22 May 2007

It’s PR innit….

There’s a nice article in the current Economist about Gordon Brown’s first steps at ‘campaigning’ to be a popular prime minister.

It starts by highlighting a couple of campaigning blunders...being filmed as a member of the public slammed a door in his face, his face being partially blocked by an autocue while making a speech, a struggle to release some balloons from a net...that sort of thing.

The article then discusses the perception of Brown in relation to Tony Blair and David Cameron and draws to a conclusion that Brown’s differentiator is that he’s seen as someone who gets things done without too much razzmatazz. It’s a position that leaves Blair and Cameron as showman that don’t deliver. The article closes by pondering whether those early campaigning blunders were not as careless as they looked.

It’s a similar line of thought that surrounded Masterfoods’ announcement – and subsequent backtrack – that it would introduce animal rennet into a number of its products (such as Mars, Snickers and Twix), making them unsuitable for vegetarians. Well, not all vegetarians...as Masterfoods' corporate affairs manager Paul Goalby told the BBC: "If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable, but a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate". In the same way that a "less strict vegetarian" would probably enjoy a sausage sandwich. And I, as a "less strict" tee-totaler, like getting a bit drunk.

Paul Own-Goalby, more like...

But perhaps we're doing him a disservice? Maybe it was all a clever PR move to generate loads of publicity, a bit of controversy and then a positive feeling around the company’s reaction to ‘listen to its customers'?

Initially, TWL wrote this all off as silly nonsense, something that possible might occasionally happen in the consumer world but certainly not in sensible technology PR.

But then we started to think harder and began to wonder. Apple was deemed too stupid for words, only to come back a resurgent force and able to charge a fortunate for mediocre products because it was the cool underdog...and then Microsoft launched a rather rubbish product in Zune to make itself the underdog, so that when the much better (can't be much worse) Zune II launches, it'll look blinding by comparison. And speaking of Microsoft, it has clearly (probably) manoeuvred Google by deliberately stifling MSN search so that Google looks all monopolistic and nasty. Next year, who knows, Acorn might rise again and give Windows a damn good kicking as it benefits from retro O/S trend.

God, they’re clever these PR people...pretending they’re shite by delivering things late, being unprofitable and employing thickos.

Evil geniuses, the lot of them.

11 comments:

Matt said...

One theory, which I think you're alluding to, is the best PR is either crap PR or no PR at all, allowing one company and its bit of technology to become so dominant, so ubiquitous, that due to the perversity of human nature, we all start hating them. So let Microsoft have the desktop, let Google own search, and then when everyone thinks they are demonic behemoths and the blogosphere fills up with vitriol, go on the offensive.

The problem is, by then it's too late. Yes, it's true these 'leaders' have to put up with lots of abuse, rather like Chelsea, but meanwhile they are minting it. Look at people with Blackberrys? Don't they look like boring, work-obsessed, corporately robotic twats who take themselves far too seriously? Wouldn't you rather hack off your genitalia with a blunt instrument than use one? But, conversely, would you rather be RIM's marketing director or Nokia's? Well, Nokia's obviously.

There goes that theory.

figgis said...

What the hell happened to the Zune?

Anonymous said...

There was a similar case with Heinz salad cream in 1998. I was freelancing at a consumer agency that had the account and saw this sort of thing first hand.

Sales are in long term decline so announce the product will be binned. Place lots of articles in the media with celebs talking about how they love the stuff and the ban should be stopped. Commission a poll of the public, announce the sauce has been saved and watch the sales climb.

It led to one of the most bizarre moments of my PR career - hearing someone shout across the office "The BBC need a salad cream talking head!"

A and B the C of D said...

Vaguely reminiscent of the Heinz Sald Cream fiasco when the company touted the idea of ceasing production of the gone-off, watered down mayonnaise and the Great British public started buying again.

I don't know why, but it seems that, for some reason, people find it easier to trust someone/something that is not too complicated or elaborate.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the late Heinz Sald Cream fandango of 1998, when . . . .

Sorry, has someone mentioned this already?

A and B the C of D said...

By the way, I didn't just copy and paste what anonymous said about salad cream - TWL took his sweet-ass time publishing my post.

Still, it goes to show that the Heinz Salad Cream fiasco touched a lot of people...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the Heinz Salad Cream thing? It's a bit like that.

Anonymous said...

I am Spartacus

I mean salad cream

Ben Schmark said...

Talking of PR campaigns, why hasn't someone cashed in on the fears about wifi and mobile phone radiation?

This would be an ideal time to rebrand ordinary cabled networks.

What about calling them Tumourless Lans?

Any feedback?

Anonymous said...

I frigging love salad cream.

Anonymous said...

Tried to do the same with the Innovations catalogue...but it all went to shit. Lots of D-listers said they didn't want to see it go, but the bastards still wouldn't part with their hard earned cash - not even four quid for a bit of plastic crap that staples buttons on to shirts.