Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for June 2014


  • Bimbo
  • June 3, 2014
  • by Spaeth Communications

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Sharing top honors this month are two renowned companies, which is a shame because good communication advice should have prevented their BIMBO blunders. Additional BIMBOs come from Wal-Mart, a new and unashamed porn star, Samasource in Silicon Valley, former Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, CNN's president, a Thai army general, a fellow White House Fellow, Rep. Mike Pompeo, the cofounder of data company Cerego and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A leaked General Motors PowerPoint reveals an interesting example of what we call bad words. "Wrong Thing to Say" examples come from Ann Coulter, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (again), Maverick's owner Mark Cuban and the cofounder of Rap Genius, along with Rep. Joe Garcia illustrating the wrong thing to do. Disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling delivers one of the top five worst interviews ever and The New York Times gives us an interesting Twitter example on the firing of its executive editor. Amazon demonstrates that a statistic can seem very small or very, very large, Chevron gets a lesson in hashtag "brandjacking" and the CEO of Snapchat learns that emails from frat days live forever. 

THE WINNING BIMBOS

Sharing top honors this month are two renowned companies, which is a shame because good communication advice should have prevented their BIMBO blunders.

“I can certainly assure you that we are not at a dead end,” said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata as the company lost money and missed sales targets for Wii U and 3DS. (The company is being pressed to assure investors and customers that it has a future. The problem with the BIMBO denial is that it competes with the message, “We will continue to work hard to ensure that consumers who already own our platforms are satisfied and make sure that people will continue to see great value in our software.” Note that the denial makes it into the headline.)

Forbes, “Nintendo Says They’re ‘Not at a Dead End’ And Developing New Hardware,” May 15, 2014

“We’re never going to be in a race to the bottom,” said Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb on a conference call with analysts. He tried to assure them that the iconic company could handle new competitors like Wal-Mart while expanding into lower-income areas where Whole Foods can’t charge top prices. (Once again, the denial makes it into the headline and crowds out the real message that the company has a plan for competing with health-minded grocery stores like Sprouts.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Slow to Cut Prices, Whole Foods is Punished: Shares Drop 19% as Investors Worry about Slowing Growth, Competition; ‘We’re Never Going to be in Race to the Bottom,’” May 7, 2014

THE RUNNERS-UP

In contention for the worst interview ever is Clipper’s owner Donald Sterling with Anderson Cooper. Sterling claimed he’s “not a racist,” insulted Magic Johnson and continued to make a fool of himself. The interview serves as a perfect illustration of why CEOs need competent and courageous communication advisers.

AC360, “Donald Sterling tells Anderson Cooper:  I was ‘baited’ into ‘a terrible mistake,’” May 11, 2014

“We are not opposed to minimum wage increase,” said Wal-Mart U.S. President Bill Simon. Washington, D.C.’s city council recently passed legislation requiring only Wal-Mart pay more than the city’s minimum wage. (Again, the negative comment crowds out the better message, “We’re in favor of fairness, equal treatment and opportunity.” Note the quote makes it into the headline.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Wal-Mart: ‘We Are Not Opposed to Increase in Minimum Wage,’” May 11, 2014

“It was an intelligence failure, but it wasn’t a conspiracy, and there aren’t aliens in Area 51 and Vince Foster wasn’t murdered,” said former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., arguing against the need for another hearing on the Benghazi murders. (Aliens? Vince Foster? Harman was toeing the Democratic line about “intelligence failure,” but it looks like she got carried away.)

Fox News Sunday, “Answers sought following Benghazi revelations; ObamaCare’s impact on job creation,” May 4, 2014

Asa Akira described herself as “part of the new era of porn.” She claims to be a feminist and wants readers of her new memoir “Insatiable” to know “We’re not victims of rape, not drug addicts, we don’t have any daddy issues.” (Creepy. This young woman, who went to prep school and had two loving parents, is completely disengaged from the criminal components and damage to women from the sex business. It is deeply offensive and scary.)

New York Post, “From prep-school kid to millionaire porn star,” April 26, 2014

“Not all tech billionaires spend their fortunes on flashy yachts and expensive vacations,” said Leila Janah, CEO of Samasource, which helps low-income workers get jobs with Silicon Valley tech companies. (The column looked at how the influx of highly-paid tech types has affected San Francisco: raising rents, pushing out long-standing small businesses and so on. The problem with the quote is that it’s negative; she should have said, “Our funders want people to be safe and have opportunities. They want to help their neighbors.”)

USA Today, “Voices: The Softer Side of Silicon Valley,” May 9, 2014

“I did not view Wall Street as a cabal of idiots or crooks,” wrote former Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner in his new book “Stress Test.” (Again, these negative denials compete with and crowd out the message, which should have been “I regarded Wall Street as people trying to do a job and responding to incentives put in place, in part, by government.” The negative line was widely quoted in reviews.)

New York Times Magazine, “What Timothy Geithner Really Thinks,” May 17, 2014

“We’re not going to be shamed into it by others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums to shame other news organizations into covering something,” said CNN President Jeff Zucker about why the network wouldn’t cover the House select committee investigation of Benghazi. (This bold defense comes from the same news organization that covered the lost Malaysian airliner 24/7. Clearly CNN is declaring its political colors. Notice the comment becomes the headline as is so often the case. We hope Zucker delivers on what else he said, that “if it’s of real news value, we’ll cover it.”)

TPM Livewire, “CNN President: We won’t be ’Shamed’ Into Covering Benghazi,” May 20, 2014

“Not a coup d’etat,” said Thai Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocho after intervening in a long standing political standoff between the country’s two political dynasties. (The news reports included our point of view, editorializing that this was “One of those things that, if you have to say it, probably isn’t true.” Just two days later, the BIMBO statement became what we were all thinking.)

Vox, “’Not a coup,’ says Thai general on television channel he has seized control of,” May 20, 2014

”I will not be part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans,” wrote former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her upcoming book, “Hard Choices.” (Is this the obligatory ghost written biography preceding a presidential run?)

Politico, “Exclusive: Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi chapter,” May 30, 2014

“I am not calling for the banning of ice cream truck music, and I do not think people should boycott the ice cream industry because it plays old songs,” wrote an interesting writer and former White House Fellow about the reaction to a column on the history of neighborhood ice cream trucks. (While we view this as a tempest in a teapot, we appreciate the writer’s perspective. We agree with his comments that African-Americans are much more attuned to the history of songs with racial or racist connections and that “an honest conversation on race issues today” requires that we understand this perspective. We also hope that an honest conversation on race includes comments from scholars like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly and Dr. Ben Carson who see opportunity for people who work hard. We also note that this well-written post included one of the ridiculous “triggers” that “this post is about and contains racial slurs.” Couldn’t we figure that out by the post’s headline?)

NPR Code Switch, “Talking About Race and Ice Cream Leaves A Sour Taste for Some,” May 21, 2014

“We just don’t want to creep anyone out,” said Andrew Smith Lewis, cofounder of Cerego, a company collecting massive amounts of data on students. (Smith Lewis was responding to a question about the collapse of InBloom, a company that fell apart when parents worried about the breadth and depth of data being collected about their children. InBloom’s idea was to use the data to develop personalized learning programs, but after being adopted by nine states, the program fizzled. It’s an interesting case study about the importance of communication. InBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger observed that the company failed because they weren’t “proactive enough about the benefits of data.” As for Smith Lewis, he missed the opportunity to say, “We want to reassure participants we are providing a valuable service and investors that we are being proactive in communicating the benefits of our activities.”)

Bloomberg Businessweek, “Big Data Stops Here,” May 5, 2014

“I’ve got no axes to grind; I’ve got no political favors to pay,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, in response to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s charge that the newly formed Select Committee investigating the Benghazi tragedy was “just a stunt.” At least he didn’t BIMBO back, “It’s not a stunt,” but he competed with his other message, that the committee would be bi-partisan and committed to its task.

Fox News, “Benghazi committee member pushes back against ‘stunt’ claims,” May 12, 2014

BAD WORDS

A 2008 leaked General Motors PowerPoint showed the company “trained” employees not to use words that could lead to recalls. The list included the words: death trap, decapitating, disemboweling, genocide, grenade-like, Hindenburg, impaling, spontaneous combustion, widow-maker, fail, defect, defective, bad and flawed. (General Motors labeled these “judgment words.” You know we call them “bad words.” Our question is, where did these words come from? In our “good/bad word” exercise, we collect the words people are using or company materials are featuring. General Motors released a list that also included “safety” and “safety related,” which certainly should have been aspirational good words. Notice the bad words also made it into the headline.)

Politico, “GM suggested engineers avoid ‘judgment words’ like ‘death trap,’ ‘grenade-like,’” May 16, 2014

STATISTICS

“We regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors,” was the suggestion made by Amazon in its escalating battle with Hachette over fees. Most interesting to us was Amazon’s use of statistics, writing, a “business interruption” only affects 11 out of every 1,000 items for sale on Amazon.com. (Is that a big number or a little number? Remember, the first question is “Who’s the audience and what does the number mean to them?” For Amazon, it’s a small number, but for Hachette or its authors like James Patterson or Malcolm Gladwell – hardly newbies or unknowns – to be listed as “out of stock” is a very big deal.)

CNNMoney.com, “Amazon-Hachette feud: No end in sight,” May 28, 2014

WRONG THING TO SAY (OR DO)

People outraged – albeit powerless – about the Nigerian school girls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram took to social media with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Author and personality Ann Coulter mocked the effort with her own tweet showing her holding up a sign that read “#BringBackOurCountry.”(While it was an effective publicity stunt for Coulter, she ignored that the #BringBackOurGirls effort showed that Americans and others were struggling for some way to help, a typical American and emotional reaction. We care; it’s who we are. Coulter’s annoying tweet only reinforced the image that Americans and conservatives are mean-spirited.)

The Wall Street Journal Market Watch, “Ann Coulter clowned on Twitter for mocking ‘Bring Back Our Girls,’” May 13, 2014

“You guys ask stupid questions,” said embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford about the media after The Globe and Mail published screenshots of the mayor recently smoking something from a pipe. The mayor was reported to be seeking treatment in the U.S., but never actually entered the country. Instead, he returned to Canada immediately after landing in Chicago without ever leaving the airport. (Mayor Ford has truly become a train wreck. Articles about this latest revelation also repeated his comment, which won 2013 BIMBO of the Year – about smoking crack cocaine when “in a drunken stupor.” This latest incident also included a BIMBO comment from Roy Norton, the Consul General of Canada in Chicago, who said the mayor withdrew his application to enter the U.S. and “was not denied entry, per se.” We’re not sure what the “per se” means here.)

The Globe and Mail, “Ford takes ‘Break’ as New Drug Video Revealed,” May 1, 2014

The Associated Press, “Mystery of Toronto Mayor’s Whereabouts Deepens,” May 6, 2014

“I know I’m prejudiced and I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways,” said Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban in an otherwise excellent interview at a convention hosted by INC Magazine. (Cuban caused a fire storm when this line was lifted out of the interview and went viral: “If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street.” Although a number of people jumped to Cuban’s defense, noting the overall context, Cuban apologized profusely, including to Trayvon Martin’s mother. On one hand, this is an example of how comments will be taken out of context and turned into sound bites; on the other, it was totally predictable.)

USA Today, “Mark Cuban: ‘I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways,’” May 22, 2014

Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam was fired for taking the 141-page manifesto from alleged mass murderer Elliot Rodger and adding comments about Rodgers’ sister being “smoking hot.” (Rap Genius exists for the public and its staff to debate and explain rap lyrics, as well as comment on everything else. Its goal is to create discussion-based communities. Moghadam’s comment about the sister, while inappropriate and guaranteed to cause problems, was mild compared to other lyrics the site carries.)

Business Insider, “Rap Genius’ Cofounder Has Been Fired After Comments About California Shooter,” May 26, 2014

“We’ve proved that Communism works,” said Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in a comment on a Google hangout talking about comprehensive immigration reform. (The exchange began with Garcia making the correct charge that Republicans oppose expanding government spending but are supportive of significantly increasing spending on border security. He apparently was being sarcastic, but he should have known that it would be taken out of context. This is the same congressman who was caught on CNN picking his ear, examining the earwax and then eating it.)

The Daily Caller, “Dem Congressman: ‘We’ve Proved That Communism Works,’” May 21, 2014

SOCIAL MEDIA

This month’s Twitter example is how New York Times reporter Ravi Somaiya, given the task of explaining the paper’s thinking on firing executive editor Jill Abramson, “reported” via a series of tweets. It made us wonder about his purpose behind chopping the story up into tweets. Twitter can be a great tool for engagement, but Somaiya’s tweets came across like speaking to a wall. It’s an interesting choice of communication medium and, perhaps, a reflection of where journalists today know most people get their news: social media.

Mashable, “New York Times Staffer Counters Report that Abramson Firing Was Over Pay or Gender,” May 19, 2014

The #AskChevron hashtag went viral when people thought it was a genuine invitation like #AskJPM or #myNYPD, both of which were less-than-successful invitations for discussion on Twitter. The difference is Chevron did not establish the hashtag. @thetoxiceffect, an Ecuador-based, self-described environmental group used the hashtag as a platform to list charges of contamination, disposal of toxic waste water and more. Incidents like this are now known as “brandjacking.” Moral? Great social media channels have a dark side.

PR Daily, “Chevron gets brandjacked without writing a word,” May 28, 2014

Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel found out the hard way that emails live forever. ValleyWag obtained emails from 2009 when he was at Stanford in a fraternity. They contain “racy language” according to the now-mandatory trigger warning, referring to getting girls drunk so they would sleep with him, references to women with profanities and as objects to be “peed on.” Spiegel responded with a heartfelt apology, “I’m obviously mortified and embarrassed that my idiotic emails during my fraternity days were made public. I have no excuse, I’m sorry I wrote them at the time and I was a jerk to have written them. They in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women.” (Missing from the apology was any sense that he has some responsibility to try to influence his current fraternity brothers toward a better path. A good apology should seem genuine and in the person’s own voice. In this case, the words “jerk” and “idiotic” are very appropriate. An additional lesson here is that as Snapchat became a rising star, now valued at $3 billion, it was predictable that people would search out old emails and texts, which now have celebrity value.)

NPR All Tech Considered, “Snapchat CEO’s Emails Didn’t Disappear, Come Back to Shame Him,” May 28, 2014



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