Thursday, August 21, 2008

IAC/InterActiveCorp (IAC) & Ask.Com To Close Bloglines?

For those of you who don't know Bloglines is a FREE online service for searching, subscribing, creating and sharing news feeds, blogs and rich web content. Bloglines offers (so they say) "the most features for people who like their online news to be fresh. It’s the most popular website of its kind, indexing millions of new online articles every day."

So many popular bloggers, including myself, submit their feeds to Bloglines making it easier for readers to find valuable content. But there is a catch. When submitting your feeds as a publisher you must "claim" your feeds and await "authentication" from bloglines. To date, my feed status for "authentication" has been "pending" for two years. You do so much work on a blog that you tend to let things like this go back burner. So recently, I checked in with Bloglines again only to have found the problem still unresolved. So I made it my mission to resolve this situation.

Within the last 48 hours I have discovered that no matter how hard you try to "claim" your feeds, you can't. The user id field is prepopulated with a user name that is not your you can't log in...and you consequently never can receive or re-request the "verification" email required to complete the process. Checking with the online support links I did find someone say the situation could be resolved by using the new Bloglines beta, but that doesn't work either.

Since I couldn't log in I resubmitted the "lost my password" form. You don't get a response because they say they don't have your email address on file.

If you try to resubmit your blog with your email and password they say that account already exists (but as I said, it's inoperative).

So I started making calls to Barry Diller's office. He's the head of IAC in Manhattan. I found out a guy named Eric Engleman is Blogline's General Manager. Eric Engleman's phone number is 510 985 7744. (From my due diligence - trying to fix the problem on my own - I found lots of us are having the same problem - so hey guys, this number's for you!) Additionally, Bloglines general phone number for Oakland (they're apparently no longer in Campbell, CA as the web site says) is 510 985 7400. They also have a useless customer service number that practically says we won't call you back - 510 985 8119. I just called IAC HQ in Manhattan again learning there is another Bloglines customer support number 510 985 8114. I'll try that next. (oops. just tried it. don't waste your dime. just a recorded message that sends you back to the (useless) help forums).

I spent the day yesterday resolved to correct this situation. I called IAC HQ in New York at 212 314 7300. The reception operators generally draw a blank when you ask for Bloglines. They don't know what it is (are you getting the sense there's no leadership here?) ... so you have to tell them what it is and that it operates (to my knowledge) as part of (which is having its own obvious problems). At least that generates some recognition. They give you an IAC Customer Applications & Portal help number...914 826 2000, but when you call (and they are nice people) they disavow any knowledge or assitance with Bloglines.

So kind of like Mission Impossible, that's what I've learned to date. Is Bloglines working or not working. I don't know. But I do know I tried it and didn't like it so I probably won't buy it again...and niether should you. If you have any knowledge, please contribute. Thanks! I thought this could have been a short-term Bloglines maintenance issue, but two years?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What do you think of the new Starbucks promotion

Here in my sunny southern California stores they don't sell the afternoon drink for $2. They give it to you for free after 2PM with a morning receipt. Observed net impact; a shift of consumer behavior; an influx of pairs-traffic at 1:55 followed by freebies delivered at 2:05 according to local Starbucks baristas. Not sure that helps. But it sure is hard to hold off that morning purchase until early afternoon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Power Of Mind

The power of one mind is magnificent. The power of multiple minds on the same problem is exponential.

Consultant's Trained Brains, Consumer Creatives and Brand Ambassadors

In how many ways do consultant's trained brains, pre-selected consumer creatives and brainstorming brand ambassadors provide false positives skewing direction and slowing the expansion of brands and the success of new products?


Of what good are questions if your mind is not inspired beyond those things of which you are already aware? Hence the saying, "You can't ask a question you don't already know the answer to." This is the classic consumer packaged goods bottleneck in strategic innovation, consumer insight, brand expansion and new products. To stop your ideas from going up in a cloud of smoke, such as what would it take to increase brand IKEA's relevancy, you must stimulate all minds, marketer and consumer, beyond all current frames of reference.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


If arch rival Best Foods/Hellmanns Mayo is so well entrenched as the "Real" Mayonaisse, why doesn't Kraft Mayo, long the category's also ran who uses Miracle Whip as its Halo-Crutch just stick their tongue in cheek? "Unreal" is such an exclamation of so many incredible things! I can see the spots now with hungry teenagers ripping into sandwiches slathered with Kraft Mayo nodding their approval, skateboards in tow. "Unreal dude." A sign of approval. And let's not forget, younger kids always want what the older kids have.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Automotive Agenda

Here would be an interesting metric for the auto industry.

I was thinking about ways using metrics creates job security and insulates one from doing anything that actually makes a significant impact on the business when I had this thought.

What percentage of a new car's price or value should go into its repair and maintanence over its lifetime?

I'm sure the auto industry has that number, and wouldn't it be an interesting number to see on new and used car stickers. Bet it would drive down the cost of dealer repairs and shake other things up - and it should be there right next to the mpg sticker. But I'm still thinking of the benefits that would accrue to the end user - you and me.


Analytics and metrics are so popular in business because business men and women believe trends are things that stare up at you dead and lifeless from a slide on a microscope that's easy for us to move around. With the keyword being easy. It's dead. It doesn't move. Anyone can do it. And anyone who drives their business with this information is bound to end up roadkill, or existing on the artificial life support of today's media. Takes massive amounts of infusion to keep "the brand" out there.

So studying the past in a petri dish won't engage the future - otherwise every brand, manufacturer and ad agency would be doing a whole lot better. It's a hostile environment in which to create new products or turnaround brands not doing well. No matter what anyone says, you can't measure your way to a breakthrough. Trends that pop out of numbers are like studying an earthquake, by the time you analyze the data, the event will be long past.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Are you doping brands?
doping refers to the use of performance-enhancers forbidden by organizations that regulate competitions. Doping is mostly done to improve performance.

Increase in marketing performance for several brands triggers probe. Prosecutors widen investigation into use of illicit creative steroids; tampering with established CPG category brand positions.

Cincinnati (AP) Prosecutors investigating C-level brand management practices at Procter & Gamble today confirmed use of performance-enhancing creativity to dope brands. Use of Abstract Dimensioning® (known on the street as AD), and other forms of banned creative stimulants manufactured by Calle & Company under the names Multi-Dimensional Consumer-Creativity® and Culturally Influential Consumer Groups® are all practices forbidden by key trade organizations that regulate competition including the 4 As, Marketing Research Association and the Grocery Marketing Association. Each has denied the practice of brand doping exists despite unusual performance spikes attributed to many once flat-selling brands. Prosecutors said they would expand their search immediately to other high profile incidents in consumer packaged goods, auto, retail, restaurant, financial and pharmaceuticals. Facing stiff penalties for illicit tampering with category positioning and new product innovation, unnamed Procter & Gamble executives with a promise of immunity defended the company’s use of performance growth stimulants (such as BGH – brand growth hormone) citing dramatic increases in brand strength and rejuvenation of older slower moving brands.

In a stinging retort to allegations that his brand and team had been using the illegal creative steroids marketing superstar Lance Brandstrong said yesterday that all accusations are without foundation. "We had permission to bring every performance-enhancing product we could envision to use. We do it by the book. We get everything authorized. We seek only unique selling propositions and have no idea what that guy was talking about when he pitched us on identifying new Special User Effects® as the underpinning to every great breakthrough.” In addition he said, “I have never injected or ingested any consumer information that I didn’t already know and I have never engaged the services of Calle & Company’s Consumer-Creative® Assays® to audit something that I did already know or suspect. I would never do that.”

Prosecutors believe the practice of brand doping providing an unfair marketing advantage over rivals, in markets and with consumers to be widespread - but the practice is hard to pin down because brand people don’t apply the illegal creativity to all of their brands all at the same time. “You have to wait for one brand in one category to unexplainably make a significant leap forward overnight. That’s our first clue” said a high-ranking source wishing to remain anonymous.

Companies under investigation in the widespread brand doping and market position corruption scheme include Kraft Foods, Nestle, ConAgra, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Campbell Soup, Gerber Baby Foods, Pepperidge Farm, Entenmann’s Bakery, Brown-Forman, Miller Brewing, Ferrera USA, The Coca-Cola Company, Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Mead-Johnson. Janssen Pharmaceutica, Johnson & Johnson, McNeil, Schering-Plough, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, The Mennen Company, Chesebrough-Ponds, Clairol, L’Oreal, Noxell, General Foods, Lehn & Fink, The Drackett Company and more. And aggressive young prosecutors looking to make a name for themselves want to land indictments against other companies soon. A Federal Trade Commission spokesman said the agency is investigating the use of banned Abstract Dimensioning® and other forms of breakthrough creativity marketed by Calle & Company. (OK, I admit it. I've been doping brands with enhanced creativity for years. Like Nixon, I just got caught.)

To report suspected brand doping:
Brand Doping Hotline
714 244 9511
Category prosecutors are standing by to take your call.

Friday, August 08, 2008

OraQuel® Toothbrush Cleaner - Heart Smart Oral Care

Would you eat breakfast with a fork you only licked clean last night?

The Anacin Syndrome

Is your business suffering from The Anacin Syndrome? And what is The Anacin Syndrome? The Anacin Syndrome is my metaphore for all that has to do with the dropping of standards. During the 50's, when brands like Anacin were at their peak, words like "competent" meant that you were just one step above moron. Now the word competent means you practically own a Ph.D. Well these days being "average" has gotten so bad that you can go to the head of the class just by showing up. But why did things change? How did these lax standards come about? Well, about the time brands like Anacin were popular, moms had just started going into the workforce for the first time. They'd come home tired, stressed and hungry - and still faced a home and family to manage! Hence Anacin's most memorable ads. Moms snapping at little children! Close up on mom: hand to forehead: Voiceover: "Sure you have a headache. You're tense and irritable. But don't take it out on her!" Why if you ran that ad today you'd be accused of depicting child abuse. Back then it was just reality TV. Well, more moms and dads are working today than ever before. They don't have time for all this. Hell, I've even had marketers tell me I'm damn good. But the problem is, I make them think. Too hard. They don't have time for this. I maintain that all great minds like a good think. They just don't exercise the muscle often enough to maintain its competency.

Hence the current trend to hurry up the maturing of kids faster - or the growth of brands. As workers, we don't have the time to correctly nurture the majority of children or brands. Well nurtured children and brands are now in the minority. Hence, Vanessa Hudgins posing nude for Disney when just 18. Miley Cirus partially nude at 14 or 15. You get the picture. Pretty soon you could run the same Anacin ad depicting 13 year olds in place of mom! "Sure school's tough. You're tense, your irritable. But don't take it out on your little brother!" So many people self-prescribe, who would stop the kids? And that's why companies can't fix themselves.

And that's what's happened in marketing. We no longer sell brands. It's too hard to find an ownable brand specific reason for being that substantively differentiates one product from another. Though I have the know how I can't find a brand in any category that says anything different than their rival. They just say it in a different way. Guess it's called commoditization and it's the price brands pay for not taking the time to do their homework. As a result we are inundated with category sells and not brand sells. It's too hard to find something different to say about your product - so we invented branding - it's what you do when you don't have anything important to say. Sure Starbucks has a headache. Howard Schultz is tense and irritable, but don't take it out on the business! And that's The Anacin Syndrome.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


LEADERS ARE READERS So make certain you take the time to read the things that come in from people and companies you don't know. They're excited about what they do which is why they are calling with something you don't know. Don't have the time? Consider this. It takes General Motors five days just to acknowledge receipt of a letter to head honcho Rick Wagoner. Look at the shape General Motors is in. And casual indifference to new thinking is killing Starbucks.



Monday, August 04, 2008


Marketing strategy: Prune your thinking to promote new growth.

There is a saying among leaders (anywhere) that you have to give up to go up. And someone just asked me what that meant. The hardest things to give up are our ideas and beliefs; like what drives a business, but overall it means 'sacrifice' and in the broadest sense acting in others best interest before you act for yourself, "when you help others get what they want, you get what you want," which is sure a pure thought that it is like the perfectly cured medium rare T-bone steak because if you help more people buy your product, just by pruning your thoughts to promote new growth, you win!

In business to sacrifice and help others get what they want, like a higher stock price or more consumer traffic, it has always proven the most expedient and effective device to prune your thinking. Yes, you have to prune your thinking to promote new growth. Sounds easy, but in business, and in marketing that business, people don't like pruning their thinking to promote new growth. As sales guru Zig Ziglar said, "People cling to their ideas more tenaciously than their most prized material possessions. The Chairman or CEO of a company will get a new lease on a new vehicle or give up his or her home and move, but the thoughts stay in place.

Now there is a thought that you have to tell consumers the same thing over and over again to build a number of impressions, but in the case of brands like Folgers or categories like OTC remedies, the thoughts have remained the same for decades...while consumer thinking changes at the pace of the next internet article read.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Distilled Intelligence - What's your DQ?

I’ve always had a penchant for distilled intelligence, and now I have another reason, Sweden’s vodka. The latest to tickle the palate is Nordic Spirit, the first publicly owned vodka manufacturer to emerge in Sweden since the government's monopoly on the spirit’s production was disbanded. I want the account of a company that thinks this abstractly! What a great new product!

Nordic Spirit professes to be one of the purest premium vodka on the international market. Under the moniker, DQ (meaning ‘distilled intelligence’), this luxury spirit has been in development for the last 10 years. What a great positioning; like that short lived 'think earlier' print campaign for Starbucks which sold caffiene, just like the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup..

DQ is distilled in the government-protected Malmköping springs, a feature which formed almost two million years ago. The water is naturally soft, filtered and fortified. In the Nordic Spirit bottling plant, a connecting pipeline to the natural springs allows them to blend their distilled DQ spirit with this purified water, close to the source.

Even the method of wheat production is steeped in tradition, with seeds planted in autumn and allowed to mature during the eight winter months, making the grains of superior quality.
The result is an ultra smooth, complex vodka that slips down as gently as a shot of pure spring water. The bottle is an appropriately sleek mix of Italian glass and brushed aluminium, topped off with a specially developed nozzle that maintains the quality and freshness within. A must for any discerning drinker. What's your DQ?