. The Transom .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Remember when people used to just get fired?

It was reported today that Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal will 'retire' from the company after taking the blame for billions of dollars of write offs for bad debt investments in the subprime market. And that's just in the third quarter. It's expected that another several billion will have to be written off in the 4th quarter. O'Neal's backers will say he turned the company around after 2001 and built ML to a powerhouse. Of course, he cut 20,000 jobs in order to do it, but those are just details.

So what does Mr. O'Neal get for admittedly running the company into financial strain, putting 20,000 people out of work, and losing money for millions of investors? Only about $200 million in severance. The ML board was so mad at him for talking to Wachovia about a potential merger that they wrote him a big fat check and took his key to the executive bathroom. Wow, they sure showed him.

All this does for Merrill Lynch is what it did for Home Depot when Nardelli took his millions and left the fledgling company - give it a credibility black eye. If you're a ML client that just lost a chunk of your savings on O'Neal's gamble, wouldn't you be a little upset that you are left with nothing and he walks away with $200 million? What kind of message does that send to ML stakeholders? It's a clear one - customers and clients are not priority number one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

So much is wrong with this...

Why stop at one branding message when you can have two? That seems to be the thought process behind the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission when they unveiled the new slogan for the city - "St. Louis. All Within Reach." By itself, it isn't all bad. But when you consider that just last year the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) unveiled its new slogan for the area - "St. Louis. Perfectly Centered, Remarkably Connected," it seems a bit confusing. Are we nearby or are we connected to something?

Even more confusing is the CVC's reasoning for the slogan. It wants to send out a 'unified message.' If that was really the case, why not stick with the existing slogan by the RCGA. We all know it's costing enough in marketing dollars to promote the Perfectly Centered slogan. Why not expand on that if we're trying to be unified. Call me crazy, but different doesn't equal unified. In addition, "All Within Reach" doesn't exactly state the truth for those of us living in the city. The highway 40 construction certainly doesn't make downtown within reach of much. Throw in the not-so-terrific-or-timely-or-reliable public transportation and the slogan should have been, "St. Louis - Check Back in 10 Years."

The only thing going for this new slogan is the logo. It kicks ass.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Short Hairs of the World Unite!

I think marketing in the US has become too segmented. We now have an audience and a subsequent media outlet, for reaching anyone with any interest. Case in point, walking through the halls at work today I noticed a magazine on a colleague's desk. It's called "Short Hair." Yes, there is an actual magazine for people who have, like, want, know someone who has, or are generally interested in, short hair. To me, that is just incredible. I'm betting if you dig deep enough you could find the "Left-Handed Tooth-Brushers Digest." It's just too much.

Do we as a society want to be grouped and segmented so much that we associate ourselves with smaller and smaller groups of people? It's bad enough that we only consume the news we want to consume, with RSS and personalized home pages, but now we further distance ourselves from our neighbors. Can you just call yourself an American? How about a Floridian or a Republican? There isn't one title that suits you, I get that. But do we have to get to the level of hair? In the ridiculous world of segmentation and over-analyzing demographics, it would be nice if people paid attention to more than just their personal interests. Just think how much we could accomplish if the short-hairs and long-hairs came together for the greater good.