Digging the Pig Wasn’t Enough

In a dramatic break with tradition, I am about to embark on an exploration of concepts tenuously connected to marketing. I apologize in advance for this transgression.

I’ve been thinking about Piggly Wiggly lately and the limits of positive branding. I loved The Pig. Didn’t everyone? I love my Piggly Wiggly shirt and my Pig tumbler, from which I drink my favorite libations (primarily chocolate milk.) (No, really.) I love my purple Piggly Wiggly winter hat, which features my favorite local mascot, The Pig. I’m big on him.

I like to show visitors Buzzy Newton’s house on The Battery, the one guarded by a pair of stone-carved pig sentinels. David Schools, the last Pig CEO (and provider of all my Pig swag) is a funny and humble guy. When people would ask him his vocation, the CEO of a beloved supermarket chain would say, “I work at The Pig.” I wish him and his family nothing but the best.

I loved Piggly Wiggly’s advertising campaigns too. They were local since forever. That struck a chord, even though I’m not local since forever. The campaign reminded us that The Pig is authentic South. The Pig was there for us – or you, anyway – long before Charleston was fashionable, winning awards and all la-de-da about itself. Back then Piggly Wiggly was providing your blocks of ice, your collard greens, your sweet tea and your lard-encrusted bacon fat sandwiches lathered in pork grease. The advertising campaign almost made us feel obligated to buy groceries there.

That so many Charlestonians feel warmly towards the Pig is a testament to their exquisite branding. Companies spend billions of dollars attempting to coax from consumers a sliver of the affection that Piggly Wiggly generated, mostly by not taking themselves too seriously.

But here’s the thing: my family rarely shopped at Piggly Wiggly.

There wasn’t a Pig near where I lived or worked, but more importantly, Piggly Wiggly stores were too lowbrow for my family. We eat tofu and hummus and free range turkeys in my house. We drink almond milk and munch on carrots that first had to be cut and scraped by someone else, who then rounds the edges to prevent any unfortunate carrot stabbing incidents. That’s not lowbrow. (It is pathetic, but that’s another story.)

Evidently, we weren’t alone, because Piggly Wiggly was forced to sell off most of its properties. It was too small to compete on price with Walmart and just when it tried to pivot to higher ground in the supermarket hierarchy the mortgage brokers and financial services companies generously provided us all with the worst economic crash of our lifetimes.

When Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company began to contract, I could have switched my purchases their way in an effort to help rescue our beloved stores. But I did not, and neither did you.

Because the truth about the marketplace is that it’s all about us, the consumer, not them, the vendor. We buy where it’s convenient and inexpensive, and the experience is positive; how we feel about the company is largely irrelevant. Dan Cathy’s narrow-minded views about my gay friends don’t exactly split my infinitives, but I like the way he Fil-A’s his Chik’n, so that boycott will have to wait until after lunch. Conversely, though I admire Publix’s spectacular culture of philanthropy, there’s a Harris Teeter around the corner from my house. Walking distance, one; admiration, nothing.

So we all respected and esteemed Piggly Wiggly, and sighed with melancholy when it disassembled. But when it came right down to it, price, service and proximity meant a lot more to us than brand love.

 

–barry waldman

A Brilliant Marketing Scheme

Congratulate me: I’m about to be fabulously wealthy.

I have this foolproof idea to make millions of dollars. It involves a bad movie and some brilliant marketing. I mean evil genius marketing. Check it out.

First, I’ll hire some dopes to make a juvenile flick about . . . whatever – who cares? Humor based on metabolic methane production will abound, as will lower-body sphincters, the modular employment of a 17-word vocabulary and potshots at a Dark Ages dictatorship. Hijinks will ensue even in the absence of a coherent script. (Money-saving device!)

We’ll make sure to blow up some things to quench the reptilian brains of adolescents. Unfortunately, our target audience is prohibited from seeing movie depictions of female lactation producers – a surefire revenue doubler – so we will substitute the southward-facing end of an over-sized northbound male. It’s a pale imitation, but it’s worth some coin.

Okay, whatever whatever. The premise is secondary. Here comes the marketing ploy.

Our ad agency will fabricate a controversy about some element or other in the movie. Something petty and gratuitous. Something that would ordinarily elude the grasp of the mouth-breathers upon whom we depend for ticket sales. (And by mouth-breathers we mean, males.)

On cue, some discredited outfit will protest the movie loudly, organize a boycott, demand an apology in the name of some oppressed, if hardly defined, subset of humanity. We’ll goad them into bomb threats at theaters and the like to spook the suits in corporate into ditching the project.

You see where I’m going? Suddenly, this low-budget celluloid tripe will become a cause célèbre. Intellectuals will rise to defend free speech. Joe and Jane Backporch will rebel against anyone telling them what to watch. Americans of all stripes will link arms to support this beacon of hope in the visual arts.

So, okay, we’ll release it on a limited basis, you know, to keep the demand outpacing the supply. Scarcity will whip the nation into a frenzy. And then the rest of the developed world will hop on board. The Dutch and Danish don’t like being told what free expression to consume, even if it’s fart jokes. Nor do Norwegians, Lithuanians or Sri Lankans. (Maybe Sri Lankans do; I need to brush up on them.)

The free world will beg us to release the film. It’s a film now, you notice? They will demand the right to pay real American cash monies (or Kroners or Litas or Rupee) for a ticket. Take that, ostensible censors! Vanquished by the unquenchable thirst for freedom!

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton will smile upon us. Better yet, so will Salmon P. Chase and Woodrow Wilson, their denominations being larger. We will transform everyone involved in our project into hero defenders of free expression! And, far more importantly, one-percenters.

God Bless America! And other countries with paying customers.

I’m assembling the detailed plan this weekend and then I’m going to pitch it to…wait, what?

Oh.

Nevermind.

 

barry waldman

Things I’ve Learned From Retail Marketers:

Things I’ve learned about Christmas gift-giving from retail marketers:

shaving system1. Nothing says “I love you” to the man in your life like a device that scrapes the hairs off his face in a unique high-tech manner. Bonus points if the “shaving system” involves multiple blades, each of which, according to the advertising claims, defies the laws of physics, so that the first blade bends his hair, the second reasons with it to leave, the third starts his car and the fourth cuts the hair below the surface of his skin without in any way harming his epidermis. And the fifth through eighth blades watch and applaud.

2. A reasonable gift option, rather than a sweater or a nice pair of earrings, is a luxury car. Your personal savior particularly appreciates when you mark his joyous birth by obtaining $50,000 of debt. Particularly if it comes with a giant red ribbon. Amen.

3. Your desktop computer, laptop, tablet and smart phone all have lifespans of exactly one year, which runs from December 25 last year to December 24 this year. Isn’t that convenient?

4. The must-have item for this Christmas season is – well, there are actually 23 must-have items, all of which require batteries, which are not included. They’re not even included when you buy the batteries.

5. Women are raccoons. They love shiny things and react irrationally towards them, particularly when placed in a box. (The shiny thing, not the women. Though you never know.) You know what you fellas should do to atone for all your boneheadedness? You should purchase and present to the woman in your life, or to the woman whom you aspire to cajole to join your life, a big shiny geometric shape worth a minimum of Mozambique’s GDP. Special bonus: she’ll cry!

seth rogen6. Seth Rogen stars in a new movie aimed at people with sixth grade educations (most notably, seventh graders).

7. Another actor, occupying similar cubic footage as Seth Rogen but distributed quite differently, stars in a different new movie in which 237 people — nearly all bad guys — die quick but painful deaths. The two movies in question contain roughly equal comedic content.

8. For men, football and red corpuscles occupy places of equal importance with respect to the sustenance of life. Men must watch football at every moment, including a) at their own wedding, b) on the toilet, c) at Uncle Ralph’s funeral, d) at the birth of their children (breathe!) e) and at all other times. Consequently, they must own a phone that can deliver football on demand, which would be always, and a television roughly the dimensions of Ladson.

9. Irrespective of the season, there’s always erectile dysfunction.

–barry waldman

The Point Is, Content Is King

In the Public Relations course I impose upon unsuspecting, tuition-paying College of Charleston students, we spend part of one class discussing how best to annoy people with awful newsletters that focus myopically on the interests of the organization and inspire the reader to wonder what’s on TV tonight.

One element we address, and by “we” I mean “I, while they attempt to snore silently,” is that shopworn practice of covering in excruciating detail the organization’s annual shindig, complete with photos of the .04% of members/customers/associated personages who actually attended the event at the Comfort Inn outside Trenton, NJ. Oh the fun that was had, particularly when karaoke night in the lounge followed the wine spritzer social!

A Flying Squirrel In A Rolling Donut
The point is that recognition has its place, but either the reader was there, in which case they don’t actually need a synopsis of the scintillating presentation on Efficacy of Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Synbiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation,* or they weren’t, in which case they probably don’t give a flying squirrel in a rolling donut. (Or doughnut; my experiences with this wise, time-honored expression were always oral.)

* Ford AC, Quigley EM, Lacy BE, Lembo AJ, Saito YA, Schiller LR, Soffer EE, Spiegel BM, Moayyedi P. American Journal of Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct; 109(10):1547-61. Epub 2014 Jul 29. Don’t ask me why I know.

A Vast Serengeti of Blather
Which is why this essay is rarely about the previous AMA signature luncheon topic. Either you came and heard the luncheon presentation your own damn self (first Thursday of each month at the Harbor Breeze Restaurant, 176 Patriots Point Road in Mount Pleasant), or you don’t care about that particular topic. Or you care deeply, the way some people care about the civil war in Congo, not that Congo, the other Congo, the one next door to that Congo, the Congo with “Democratic” in its name to serve as definitive proof that it’s a miserably oppressive dictatorship run by a devil worshipper who bites heads off chickens and has a net worth, all of it expropriated from foreign aid, of roughly 1.5 Congos.

If you care that deeply but couldn’t make the luncheon, you might be looking for a pithy summary of the pertinent points, an accurate portrayal of the issue and its recommended solution, a hint of insight, a soupçon of perspicacity. You might be barking up the wrong tree, Lee. This is a blog dedicated, in Seinfeldian earnestness, to expending as many words as possible on a vast Serengeti of blather. You’re 430 words in; had you not figured that out yet?

Mobile Apps and the Men Who Love Them
So it’s worth noting that November’s fascinating (i.e., actually fascinating, not ironically fascinating in any sense) signature lunch presentation on mobile apps — presented by Ben Cash of the web developer Blue Key, and Keith Simmons, of Traveler magazine and related properties – can be boiled down to one simple concept. And Simple is my middle name. Or would be if I could spell it without help.

The concept is this: you can hire Ben and his fine crew to build an app for 25 grand or you can go online and cobble together some sideways app for a fraction of that, but it’s all moot if you don’t have killer content. Download Keith’s app out of Traveler magazine and it tracks your location and relays the closest tourist hotspots, restaurants, hotels and, most importantly, restrooms (see research above.) If you choose something – say you want to be welcomed to Moe’s – it will give you directions right there on your phone. Awesome sauce!

Content is king, Billy Jean, whether you’re talking apps, maps or beer taps. That’s the pithy summary, the hint of insight. Of course, Ben and Keith said it better.

–Barry Waldman

Is Andrew Rector A Marketing Genius?

Andrew Rector is either a marketing genius or he’s an extremely not genius of any kind. I’d like to use more descriptive words but Andrew is the litigious sort. Which is the story here.

In case you hadn’t heard, Andrew Rector is the gentleman pictured below who entered into repose along with all his chins at a nationally televised baseball game. Being a proud, upstanding American, I consider this a sin on the order of knocking over little old ladies and smacking ice cream cones out of children’s hands. But if everyone who fell asleep at a baseball game were charged with a crime, we’d have to put fencing and barbed wire around America. And I’d have to bail out my otherwise-sweet wife.

rector

Anyway, the game announcers had some good, clean fun at Andrew Rector’s expense, speculating on the number of beers required to reach this particular Zen state.

From there, of course, the InterWebs picked it up and turned Andrew Rector into a cross between Bozo the Clown and Pig Pen. You can just imagine. Upon seeing his visage on Twitter, a friend commented to me that he looked like an (extremely) (unattractive person). Others called him a “fat bastard,” a “douchenozzle,” and things I can’t write here.

And then tomorrow happened. In this case, tomorrow was April 14, by which time everyone would have forgotten about Andrew Rector. Except, he sued Major League Baseball, ESPN and the announcers personally for $10 million, blaming them for heaping scorn and ridicule upon him.

Even a moron knows that this suit will die a slow, ignominious death. (I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that Andrew Robert Rector, a used car salesman in or around New York City [you can’t make this stuff up!], is a moron.) Considering that he filed the suit, there’s evidence that he has not achieved that vaunted state.) Suing ESPN and MLB for showing him in slumber (and apparent mid-droolage) is a fool’s errand. Suing the announcers for their tepid remarks is patent dopiness. Not that Andrew Rector is a dope, but his lawyer certainly is. (Note: From the semi-coherent ramblings of the lawsuit, he may not have a lawyer. Infer what you will.)

As a result of the lawsuit, millions of people around the globe who never noticed Andrew Rector conked out live on TV, or checked in on the disparagement of Andrew Rector on Twitter are suddenly aware that Andrew Rector dozed ungracefully through the whole fourth inning of a Yankee-Red Sox tilt at Yankee Stadium, one of Baseball’s holiest shrines, leading my friend, who cares as much about baseball as I care about strapless Jimmy Chu pumps, to call a hiterhto anonymous gentleman an (extremely) (unattractive person.)

With his baseless and juvenile lawsuit, Andrew Rector has frittered away the sympathy his case inspired and catapulted the ridicule seven-fold, this time for good reason. And for that, you might think Andrew Rector is a flaming goober.

But is he? After all, you now know Andrew Rector’s name. You recognize his visage and his form. You might be intrigued by his story. Maybe he’s just angling to extend his 15 minutes to a half hour so that he can cash in. Think of the possibilities.

His people might be on the phone at this very moment encouraging the Yankees to do Andrew Rector Bobblehead Night, with the bobbling noggin on a rightward tilt. (If not the Yankees, Mike Veeck has got to be working on it for the RiverDogs.) I see a book deal with a big advance: “Dreaming of Being A Thin Dodger Fan.” The endorsement deals from Tempurpedic and Jenny Craig practically sell themselves. A speaking tour, a magazine spread – and I do mean spread – Andrew Rector is positioning himself for all of it. The guy can stop selling cars – used or otherwise – and join the one percent.

Maybe Andrew Rector’s not a flaming goober. Maybe he’s a flippin’ marketing genius.

–barry waldman

Flipping For One-Eighty Place

Perhaps you’ve heard that Crisis Ministries is changing its name. This is big news in my world, maybe not in yours. In your world, big news is an earthquake that levels a city of seven million people. In my world, we stop chewing our food when our Facebook post prompts seven likes. My world is sad and pathetic.

But this isn’t about me; it’s about the organization formerly known as Crisis Ministries, henceforth to be known as One-Eighty Place.

 

Logo

That’s One-Eighty as in turning completely in the other direction, which is the work of this benighted organization. They so very long ago transcended “crisis.” Far beyond a homeless shelter, One-Eighty Place (I’m trying it out) is where people go to get their life together with a host of services that move them up and out.

And “Ministries,” well, that’s less what the organization does and more what drives volunteers to them. Some people are impelled by Ministry to offer their services to those in need. Others by ministry – with a small “m.” As Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller used to say, it’s all about the theology of the hammer.

Being the marketing virtuoso that you are, you know that the good folks on upper Meeting didn’t just make up the name, vote on it, and reveal it to all of us the following week. It took two weeks.

Actually, they’ve been hacking at this particular bush for 18 months, and they recruited the electric minds of Hook to help them conceive an appropriate moniker. You don’t just thumb through a baby name book for this.

In fact, One-Eighty Place (or One80 Place — they seem to be using both) CEO Stacey Denaux says they couldn’t find another organization anywhere in the country that could serve as a role model. No one had previously ditched its rescue mission-ish name for The Turnaround Center or Start Over House or Success Village or whatever. So Charleston’s own will have to serve as everyone else’s role model.

And as models go, va-voom, in my humble opinion. Just contemplate the marketing possibilities. Better yet, leave it to the Hookers, who are flexing their double-jointed creative muscles to get 540’s worth of bounce out of One-Eighty.

I’m looking forward to seeing the great work of One-Eighty Place get its due. Because I’d like to resume chewing my food…

 

–barry waldman

The Greatest Marketer of Them All

In the constellation of PR/marketing stars, the names that jump to mind include Bernay, Yankelovich, Ogilvy, Barnum, Schultz and Bernbach. Today there stands a humble giant in a white robe and spectacles who outshines them all from his modest apartment in the planet’s smallest country.

This marketing king is not known by a last name the way local superstars Munday, Wertimer and Deas are – unless you consider “Francis” his last name. That would make “Pope” his first.

Yes, the pontiff himself, the prince of the worldwide Catholic Church, is a master marketer with perfect pitch.

In office less than a year, Francis has achieved an ROI that’s, well, divine. Consider his list of real, tangible accomplishments:

(Foot tapping while he looks up and whistles.)

Now consider how he has made hundreds of millions of people around the globe feel:
Inspired.
Respected.
Humbled.
Enthusiastic.
Delighted.
Spiritual.
Grateful.
[Your word here.]
[And here.]

pope  Dude’s been clutch. Wanna
hear perfect pitch? Here’s
the first nine months:

 

 

 

 

• He induced the Muslim president of Palestine and the Jewish Prime Minister of Israel to quit clubbing each over the head for a couple of hours and pray with him in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin. Thereafter they commenced to blow up each other’s people as they were doing before.

• He shrugged off homosexuality and set a million Catholic (and millions more non-Catholic) gay and lesbian hearts aflutter.

• He tweets! He takes selfies with teens! What’s next, drinking a Sam Adams with the guys at King Street Grille during the World Cup?

• He ditched the fancy digs and the armored Popemobile in favor of his old apartment and a Ford Focus. You can’t live without your SUV? The Bishop of Rome, the emperor of the Holy See, the successor of St. Peter, that guy rides in a subcompact.

• He celebrated his 77th birthday with four homeless lads (and one guy’s dog!)

• He kissed a severely disfigured man, washed the feet of Muslim prisoners, and let a disabled teenager take a spin in the Mercedes convertible that he never uses. I don’t like to share my Oreos at lunch.

• He had the good sense to succeed charmless Pope Benedict.

• He has publicly honored Benedict, his living predecessor, declawing any possible controversy about Benedict’s nearly unprecedented “retirement.” And c’mon, you’ve gotta know he thinks Benedict is a Grade-A dork.

In short, El Popester, as no one is calling him, has modernized the office, softened the Church’s image and embraced a world so warmly that we all want to embrace him back. We might not know what he’s selling and even if we do, we’re hazy on the benefits. But we know how good he makes us feel.

And that’s the essence of marketing, right?

Millenials Will Ruin Your Life…and other funny stories

Oh these kids today, with their Snaptwit and their Instant Grandma. Why back in my day… [insert your personal nostalgia here.]

So you’re a Boomer or a Gen Xer and you can’t make heads or tails of these crazy beings entering your workplace, or worse yet, buying your products. Your ability to make a living depends on blobs of protoplasm that have the entire world at their fingertips yet know less about it than any previous generation. You’re attempting to appeal to a generation that believes in the myth of “multi-tasking,” and consequently are essentially in permanent states of ADHD — without meds.
Good luck.

Well, you would at least have a window on the varied demographic layers of the marketplace if you’d have attended the last AMA luncheon, where speaker Jennifer Sutton of Bright + Co. in Greenville enlightened the gathered about the broad differences among American generations.

Consider these matrices of generations in the workplace, currently checking in at four – The Silent Generation (born 1922-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen Xers (born 1965-1982) and Millennials (born 1983-2002). (Source: Greg Hammill, Fairleigh Dickinson University Silberman College of Business)

I’m sure somewhere on the cloud exists the PowerPoint portion of Jennifer’s presentation, which I heartily recommend that you read, with the caveat that doing so yields a pale approximation of the living color version. For the full effect of the best presentations made to AMA, (shameless plug alert!) you need to come to the luncheons. Cleverly, they include lunch as well.

But I can give you a general sense of things.

These young’ins are crazy, and they’re taking over. Consider:

  • They call people they’ve never met “friends,” and consequently like to work in big groups. Which you abhor.
  • They’ve grown up sending sex chatter and salacious photos to their “friends,” and consequently have no moral filter. Hope they don’t do that to your customers.
  • They don’t know the difference between news, comedy and advertising. Indeed, they don’t know what news even looks or sounds like. They think Buzzfeed is a news source. Unaware employees are sub-optimal.
  • Sharing atomic details of their lives is their default mode. Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon already know more about them than their moms do. This could come back to haunt you, their employer.
  • They think 140 characters is a long communication. Research shows that tweets under 100 characters have higher read rates.
  • The first of them are already in their 30s. You’re stuck with them.
  • And that’s nothing. There’s another generation coming up behind them. A generation that didn’t experience Sept. 11, has never seen a map, and is its own favorite photograph subject.

But before your brain explodes and litters the hallway with Saved By the Bell trivia, here’s the real consolation for employers, co-workers and marketers. We all grow up. Boomers – the rock ‘n’ rollers who never trusted anyone over 30, wore long hair and hated the government – now have children over 30, lost their hair and run the government. (Okay, maybe that last part isn’t quite so reassuring.) Gen-Xers, the first to grow up en masse without married parents, have learned how to mate and co-exist as poorly as the rest of us.

And now Millennials are showing signs that they may be human and competent to navigate workplace rules and marketplace heuristics. They are more civic-minded, more tolerant of differences and less jingoistic than the rest of us.

Hooray for them.

Still, just to be sure, hold their phone while they’re driving.

–barry waldman

Excuse Me, I’m a Moron

After 20 years as a reporter and 25 years as a PR/marketer (they overlap, smarty-pants number-cruncher) I have learned something enlightening from my co-workers and observers of the organization for which I work.

Perhaps you, as a marketing person, have received similar enlightenment from your highly-observant co-workers and related people.

They helpfully inform me, with some regularity, that I am a moron. This appears to be particularly true with regard to the subjects of public relations and marketing. According to them, I am a quivering blob of stupid, evidently maintained on the payroll for my accidentally-entertaining wardrobe choices.

The evidence is squarely on their side. There are thousands of people in the Lowcountry who despite having utterly no contact with my particular organization don’t know anything about us.

If GEICO can save you 15% in 15 minutes and Hanes can go tagless, my co-workers wonder, why can’t an organization that sees itself as “a catalyst for community transformation through collective impact” develop its own splashy brand that doubles sales? What do those marketing dopes do all day anyway?

You know the feeling, fellow marketing person. The marketing department is the repository for company dissatisfaction of pretty much all kinds. The soda machine doesn’t work? Marketing’s fault. A customer decided to spend their money elsewhere? Lousy marketing plan. The software that operates everything in the organization include the flushing of toilets froze up? Must be all the crap marketing is producing.

Psychologists call this projection: your teenager hates you because her hormones are making her brain hurt and she has to blame someone. Rather than start smoking cigarettes, which are stinky and expensive, she has decided to disdain everything you do and say until her teen contract expires upon high school graduation.

Underlying all this is the obvious: anyone can do PR and marketing; it’s just common sense. You just call the TV station and tell them the story you want on the air. You just create a hysterical ad and run it every half-hour during the Super Bowl. You just mix Menthos with Coke in a video and make it go viral on Twitface. Duh. Sixteen-year-olds do it for singing cats; why can’t we?

You’re nodding your head now. That either means you’re about to fall asleep in your salad or you know exactly what I mean.

The irony of all this is that the issues I face are entirely your fault.

If you would all just quit marketing, I would have less clutter to bust through. People would open our monthly emails, which are brilliant and eye-popping, but no one knows it because they unsubscribed in 2006. Our public service announcements would run instead of your ads. Our clever Facebook posts, now crowded out by your vacation photos from Des Moines, would make it onto people’s newsfeeds. Our customers would have time to read our insightful tweets because they’re not wasting it on yours.

Of course, your particular genius at selling real estate, or creating business solutions, or developing software would be more widely known if I just quit all my attempts at communication. So your inability to become filthy rich is my fault.

I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Apparently I’m a moron.

–barry waldman

Raise Turkeys, Not Awareness

Are you paying attention? A whole lot of people don’t seem to think so. Much of the non-profit marketing profession appears hell-bent on raising your awareness — of cancer, child abuse, dental hygiene, the scourge of erectile dysfunction, and the like. They evidently believe that you cruise blindly through life, like the undead, without noticing the salient features of the world around you.

I don’t mean to belittle a devastating disease, but I’m guessing you’ve heard of cancer. You probably know an important detail, like, it’s bad for you. You might even wear sunscreen and eat broccoli in an effort to ward it off. Awareness.

(I am making many assumptions about you even though I don’t know who you are. Based on the AMA members I have met, you are a graduate of Lake Wobegon High School: savvy and intellectual, shockingly attractive, courageous and warm-hearted. If you are not an AMA member, hurry and join so you can share these characteristics.)

Visit the website of many non-profits and you’ll see “raising awareness” as part of their mission, as if you didn’t notice the gentleman in full winter regalia pushing a cart with his worldly belongings along the Crosstown on a summer afternoon.

No one needs some anonymous radio dork imploring them to care more about lung disease, irradiated food, boating while intoxicated or the plight of the endangered chuckwalla. We’re either sufficiently aware or not bothering the chuckwalla in any way ourselves.

Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla

Of course, much of this is the result of the common misconception that anyone can do PR and marketing, which require no particular expertise, like hanging a picture, or swallowing. Non-profit staff without any marketing expertise substitute “raising awareness” for real, measurable objectives because, well, they haven’t had their awareness raised.

If these benighted marketers want to devote the full measure of their talent to useful pursuits, may I suggest the following awareness raisers:

  • Mindlessly placing yourself in the way. Subcategories: Standing in the doorway at parties. Stopping at the top of a hill on ski slopes. Walking four-across on the King Street sidewalk. Walking in the bike lane (or biking in the walk lane) on the Cooper River Bridge.
  • Cognitive dissonance. Sub-categories: Advocating for a simpler, fairer tax code that maintains your favorite deductions. Hating steroid users unless they help your team. Demanding that Congress do something while voting against members willing to compromise. Complaining about the cost of heart bypass surgery required after a lifetime of eating Twinkies and melting into chairs.
  • Smoking while in a public pool. The tar and nicotine have apparently ravaged your cerebral cortex beyond repair. For your safety, you need to be removed from the pool permanently.
  • Waiting to drive across four lanes of traffic rather than merging into the right lane and working your way across. If you can’t see how you’re holding up everyone behind you, then you’ve been smoking in the pool.
  • “The F-word,” “the N-word,” “the L-word.” If you want us to know the word you have in mind, say it. If you’re afraid to say it, skip the juvenile reference to it. P.S. There are several words that start with “S.” I can think of four or five myself.
  • Using a phone while operating a mass of metal at a velocity well-past sufficient to cause death. If you’re going to text, dial, surf, converse with Siri or otherwise concentrate your limited brain power on your phone and not on your driving, please make sure your fatal accident is of the one-car variety.

I look forward to seeing what those sharp marketing minds can devise to combat… hey! Get out of the way!

–barry waldman