It’s Just A Manly Thing

From the archives: I wrote this for Brandweek in 2006 and thought I’d share it.

WHILE there’s always been money to be made preying on men’s insecurity, it seems to have reached truly ridiculous proportions of late. How else to explain the prevalence of the Hummer or "nutraceuticals," whose only effect is to enlarge the seller’s wallet? Since Brokeback Mountain broke, this trend seems bigger, firmer and more pronounced than ever.

Brokeback forced us to face the fact that the more "manly" a man is the more he will enjoy the company of other manly men. And, if the classic American cowboys—who spent all day in the company of other guys also wearing crotchless leather pants—aren’t paragons of heterosexuality, who is? This painfully obvious realization has been a huge boon for marketers. Any product now is ripe for man-lification. A kind of straight eye for the straight guy process that allows us dudes to convince ourselves that when we thought, "Hey, Heath Ledger is kind of cute," we really meant "WOOAH ALL RIGHT! Another Jenna Jameson tie-in!" Male anxiety is so rampant these days that no product is safe from being drenched in Y chromosomes.

Now there’s a more manly brand of branded meat. Specifically, Nascar officially licensed hot dogs, bologna and smoked sausages. Lord, how I wish I was making this up. Let me see if I can get this, pardon the word, straight: The way to sell more pounds of pork-related products is to associate it with large cars and overpowered engines? Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud, the dry cleaner called, apparently your slip is ready. Exactly how far in the closet do you have to be before you realize what it means to ask, "Hey Jake, would you like some of Jeff Gordon’s sausage?"

If we have reached a moment when the popular culture has a need for a butch-er butchered animal carcass, then it can come as no surprise that there’s a macho merlot to go with it. California vintner Ray’s Station is selling Sonoma County Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and calling them "Hearty Red Wines for Men." They are sold in extra thick glass bottles and a black label embossed with . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . a stallion. Should that not be enough to get the message across, the accompanying ads show a rugged 19th century "wine country pioneer" doing a little hunting and fishing. Of course those two activities mostly involve men spending time with other men while using devices that are shaped like . . . well, you know.

Wine has always been a sexually ambiguous topic for guys. Showing off your knowledge about wine is a good way to impress women which makes it a virility enhancer. But wine also is made from crushed grapes, is associated with France and requires you to use words like "bouquet" and "clean glasses." This definitely makes it less than Cro-Magnon friendly. Perhaps it explains why most liquor stores keep wine in its own special section—so it’s easily avoided by guys who aren’t sure if there’s a difference between Miller and Miller Genuine Draft.

What’s next: would you believe, candy bars. Yes, Nestlé ran ads in the U.K. last year proclaiming that its Yorkie brand Footie candy bars were "not for girls." The campaign played off the idea that football (aka footie, aka soccer) is only for guys. Packaging contained slogans such as, "It’s definitely not for girls," "no passes to lasses," and "no wenches on the benches." Per a Nestlé rep, "The spirit of this is to reclaim chocolate for men, based on the consumer insight that there are not many things that [a man] can look at and say that it’s just for him." That’s because Three Musketeers and Pay Day are just too damn effeminate.

This year, Nestlé is moving its alleged consumer insight from the U.K. to Russia with "Nestlé Classic for Men," a dark chocolate candy bar made with "whole almonds." Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud, call on line two . . . The line is in keeping with a Japanese manly candy called Men’s Chocolate Pocky, available at most grocery stores. What is it? Why it’s a long, cylindrical cookie covered with chocolate, of course. Hard to get more heterosexual than that.

Why is it that the more desperately us guys try to prove we only are interested in the opposite sex, the more we look like we’re trying out for parts in the Village People reunion tour? Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .

Glad provides “recipes” for trash bag use

I hate it when people beat me at my own game but I have to give them props when they do. Got this from my buddy Chris Howard, who writes SF (he just got a novel accepted for publication!!) and the very good blog Theophrastus:

glad I’m hoping you can explain Glad’s use of the phrase “For the protection you need to get things done” on a box of 13-gallon kitchen trash bags, and then there’s the prompt to check out the Glad.com Website for “recipes” and other info.

Two things struck me odd this morning as I was taking out the trash and then putting a new bag in the can. First, I don’t think I have ever thought about “protection” while taking out the trash, and only occasionally when I’m getting “things done.”

Second, recipes aren’t high on the list at that time either–especially with the box clearly marked, “NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FOOD STORAGE” in English and Spanish.

This is a result of a problem facing all marketers: We think customers spend as much time thinking about our products as we do. I wrote a story about Glad and the success it has had for Brandweek. One of the people I interviewed there said something to the effect of “If the consumer spends more than a few seconds thinking about trash bags then it’s because it’s broken and you’ve screwed up.” Words to live by.

Dumb PR move of the day: Suing the Red Cross for using a red cross

Kudos to my former employer for getting this one:

J&J, one of the largest drug makers in the world has sued the Red Cross over its use of one of the most famous symbols in the world – the red cross.

I don’t see ANY upside to Johnson & Johnson for this one. Even if they win the court case, they lose.

The aliens aren’t coming!

Over at The16thMinute I bloviate about an ugly trend that seems to be forming in the book publishing world.

Now we have “An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion.” It has a number of authors all of whom are, it seems, experts in a variety of real defense-related issues. Description: “This book describes a serious look at defending the planet in the event of an extra-terrestrial invasion.”

STOP.

I admit I am guilty of the classic sin of offering an opinion on a book I haven’t read, but I have to. I don’t want to see “When Vampires Attack: A Handbook,” “How To Pour Salt On A Giant Radioactive Sea Slug,” or “The Hunter’s Guide To Killing and Preparing Dinosaurs.”

Actually that radioactive sea-slug book is looking more appealing by the minute. Excuse me while I write up a book proposal.

AND … another one over at the other blog: Global warming grows cold.

Global Warming: The Event has just jumped the sharks that global warming — the reality — is killing off.

Don Imus, Uncle Ben, Uncle Remus & Me

Wrote a column about this for Brandweek.

If you can find a copy of the print magazine, check out the head shot. I look like a bad CGI.

While Procter & Gamble dropping his show was more costly, in many ways the worst news for I-man was when Miralus Healthcare, a.k.a. “Head-On,” pulled its ads. Once they left, pretty much the only sponsors remaining were bail-bond shops and “Smiling Bob.” I mean, the only thing worse than that would be getting canned by MSNBC. Oh, wait a minute.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a story for Brandweek about Kimberly-Clark, the company that makes Kleenex and a bunch of other brands. I got a nice little scoop on how they were hiring three top people in their marketing department. Not exactly Pulitzer but I was proud of it. In this week’s issue AdAge a similar story is there lead on the front page. Nothing wrong with that. Someone breaks a story and others follow up, hopefully adding more to it. And they do add to it. Including some important info which I didn’t have: K-C will be ramping up marketing spending $200 million by 2009 and readying a massive shift to nontraditional media. Good on them. Good solid facts and a good solid article.

But here’s a little complaint: In the print version there’s this tagline on the subhead that says EXCLUSIVE. So what’s exclusive? That they got different information than I did? By that standard everything in the magazine should get an exclusive tag. Let’s not oversell the goods here gang.

P&G has devil of a time collecting damages in Satan case

That $19.25M they were supposed to get? Turns out that:

  1. The jurors guesstimated the amount based on what they think the lawyers charged.
  2. The judge — not the jury — gets to decide what, if any, lawyer fees can be awarded.
  3. The original judge thought it would be a cold day in … well you know … before P&G collected even if they proved the case.

The Satan Desk at Brandweek has the full details here.

Three stories by me from Brandweek

First, the one that won me the coveted Satan beat: Companies Have Devil Of A Time Denying Rumors

16th minute logoNext is this week’s installment of The 16th Minute: Pet food recall catches brands with their product down.

Then there’s the full-length story on the problems with marketers and Second Life: Are marketers dying on Second Life?

Market research shows Second Life should be dead to marketers

According to me (in my other blog —The 16th Minute):

The German marketing research agency Komjuniti surveyed 200 Second Life users and found: 

The buzz is definitely off the bloom.

More, more, more

16th minute logoIn case just avoiding this one blog wasn’t troublesome enough, I now have another one. Brandweek’s The 16th Minute tracks when trends, brands, people, etc., have reached the end of Mr. Warhol’s 15 minutes. It is written with all the respect and decency that regular readers have come to expect here at CD. Probably the biggest difference between that blog and this one is that the main page features “teases” and not just the entire blog entry. OK, there’s another difference — on The 16th Minute I don’t get to just make stuff up. Damn libel laws.

It’s award season … the worst of the worst

Got an email asking, “Who do you think should be Pierce Mattie’s Publicist of the Year?” This was actually asking me to vote for someone on the staff of this firm I had never heard of before. Elsewhere, Brandweek has its “Best + Worst” issue out this week and PRDisasters.com is seeking nominees for its annual award. Some places have had the temerity to suggest that Dick Cheney, Michael Richards and Mel Gibson are in danger of sharing the prize. HAH! (And although this is a late addition, you’ve got to at least give a nod to former Wal-Marter Julie Roehm.)

One PR gaffe was so big this year that it should take the Gold, Silver & Bronze and these others just get honorable mentions. This year’s Chicago Cubs of Public Relations: Judith Regan for the OJ Simpson “I Did It” fiasco. From horrible idea to horrible product to horrible spin control no one else even came close. Richards and Gibson at least both admitted after the fact that they were assholes.

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I met Mike Rowe and you didn’t … Nyah nyah.

So I was at the ANA’s annual conference last week which is why no posts in a while. This year’s was held in Orlando which made Mrs. Collateral Damage and CD jr. very happy as they piggy backed on to go visit the local Mouse emporium. Sure, I got to interview the CEO and CMO of Procter & Gamble and the CMO of Charles Schwab and the marketing boss for Clorox but more importantly I SHOOK HANDS WITH MIKE ROWE. Mr. R, host of the incredibly great and gross TV show “Dirty Jobs” on Discovery, emcee’d the Marketer of The Year Awards for Brandweek. His timing was dead on and he was funny as ever, except when he had to do a couple of scripted bits, but that wasn’t his fault. It was more than a wee bit odd to have this chronicler of the down-and-very-dirty and real speaking infront of a group of people who who would really like it if their work was mistaken for authentic … but hey that’s what irony is all about isn’t it?

OuchFor those of you who care, here is a picture of me at registration for the ANA. All journalists had a barcode tattooed on to them. For what it’s worth the UPC for journalists does start with a 666.