging your head against the wall?

It only feels good, when you … stop.

Is Amazon Serious?

Is Amazon just firing a shot across the bow?

“It (loss of Amazon investment) would certainly undermine confidence in governance. You can’t empower anti-capitalist ideologues and expect the capitalists to embrace them. I still think they will work this out, because the embarrassment would be severe.” – Joel Kotkin, Chapman University professor of Urban Studies

“You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity.” – New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

“Threw away” constitutes fighting words.

These provocative words make it more difficult for the City of New York and Amazon to “work this out.” Why did da Mayor challenge Bezos’ manhood (we know it exists) in the first sentence of his prepared statement, and then charge the company with throwing away an opportunity in the concluding sentence.

Hey Mr. Mayor ever heard of the words … “disappointed”? … “concerned? … “let’s talk”?

If New York bids adieu to 25,000-to-40,000 Amazon positions and $27.5 billion in tax revenues in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ congressional district, will those who are cheering today be demanding social justice from New York state and city tomorrow?

Even China with its brand of authoritarian capitalism figured out that buying low and selling high is the best way to provide prosperity for its people.

New York had the prospect of becoming a lucrative technology hub … but it “threw away” that opportunity.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/nyregion/amazon-hq2-queens.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/02/13/leaving-long-island-city-what-losing-amazon-hq2-would-mean-for-nycs-future/#18d48f01127c

https://nypost.com/2019/02/14/de-blasio-amazon-threw-away-great-opportunity-in-nyc/

 

 

“I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, there’s a certain freedom, meaningful freedom that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger.” – Bill Gates speaking to university students

There are 25.7 million Google results of an image of a middle-aged dude standing all alone with his hands in his pockets.

He is patiently waiting in line for his cheeseburger, fries and a coke.

The maroon pullover guy is patronizing the original Dick’s (1954), which unofficially serves as a gateway to the upper class Wallingford neighborhood in Seattle.

Is the pale dude (gasp) … privileged?

What gave him the right to buy a “Deluxe,” fries and a coke in Wallingford?

Did his parents dote on him? Where did he go to school? Where did he go to college?

Did he ever invent anything of value to society? Did ever provide a living to people?

Did he ever give back to make our world a better place?

And if the answers to these questions do not meet communal approval – Privilege? Family? College? Inventions? Philanthropy? – should we as a collective society even the score in the name of social justice?

It may seem silly to some to have this public good discussion, and yet 25.7 million Google results are triggered in 0.28 of one second, when one inquires about the guy in the sweater standing all alone in line at Dick’s.

Our Obsession With Wealth?

How many billionaires — members of the three comma club — would stand-in line all alone for a burger and fries?

And yet there was Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 63, waiting in line at Dick’s on Sunday evening, January 13.

In our always-on digital imaging world, it did not take long for the celebrity dude doing normal things to go viral, generating stories and impressions about Gates and his love of hamburgers.

The latest estimates place his net worth at $96.5 billion. Couldn’t Gates simply buy Dick’s as opposed to standing in line for a burger? Where was his entourage? Couldn’t he feed the homeless with Dick’s burgers?

And how did he make that money? Did he take full advantage of his privilege? Did he inherit the money?

As many Almost DailyBrett readers know, Gates and the recently departed Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975. Their entrepreneurial spirit and those that followed (i.e., Steve Ballmer and Satya Nadella)  resulted in the ubiquitous Windows operating system, X-Box gaming console, Microsoft Surface PC, Microsoft Cloud and so much more.

Microsoft is one of the three largest competing companies in market capitalization (share price x number of shares) at $814.5 billion, generating $96.5 billion in total revenues and employing 134,944 around the world.

After departing the daily operations of Microsoft, the guy in the maroon sweater with his spouse established The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The charitable organization bearing their names has given a reported $36 billion to date to alleviate third world poverty and suffering. They are without any doubt the most generous philanthropists in America.

And yet …

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” – Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

In her quest to become the 46th President of the United States, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a 2 percent surcharge on net assets – not annual income – exceeding $50 million, and another 1 percent on billionaires.  Is Warren’s  “wealth tax” really confiscation in disguise?

There are questions about whether a confiscatory surcharge of assets – not an income tax – is permissible under the U.S. Constitution. This legal question is above the pay grade of Almost DailyBrett.

Having said that, your author must ask: Why do so many Washington elites want to punish achievement, service and philanthropy?

Some rationalize this obsession with wealth as a quest to reach some far-reaching social justice nirvana when the solution is the same-old tired remedy: wealth redistribution targeting those who provide great products, create jobs and give back to the less fortunate.

The answer always comes down to new and more burdensome taxes, but in Senator Warren’s case she calls for outright confiscation of assets. One thing is certain is the redistribution does not stop there. There will also be increases in tax rates, most of all the top rate from 39.6 percent, hiking it to 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent or beyond.

Once you have raised taxes and confiscated assets is that the end … or worse … is that just the beginning?

What’s next? Fees on stock and mutual fund transactions? Surcharges on bank accounts? Is the sky the limit?

How about a wealth tax/surcharge on Bill Gates’ hamburger?

https://www.geekwire.com/2019/billions-served-bill-gates-photographed-standing-line-burger-dicks-drive-seattle/

https://www.ddir.com/

https://www.seattlepi.com/seattlenews/article/Billions-served-Bill-Gates-photographed-standing-13539669.php

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/01/24/senator-warrens-plan-tax-ultrawealthy-is-smart-idea-whose-time-has-come/?utm_term=.251e17e49629

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Investor/earnings/FY-2018-Q4/press-release-webcast

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/three-comma-club/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

https://www.businessinsider.com/biggest-projects-of-generous-philanthropists-bill-and-melinda-gates-2018-8

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/138248-the-problem-with-socialism-is-that-you-eventually-run-out

 

“Did the (Dodge Ram) company really just use Dr. King’s words about the value of service to sell trucks?”New York Times, February 5, 2017

The unfortunate answer was … “Yes.”

Did somebody … anybody … at Chrysler suggest that its Super Bowl LII advertisement shown to 103.4 million viewers (Nielsen Ratings) may not be the best idea? One would hope the executive management at Chrysler is not exclusively composed of yes men and yes women.

If a viewer watching next Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII advertisements takes a sip of tequila every time a cause marketing spot comes across the screen, would that person be smashed by half time?

Based upon last year’s Super Bowl and the trend so far this year, Almost DailyBrett will take the over.

Even weighing Chrysler’s public relations/marketing disaster last February, it seems the trend toward questionable cause-marketing advertising is growing, not subsiding.

Razor Blades and #MeToo?

“Razor blade commercials aren’t supposed to make national headlines, but these aren’t ordinary times. Last week’s Gillette commercial playing on the #MeToo movement became the latest piece of corporate messaging to berate and belittle men.” – Karol Markowicz, New York Post

For Almost DailyBrett, it seems the growing use of cause-marketing advertising with predictable somber music and societal images are mostly lame corporate attempts to attach product brands to a public policy push or cultural icon.

The question remains: Are cause marketing advertising practitioners, who recommend paying $5.1-$5.3 million per 30-second Super Bowl LIII spots to their corporate clients, playing with fire works in the forest with a company’s hard-earned reputation and brand?

Consider Nike’s cause marketing folly of tying its “Swoosh” athletic apparel to Colin Kaepernick, who in many quarters is persona non grata for taking a knee on the flag, the Star Spangled Banner and America.

Is Colin playing in the Super Bowl next week? Will he ever play again? Almost DailyBrett will take the under.

We all know that Chrysler was burned big time for attempting to link the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons to the sale of Dodge Ram trucks.

Who thought this poor taste linkage was a good idea?

Ditto for Gillette tying razor blades to the #MeToo movement or Nike taking a knee on Old Glory.

Almost DailyBrett must ask: Were the ads submitted to focus groups (qualitative research)? What was the input of in-depth interviews from African-American respondents (Dodge), women (Gillette) and veterans and their families (Nike)? Was any random quantitative research conducted to validate or contradict the focus group reactions?

Tying the sale of muscle trucks by a publicly traded company to the words, works and deeds of a renowned assassinated civil rights leader/legend sounds risky at best.

The national response to boorish men continues to this day. Is Gillette taking a stand against the #MeToo movement? Hope not.

Does Nike management have a problem with the Star Spangled Banner?

Infamous Or Notorious Brand?

Defenders of dubious cause marketing ads, which draw justified rebukes, will predictably respond that millions of viewers now identify with the (tarnished) brand/product. They will piously state that nothing is worse than spending $5 million-plus for a 30-second spot and the viewers don’t remember the sponsor of the advertisement. Okay, but …

Your author is not carte blanche taking aim against all cause marketing ads.

For example, Verizon cleverly tied its wireless services to first responders running toward the flood, the fire, the earthquake … ensuring they receive the urgent call for their life-and-depth services.

What are Almost DailyBrett’s rules for cause marketing spots, whether or not they are intended for the Super Bowl of Advertising?

  • Appreciate that tribalism is rampant in America, and the warring camps simply do not care, let alone in many cases tolerate each other. Avoid taking sides (e.g., Nike). The predominant views in your locale (e.g., Beaverton, Oregon) are most likely not a reflection of the country as a whole.
  • Contemplate that movements are based upon redressing grievances. They have leaders. They have organizations. They have a determined cause. Don’t try to hijack a movement to sell your products (e.g., Gillette).
  • Invest in qualitative (i.e., focus groups, in-depth interviews) and random quantitative research (e.g. surveys). Don’t prejudge the results. If the respondents essentially question or even revolt against the proposed ad … don’t argue, don’t rationalize … drop it (e.g., Dodge Ram).
  • Embrace honesty with company management about the possible repercussions in terms of reputation, brand, sales, stock price, market capitalization, P/E ratio.
  • Consider that viewers are smarter than you think. They may not respond kindly to clumsy ads that attempt to sell trucks with the words of a slain civil rights leader. How about using puppies or horses to sell beer (just as long as no animals were injured making the ad)?
  • Know that cause marketing is overdone, and is almost becoming cliché. That statement does not preclude cleverly tying a relevant product (wireless communication) to first-responders (e.g., Verizon).

And most of all, follow the Almost DailyBrett Golden Rule: When in doubt, throw it out.

https://www.boston.com/sports/super-bowl/2019/01/24/super-bowl-ad-prices

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/nike-takes-a-knee/

.http://superbowl-ads.com/cost-of-super-bowl-advertising-breakdown-by-year/

https://adage.com/article/super-bowl/2019-superbowl-liii-ad-chart/315605/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/business/media/mlk-commercial-ram-dodge.html

https://nypost.com/2018/02/04/dodge-ram-under-fire-for-using-mlk-speech-in-super-bowl-ad/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/02/05/its-been-a-tough-year-america-these-7-super-bowl-commercials-tried-to-give-us-hope/?utm_term=.3dc3a75c7cc3

Can’t tell you how many times this familiar admonition has been heard in classes taught by Almost DailyBrett.

Even though the pre-flight instructions are boilerplate, mechanical and dull, this one statement always gets your attention.

Put on your own air mask first … before assisting others.

The point is how can you help anyone else, if you are gasping for air? You can’t.

Americans are recognized as the most generous and giving people on earth. That’s part of the reason we are an exceptional country.

Please feel free to argue in favor of Norway, Sweden, Denmark or any other über-government nation of choice.

According to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), charitable giving by individuals as a percentage of GDP: America led the way at 1.44%, New Zealand 0.79%, Canada 0.77% and the UK 0.54%.

If you are scoring at home that means that Americans are contributing nearly 2x more than their nearest competitor.

Is generosity based upon heredity and examples of kindness demonstrated by parents? These are certainly factors.

There is another reason: Many Americans have bought low and sold high. They have invested in their own education. They have used their discretionary income for their retirement, their children’s education, the dream vacation, that new business they always dreamed about starting.

They have put on their own mask first by building personal/family wealth and prosperity.

They have realized that taking care of No. 1 is not selfish, but selfless. They are now in a better position to assist others, to write checks, to give back, to volunteer time to make a difference.

Taking Money Away From The Generous?

There is an unfortunate movement calling for ever-expanding governments in the name of the “public good” to penalize societal achievers with redistributive taxation. In return, there is the vision of guaranteed public sector jobs, free college, healthcare for all and maybe even the ultimate in entitlements: universal basic income.

Who needs college, a job or frankly anything else, when one has direct deposit for governmental largesse and the option to sleep until noon?

Will these souls be willing to part with even a small portion of their entitlement money for little or no work performed to assist others? Is it selfish or selfless to receive government subventions for simply breathing, eating, sleeping and performing biological functions?

Or is there another way?

How about coming up with a great idea? How about becoming an entrepreneur? How about having a dream? And if your vision is realized, then how about giving back big time to those less fortunate?

A great example is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which donated $41.3 billion so far to fight extreme hunger and poverty in developing nations. Bill Gates through his dreams, the creation of Microsoft, the unveiling of the ubiquitous Windows OS, and earning $92.9 billion in accumulated wealth, has made sure his air mask is tightly bound.

In return, he has assisted literally millions of others through his philanthropy and generosity.

Gates and his co-founder Paul Allen actually created Microsoft in 1975, not government.

Almost DailyBrett can’t stop thinking about how the Obamacare website repeatedly crashed and even its calculator didn’t work. “If you like your doctor or health plan … “

In contrast, how many tens of thousands transactions do Microsoft, Amazon, Apple … process per hour? And they overwhelmingly get these calculations right thanks to ingenious algorithms.

Shouldn’t the mission of a wise government be to foster an environment in which entrepreneurs can continue to dream, to build wealth and to give back to society?

The United States did not become the most generous nation on earth by accident. Our exceptional distinction was powered by those who put on their own mask first, and then … they assisted others, millions upon millions of others.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/america-new-zealand-and-canada-top-list-of-world-s-most-generous-nations-a6849221.html

https://www.donnaschilder.com/articles/life-coaching-articles/put-your-oxygen-mask-on-first/

https://thedijuliusgroup.com/put-your-own-mask-on-before-helping-others-your-best-is-unacceptable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/universal-right-to-a-paycheck/

https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Foundation-Factsheet

https://www.forbes.com/profile/bill-gates/

“We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible.” – Tim Cook, Apple chief executive officer

The largest taxpayer in the world is paying more … $38 billion more … in one lump sum.

Apple is repatriating $200 billion in the world’s largest amount of overseas corporate assets, $252 billion.

The company also announced $350 billion in direct investments in the U.S. economy, not just share buy-backs. Apple will create 20,000 jobs right here in America.

Almost DailyBrett is proud to be an Apple shareholder, for more than the 83 percent in share appreciation since 2015.

Tim Cook and his lieutenants are proving to the world that a great company can be more than the innovator and producer of wonderful products (i.e. iPhone X, iPads, Mac). Apple is more than 123,000 jobs with full benefits and a terrific return for its shareholders

Apple is also redefining the relationship between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

To a few misguided, well-meaning souls, major corporations are somehow the enemy of the masses. And yet how does one who holds these views explain Apple’s good deeds?

The $38 billion is happening right now. These are additional revenues for the government that would have remained trapped overseas without a reduction in the world’s largest 35 percent corporate rate to 21 percent.

Think of $38 billion in terms of 38 x 1,000 x $1 million. That amount can start to make a quite a dent in fixing our highways, airports, bridges and other major infrastructure needs.

FILE PHOTO: The Apple Campus 2 is seen under construction in Cupertino, California in this aerial photo taken January 13, 2017. REUTERS/Noah Berger/File Photo

So much for those who say that tax reform is not a dynamic scoring stimulus.

These are the same folks who conveniently forgot the nation’s largest peacetime expansion occurred during the Reagan Presidency years in which 19 million jobs were created.

Yes, there will be a $1.75 billion-over-20 years impact to the federal treasury using static scoring.

But how much additional economic stimulus will come from putting more revenues back into the economy and lifting time-consuming, expensive regulations? This is the serendipity of dynamic scoring.

Now that Apple has announced the one-time payment of record taxes, a flood of domestic investment and five-figure increases in hiring, will Microsoft, Cisco, Google and Oracle do the same?

According to Standard & Poors, Microsoft has $132.1 billion in overseas holdings; Cisco, $69.1 billion, Google, $60.5 billion and Oracle, $58.5 billion.

Messrs Satya Nadella (MSFT), Chuck Robbins (CSCO), Larry Page (GOOG) and Mark Hurd (ORCL), it is time for each of your companies to follow Tim Cook’s lead and to give back to America.

Great Time To Be A College Graduate

As a tenure-track assistant professor of public relations, integrated marketing communications, corporate communications and investor relations, the author of Almost DailyBrett could not be more excited for my graduating students.

Please do not dismiss my excitement as Greenspanesque “Irrational Exuberance.” There is little doubt that our 26,000-point Dow is in need of a healthy correction, maybe 10 percent or more.

Nonetheless, when was the last time that our GDP (gross domestic product) was growing at a 3 percent annualized rate?

Our unemployment rate stands at 4.1 percent, very close to full employment.

Wages and salaries are rising, reflecting a labor shortage for skilled employees.

Our inflation rate (e.g., Consumer Price Index) was 2.1 percent in December.

The Federal Reserve’s Fed Funds rate is 1.25 percent.

Hmm … bull market, expanding global economy, low unemployment, labor shortage, low inflation, miniscule interest rates … sounds like a Goldilocks Economy. What’s not to like?

To top it off, we now have tax reform and regulatory relief.

Certainly, all of these factors will not last forever. They can’t and they won’t.

Having said all of the above, this is a great time to start or revive a career. Your author could not be more stoked for his students.

And he has more than once cautioned his students against taking the first offer. Don’t be arrogant. At the same time, don’t be afraid to be confident and maybe a tad bold.

Tim Cook and Apple have the wind in their sails. And to prove it, they are paying record taxes, investing in America and hiring Americans.

We have at least 200 billion repatriated reasons to rejoice.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-to-pay-38-billion-in-repatriation-tax-plans-new-u-s-campus-1516215419

 

 

 

How many graduating university/college seniors in communications disciplines (i.e., public relations, marketing, investor relations, public affairs etc.) will utter the  worn-out cliché to hiring managers in the coming weeks and months: “I really work well with people”?

Gag!workwell

What precisely is the return-on-investment (ROI) for someone who allegedly works well with people?

How does one measure how effectively a candidate interacts with other humans?

Come to think of it if one was pursuing a career in anything and everything communications, wouldn’t working well with people be a given?

Tell me something – anything – that I don’t already know.

There are precisely 1.490 billion results when one Google’s, “I Really Work Well With People.” Surprised there are so few web instances devoted to this NOT thinking outside of the box phrase.

Almost DailyBrett will declare now, and will say it forever:

Telling a hiring manager you work well with people: 1.) Makes the hiring manager roll her or his eyes; 2.) Brings into question whether you have any creativity; 3.) Does not differentiate you from your tenacious competition for the legal tender; and 4.) Makes one wonder whether your brain has flat-lined.workwell1

Strong opinion to follow.

Tell Me/Us About Yourself?

At this point in the interview process, the hiring manager is transitioning from the requisite small talk to getting serious.

The above question, which surely will follow with “Why do you want to work for us?” is more than an ice-breaker. It is an opportunity for a candidate to systematically demonstrate ROI based upon experience, results, digital and analog skill sets and education.

Think of it this way: A dollar is a friend (same applies for pounds, euros, yen …).

An agency, corporation, non-profit, governmental agency has to spend a certain amount “friends” in the form of income statement SG&A salary, benefits, time-off and maybe even stock options to hire you as opposed to someone else or no one at all.

Why should they make this investment in your particular personality, talents and skills? Aren’t your type a dime a dozen?

Instead of the throw-away line about working well with people, how about talking about how you collaborate in teams and what you and your teammates accomplished? Everything should be first-person plural: We, Us and Our.

Teaching digitally oriented public relations, advertising, integrated marketing communications (IMC), blogging/social media, corporate communications and investor relations now at Central Washington University and before at the University of Oregon, our students were always required to work together as teams to reach assigned goals for their clients.

This experiential learning approach does not require each student to love or be loved by their teammates, which is asking too much. Instead, a hands-on collaborator needs to respect and be respected, which is the essence of being a good team player.

Instead of tired verbal Pablum, how about demonstrating with concrete examples how you teamed/collaborated with others to cure cancer, climb Mt. Everest, achieve world peace and break political gridlock in Washington, D.C.?

The candidate with real-time results, which can be quantified and verified, and who didn’t take all the credit but collaborated effectively with others, has a better chance – a much better opportunity – of being hired.

The Stark Difference Between Anxious and Interested

Let’s be generous for a second:

In most cases, the candidate who feels compelled to blurt out how well he or she works well with people (or others … a distinction without a difference) runs the real risk of coming across as hungry and anxious.workwell2

Hiring managers are not welfare agencies. They are not there to feed the hungry or heal the sick. They are there to recruit the best and the brightest to solve problems and perform miracles.

Some candidates feel compelled to incorporate “objectives” right at the top of their resumes, declaring they are seeking a position in a given field.

Well, duh!

Didn’t you already make that point in your cover letter?

The smart applicants start with a “profile,” detailing their individual value, accomplishments and what she or he is bringing to the party. These wise contenders immediately demonstrate through concrete examples their ROI.

They also speak in the language of the company, the agency, the non-profit, and the public sector agency.

Instead of “you know,” “you guys,” “me and my team,’ and Almost DailyBrett’s favorite, “stuff,” the prepared applicant talks about driving the top and bottom lines, fiduciary and corporate social responsibility, and enhancing SEO and SEM.

In short, they speak the language and signal it will not take long to become totally fluent in whatever serves as the Raison d’ etat for the entity doing the hiring.

Yes, the wise candidate understands very clearly how the hiring manager’s company makes money, which even applies to non-profits.

As you will note, this is not the first time your author has written about this subject. Just like cock roaches this offending phrase instead of going away is actually multiplying.

It’s time … not it’s past time … deep-six this horrific, “I really work well with people,” before another hiring manager has to excuse herself or himself from the table.

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=I+Really+Work+Well+with+People

https://www.livecareer.com/interview-questions/how-well-you-work-people-you-prefer-working-alone

http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interview-you/qt/working-with-people.htm

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/11/15/the-20-people-skills-you-need-to-succeed-at-work/#74d85a6264b5

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/online-college-not-good-enough-for-pr/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/i-really-work-well-with-people/

 

 

 

Well, I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street. The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families.” – Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley

Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.”Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” – Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Are the phrases “economic populism” and “social justice” not-so-clever disguises for a full-fledged War on Wall Street?occupy1

Is this another round of the disorganized/nearly forgotten desultory Occupy Wall Street movement now showered, deodorized and all dressed up to make it seem more palatable to the American public?

As we head into the 2016 presidential cycle, one needs to ask:

Is it sound politics, particularly for a general election, to directly take aim on a system in which 52 percent of Americans build their hard-earned wealth through the investment in stocks, bonds and mutual funds for an active retirement, their children’s college education, a second career or something grand on the “bucket list?”

Granted this slightly more than half figure is down significantly from the 65 percent of Americans owning stocks, bonds and mutual funds in the beginning of 2007, but that year was the beginning of the recession, downturn and economic malaise.

Some are questioning what happened to the middle class, but many are forgetting America’s burgeoning “investor class.” And with 52 percent of the public participating, it obviously applies to far more than just 1 percent of the American population. The more than half of all Americans owning stocks, bonds and mutual funds in 2013 could be even higher now because of the bull market.gender6

These are the people who invest in IRAs mainly with retail brokers in person or online (i.e., Schwab, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, eTrade, Edward Jones) or designate a percentage of their pre-tax income in 401Ks with a percentage matching from their employer with taxes being deferred until retirement.

According to Gallup, they are for the most part college graduates as 73 percent of those with undergraduate degrees and 83 percent with graduate degrees invest in markets … that would be publicly traded companies on Wall Street.

Money Under the Mattress?

And why would they do that? Consider the alternatives:

How about under the mattress. How about no rate of return?

How about banks? How about 0.02 percent interest rates?

How about real estate? How about the prospect of underwater mortgages?

And you wonder why smart upper, upper-middle and middle class Americans with some disposable income invest in publicly traded American companies listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ, even though people can lose a portion or all of their investment? The answer is that Wall Street is the best game in town, and with knowledge, diversification, perseverance and a cast-iron stomach, literally millions of people build wealth by investing in our markets and our country.

“Unequal sharing of blessings” 

And what is the raison d’etre of these Wall Street companies? According to ERISA or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, passed by a Democratic Congress, publicly traded corporations are legally and morally mandated to drive the bottom line (doing well) for the benefit of their shareholders.

Guess that means they hire hundreds of thousands of Americans and make the products that people around the world want and need. That even includes the upscale coffee, tablets, earphones, cameras, laptops, mobile phones, social media software and operating systems used by Occupy Wall Street and made by (gasp) companies publicly traded on Wall Street.occupy2

Almost DailyBrett senses a disconnect, but does it matter in a party primary when the empty vessels making the most noise have near zero chance of winning the nomination?

Looking down the road to the fall of 2016 would a presidential nominee really want to be saddled with a platform that takes “issue” with major employers of tens of thousands, providing wonderful products and the prospects of solid rates of return for investors? That doesn’t sound like a winning prescription.

It may make the union bosses happy. It may re-energize those with the need to demonstrate just like they did in 1968, but does it make any political sense to attack, demonize and vilify the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg?

Does Wall Street in the wake of Enron, Arthur Andersen, Bear Stearns, Global Crossing, Martha Stewart, $6,000 shower curtains, “Race Together,” Bernie Madoff, GM and Chrysler bailouts, BP Deepwater Horizon, excessive executive compensation have major real and perceived public relations problems? Does Wall Street need better reputation management? Absolutely.

At the same time, let’s not lose sight of Corporate Social Responsibility (doing good) and the literally thousands of companies that work to protect the environment (e.g., Starbucks and Conservation International), address climate change (e.g., Tesla), help rebuild communities (e.g., Home Depot and Habitat for Humanity), combat cancer (e.g., Nike founder Phil Knight and Oregon Health and Sciences University) assist low-income children with difficult medical conditions (e.g., Southwest Airlines and Ronald McDonald House) … ehh … wouldn’t that be McDonald’s as well?

For those attacking Wall Street indiscriminately under the banner of “economic populism” aren’t they guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Maybe they should be drinking their own bath water instead.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hillary-clintons-guilt-by-association/2015/06/04/bd836dc4-0b13-11e5-a7ad-b430fc1d3f5c_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-who-can-get-ahead-in-the-u-s/

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/b/bernie_sanders.html

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu101776.html

http://www.gallup.com/poll/147206/stock-market-investments-lowest-1999.aspx

http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/09/investing/american-stock-ownership/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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