Can You Sell Without the Stupid?

Short of hiding in a cave, my efforts to avoid the granular, 24-hour media coverage of that festering pus of a fake presidential campaign have proved fruitless. It’s on all 26 televisions at my gym, projecting the orange-haired narcissist and his purposely inflammatory ramblings.

I’d be interested to hear from psychologists and psychiatrists whether my use of the word narcissist in this case is simply understatement or an actual clinical diagnosis. It does appear that we are witnessing the sad spectacle of real mental illness unfolding before us. According to opinion polls – which themselves are a form of mental illness 65 weeks before an actual election – a quarter of one segment of the electorate gives this bizarre reality show the thumbs up.

It’s a cliché at this point that stupid sells, that outlandishly juvenile behavior is fun to watch, that awful judgment is entertaining, that no one can look away from the train wreck. We’ve had grammar school beauty pageant contestants and developmentally-stunted New Jersey stereotypes and a silver spoon family so utterly bereft of talent or insight but redolent of breast tissue that their massive celebrity seems almost inevitable.

But even the cultural realists are having trouble wrapping our heads around a lowest common denominator presidential campaign, even if we know that it’s a cynical attempt to boost business and provide more fodder for an area-code sized ego. Surely, we would have thought, we at least want our presidents to be dignified and possess an intellect above the Real Housewives line.

It makes you wonder, if you’re trying to sell a historical site to tourists, or technology solutions, or real estate, how you can compete with the lunatics without becoming one of them. Can smart, segmented, integrated marketing communications, with well-targeted and media-specific messaging really triumph in the public mind against this miasma of cognitive deprivation?

Thankfully, of course it can. In fact, that’s still ultimately the only way to win in the marketplace. The media sensations listed above have mostly evaporated; you can only watch a train wreck for so long before the novelty is gone and it’s just plain grisly. Even the presidential sideshow will eventually wear itself out as Americans begin paying attention to the candidates – roughly four weeks before the actual election.

Henry Mencken was almost certainly right, that “no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” But eventually even plain people act in their own best interests, so that if you sell the right thing to the right people, they will buy it. Yeah, I know, there’s a plethora of data points to support Mencken: pet rocks, 15 fast food chains, vaccinations causing autism, ambulance-chasing lawyers, $100 ripped jeans, Toys for Tots, supermarket tabloids, Windows 8, the South Carolina “educational” lottery, and on and on. But that’s a mere drop in the marketplace bucket, where trillions of transactions are consummated every day.

The explosion of technology and the ongoing degradation of culture will continue apace, but neither changes the core dynamics of marketing: find out what people want, give it to them and make sure they know about it. As you and I prove everyday (okay, maybe just you do) matching the product or service to the audience, medium, method and message, and doing it all as much and as creatively as possible, that’s the only sure formula for success.

But if that fails, it’s good to know that mental illness is your backup plan.

–barry waldman

Thanks for a Great Year as Prez

Wow, my year as Charleston AMA president went so quickly! What an honor it’s been to serve as chapter president for the 2014-2015 term. I’ll admit I was nervous at the start of my year. Suddenly all chapter decisions rested on my shoulders. So many people had worked so hard over the years to launch, build and grow this chapter, and I certainly didn’t want to mess it up. A year later, the c2015 Spark Awardshapter is still intact (whew!).

One of the hardest things about being chapter president is figuring out realistic and achievable goals for your year as president. Ideas are limitless, and I knew our chapter could do so much more. I wanted to move our chapter forward and had no fewer than 50 ideas. But, let’s be real, I have a full-time job and a family (as does the rest of the board). Time to narrow down that list of 50 to three key items.

With a theme of “Flexing Our Marketing Muscles” (a nod to my love of CrossFit), I started my term in July 2014 with these goals:

  • Strengthen membership – both adding new members while giving current members more value so they renew their membership year after year.
  • Grow the annual Spark! Awards – increase entries, streamline the process and add more clout to the awards program.
  • Become Charleston’s go-to marketing resource.

As I reflect on the past year, I feel good about those goals. Of course, we can always do better. We can always do more.

Yet in 2014-2015, we:

  • Launched our first special interest group. We partnered with BoomTown on a quarterly real estate marketing coffee talk that draws about 15 people each time. Now, we’re looking at adding a second niche group in fall 2015.
  • Grew the Spark! Awards. We had a record number of entries (almost 90) and a terrific awards ceremony. We revamped the categories, streamlined the entry process and kept entry fees free for members. This event now has a solid base so we can grow it even more in 2016.
  • Won top place in our chapter size category for new member growth as part of the American Marketing Association’s Spring 2015 Acquisition Campaign Contest.
  • Had some really amazing Signature Luncheons on such topics as social media, the marketing power of Yelp, TV advertising, pay per click and lead generation, mobile apps and more. More than 50 people signed up for the May and June luncheons.
  • Hosted fun networking events like our fall Brew & Chew plus a Hawaiian-themed spring happy hour.
  • Created some chapter marketing materials such as pens and coffee mugs for our speakers.

Charleston AMAAnd those are just a few of the many highlights. The board of directors is a hard-working group and it’s a pleasure to lead the chapter with these people. I feel good about our chapter and consider it to be the resource for marketing, PR and creative professionals in the Charleston area.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to flex our AMA muscle this year!

~ Holly A. Fisher

P.S. And … I gave AMA a totally fun First Gentleman. 😉

Charleston AMA Happy Hour

 

What’s the Difference Between a Duck? (and other questions that vex thinking people)

They’re not up anymore, but I saw billboards promoting news on the local Fox affiliate suggesting that if you’re up late you’ll want to catch their evening news – which is on an hour earlier than the competition. Did Lewis Carrol write these ads?

Why can’t I have my cake and eat it too? Indeed, isn’t having cake a necessary pre-requisite to eating it? This is like saying you can’t own your car and drive it too.

How does Starbucks still exist? I mean, they make hot beverages, like a million other places, including my tea kettle; they provide places to sit, like a park, or an execution chamber; and they’re on every street corner, like litter. So what exactly is worth five bucks?

Apparently word has not gotten out about these newfangled things called “books.” I’ve been in three recent conversations in which someone asked me what I watched on TV last night, as if that’s a necessary bodily function.

Should I give up on “comprised” and just admit that if everyone, including newspaper editors and college professors, thinks it means “composed” then it does? And we’ve lost the war on “verbal” haven’t we? It’s now just another way of saying “oral” isn’t it? Pretty soon we’ll use verbal thermometers.

Is it just me, or should the Charleston Public Library know better than to ask for your PIN number, or the DMV to refer to your VIN number? Shouldn’t the people who invented the Vehicle Identification Number know what the letters stand for? And isn’t the whole point of libraries to be, um, literate?

Wait, that show with Thomas Ravenel is still on the air? Like, even after people saw it?

If traffic tie-ups required us to build more roads that resulted in more traffic tie-ups that require more roads that result in more traffic tie-ups that require more roads that result in more traffic tie-ups … why don’t we just build more roads? Duh.

So if auto insurance ads are now funny and clever, whose turn is it next? Local car dealers? Ha ha. Got a little ahead of myself there.

Who is the marketing guru who decided that ads for songs on YouTube should pop up when you’re playing the song being advertised? Is it the same person who runs station promos for radio shows we’re already listening to? Jenius!

If people really think that photos of their dinner are interesting, may I make a modest proposal? If you’re going to post photos on your Facebook page of your dinner before it went down, you have to post photos of it after it came up. Or out.

When I was a kid, narrow-minded people knew whom to hate – the gays. Today, bigots must be so confused. Who can keep up with L-G-B-T-Q-hey! you left out a letter, ya Neanderthal!? I think we need a better word for this.

Here’s another thing we need a word for: when you text someone, or email them, just as they text/email you, and each communique requires follow-up. Then you’re left wondering which of you should send the next message and which issue you should address. There should be a word for that. I mean, besides “awkward.”

Tip-off that you’re viewing time-murdering tripe on TV: lawyer ads promising lottery winnings for car accidents. They’re aimed at morons, which means that’s who they think is watching your show.

Why do people complain that baseball goes on too long and then spend 20 soul-sucking months consuming mentally retarded, minute-by-minute, presidential electoral analysis?

Why do people want to hear 45-year-old songs for the thousandth time? And how do they manage convince themselves that makes them cool? I mean, the Beatles were great but their grandchildren are forming bands.

Why is there an AMA chapter in little Charleston, SC but not in Miami, Salt Lake City, Buffalo, Louisville, El Paso, Little Rock, Toledo, Shreveport, Colorado Springs, New Haven, Grand Rapids, Winston-Salem, Savannah or the entire states of North Dakota, South Dakota, New Hampshire or Vermont? Oh yeah, because we’re awesome.

–barry waldman

Looking For Support? Get A Good Bra

Way back in my reporter days, I covered the Yippie versus Yuppie debates between aging 60s radical Abbie Hoffman and 60s radical-turned-capitalist Jerry Rubin.

During their contretemps, Rubin claimed to have supported a particular presidential candidate, to which Hoffman snorted in his unrefined New England accent, “You supported Gary Hart? Gary Hart got more support from his jock strap!”

Hoffman was a master quipster, but he was on the losing side of history, and today we claim to “support” things we merely donate to, think about, or even worse.

Consider all those who claim to support our troops by advocating that they be shipped off as cannon fodder to ever more exotic and dangerous quagmires.

Support has staked its claim to the marketing world as well. Ads running on the radio today ask me to support local music. Likewise, I’ve been urged to support our local sports teams, local restaurants and other commercial enterprises.

These pleas are made with the force of moral suasion, as if declining to support them – which is to say purchase their products – is a moral failing on our part.

My unspoken reaction to these arguments is not just rejection but a bit of pique. They feel like a sleight-of-hand, where marketers are hoping we will be so wracked by guilt that we won’t notice they’re just attempting to burrow into our wallets without providing a superior product. That strategy won’t work on me: I have a Jewish mother!

I hope you, like I, appreciate the majesty of the free market and buy what you want, at the price you want, unmoved by specious appeals to some amorphous and unearned loyalty. Or by your mom, of whatever religious persuasion.

(Right here I should exempt, to some degree, the effort to push us towards locally-grown food and local restaurants over chains. In both cases, the quality is generally superior and the price is often comparable. Even there, I make my choices not because they are ethically purer but because they are better products. If you think Bubba Gump gives you greater value than Fish, by all means, eat at Bubba Gump. Of course, if that’s the state of your palate, you could just dumpster dive behind Fish and kill the quality and price bird with one stone.)

So here’s my question for those support phonies: what exactly is local music doing to support me and my boyhood dream of playing shortstop for the Kansas City Royals? Since the answer is, nothing, in what way has local music earned my loyalty?

See, here’s the thing: when I buy music, or see a band in concert, I am purchasing entertainment, not democracy and human rights. There is no moral component to this decision. Shovels and Rope are a magnificently talented duo, but that’s not my musical flavor of ice cream. So when I fork over cash for a slew of songs by Frontier Ruckus or purchase concert tickets to see The Tallest Man on Earth, I’m not dissing my homies; I’m satisfying my desire for tunes that appeal to me.

This reminds me of a complaint by a long-gone TV reporter repeatedly pummeled by local non-profits for coverage. They would argue that he had an obligation to broadcast stories about them. They didn’t understand (and many still don’t, I’m sure) that his job was to report news his viewers (i.e., customers) wanted, and so the only way to win his “business” was to provide him with what he considered news. In effect, they were demanding his support without providing the business imperative for it.

As far as I can tell, the support appeal is a failed strategy, and for obvious reasons. So to all of those who demand my support, just remember: my glove is oiled and ready.

–barry waldman

I Quit! (Thanks, AMA.)

A funny thing happened to me on the way to quitting my job of 17 years and embarking on a freelancing career. I determined that it was time for words and me to rekindle our romance, hands-on PR and marketing to welcome me back into the fold, and journalism to once again take my hand and lead me through the golden meadow. Copy has been in need of a bracing massage and I had allowed my masseur license to lapse.

I’d dotted a handful of t’s and crossed a couple of i’s in advance of this Rubicon leap. I’d named my new work (Write Stuff Communications), purchased a website domain (writestuffcomm.com – not yet active), considered my scope of work (PR/marketing soup-to-nuts; scribe) and ordered business cards.

And I’d lined up some assignments from those lost souls who, in their finite wisdom, have misplaced faith in my talents. As we Charlestonians say, bless their hearts.

I can produce strategic communication with my cerebellum tied behind my back, but selling myself, hmmm. That’s not so much on my Meyers Briggs profile. I’m an E-S-T-NO SELLING!

That “S stands for “schmoozer,” and it’s not capitalized accidentally. These years of dipping into the American Marketing well have filled my networking jug at least as much as my pitcher of knowledge. (Or perhaps it’s a teaspoon.) And now all that good AMA karma has begun to flow back to me.

Even before I decided to take the wheel of the jalopy that is my career, a whip-smart real estate agent whom I’ve befriended through AMA helped me determine that I needed to buy a house close to downtown and rent out my old place. That fine gentleman has saved me from hundreds of hours of idling in traffic and fattened my otherwise-skeletal retirement savings like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Immediately after I announced my new intentions, another member in good standing floated my name to a marketing firm for some copywriting. They reached out to me, which has got to be as rare as a championship in Cleveland. It’s a pairing worthy of Yenta the Matchmaker: the liaison at the company is a former student. Thank you, Patron Saint of Freelancers, and thank you Mr. incoming AMA President. My future genuflections to you will not solely reflect my respect for the office.

Simultaneously, an offhand conversation at an AMA event lead me to a copy writing assignment. The chat began as all pleasure and no business – my affection for particular staff members of a sharp local agency prompted it – and led to what appeared to be a mutual need.

All that, and they haven’t even rid themselves of me at the old job yet.

The point, and alert the media because I do actually have one*, is that it’s amazing how and how much AMA participation has been paying off, even though, as noted above, I’m allergic to tooting my own horn. It’s not like this wasn’t already apparent: I’ve hired photographers and graphic artists whom I’ve met through the group. I’ve paired dozens of students with internships sponsored by AMA members. I’ve witnessed people hired for positions that never saw the light of day – but reverberated through the AMA grapevine.

And now I’ve experienced it myself. Thank you AMA; thank you friends. Keep the referrals flowing. Because I need to save up and get my cerebellum out from behind my back.

barry waldman

*this time.

Sister-Kissing At The Spark Awards

Last week, before the assembled multitudes at the Spark Awards, I kissed my sister three times.

Now, my little sister is a playfully rambunctious wit with a smile in her soul who looks 15 years her own junior, and I joyfully plant a smooch on her cheek or head when the opportunity arises, which is episodic at best given her lack of proximity (700 miles) and allergy to felines, like the one who rules my home.

So I kiss her. But these kisses are not the romantic glottal engagements that fire up the machinery of arousal in men’s and women’s hearts. They are but a peck.

All of which is academic because my sister wasn’t actually in attendance at the Spark Awards. The kiss was metaphorical, conjured by Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty, who left behind his mortal coil in 1987.

Daugherty, asked about the feeling of fulfillment from earning neither a win nor a loss, but a tie, compared it to kissing your sister. It’s a kiss…but it’s your sister.

Hall of Fame baseball player George Brett added that losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out. What experiences exactly he employed to set this benchmark is a question I’d prefer not to consider.

Anyway, I didn’t actually, metaphorically kiss my sister, because I didn’t tie. I finished second. What is finishing second like? Where’s Duffy Daugherty when you need him?

The communications department at Trident United Way entered three categories in the Spark Awards, the annual “best of” in the Charleston marketing arena. Each of our submissions earned a place in the finals, which is some small level of validation, no? I mean, we made the tournament, won a few games and earned a spot in the Final Four.

Each of our submissions garnered oral recognition, a certificate and a photo with our local AMA’s lovely and talented president. It was nice, like a kiss. But it was second place.

And three second place finishes, well, now it’s getting close to grandmother territory. It’s less kiss than kiss off.

The great philosopher, Ricky Bobby, from that cinematic classic Talladega Nights, offers no comfort. He said “second place is first loser.”

So thank you, The Brandon Agency, for relegating our spectacular campaign video, produced by the amazing video firm Lunch & Recess, to first loser.*

And a big fish face to you, South Carolina Aquarium, for dropping our social media campaign to sister-kissing territory.*

And Gina Ellis-Strother, a most worthy 2015 Marketer of the Year, your grace and dignity, your professionalism, your evident aptitude and accomplishments, to all of that I say, thhhhhppppp. Our nominee Peter Wertimer, president of advertising at Chernoff Newman and an icon of local marketing communications, may have finished second, but he remains our prince of marketing.*

Still, just to be safe, if he ever meets my sister, he should just shake her hand.

barry waldman

* Truth is, while we’re really proud of our work, and of our ad agency and video firm, we have a Marxist view of these awards. Groucho Marx, that is. I’m not sure we’d want to win any award whose standards are so low that we could win one. Besides, have you seen the work of Brandon, the Aquarium and Gina at Charleston County Parks?

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