Bimbo Banter

BIMBO Nominees For July 2019

  • Bimbo
  • July 1, 2019
  • by Spaeth Communications

Bimbo blog image e

This month features BIMBO comments from Chinese company Huawei, Former Vice President (and current presidential candidate) Joe Biden, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and anti-vax doctor Andrew Wakefield. We also explore an interesting examination of how a number inadvertently became the standard for allowing young people access to mature digital content, a humorous social media example from Pakistan, a video apology, further proof everyone is a reporter and the need for companies to develop competitive video before a crisis. And of course, an interesting non-verbal example from the first 2020 Democratic debates, about which we could have dedicated a whole Memo.  


“My lipsticks are not moldy, they are not contaminated, they are not unsafe for you in any way shape or form,” said Jaclyn Hill responding to complaints that the first shipment of lipsticks in her cosmetics line arrived with “holes, plastic particles or unknown fibers that resemble hairs.” (Hill, a blogger and beauty promoter with thousands of devoted followers, learned that if you live by social media, you can die by social media after her acolytes posted pictures of the tainted product. This is a good example of someone who needed media training badly but who thought she didn’t need it as a star and knows everything. She tried to explain and apologize in a very long video, which only served to reinforce the negative publicity. Those black dots? Not mold, they’re “oxygen bubbles.” The “white fuzzies”? Not mold, but remnants of “gloves used by the laboratory.” Like so many of these examples, she had something redeemable to say: “Every single ingredient in my lipsticks is new and FDA approved.” She also said that she would “make it right” and offered customers experiencing quality issues full refunds and new product, which sold out in hours after its launch. However, these positive responses were overshadowed by the “moldy” charge. Note that her denial became the headline. This situation also includes an example of the misuse of a statistic. A spokesperson from Jaclyn Cosmetics issued a statement that said, “… less than half of one percent of orders were impacted by compromised product.” While that may be a small number to Hill, the only order customers care about is theirs! Plus, the “compromised” products account for 100 percent of the complaints and posted pictures.)

MSN, “Jaclyn Hill Responds After Backlash Over Quality of Her Lipstick Line: ‘My Lipsticks Are Not Moldy,’” June 13, 2019


“There were never any missing organs,” said York County Coroner Pam Gay trying to tamp down an outcry over a US Army veteran who died mysteriously in police custody when trying to resolve a DUI warrant. When his body was returned to his family, “his throat, heart and brain were missing.” (This is a case study in how not to handle a complaint. Gay came up with successive explanations, but they were late, dribbled out and never with any expression of concern or empathy. By the way, what was that explanation? That the forensic pathologist, a contracted service, didn’t mention they retained the specimens. Hmm…)

CNN, “A veteran died in police custody. His body was returned to his family with some organs missing,” June 8, 2019

“There is no nefarious aspect to it,” said Google’s public liaison for the search function, Danny Sullivan, trying to respond to a growing problem with the algorithm for what the company calls “knowledge panels.” These panels, which “gather information from Wikipedia and many other sources on the internet,” once appeared only in searches for “important historical figures and other famous people” but now appear for a wider range. The issue is of accuracy, with some falsely declaring more and more people deceased who are still very much alive. (The first aspect of the problem is the algorithm. The greater problem is that there is no way to appeal to a human to reverse the situation. High-profile people like Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch have been described in their respective panels as deceased and Former CEO of Aetna Ron Williams as well as Google’s Former CEO Eric Schmidt have been misrepresented in their panels. Williams’ panel credited him for the “‘Miami Heat Wave,’ a photo collection of muscular men in their underwear,” and Schmidt was listed as the author of “Pharmacy Technician Exam Certification and Review.”)

The Wall Street Journal, “What if Google’s ‘Knowledge Panels’ Insist You’re Dead? Or Married? Or French?” May 30, 2019

“We don’t want to launch a product to destroy our reputation,” said a spokesperson for Chinese company Huawei trying to explain why they were delaying the launch of their foldable phone. (This is a classic example of a negative or inverted statement. The spokesperson should have said, “We want to launch products that will sustain our reputation for innovation and dependability.” The company spokesperson also seems oblivious to the current state of Huawei’s reputation, banned in the U.S. and under scrutiny for cyber security and espionage concerns.)

Seeking Alpha, “Huawei delays foldable phone launch,” June 14, 2019

“There’s not a racist bone in my body… ,” said Former Vice President Joe Biden, trying to tamp down a controversy on the presidential campaign trail over comments about his past work with segregationist lawmakers in the 1970s to “(get) things done.” (We counsel the other Democratic candidates not to attack Biden on this point. He clearly wasn’t endorsing segregation; rather, he was describing his ability to build coalitions. Biden did go on to point out that he had worked on civil rights issues for decades but the “racist bone” line and the call for Sen. Cory Booker to apologize to him dominated the news.)

HuffPost, “Joe Biden Refuses to Apologize for Comments on Segregationists,” June 19, 2019

“At no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company’s obligations under the FTC consent order... ,” said a statement from Facebook in response to reports that emails produced during litigation revealed that CEO Mark Zuckerberg perhaps knew about practices violating a 2012 FTC accord regarding data-use rules. (This is a classic hedge statement probably written by lawyers. If Zuckerberg didn’t violate the law “knowingly,” he obviously recognized that he violated it.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Facebook Worries Emails Could Show Zuckerberg Knew of Questionable Privacy Practices,” June 12, 2019

“I have never been involved in scientific fraud,” said disgraced British doctor and key leader in the anti-vaccine movement Andrew Wakefield. (Wakefield wrote the 1998 study in the Lancet that ostensibly linked the MMR vaccine with autism. Years later, the publisher retracted the study after an investigation that “concluded that Wakefield had financial and ethical conflicts of interest, and had acted ‘dishonestly.’” Given the damage this man has caused, we can’t think of anything he could say except to honestly retract his false findings.)

The Washington Post, “Meet the New York couple donating millions to the anti-vax movement,” June 19, 2019

“My resignation should in no way be confused as confirmation of these mischaracterizations,” wrote Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio. DiGiorgio was accused by a former candidate for Philadelphia City Council of sending her a photo via Facebook Messenger of his erect, er, “male member,” as my great aunt used to say. What was he thinking? And what can he possibly say to dig himself out of this hole? The report in The Philadelphia Inquirer describes that the exchanges between DiGiorgio and the female candidate grew even more lewd and sexually charged. Nobody looks good in this dispute. Really, in this day and age, don’t people realize that what you put on the internet gets passed around and lives forever?

The New York Times, “Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Resigns Amid Sexting Scandal,” June 25, 2019


This article explores the impact of a casual designation of age 13 as the appropriate age for children to be able to download certain apps and create email and social media accounts. Interestingly, the article explains this isn’t an age restriction based on content. Tech companies are just abiding by a 1998 law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was intended to protect the privacy of children ages 12 or under.” Researchers claimed, “Across the board, parents and youth misinterpret the age requirements that emerged from the implementation of COPPA.” Now the age of 13 is recognized as a much-too-young standard because the 13-year-old brain is not nearly developed enough. Nevertheless, articulating the number 13 has ingrained it in people’s thinking. Adding to the problem is how easy it is for millions of young people to lie about their age online to create accounts.  

The Wall Street Journal, “How 13 Became the Internet’s Age of Adulthood,” June 19, 2019

“There is no mystery whatsoever regarding any of these deaths,” said Fernando Javier Garcia, tourism minister of the Dominican Republic. Dominican officials tried to argue that “the number of deaths in recent months is no greater than would be expected statistically in a country visited by more than 2 million Americans each year”; however, this is an example of the law of exceptions. Each death becomes a proxy for what could happen to anyone.

The New York Times, “Crisis Hits Dominican Republic Over Deaths of U.S. Tourists,” June 23, 2019


“It would be misleading to refer to this as ‘layoffs,’” said an AT&T spokesperson in a statement regarding AT&T’s announcement that it plans to cut 1,800 jobs from its wireline division, describing these jobs as a “surplus.” Though AT&T can declare a surplus of jobs each quarter, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union took issue with the quantity of AT&T’s latest surplus declaration, as the CWA claimed jobs declared “surplus” are taken off the payroll. (AT&T’s letters to the CWA exhibit the power of words. “Layoffs” is what we call a high-velocity word—that is, it travels through an organization at light speed. Even saying a company is thinking about layoffs—or in cases we’ve seen, says they are not considering layoffs—causes people to look for other jobs.)

ARS Technica, “AT&T cuts another 1,800 jobs as it finishes fiber-Internet buildout,” June 17, 2019

“Does this matter? It matters if you are a Chinese pig,” said Paul Donovan, UBS Group’s global chief economist, about China’s swine flu epidemic. (The crack was made during a discussion in which Donovan argued that the outbreak of the disease shouldn’t worry investors focused on international inflation. However, his comment went viral and China took offense. As a result, the China Railway Construction Corp. excluded UBS from an enormous bond deal. This is yet another example of the power of words as well as of different cultural sensibilities that can trip you up.)

Bloomberg, “UBS Loses China Bond Deal After Economist’s Pig Remark,” June 16, 2019

“Work safe,” “work in accordance with all rules, regulations and manuals” and “do your jobs” might seem like obvious comments but American Airlines argued that they were code phrases used by mechanic unions in communication with its members. From American Airline’s perspective, these phrases acted as a “call to arms” to encourage members to engage in “actions to harm the airline as a bargaining ploy in ongoing contract negotiations,” such as maintenance issues that led to flight cancellations. (We have experience in this area and are well acquainted with how words can be used to signal very different meanings.)

Dallas Business Journal, “American says unions used code words as a ‘call to arms,’” June 20, 2019


From Pakistan, a reminder that technology brings benefits—and risks. A press conference with Pakistan’s provincial information minister and a member of the ruling party PTI that was broadcast via social media was compromised in a novel way: the cat filter was on, so the officials appeared on the broadcast with cat ears and whiskers. It did wonders generating attention to the government’s meeting, and it showed that Provincial Information Minister Yousuf Shaukat Zai had a sense of humor. He said, “I wasn't the only one—two officials sitting along me were also hit by the cat filter.” Accident or not, at least it got audiences to finally pay attention.

SBS, “Government officials in Pakistan forgot to turn off cat filter during Facebook live press conference,” June 18, 2019


Another lesson comes from the outcry generated by an undercover video that showed Fair Oaks Farm employees brutalizing cows. The dairy, a supplier for the brand Fairlife that launched as a partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and Select Milk Producers, responded with a press release and a long, seven-minute video from founder of Fair Oaks Farm, Mike McCloskey. The video apology is worth watching. It’s heart felt but too long with too much detailed information. Our advice is to look at this as an example of why it’s important to have what we call “competitive video.” Three of the employees mentioned in the video had already been fired three months prior to the discovery of the video exhibiting their abuse. Fairlife should have known that animal cruelty was a potential, ongoing issue. They should have had a video illustrating they take animal welfare seriously. This can’t be marketing material, it has to be genuine—interviews with people responsible for the animals, b-roll of the facilities, documentation of the training and maintenance procedures.

Atlanta Business Chronicle, “Coca Cola and Fairlife address animal abuse at dairy supplier, vow to make changes,” June 10, 2019

Everybody is a reporter. A huge construction crane came crashing down during a violent storm in Dallas, crushing cars and slicing through the middle of an apartment building. Interestingly, it was an eyewitness video captured by a Twitter user that illustrated the crane wasn’t spinning in the wind, thereby potentially confirming the crane was improperly anchored. The lesson? There will always be someone with a cell phone who will capture video. Figure out your key messages and make sure you have competitive video before tragedy strikes.

WFAA, “Eyewitness video offers clue about deadly crane collapse,” June 10, 2019


Although we focus on how we pick up and repeat each other’s words, and the 2016 Republican debates provided plenty of fodder, the Democrats provided one teachable moment in non-verbal communication. When Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke broke into Spanish (ignoring the question that was asked) during the first 2020 Democratic Debate, Sen. Cory Booker glowered at him. His face caught and memorialized forever, Booker was either signaling, “I meant to do that and he beat me to it,” or “I wonder if I could kill him on stage.” The “look” went viral, generated a number of memorable memes and will undoubtedly reappear during the coming months.  

The Hill, “Cory Booker's face when Beto O'Rourke speaks Spanish at debate goes viral,” June 26, 2019


The BIMBO Memo is a reminder not to repeat and deny a negative word because of how the listener hears words. When you repeat and deny a negative word, the listener is likely to overlook the denial and hear the opposite of what the speaker is trying to say. It’s named for the young woman who was caught with a high profile, but alas married man. She held a press conference and announced, “I am not a BIMBO,” thus causing everyone to think she was.

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