Earlier this week, a law was passed in Santa Clara, California which forbade the inclusion of toys in any meals that did not meet certain health standards for children.
It’s a pretty extraordinary step in the land of freedom and all that but apparently Silicon Valley has been at the forefront of the US’s healthy eating revolution, having previously forced food chains to display the caloric intake of their meals.
Somehow I imagine McDonald’s won’t be quaking in their boots. Presumably the packaging and advertising can still be emblazoned with Disney characters and getting the attention of a consumer is probably more significant in the long term than the toy that goes along with it.
John Lewis, the UK department store that also owns supermarket chain Waitrose, has reported annual pre-tax profits of £306.6m. I wouldn’t normally write about profit margins on this blog but John Lewis is unusual in that it is a high street brand that has done relatively well in the downturn despite being a relatively pricey option.
John Lewis is notable because its employees own the company, and partly because of that, the customer service is miles better than many of its competitors. These employees will share £151m bonus. More than that, as my colleague Michael Skapinker wrote earlier this year, it has made this ownership model work where others such as United Airlines have failed.
Celebrity endorsements are a curious thing. I get the idea – a company pays a famous person a lot of money to associate with its brand both to generate some buzz and, presumably, to make your product seem as cool, hip and trendy as the celebrity.
Still, I can’t help but wonder what value Justin Timberlake has added by unveiling the Audi A1, the carmaker’s attempt to take on the Mini, at the Geneva Motor Show. It’s a car. He’s a cool young singer. Does seeing him on stage alongside Audi CEO CEO Rupert Stadler make consumers more likely to buy the car? I’m not sure. Does it make the reporters covering the event more excited about the product being pitched? Absolutely – and maybe that, and some pics in newspapers and on blogs of the celebrity and the car, are all they are after.
As Jeremy Cato, a journalist covering the event, put it: “Many of the middle-aged male journos – especially the ones without daughters – had never heard of Timberlake, but he nicely represents the affluent, 20-something age demographic Audi is targeting with the A1.”
The Super Bowl is the big event in advertising and this year was no exception. Google, McDonald’s and Doritos are just some of the brands that have spent a lot of money – and hired a lot of creative talent – to get their messages out there.
The one ad that stuck out for me was the ad above, for Dave Letterman’s late night talk show, which featured Letterman with Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. For anyone who has been following the battles between Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno on late night TV in the US in the past few weeks, it was kind of amazing to see Leno and Letterman on the same couch.
Thanks to the internet, you can watch all of the very impressive ads from the event if you missed the game.
PS -In a Super Bowl first, there is even a pro-life ad – see if you can spot it.
Dave Carroll, the Canadian folk singer who accused United Airlines of breaking his guitar, wrote a song about it that became a huge viral success on YouTube (the biggest hit of his career) and brought lots of shame on to the airline, is at loggerheads with the company again.
Since the incident, Carroll has tried to avoid flying the airline but while en route to deliver a speech to a group of customer service executives in Denver, they lost his luggage.
It seems a curious way to deal with a customer and manage your reputation. I would have thought that after the first case, they would have put an asterisk next to Carroll’s name so that if he ever flew with them again, they would bend over backwards to ensure that he was treated well. Maybe they should have offered him free flights for life?
All companies will have the occasional bad experience with a customer. The key thing is how they deal with it. I wrote a few days ago on the case of a worker on the London Underground who resigned after being filmed ranting at a passenger. It looked liked the company handled the story well. As for United, I can’t imagine alienating a customer for a second time, after he has generated a lot of negative publicity for your brand, is a great idea.