Monthly Archives: August 2012

Forced Endorsements


Our Foodie Friday Fun this week isn’t directly about food

English: American cook, author, and television...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

at all but about one of the most entertaining people ever to prepare it. That would be Julia Child, about whom I’ve expressed my admiration before. I’m not sure if you’re following what is going on with her estate and the Thermador people but it instructive on a number of levels.
Let me say at the outset that I own a Thermador oven. Two of them, in fact, and I’m quite happy with them, so there’s no axe to grind against the company. That said, they’re behaving badly.  You see, they’ve been using the fact that Julia Child had a Thermador ovens in her home and TV kitchens as the basis for an implied endorsement.  So much so that magazine ads that showed photos of Julia and two of the brand’s ovens with the caption, “An American Icon and Her American Icons.”

Well, you say, sounds like a typical celebrity endorsement.  As we all know the notion is that people who like the celebrity will like the product the celebrity likes too.  There’s only problem.  Julia Child NEVER endorsed products.  Nothing.  She always felt she was a teacher, and anything that wasn’t of the highest quality could undermine her reputation.  The foundation that owns her intellectual property has sued since they were never approached in advance of the use and turned down a license when they were since they won’t license her name or image for endorsements.  Pretty straightforward so far.

Here is what’s interesting.  Thermador is claiming it’s not an endorsement.  As the L.A. Times reported, they:

filed a suit in Boston on Friday asking a federal judge to make a legal declaration that they had the right to use Child’s connection to the brand in its marketing materials. In its complaint, BSH’s lawyers wrote that the company’s use of Child’s photo and name “do not state or imply any endorsement” but “reflect on the long history, significance and influence of Thermador products on American society and culture.”

Right.  It’s a statement of fact.  So if an athlete is photographed drinking a Coke, it’s fine if Coke uses that statement of fact in an ad.  I don’t think so.  More importantly, to those of us who admire Julia, this is having exactly the opposite effect as an endorsement.  You can’t force people to endorse your products, you can’t use their likeness without permission, and you can’t rationalize your way into it being OK.  This is a good lesson on why bad behavior seldom works out in business. I can’t imagine anyone who has ever done anything in marketing wouldn’t have known that this is wrong.

Thermador, I use your products and like them – feel free to use that endorsement.  But stop behaving badly, please.  You’re better than this, or at least your ovens are.


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Bird Poop

I had just walked out of a meeting this morning

Birds on wires

(Photo credit: rkramer62)

and was standing talking to some other folks on the team when something with started dripping down my sport coat.  Despite it being a warm morning I was very certain it wasn’t sweat.  What I was hoping was that it was some excess moisture dripping off a pipe but of course it wasn’t.  It was bird poop.  Well more specifically I think it was bird pee although frankly it doesn’t much matter.

As I was standing there frantically trying to wipe it off my coat, my compatriots informed me that it was good luck.  Apparently in some cultures a bird pooping on you is exactly that.  I’m not so sure it is in my culture – more likely it’s 180 degrees from that.  In checking out their notion I also found that many people believe this to be a major sign of wealth coming from heaven.  Seem to me it’s a sign of an expensive cleaning bill coming.  In any event it did trigger a business thought.

Too many businesses spend their time standing under wires hoping bird will poop on them, figuratively speaking.  They would almost rather be lucky than good.  Rather than looking for wires filled with birds, they’d be way better off spending time looking at analytics, social mentions, and their own financial statements.  Spending money on bird seed trying to attract the birds and the luck they bring is probably not as worthwhile as spending it on an all hands on deck brainstorm.  You know the ones – where no idea is a bad one and outrageous thinking is encouraged.

I’ll let you all know if some great piece of luck follows – there wasn’t a large check in the mail today however.  In the meantime, remember what Hemingway told his son – you make your own luck.  Good business advice – and much cleaner than depending on the birds!

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You Carry A Tamagotchi, Honestly.

Anyone remember the Tamagotchi?  They were a late 1990’s phenomenon – digital handheld pets.  The owner had to care for them on a daily – maybe even hourly – basis or they’d die.  Not a fun experience for either the owner (generally a child) or the parent.

I was reminded of the constant care and feeding required by those things this morning as I booted up my phone and found nearly a dozen app updates that needed to be installed.  That, of course, was after I updated a half-dozen yesterday.  Don’t get me wrong – some of the updates contained wonderful enhancements to the app and were very welcome but way too many were either bug or security fixes.  In fact, if you own a smartphone, notice how often you get an update followed within a day or two by another.

Having worked on a few mobile apps, I know how hard it can be to catch everything in QC.  We’re not going to have the Android vs. iOS chat now but even in a closed system like iOS there are multiple versions in multiple devices and the updates come fast and furious.  Using the mobile web and web apps is better although various browser/hardware/OS issues still make testing hard.  At least the user doesn’t have to do any updating though.

The real issue for me is that I’m not sure there’s enough thought or care given to the constant update issue.  Some apps will do a partial release – they think if a button was bigger it would get better results so they push an update to some of their users to test it.  Other apps decide to change the permissions (to get more of them and more data) on their installed base knowing that most people don’t look at that when they install the update.  Still others move features behind a pay wall.  Obviously security issues need to be fixed immediately, but a logo change can certainly wait until a big release, right?

Way back when in the early web days the dream was for a universal browser looking a web sites – no client side activity at all.  Now in mobile it’s gone back the other way – dedicated client-side apps have replaced the server activity.  Maybe it’s that apps are a closed world – I’m not shopping Barnes & Noble while I’m in Amazon’s app.  But there’s got to be something other than grown-up Tamagotchi worlds living on our smartphones.


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