Sticking up for salmon?

Apparently, I’m not the only person skeptical of ‘bcsalmonfacts’ PR tactics.

Simon Houpt a marketing columnist from the Globe and Mail made these comments in a recent column that looks at “Four bites from the world of marketing, including one about China’s attempt at PR in Times Square”:

Sticking up for salmon

China isn’t the only one fighting perceived misinformation. The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association is rolling out a $1.5-million public education campaign that tries to confront reports over the negative health and environmental effects of farmed salmon. In one humorous TV spot, a pair of office buddies tell each other about an e-mail they received promising a million-dollar payday in exchange for helping a stranger execute a money transfer from abroad. As they quietly celebrate, the on-screen text reads: “Imagine if we believed everything we heard. The way we do about farmed salmon.” It gets our attention, sure.

We’re just not sold on the strategy of telling people to be skeptical of what, um, people tell them.

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Houpt has another interesting column in the “Marketing” section of the Globe’s Business section.

Wind Mobile shows its serious side

Canadian cellphone marketing took a walk in the valley of the shadow of death on Monday morning. At an event in Toronto kicking off a competition sponsored by Wind Mobile, the company’s chairman Anthony Lacavera seemed knocked briefly speechless as he listened to the mountain climber Aron Ralston explain what had led him to cut off his own right forearm to free himself from a boulder in a Utah canyon.

“I was literally in my grave,” recalled Mr. Ralston, of the horrifying five days in April, 2003, that forms the subject of the current feature film 127 Hours. “I was drinking my own urine at that point: This was the real, raw edge of existence.”

If you don’t know what this could possibly have to do with helping consumers choose between cellphone plans, then you haven’t been paying attention to the changing world of marketing.

Companies in the business of fun and frivolous products and services have been lining up to show their serious side, from Labatt’s effort in November to raise money for testicular cancer research to Virgin Mobile Canada throwing its marketing muscle behind the teenage homeless charity Raising the Roof.

Over the last two years, PepsiCo Inc. has given millions of dollars in small grants to community-based projects around North America, while Coca-Cola Co. has formed a partnership with the obesity-fighting fitness organization ParticipAction. Telus Corp. donated $200,000 to the purchase of digital mammography machines after hundreds of thousands of Facebook users responded to a call to temporarily turn their profile picture pink.

The Wind campaign will donate $100,000 to each of five charities, to be chosen by five public figures who make themselves available for a single 10-minute cellphone call with one of the contest winners, as well as another $100,000 to be split by six charities determined by online votes…

In its public-relations materials, the company dangled the names of Justin Bieber, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack Obama, though it has not secured the participation of any of them.

But as an upstart in an industry dominated by rich incumbents – Wind says it has “north of a quarter-million” subscribers, while the three main national carriers each has more than eight million – the company must do what it can to grab people’s attention. “In today’s world, advertising is not having the same impact it used to have,” Mr. Lacavera explained during an interview after the event. “It is about cause marketing, it is about social innovation, and it is a lot more about PR.”

“I think you’re going to see more and more of this happening. The idea of trying to tell people: ‘Buy my product for this price, with product guarantees’ – that’s no longer selling people.”

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Coca-cola is partnering with obesity fighting organizations…? Oil companies ad pipeline companies are partnering with the Nature Conservancy…? Car companies are selling themselves as “green”…? Airline companies selling themselves as “carbon neutral”…?

Seems the “facts” are only going to get stretched like a yoga-yogi meditation pose…Or it will be akin to the odd tactic of speaking with someone who speaks a different language than yourself, and thinking that yelling at them – or at using a louder voice (e.g. “which way to the bathroom!!”) — will assist in reaching understanding and comprehension (and sometimes relief).

…and thus folks may need to be a little more critical thinking in believing what is “shouted” at them by companies competing ever harder to get their attention — and largely have the sole purpose (or at least modus operandi) of making profits for shareholders.

And so if someone suggests that their business practices actually “conserve wild fish stocks”… maybe our B.S. detector might need to start blaring… and seek clarity on that rather broad, loose statement (along with a definition of what “conserve” actually means)…

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