Lipstick on the Enviropig: A Tale of Messaging and Manure

Lipstick on the Enviropig: A Tale of Messaging and Manure

We marketers are optimistic by nature. We’re trained to see the most desirable aspects of the products we sell and minimize the potential drawbacks. This optimism can be a problem however if we lose sight of how customers actually perceive our products and start to believe everyone sees them the way we wish they did. In my first marketing job my boss gave me some very wise advice: Don’t get caught smoking your own marketing Which brings me to this example. Here in Canada, the University of Guelph announced a research project called “The Enviropig.” From the site: The Enviropig™ is a genetically enhanced line of Yorkshire pigs with the capability of digesting plant phosphorus more efficiently than conventional Yorkshire pigs. These pigs produce the enzyme phytase in the salivary glands that is secreted in the saliva. When cereal grains are consumed, the phytase mixes with the feed as the pig chews. Once the food is swallowed, the phytase enzyme is active in the acidic environment of the stomach, degrading indigestible phytate in the feed that accounts for 50 to 75% of the grain phosphorus. Simply put – this pig can digest phosphorus from pig feed more efficiently than regular pigs. This means the pig doesn’t need to get fed expensive phosphorus supplements and also produces manure with less phosphorus. Phosphorus in pig manure is a major source of freshwater pollution. Hey, less pollution, that sounds pretty good! The site even goes so far as to helpfully point out that raising an Enviropig is just like raising a regular pig: …the technology is simple, if you know how to...

Blackberry vs. iPhone on CBC’s The National

Last week I got a call from the folks at CBC’s The National asking if I would like to chat about my Blackberry on a Blackberry vs. iPhone debate.  I’m a long time Blackberry fan but my initial inclination was to turn them down mainly because I know how raving mad iPhone folks are and I wasn’t sure I was willing to be an Apple fan punching bag for a company I don’t even work for.  In the end I decided to do it because I really do love my Blackberry and hey, how often do you get to blab on national TV about something you like? I’m expecting the folks at RIM to send me a new Torch any day now 😉 I also got to put a check mark beside the item: “Say the word fart on Canadian national television” on my bucket list. Here’s the clip: If you enjoyed that, you should subscribe!  You can sign up for email updates, subscribe via RSS or follow me on...

Marketing, Lying and the iPhone 4

I’m surprised at how often I hear people say that it’s OK for marketing to lie about products.  I’ve even heard people say that lying about products is marketing’s “job”.  Newsflash: It’s not marketing’s job to lie.  In fact, it’s not OK at all for marketing to lie.  Trust is expensive to rebuild once you lose it. The Retina Display “Fib” The topic of how much lying marketing can “get away with” came up recently with the launch of the Apple iPhone 4.  At the launch, Steve Jobs touted Apple’s new “retina display”, describing the resolution as better than “the limit of the human retina”.  This spawned a debate about the technology, starting with several experts who questioned the claim that the display was better than the limit of the human eye.  There were also complaints that Apple had “faked” images of the display in its advertising, showing a resolution that was much higher than the phone could actually display. The Reception Issue/Non-issue Just when things had seemed to quiet down a bit, the issue of the new phone’s reception hit the news.  It began with users complaining that holding the phone by the bottom left hand corner would cause it to lose reception and drop calls.  Apple responded by stating that other phones had similar issues and that customers should simply hold the phone differently or buy a case.  Users were not terribly happy with either of those options.  A few days later, Apple issued another statement saying that the problem was really due to the way signal strength was calculated and displayed.  What looked like 4 bars...

Is Facebook More Important Than Google?

Yesterday Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO made a series of announcements about “Open Graph” which may result in a huge change in the way we experience the internet.  These changes put it directly in competition with Google. Why Facebook Matters The growth in the Facebook user base is staggering: 400 million active users More than 5 billion pieces of content shared each week Over 60 million status updates posted each day 100 million users of Facebook Connect (a way for external websites to integrate with Facebook, the precursor to Open Graph) The scale and reach of Facebook is astonishing and their growth shows no signs of slowing. What is Open Graph? Today Facebook keeps track of connections between people.  The goal of Open Graph is to extend that to include connections between people and interests including music, food, brands, places and websites.  Facebook will now allow applications and websites to share this information.  The key to how this will work is the new “Like” button.  So let’s say you’re surfing on IMDB and you click the Like button to show that you liked a particular movie.  This information gets posted in your movies section of your profile along with specific information that IMDB passes to Facebook (the title of the movie, the director, etc.).  Inside Facebook, clicking on a movie that a friend has liked on IMDB will take the user directly back to the site.  Outside of Facebook, when users visit a website built with Open Graph, they will be able to see their friends’ activity directly on the site, without having to go back to Facebook. ...

Presentation Skills: Lessons Learned from SXSW

I was at South by Southwest Interactive last week and got to watch a lot of people present.  Here’s a bit of what I took away about how to give a better presentation: 1/ Respect your audience – Gary Vaynerchuk shook hands and hugged attendees as they entered his session and gave bottles of wine to people that asked questions.  This is a presenter that doesn’t just talk about customer service, he’s a practitioner.  I loved his approach to working with an audience instead of lecturing to us. 2/ Come prepared – It was painfully obvious when folks hadn’t prepared and even some seasoned presenters blew it.  At one panel, Robert Scoble ran a laptop connected to the screens and we squirmed watching him search online for the hashtag (a way to reference the talk on Twitter) that was printed on the card in front of him facing the audience.   The hashtag was (ironically/appropriately): “twittertools” 3/ Keep us awake – The Evan Williams keynote Q&A may have contained what interviewer Umair Haque called “nuggets of brilliance” but it was delivered with the passion of a bowl of oatmeal, and the majority of the audience chose to get up and leave.  I also think that anyone speaking on the fourth day of a conference that is well known for its, um, evening activities, should probably err on the side of less intellectual noodling and more punch.  In this case the punch we were looking for was more details around @anywhere. 4/ Slides are optional – Clay Shirky gave a smart, engaging talk without any visual aides whatsoever (excluding his three...

Business Lessons from John Mayer and Google Buzz

What do John Mayer and Google Buzz product managers have in common?  They’re both having a rough couple of weeks.  In case you don’t follow both technology and celebrity gossip news, popular musician John Mayer made some controversial statements in a magazine interview about his ex-girlfriends and other folk that resulted in some heavy criticism.  During the same time frame, Google released Google Buzz, a new Gmail feature that allows users to share updates, photos and videos.  Initially, the default mode of this service automatically followed people users had exchanged email and chats with and made those visible to others, resulting in privacy concerns for some users and some heavy criticism. It struck me that there were some common themes between the two incidents and business lessons to be learned.  Not really but it’s my blog OK, and I always wanted to write a post about John Mayer and Google.  Indulge me here as I give you – Business Lessons from John Mayer and Google Buzz: Just because we love you doesn’t mean you have permission to be a tool. – Success changes things.  If you’re a celebrity rock star folks probably hang on your every word.  But just because people love you doesn’t mean you are incapable of putting your foot in your mouth if you aren’t careful.  Similarly, just because you are Google doesn’t mean that sometimes you won’t get it wrong.  Today’s happy customers will cut you some slack but you can’t stop doing the work to make them happy in the future. Trying new stuff in a controlled environment can save you embarrassment. – For...
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