brand challenges

McDonald's Promotes Reading, Healthy Eating with Happy Meal Books—But Is It Enough?

Posted by Dale Buss on October 10, 2013 04:27 PM

McDonald's certainly can't win with some critics. Its new promotion involves giving away millions of books that will advance both children's literacy and their understanding of healthy eating. But all some people see are a cynical way to sell more fast food.

Which, of course, is what McDonald's is in business to do. It'd be tough to make a mass business, employ all those workers and pay all those taxes with a trade that offered only, say, hand-made artisan sandwiches of artichokes and avocados with a chaser of kombucha.

In lieu of toys, McDonald's US plans to distribute more than 20 million paperback books inside its Happy Meals in the US during the first half of November, a gambit which could make it the country's "largest children's book publisher for the month," as Ad Age observed.

The move is "yet another effort to appease criticis who have lambasted its Happy Meals for the food quality, the licensed toys and kid-targeted marketing," noted USA Today. The brand launched a similar effort back in the UK back in January, where it received much the same criticism.Continue reading...

brand challenges

It's About Time: Musk Comes to Defense of Model S After Viral Fire Incident

Posted by Dale Buss on October 7, 2013 07:08 PM

Not surprisingly, Elon Musk himself has jumped to the forefront of how Tesla is handling fallout from last week's fire on a roadway near Seattle that consumed a Tesla Model S. The Tesla CEO and co-founder defended the car's safety in part by asserting the accident could have been much worse if the same circumstances had embroiled a conventionally powered vehicle.

It was incumbent on Musk to do something in part because of how the share price of high-flying Tesla was whacked late last week by 10 percent by news of the fiery incident in Kent, Wash., on October 1, when metal debris that had been left on the road punctured the underside of the Model S. On Monday, the stock had recovered an additional 1 percent after rising by more than 4 percent on Friday.

"The geometry of the object," that had fallen off a semi-trailer "caused a powerful lever action as it went under the car," Musk wrote in a company statement, "punching upward and impaling the Model S with a peak force on the order of 25 tons. Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse."Continue reading...

brand challenges

It Was Just One Little Incident, but Tesla Battery Fire May Smolder for Brand

Posted by Dale Buss on October 3, 2013 02:29 PM

Fire and ice seem to be the only things that can get in Tesla's way. Viral scenes of a Tesla Model S electric car that caught fire this week in Seattle likely have nicked Tesla stock and caused widespread concern about the company's future, much as the brand's battle of histrionics with the New York Times earlier this year over the car's cold-weather performance.

Tesla has only clinically explained that the fire was caused by the "direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack," according to the New York Times. But it noted that the fire was "contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle." The driver reportedly escaped without harm, and emergency responders extinguished the fire eventually.

Nevertheless, this is the kind of issue that even the high-flying Tesla can't afford to let get out of hand. Lithium-ion-battery fire incidents whacked GM's Chevrolet Volt nearly two years ago and were the basis of concerns about the flight-worthiness of Boeing's Dreamliner airplane.Continue reading...

brand challenges

A Lack of Transparency and Heavy Jargon is Putting a Black Mark on LinkedIn's Resume

Posted by Eric Starkman on September 27, 2013 04:58 PM

The following is a guest post from Eric Starkman, the president of STARKMAN, a public relations and brand management firm with offices in New York and San Francisco. He previously was an editor and reporter at major newspapers in the US and Canada.

Yet another technology company, this time LinkedIn, is making headlines for alleged privacy infractions, and I cannot say that I'm surprised. For all their revolutionary savvy at introducing innovative products and apps that make life a whole lot more entertaining, convenient, or efficient, far too many cling to outdated models when it comes to responding to PR and reputation management issues. 

When crises arise, there is an almost universal "politician-esque" response mechanism: spin, spin, spin your way out of it. Rather than opt for plain-speak and transparency in communicating with stakeholders, the tactics of choice more typically involve deflection, deception, distortion, and doublespeak. Applying this type of cavalier, contemptuous Beltway approach to the corporate world rarely, if ever, is successful, yet that hasn't stopped technology companies from increasingly tapping politicos to oversee their PR and communications efforts. It's certainly a head-scratcher.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Darden Latest to be Scored for Wages, but Bigger Problem Prevails

Posted by Dale Buss on September 26, 2013 06:37 PM

Besides poor sales this year that are resulting in layoffs, Darden Restaurant Group now is getting more pressure over its pay, similar to the "living wage" critique that lately has been leveled against the fast-food industry.

Only in the case of Darden and its Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands, critics are pointing out that operators can pay sub-minimum wages in many states because of tipping laws. That concern was the main subject of an opinion piece, titled "Why Your Waiter Hasn't Gotten a Raise in 22 Years," that received wide circulation recently. 

Sub-minimum wages "hel[p] large restaurant corporations and their CEOs pad their bottom lines while trapping millions of American workers in economic insecurity," argued Scott Klinger of the Institute for Policy Studies.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Disney Alters Privileges for Disabled Visitors After Reported System Abuse

Posted by Sheila Shayon on September 24, 2013 02:13 PM

A little magic just left the Magic Kingdom as Disney has been forced to make changes to its Guest Assistance Program that, among other things, allowed disabled park visitors to skip long lines for attractions.

The move is in reaction to the system being abused by visitors, specifically wide-spread stories of wealthy families hiring disabled "tour guides" that allowed them access to certain privileges, including access to alternate entrances and preferential show viewings. The current GAC system will be replaced with the Disability Access Service Card (DASC).

"Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process to create a more consistent experience for all our guests while providing accommodations for guests with disabilities," Suzi Brown, Director of Media Relations and External Communications at Disneyland said in a statement.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Starbucks Declares Firearms "Unwelcome" but Still Plays Both Sides of the Gun Debate

Posted by Abe Sauer on September 18, 2013 12:21 PM

"[T]oday we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores."

The underlining for effect was Starbucks', not ours. Following America's most recent tragic mass shooting—this time at Washington's Navy Yard—it appears Starbucks, long a perceived and publicized ally for the pro-gun Second Amendment movement, has finally taken a side. 

Long before the most recent gun-related tragedies, including the Newtown school shootings and Aurora theater tragedy, Starbucks had unintentionally become a central figure in the pro-gun movement. As other chains moved to ban open-carry and concealed weapons from their outlets, Starbucks held fast in its position of abiding by state carry laws. While the company has seemingly ignored both the positive and negative attention it recieved for its stance, it has continued to be leveraged by activist groups, including a campaign dubbed "Skip Starbucks Saturday" that took place in August that was led by, in part, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

Perhaps the anti-gun protests and propaganda have worked, as CEO Howard Schultz has laid out an exceptionally reasoned plea to gun owners to refrain from carrying firearms in Starbucks outlets.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Walmart Ready to Re-Up Plans After D.C. Mayor Vetoes "Living Wage" Bill

Posted by Dale Buss on September 12, 2013 04:47 PM

Walmart has won a huge victory for its business model, brand and worldview with the vetoing of the "living wage" bill today by Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray.

The Large Retailer Accountability Act, nicknamed a living-wage measure, would have mandated that big-box stores like Walmart pay about 50 percent more to their workers inside the District than the city's minimum wage, or about $12.50 compared with $8.25.

Walmart, along with other big-box retailers and business allies argued that the measure would actually hurt economic development and income in the city by forcing Walmart's withdrawal from its existing store development plans there and eliminating thousands of existing and potential jobs in some economically depressed zones. 

The company argued that its absence would further harm low-income residents by depriving them of the low prices that the retailer and others specialize in. There's also the argument about fresh-produce "deserts" in central cities that, in part, are being filled in by new Walmarts.Continue reading...

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