Tag Archive: Wal-Mart


Does a Led Zeppelin concert photograph of singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page go with marble Romanesque columns?DSC02649

How about a sketch of Mick Jagger with his signature protruding lips combined with Moorish arches?

For that matter, should an operations manager attempt to incorporate Eric Clapton’s Gibson Les Paul electric guitar with Spanish tile?

One would think an acoustic guitar would fit better into the classic Castilian style, but no one will ever confuse Andres Segovia with heavy metal.

For months including the critical last three weeks before opening night in Sevilla, the team behind the Hard Rock Café worked diligently to fully respect Spanish tradition, while swearing allegiance to the rocking iconic restaurant chain.DSC02651

Carlos Gil, the Venezuelan-born Hard Rock Café operations manager out of Amsterdam, visited patrons on the opening night this past August 4. He said local authorities insisted on the preservation of the Romanesque columns. The chain was more than happy to comply and even to incorporate them into the setting for customers.

Hard Rock in the Land of the Flamenco?

Sounds like a potential prescription for integrated marketing communications (IMC) disaster, but from all appearances it is working in Sevilla, Spain as evidenced by the turnout on opening night.

Starbucks and The Prado

About the length of one futbol pitch is the distance between Madrid’s famous Prado art museum and the usually well-located, Starbucks.

Howard Schultz and his Starbucks team certainly have a knack for finding great locations for the 33,000 stores of the $19.28 billion largest coffee roaster in the world.

Without doubt, each of Starbucks’ venues is consistent with the company’s brand from the green aprons of the baristas to the coffee posters from all over the world. But what is different in Spain’s capital city is that Starbucks also incorporates the Spanish style into its store.DSC03188

As the inevitable pace toward globalization and a flatter world intensifies, so will the demands on multi-national brands to respect the culture while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the brand.

Many are opposed to multi-national chains, and will naturally opt for local choices. Others will yearn for the consistency of product. A Starbucks latte tastes the same in Seattle as it does in Madrid as it does in Dublin or München. There is a beauty in predictability in an unsettled world.

Starbucks wants to deliver a consistency of product wherever and whenever patrons come-in for a latte, mocha or cappuccino. At the same time, the company’s stores do not have to be indistinguishable cookie-cutter designs with each one mimicking the very first one at Seattle’s Pike Park Market.

Seasoned PR and marketing managers instinctively can sense a departure from the “conscience” of the brand, but are they are equally adept when it comes to incorporating a local culture and traditions into the presentation of the brand?

What is the smart solution? The answer lies with respecting a local culture, not going “native,” and at the same time be consistent with brand management.

Cultural Dimensions

Professor Geert Hofstede is famous for his Cultural Dimensions Theory measuring national differences in six arenas: Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientations and Indulgence.

Before dipping their collective toes into another culture’s waters, it is best to weigh the very real differences between what you know and call familiar, and what you don’t know.

Wal-Mart succeeded big time in Mexico and failed miserably in Germany. Unilever’s Dove “Real Curves” campaign was a hit in the United States, but went over like a lead balloon (not to be confused with Led Zeppelin) in Taiwan.

Under Hofstede’s theory, Spain is high in power distance (57 percent), average in individualism (51 percent); low in masculinity and high in compassion (42 percent), skyrocketing in uncertainty avoidance (86 percent); below average in long-term orientation (48 percent) and low in indulgence (44 percent).DSC02656

There are zero issues when it comes to Brand über Alles. The brand must be respected and maintained. At the same time, there are cultural considerations that need to be considered as well.

Can they work together? Hard Rock Café and Starbucks are at least two global companies that have responded in the affirmative.

http://www.hardrock.com/corporate/history.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Rock_Cafe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9s_Segovia

http://investor.starbucks.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=99518&p=irol-presentations

https://geert-hofstede.com/national-culture.html

 

 

Is Ghost Blogging Kosher?

Is undisclosed ghost blogging ethical even in cases in which the stated executive author concurs with the content and approves the posting of the blog in her or his name?

What’s the problem? Barack Obama doesn’t write his speeches? Everyone knows this.

ghost

More than 70 percent agree that ghost writing an executive blog is no big deal.

And yet there is a sizeable minority with qualms.

Isn’t blogging the development of personal relationships by means of digital two-way symmetrical conversation?

You can ghost write speeches. Ditto for op-eds and commentaries. But can you effectively “outsource” your conversations?

Isn’t undisclosed ghost blogging the antithesis of the public relations industry movement toward “radical transparency?”

Maybe this question isn’t so easy?

Arriving on the University of Oregon campus in fall 2010 after my nearly four-year tenure at Edelman Public Relations, I remember discussing the Edelman/Wal-Mart debacle with School of Journalism and Communication Assistant Professor Tiffany Gallicano.

edelman

The 2006 Wal-Mart/Edelman controversy revolved around the use of non-Wal-Mart employees “Jim and Laura” to blog about the pleasant working conditions at the retail giant. This “astroturfing” deception resulted in banner headlines and embarrassment for both Edelman Public Relations and its client Wal-Mart.

Essentially, Edelman hired “ringers,” one a Washington Post photographer and the other a U.S. Department of Treasury employee, to play for the Wal-Mart management team and everything was fine until they were caught. What made this caper all the more embarrassing is that Edelman participated in the formulation of disclosure standards for the blogging industry Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

To Richard Edelman’s credit, he visited virtually all Edelman offices to apologize and all Edelman employees were mandated to take training in online disclosure. Richard is a major proponent of “radical transparency” and one can surmise the Wal-Mart experience plays into his evangelizing on this issue.

mackey

Similar headlines and rebukes were directed in 2007 against Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey, who blogged incessantly under the alias “Rahodeb” (an anagram on his wife’s name, Deborah). His posts found a litany of faults with rival Wild Oats, a company that Whole Foods was trying to acquire. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was none-too-pleased.

As Tiffany and I discussed the Edelman/Wal-Mart and Whole Foods cases, we realized that while the issue of undisclosed ghost blogging was not new, it was far from settled. The question: Is there a consensus among the public relations community about the ethics of this issue? We quickly became indebted to Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for allowing us to circulate a quantitative survey of its membership on this subject. Nearly 300 (agency, corporate, public sector and NGO) practitioners responded.

PRSA has adopted an ethics code that all of its members should be “honest and accurate in all communications” and to “avoid deceptive practices.” The trade organization makes no distinction between communications that are traditional in nature, such as newspapers, or digital, such as blogging and podcasting.

Soon it was time to analyze the results and we were glad to have the assistance of quantitative Wunderkind and Ph.D candidate, Toby Hopp, to assist us. The study was declared valid, but the results were not clean-cut. This point was magnified when Tiffany and yours truly presented our results at the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) in Miami in spring of 2012.

We made several presentations, each starting first with the professorial types nodding their heads, but quickly arguing with each other. Tastes great! Less filling! No Disclosure! Disclosure? It was a sight to behold.

First, the easy part. Is it okay for an organization to list executives as blog authors even though they were written by others (e.g., PR types) as long as the ideas come from the listed executives and they approve the message: 71.1 percent, agreed; 20.7 percent disagreed.

Seems easy.

Next we asked is it okay for an organization to NOT disclose a PR agency’s assistance in writing blog posts under a client’s name? This is where the Radical Transparency movement first exhibited its influence: 44.7 percent concurred; 37.9 percent did not. Interesting.

The third question: “As a standard practice any ghostwriting of employer executive or client executive blogs should be publicly disclosed?” 37.1 percent, affirmative; 40.9 percent, negative. This was getting too close for comfort.

When it comes to staffers writing executive responses to reader comments (provided the ideas come from the executive and she or he gives approval), 56.3 percent believed this practice was acceptable, while 35.4 percent disagreed.

Finally, there is the question of a PR staffer writing an executive’s comment on subjects posted on some other blog, even with the ideas coming from that exec and she or he giving approval. The results revealed a reversal in sentiments: 42.6 percent approved; 44.0 percent disapproved.

We were pleased to receive the Jackson-Sharpe Award from the IPRRC in March 2012, and our research was published earlier this month by the PRSA’s Public Relations Journal. The Institute for Public Relations has created a Social Science of Social Media Research Center (SSSMRC). Our study will be available there as well.

Looking back at our research, a strong majority of industry practitioners see ghost blogging as essentially the equivalent of ghost writing a speech or op-ed. Everyone knows that Obama tinkers with his speeches, approves them but does not have the time to write them. That is largely true for CEOs as their time is precious.

speech

Isn’t it the job of PR practitioners (e.g., in-house corporate, agency) to assist executives in telling an organization’s story? Sure.

But is a blog the same as a speech or an op-ed/commentary? Speeches are two-way asymmetrical. Blogs are two-way symmetrical. Blogs invite conversation. Blogs benefit from comments.

Can you effectively outsource your digital conversations and still lead torch-light parades behind the banner of Radical Transparency?

The question of undisclosed ghost blogging does not lend itself to easy answers or quick consensus. Let the arguments continue into the night.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013_Gallicano.pdf

http://www.instituteforpr.org/scienceofsocialmedia/

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-10-17/wal-mart-vs-dot-the-blogospherebusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html?_r=0

Suppose an industry staged an annual forecast and awards dinner (e.g., SIA on November 29), and virtually no one gave a particle?

Considering that I worked directly for the Semiconductor Industry Association for two years, and later for a company run by one of its founders for a decade, it is difficult for me to say this, but I must: Semiconductors are now (and maybe forever) a taken-for-granted commodity.

sleepingaudience1

Would you like some salsa with your chips?

Yes, they power every digital and the remaining analog gadget under the sun just like ground beef, chicken or carnitas are essential for making tacos, burritos and enchiladas. Everyone knows this.

So what else is new?

The semiconductor industry is going to be flat this year at $300 billion. It seems like the industry is always at $300 billion. I wrote a speech in 1996 projecting a $300 billion industry in 2000 or 12 years ago for those of you scoring at home.

One company, Wal-Mart alone at $464 billion in revenues (and growing) is larger than the entire chip industry. This is not news.

Earlier this month, the stately Economist published a cover piece “The Survival of the biggest; The internet’s warring giants” about Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google with peripheral mention of Microsoft.

What happened to Intel, let alone AMD?  They didn’t even make the cutting-room floor.

What happened to the wonders of (Gordon) Moore’s Law (intellectual property content doubling on the same-sized piece of silicon real estate every 18-24 months)? Anyone want to hear that story for the umpthteen time?

What happened to the epic tales of the fight against the evil predatory-pricing, two-headed monster in the form of Japan’s “Business is War” government/industry?

All these stories are now contained in a coffee table book coming to a deep-discount rack near you.

The “Mass Intelligence” Economist references the great technology fights of yesteryear: IBM and Apple in the 1980s in PCs, and Microsoft and Netscape in the 1990s in web browsing. The U.K. popular “newspaper” displays a map, vaguely similar to England, Normandy, Bavaria, Prussia und Dänemark.

England is the “Empire of Microsofts.” Normandy is “Appleachia.” Bavaria is “Google Earth.” Prussia is “Fortress Facebook.”  Dänemark is “Amazonia.” There are small islands occupied by RIMM (Research in Motion) and Nokia, and a nest dedicated for microblogging, “Eyrie of Twitter.” The lowly chip is nowhere to be seen on this map or in the expansive article. Intel is not even afforded a shrinking iceberg.

Some may want to dismiss my musings contending that I am only focusing on one article in one magazine, albeit an incredibly influential publication. They will say the article can be seen as a mere anecdote. These critics could be correct. However, in this case I humbly opine the anecdote represents a trend. For the metaphor types: It is the sick canary inside the mine.

Certainly, there are 250,000 Americans employed in semiconductor innovation and (some) manufacturing. With all due respect to the engineering types in particular, they are mere role players. They are throwing the screens and opening up holes in the line for the superstars: Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.

The chip is essential, but so is the sun. They are everywhere. The sun is there. What is commanding attention are mobile platforms and the software that makes them do what they do. Algorithms über alles!

algorithms

Rarely did a day go by in the 1990s and the post-Bubble era when the San Jose Mercury, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times (not suggesting equivalency of influence) would write another gushing, fawning piece about “The Chip Giant,” Intel. No one could accuse the media of shorting the stock.

Today, Intel is trading at $20.52 with a market cap of $101 billion. Ten years ago on this date, the company’s stock traded at $17.58…sounds like a good stock to avoid. Even with all angst, Sturm und Drang about Facebook’s IPO FUBAR, the company still commands a $28.24 stock price and $60 billion in market capitalization. All things considered, this is not bad for a company publicly traded only since May 18 and which was founded in a Harvard dorm room less than one decade ago. If only Intel could grow this fast.

Don McLean in American Pie asked: If the music would ever play again? For the chip industry, the band could start playing if the industry starts growing again; if it comes up with a new way of making chips (e.g., nanotechnology); if it spearheads a new revolution. Incremental changes won’t cut it. And staying stuck in neutral at $300 billion will elicit the same yawns but only 10 years down the road.

Silicon Valley is called “Silicon Valley” for a particular reason that was germane decades ago. Let’s just hope no one seriously suggests changing the name to “Algorithm Valley.”

http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4374705/SIA-expects-flat-chip-sales-in-2012-

http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/WMT

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21567355-concern-about-clout-internet-giants-growing-antitrust-watchdogs-should-tread

http://www.economist.com/news/21567361-google-apple-facebook-and-amazon-are-each-others-throats-all-sorts-ways-another-game

http://www.sia-online.org/events/2012/11/29/public-event/35th-annual-sia-award-dinner/

http://www.lyrics007.com/Don%20McLean%20Lyrics/American%20Pie%20Lyrics.html

What does an engineering student ask?

How can I build it?

What does a pre-med student ask?

How can I cure it?

What does a business student ask?

How can I finance it?

What a liberal arts student ask?

Would you like fries with that hamburger?

There are many variations of this particular joke, but as your mom taught you: Much truth is often spoken in jest.

Today was the last day of the spring term and the end of my first year of Graduate School. During the past 10 weeks, I took Strategic Management and was surrounded by (soon-to-be) MBA types.

What impressed me was their unrepentant, unrestrained and unabashed celebration of capitalism. How can we drive revenues? How can we promote growth? Is gross margin expanding or contracting? Should we be investing in this business or that business? How can we promote sustained profitability…Notice the question was not about the promotion of “sustainable” profitability.

And by the way, they think it is cool to make a profit.

adamsmith

The spirit of the father of modern economics and capitalism – Mr. Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith permeates the dialogue. This is exciting. It is a reflection that entrepreneurs, free markets, capitalism produce the products that we need; provide jobs; and make global societies better.

Golly gee, just call me old-fashioned. And how do you finance that?

And then for my other classes I walked about 100 yards or a long LaMichael James touchdown run into another world, the world of redistribution and social justice. Adam Smith would not be welcome here, but a lecture by Che Guevara would be packed to the rafters.

In this organic, sustainable, free-trade, shade-grown environment I found out that Communism didn’t work in Russia, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, North Korea and even Guevara’s Cuba because they were/are dictatorial governments. Otherwise, the system is just swell.

For some reason, virtually every class needs to ponder the works and deeds of Karl Marx. I miss him; oh I miss him so…

che

I learned from my classmates that Internet access is a basic human right, and should be provided free of charge to the proletariat regardless of the R&D and all other up-front costs incurred by those who had the courage and foresight to build the system. Semiconductors, software, connectivity devices, fiber optic lines…who cares? Intellectual property? Smitellectual Schroperty!

KFC? Boo hiss. Microsoft? Grrrr. Monsanto? Ugh. Wal-Mart? Arrgh. Starbucks? Smash their windows…And the list goes on and on and on. Have you ever met a happy activist?

It took about two quarters, but I was eventually labeled by a few as the class Republican. In fact, over adult beverages I was asked in the context of my party registration and annoying voting patterns, if I was an angry person…What? The answer is no and besides unlike so many of my colleagues, my biggest moment in life did not involve being arrested or fondly dreaming of some form of civil disobedience.

To some companies are just evil. I worked for 10 years for custom semiconductor innovator LSI Logic. It was founded by a guy who came to America with zero money. He had a dream. He grew this dream into a company with $1.8 billion in revenues, employing more than 4,000 highly skilled people and providing the key microchip for the first two generations of the Sony PlayStation. Is that evil? Should he give his hard-earned millions to someone who has never built a billion-dollar-plus business from the ground up? Is that fairness? Is that justice?

So…if the majority of jobs come from the private sector which group of people is going to be more in demand by employers? Those who know how to read a financial statement from the top line to the bottom line or those who wouldn’t know fiduciary responsibility if it bit them on the backside?

Today, we learned that the number of jobs barely grew in May and that unemployment jumped back to 9.1 percent nationally. I really hope there is a job market out there for those demanding redistributive social justice. Maybe it will be the expanding nanny state or maybe it will be a place that offers both onion rings as well as pommes frites.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Smith

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx

http://www.cnbc.com/id/43265008/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/43267992

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LSI_Corporation

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