Armstrong Still Falling From Grace

Lance Armstrong is was one of the most inspiring and well-known athletes of our time. He won seven Tour De France titles, fought and won a battle against testicular cancer and created the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Foundation to raise money for cancer research. Armstrong was proudly endorsed by Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Honey Stinger and more.

His fan base was in the millions. Now, it seems there is no love to be found for this man after he was banned for life from cycling and stripped of his seven Tour De France wins for illegal doping. Armstrong has fought claims against him for years for doping, but there was never sufficient evidence. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency finally revealed the truth in early October, and Armstrong has been falling from grace ever since.  A total of 26 people, 11 of his own former teammates, accused him of doping in the 200 page document.

Nike dropped him, Anheuser-Busch cut ties, as well as Honey Stinger, a Colorado company marketing energy food. Armstrong had to step down as chairman from his own cancer research foundation, but could still be involved with Livestrong events.

The foundation has announced that it will officially drop Lance Armstrong’s name from the title to add a little more salt to his fraudulent wounds.

From what I hear, a leopard’s spots never change. A cheater is a cheater. His endorsers really had no choice but to drop Armstrong. What does it say to customers if he was still sponsored by Nike? It is not all right to lie to every one for more than ten years, especially when you are an influential public figure who a ton of people admire.

It would be wrong to say Armstrong has done nothing for cancer research and discredit his efforts in that aspect. He did fight and win a battle with cancer. He did create a foundation that has generated millions of dollars toward cancer research. But the millions of dollars he’s raised for the foundation came from his false image.

Is Livestrong successful because of Lance Armstrong? His name certainly made the brand more popular and easy to market. Will the foundation crumble without its shamed creator?

The livestrong brand and foundation is still living strong through this scandal. Donations are actually up 15 percent since the USADA released its evidence against Armstrong.

Was it necessary to remove his name from his own foundation?

Please comment to sound off.

A Recipe For Awesome

I’m a fan of Old Spice products. I love the smell; the entire brand represents masculinity and I for some reason remember that my Papaw used Old Spice deodorant. Perhaps it’s a bit nostalgic for me, but regardless, I am a sucker for anything with a scent that I can’t get enough of.

The commercials are random and fun and break through the advertising clutter. Old Spice advertising has done pretty well, but it’s about to get even more awesome.

Wieden + Kennedy is the advertising firm behind the Old Spice brand. They also represent Coca-Cola, Converse, Facebook, Nike and other big name brands. On Monday, Widen + Kennedy launched a search for a social strategist for the Old Spice account. What’s the big deal? They didn’t ask for just your resume and samples of your best work. Instead, Widen + Kennedy asked those interested in the job to participate in a series of challenges.

Monday, Oct. 29, participants have five days to complete the following:

  •  Challenge 1 - Create the best original Pinterest board dedicated to the sport of inline speed skating (NOT roller-hockey).
  • Challenge 2 - Create and post an original piece of content to Reddit that then receives the most upvotes in a single week.
  • Challenge 3 - Create and upload to SlideShare an original, in-depth competitive analysis of the Ed Hardy social media ecosystem.
  • Challenge 4 - Get the most people to friend your mother or your father (or a parent-like figure in your life) on Facebook in a single week.
  • Challenge 5 - Create an original (new) Twitter account and then use it to get the most followers in a week using any verbs you like, but only the following nouns: “BLUEFUDGE,” “HAMMERPANTS” and “GREEK YOGURT.”
  • Challenge 6 - Create an original YouTube video that then receives the most plays in a single week using this script verbatim:
    #1: “Wait. What are you doing?”
    #2: “Trust me. This will be fine.”
    #1: “Ok. Go ahead.”
  • Challenge 7 - Get recommendations on LinkedIn from at least three other people trying to get this job.
  • Challenge 8 - Create the most reviewed recipe on allrecipes.com in a single week using cottage cheese as an ingredient. The reviews don’t have to be good.
  • Challenge 9 - Upload the most pictures of your armpit(s) to Instagram during the course of this challenge. The pictures must have your face in them to verify your identity and include the hashtag #mypits.
  • Challenge 10 - Using Quora, give thought-out, meaningful answers to as many dream catcher-related questions as possible in a single week.

You can read the rules here.

Congratulations in advance to the winner! If you successfully complete all ten challenges, you are more than deserving of this job.

Not only will Widen + Kennedy have a more than qualified new member of its team, Old Spice will be pleased, too. I mean, if you were Old Spice, what would you think of an advertising firm launching such a thing, all for you? That is how to demonstrate you care about your clients and how to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

Slow down, partner!

It’s a fast world. The business world is an even faster one. The Internet is even faster. I don’t want to say we’ve all turned into robots, but when did everyone stop taking time to smell the roses? I live life fairly stress-free. Now mind you, I work I’m always broke but work two jobs and go to school full-time (17 credit hours). I’m going to graduate in a few months and I don’t really know what’s going to happen after that. My friends always say that they can’t understand how I’m so carefree and without stress.

We all have stress. I just take the time for myself every day and smell those pretty roses.

The folks at Dow Chemical, the largest chemical maker in the U.S. by sales, should probably slow their roll a little bit. Dow Chemical was going to announce major company restructuring and layoffs today, along with its third-quarter earnings.

Instead, a draft of the restructuring press release was sent to Bloomberg News on Tuesday night. Dow plans to cut 2,400 jobs and close 20 manufacturing plants for a $500 million saving even though the third-quarter earnings report beat analysts’ predictions. The company then had to release its earnings statement early.

Dow Chemical made the right decision to release both pieces of information on the same day. If the company had ignored the mistake and still waited until today to release its earnings, what would’ve happened to its stock prices on Wednesday? Dow’s stock prices actually increased as a result of the restructuring news.

Kudos to Dow Chemical. It’s not every day an announcement like that will end with rising stock prices. Dow did not go into panic mode, or try to back-track or stick to its scheduled release date. The company rolled with the punches and turned out fine.

The Surgeon General is suggesting chill pills for a large amount of the U.S. population. We make silly mistakes when we’re in a rush. I’m not naïve; I’ve been in plenty of chaotic situations, and I too, have rushed (gasp!).

All I am saying is: calm down and slow down. Panic causes more chaos, which can lead to mistakes. Do not let a few bumps in the road make you forget life’s little victories. For instance, today was busier than my usual Thursday. It’s a beautiful summer day in October (all of which I spent indoors and not enjoying). Of course, I got called into work tonight and a new bar in downtown Kent is opening, too. And it’s Halloween weekend! Not to mention all of the homework I need to complete before Saturday’s festivities. A bunch of little things added up to irritate and stress me out all day.

But, it’s a beautiful summer day at the end of October. I received word that one of my good friends is now in recovery after a car accident left him with serious brain injuries. I got to drive with my sunroof open all day and walk around in short sleeves. Those were my little victories today.

Half-Baked Thoughts

With the presidential election just around the corner, the obvious question on everyone’s mind is pepperoni, pineapple or sausage?  … Ok, so maybe it’s not on everyone’s mind but it’s definitely what the people at Pizza Hut are most concerned about. Pizza Hut dared debate-goers to ask the presidential candidates if they preferred sausage or pepperoni during the town hall debate on Tuesday.

*Cue awkward silence*

Whoever accepted the challenge would receive free pizza for life—a free pizza a week for up to 30 years. (Who wants that much pizza? As a broke college student I’m never one to turn down free food; thanks, but no thanks.) I’m sure it seemed like a good idea in theory, but to actually execute the plan left the doors wide open for anyone and everyone to mock the company. Was this plan just pure marketing genius or a shameless attempt at attention? Pizza Hut got plenty of free publicity for the challenge and got even more publicity when the company went back on its word.

Pizza Hut is now asking people engage in an online discussion about pizza toppings instead of asking President Obama and opponent Mitt Romney. The company will still honor its word of free pizza for life to one winner who votes on the sausage versus pepperoni debate.

At first thought, eh, no big deal. It was a ludicrous idea to begin with. But what does it say to customers when a company goes back on its word? You risk losing some customer loyalty which could hinder your company greatly. Maybe this time Pizza Hut got off the hot seat because it wasn’t a serious matter, but there’s a lesson here for the rest of us.

H&R Block is quickly gaining a poor reputation for going back on its word and the company doesn’t even seem like it’s aware of that. When I did a quick Google search about H&R Block complaints I got hundreds of results and complaints. One pissed off consumer titled the complaint, “THIS COMPANY DOESN’T STAND BEHIND THEIR WORD.” (Disregard the fact that it should be “its” instead of “their.”) The title is in all caps, so you know that individual is not a happy camper. At least he knows he’s not the only one, as other users shared their horror stories.

Looks like H&R Block should head back to customer service school ASAP.

Your company loses its credibility when it doesn’t follow through. It’s no different than everyday life. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it—no matter how big or small your task is. You might not be able to foresee the repercussions of not following through until it comes back to bite you.

So, Pizza Hut made a mockery of the presidential debate.  Within a week it retracted the sausage versus pepperoni challenge. I’m interested to see if this shameless PR stunt hurts sales or increases them.

The KitchenAid Mixup

Let’s go over some basic rules of tweeting because some of us need a quick lesson.

  • Rule number one: Think before you tweet.
  • Rule number two: It’s not nice to tweet about someone’s dead relative.
  • Rule number three: Triple check that the tweet is coming from your personal account, not your brand.

The presidential debate took Twitter by storm as no surprise. What was surprising was a tweet from KitchenAid, a popular brand providing all things—you guessed it, for the kitchen! It’s common for employees to sync their Twitter account between their personal account and the employer’s account. See where this is going?

An employee at KitchenAid committed a detrimental social media sin by sending a tweet from the wrong account, reaching nearly 25,000 followers. And it wasn’t just any old tweet. It was political and distasteful, no matter whose side you’re on. The sender wrote, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics”

In my opinion, the tweet shouldn’t have been sent from any account—personal or corporate. Since when is it all right to make fun of someone’s deceased family member? The biggest problem with social media is that its users’ tend to be made of steel and the Golden Rule doesn’t apply. The tweet wasn’t appropriate for any platform regardless of political views or ill feelings. You just don’t do that.

KitchenAid should give Cynthia Soledad good pat on the back for her quick action to resolve the situation. Soledad was on damage control almost immediately following the mistake. She first identified herself as the head of the brand and then personally apologized for the inappropriate tweet and took full responsibility. Soledad tweeted directly at President Obama, Mashable, Adweek and several other media outlets asking to talk on the record about what happened.

In a series of tweets she said, “It was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team, who needless to say, won’t be tweeting for us anymore,” and “That said, I take full responsibility for my team. Thank you for hearing me out.”

At least the entire KitchenAid Twitter team didn’t need a crash course in What Not To Tweet 101. Soledad made PR professionals smile all across the country, I assume. She took immediate action by introducing herself and apologizing. Soledad didn’t make up an excuse for the tweet, but rather took full responsibility. She apologized directly to the president, and reached out to several media outlets to speak about the gaffe.

Three days after the incident Soledad introduced herself on Twitter again to reassure consumers that appropriate actions have been taken with the person who sent the tweet and apologized to the President, his family and KitchenAid’s customers.

This social media PR blunder will probably go down in history on the list of PR blunders for two reasons: How ridiculous the tweet was and how well it was handled.

From Crisis to Redemption: How the NFL Created & Solved its Own Problem

Can’t we all just get along? … Nope.

The NFL is pretty familiar with PR crises. Its players don’t always make the best choices off the field, the rules seem to change constantly leaving fans unhappy, oh, and the replacement officials are doing a less than stellar job. If you didn’t watch the games to see for yourself, then you certainly heard about it on Twitter.

A Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks sent players and fans into a frenzy after the wildly under qualified replacement officials made the worst call in history. The replacement referees have made plenty of mistakes since the start of the season, but that game pushed everyone over the edge and made the NFL end the ref labor lockout. It started as a salary dispute between the NFL and the officials, and quickly snowballed into a media storm. Did no one see this coming?

The best thing about Twitter is that it’s real-time, which is apparently something the NFL either ignored or didn’t realize. Fans and players had been begging the NFL to end the lockout for weeks via Twitter after a plethora of bad calls by the replacement refs. The NFL painted a clear picture that it wasn’t listening to anyone. The league issued a statement that a pass-interference call was missed, but the NFL stood by the call.

Footlocker was left with some explaining to do because of the infamous Packers versus Seahawks game.  Fans and players joked that the NFL hired Footlocker employees to be the replacement officials because they wear a referee outfit as a work uniform. Footlocker reassured us that its employees were hard at work in the stores and not making the calls on the field.

T.J. Lang, a guard for the Green Bay Packers, sent out a tweet that sparked a lot of conversation. He dared the NFL to fine him after cursing out the replacement officials in a series of tweets following the game. Even President Obama took to Twitter to express his displeasure with the NFL and the replacement refs.

… Can you hear me now?

Apparently, because by Wednesday night the lockout was over and an agreement between the regular, qualified referees and the NFL was reached. The NFL couldn’t ignore its fans and players anymore as its reputation was dwindling by the second. If the league learned anything from this crisis, it learned two things: 1) Listen to what people are saying on social media, and 2) It got very lucky because not all crises solve itself. The NFL had no other choice than to settle the lockout immediately.

For now, all is well in the NFL realm. Peace has been restored. Sleep easy fans and players, the regular officials are back.

We All Fall Down But Can We All Get Back Up?

Endorsements are an easy way for a company to increase sales with the help of a famous celebrity or athlete, and the paycheck for appearing in commercials is quite a nice incentive. Landing the right person to endorse your product can be a blessing for all involved but it can also turn into a headache. We look up to famous people—we expect them to make good decisions on a daily basis and they are held to a higher standard. What happens when they mess up?

Shaun White is a charming athlete, with long and pretty curly red hair, who just happens to be unbeatable on a snowboard and skateboard. One could even get away with calling him a legend (yeah, he’s that good). His winning SuperPipe run at Winter X Aspen 2012 landed him the SuperPipe five-peat in Winter X Games history. White has 17 Winter X Games gold medals overall, and several Olympic gold medals. He appeared in the movie “Friends with Benefits” as himself, but he is no stranger to television. White has many commercials as he is endorsed by Target, Burton, Stride Gum and others. He’s a real stand-up guy.

Photo credit: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage.com

Or so many people thought until he was arrested for public intoxication and vandalism. White, in a drunken stupor, allegedly destroyed a Nashville hotel room and attacked someone who tried to stop him from fleeing the scene. What does this mean for his seemingly spotless, glittering image? It’s hard to say.

Where is the line drawn when deciding to keep endorsing someone or not? Nike still endorses Tiger Woods, who infamously cheated on his Swedish model wife with more than ten women, and the company recently signed UFC fighter Jon “Bones” Jones, who was convicted of a DUI in May. Neither of these men send a good message to children or young adults. Woods made the same mistake repeatedly, while Jones made a mistake once. Does that make one man better or worse than the other? And how many mistakes can one get away with?

White wasted no time making a public apology for his embarrassing drunken escapade in Nashville. And judging by the comments, his fans happily accepted. Does this make him more human to us non-legends, or was this scandal just not that big of a deal?

As Mike Tyson so elegantly stated in The Hangover, “we all do dumb shit when we’re f***ed up.”

White hasn’t lost his huge fan base, if anything they are among the most supportive I’ve seen. Had White not acknowledged his gaffe immediately or not at all, the situation may be different. He knows he made poor decisions and owned up to it. As long as the fans are still happy the endorsers should be, too.

As for Tiger Woods… I’m still confused as to how he got away with that one.