Summer is officially winding down, but our BIMBO comments continue to ramp up. This month we have Russian fans and a Russian businessman, the CEO of Microsoft and a New York lawyer--to name a few. A German diver gave us a smelly description of the Olympic pool and we have several examples of statistics and denials throughout the Memo.
THE WINNING BIMBO
“We’ve never claimed that we’re bottling spring water,” said Waiakea-brand bottled water CEO Ryan Emmons. (Emmons was caught flat-footed when asked to explain the picture on the brand’s website of a waterfall with the text “Waiakea’s water source is located at the eastern base of the Mauna Loa volcano…The slopes feeding our aquifer capture over 200 inches of pure rainwater and snow melt each year.” It turns out that the company simply draws on the municipal water source, chlorinates the water, ships it to California, de-chlorinates it and bottles it. This wins the monthly BIMBO not only because of the denial, but because the brand is clearly misleading the public and the CEO spews paragraphs of jargon and cover-up language. He should have said, “We are committed to doing a better job of explaining our process to our valued customers.” Note that the denial made it into the headline.)
Food Navigator-USA, “Waiakea CEO: ‘We’ve never claimed that we’re bottling spring water,’” Aug. 1, 2016
“It wasn’t ransom,” said State Department Spokesman John Kirby. He acknowledged “the coincidental nature of the timing” of Iran releasing several Americans at the exact moment that the U.S. was delivering $400 million to Iran. (The repetition by Kirby, the White House press secretary and President Obama only added kindling to the BIMBO fire. Doth protest too much! Of course, it’s “ransom.” Numerous press stories commented on the optics of the deal. Notice that the denial headlined most of the articles.)
Townhall, “Kirby: This was not Ransom, Just a coincidence,” Aug. 3, 2016
“I am not hiding from that,” said drug company Mylan CEO Heather Breisch. Mylan is the maker of the EpiPen, and Breisch was trying to deflect criticism of its price hike and her salary of $9 million. (This comment wins because, like so many examples, Breisch (daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin) started out fine with, “I am running a business, I am a for-profit business,” then switched to the negative. We keep hoping business leaders will start standing up for the private sector by saying things like,"By creating jobs and generating profit, we benefit both the public and those who own our company." It's worth reading some of the commentary about the situation because it turns out to be a case study. It demonstrates how the FDA restrains competition rather than encourages it and how the company really does game the system with lobbyists.)
The New York Times, “Painted as EpiPen Villain, Mylan’s Chief Says She’s No Such Thing ,” Aug. 26, 2016
“We are definitely not the worst,” said a Russian fan, complaining that athletes from his country had been unfairly singled out in the doping scandal that enveloped the Olympics. (Hard to think of which country could have been more egregiously flouting the anti-doping standards, but the remark did capture the paranoia Russians seem to feel these days as their country’s economy is in a shambles and their Paralympic teams were completely barred from competition. It’s a shame he couldn’t have urged his political leaders to come clean and prove that Russian athletes can excel and win without artificial substances.)
Buzzfeed News, “Some Russian Fans Feel Their Country Was Unfairly Targeted In Olympic Doping Scandal,” Aug. 8, 2016
“We do not compromise our integrity,” said Martin Indyk, Brookings Institute VP and former ambassador to Israel. (The quote was in a long New York Times article examining how prominent think tanks, like Brookings, frequently did studies or advocated for positions while companies that had the same goals supported the organizations with contributions that could run into the millions of dollars. We believe Ambassador Indyk, but he should have stuck to the second half of his quote, “We maintain our core values of quality, independence as well as impact.”)
The New York Times, “How Think Tanks Amplify Corporate America’s Influence,” Aug. 7, 2016
“We have no plans to sell off all our Russian assets,” claimed Dimitry Razumov, CEO of Onexim, a holding company, while in the process of doing just that. (Classic BIMBO: a story about how Russian oligarchs were moving their operations outside of Russia because of the uncertainty of the political situation and Putin’s growing tendency to seize companies and investments from people who declined to support him aggressively or who were just too successful. When asked about the disposition of assets, Razumov repeated the negative. As with so many examples, the second half of the quote, “quite the opposite,” would have been sufficient. Of course, the Kremlin weighed in by claiming that none of the businessmen examined in the article “faced any pressure.”)
Bloomberg, “Facing Kremlin Full-Court Press, Nets Owner Pivots to Brooklyn,” Aug. 2, 2016
“The move to the cloud is actually not cannibalistic,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (This could have been the winning BIMBO because it’s a perfect example of how we pick up each other’s words. The interview is Q&A, and the question was, “Microsoft’s working hard to move customers onto cloud-based computing even though it may cannibalize some of your existing highly profitable businesses. Why?” Our technique of acknowledging the question would have been helpful. Nadella could have responded with “Not necessarily,” or any one of our other useful phrases including my favorite, “Let me put that in perspective.”)
Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Satya Nadella Talks Microsoft at Middle Age,” Aug. 4, 2016
“Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm,” read a joint statement from actor Johnny Depp and ex-spouse Amber Heard at the conclusion of a bitter and highly-publicized divorce. (Hmm…we seem to remember a statement earlier in the summer from Heard, “I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults.” Why should we care what two spoiled celebrities say? Because when they say things that clearly aren’t true, it cheapens the dialogue. It simply adds to the belief that people say anything without regard to whether it’s true or not. They should have stuck to the one-liner, “We wish each other the best in the future.”)
USA Today, “Amber Heard, Johnny Depp, reach divorce settlement,” Aug. 16, 2016
“Our goal is not to prolong these items and circumstances weeks and months beyond the original event,” said Delta spokesman Anthony Black about complaints that the airline did not provide sufficient time or refunds for the thousands of people inconvenienced because of a system-wide power outage that caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights. (Another example of where the statement should have been turned around to the positive, “Our goal is to work with our customers to find solutions as quickly and fairly as possible.”)
The Wall Street Journal, “The Rules That Make Airline Passengers Crazy,” Aug. 17, 2016
“I’m not quitting, I’m being forced out,” said President Obama during an exchange with reporters as he hit the links during vacation. (This was a strange and startling exchange with the Golf Channel, where the president initiated the exchange saying “I’m not a hack, but I’m not quitting my day job.” To which, the reporter replied that he was, and the president replied, “I’m being forced out, I didn’t quit.” Given that he’s coming to the end of a constitutionally limited two terms, it seems to us that he’s finishing serving, but neither quitting nor being forced out. Note that the negative words become the headline.)
Breitbart, “Obama: I’m Not Quitting. I’m Being ‘Forced Out’ of the Presidency,” Aug. 8, 2016
“I am not incosicated,” insisted a man trying to reclaim his vehicle that had been seized after a DUI arrest. While waiting outside the police building, the call of nature was apparently too strong, and an employee noticed him and reported him to the authorities. When questioned about his activities, he replied with the quote above.
AZ Family, “‘I am not incosicated,’ insisted man arrested for urinating on a police building,” Aug. 15, 2016
“I am not a disgruntled bicyclist,” said a bicyclist admitting he had pulled up dozens of signs posted by parents along a cycling route imploring cyclists to “Prepare to stop, kids crossing.” Caught in a photo the cyclist returned the signs and offered to pay for them. (Good actions. Shame it wasn’t a good quote. “I want to do my part to make sure pedestrians and cyclists respect each other.”)
Decaturish.com, “’I am not a disgruntled bicyclist,’ Man offers to pay for safety signs,” Aug. 16, 2016
“The Dallas Cowboys deny that Tony Romo is fat,” was the headline during training camp. (This is actually an implied BIMBO. The Cowboys ownership didn’t say anything like that. In fact, their quote was positive, “Tony’s in great shape.” The mini controversy ensued because of a picture that appeared to show the beleaguered quarterback definitely having had a few chocolate chip cookies. As we’re based in Dallas, we think it was just a bad angle.)
The Washington Post, “The Dallas Cowboys deny that Tony Romo is fat,” Aug. 1, 2016
“He has done nothing wrong,” said attorney Avraham Moskowitz about his client being investigated by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman amid allegations of overcharging FEMA after Hurricane Sandy. (Typical lawyer quote, compounded by the client’s comment, undoubtedly approved by the attorney, “There was never any intent by HiRise or its principals to defraud any homeowner.” The response did include “We look forward to an opportunity to defend these allegations,” but did not make any claim about the company’s commitment to provide a crucial service by helping homeowners repair damaged structures.)
New York Daily News, “Long Island contracting firm hit with major suit for allegedly doctoring reports on Hurricane Sandy damaged homes,” Aug. 1, 2016
WRONG THING TO SAY
Kevin Roberts, the former chairman of ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi, said that the debate about gender diversity “is all over,” and that the problem was “way worse” in other industries. He compounded the tone-deaf comments by noting he spent “no time” on gender issues and that women preferred non-management roles. (Predictably, his comments set off a storm of protest and parent company, Omnicom, placed him on administrative leave, with his resignation effective September 1. This is yet another example of how saying the wrong thing can lead to dusting off your resume.
The New York Times, “Publicis Ad Executive Sidelined by Gender Diversity Comments,” July 31, 2016
“The whole building smells like a fart,” was how one diver described the green, murky water in the diving pool at the Olympics. (Another example of how a word drove the news coverage and got repeated. Note the comment was made by a German diver, tweeted out and repeated by another and then picked up by the media.)
New York Post, “Olympians officially terrified of green, ‘fart-smelling’ water,” Aug. 12, 2016
PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN COMMENTS
“I’m not flip flopping,” said Donald Trump after a speech where he appeared to be walking back on his incendiary primary pledge to deport everyone who is in the country illegally. (Classic BIMBO. After the speech, reporters and the Clinton campaign used the “flip flopping” term, and Trump fell into the trap of repeating it. Oh, that he would learn our methodology. Acknowledge the question – “on the contrary,” and move to your message “I’m moving from an ideological principle to a workable plan of action.” Note the additional denial of “waffling” in the headline.)
The Wall Street Journal, “Trump Says He Isn’t Waffling on Immigration,” Aug. 22, 2016
“I don’t dismiss his trip as a photo op,” said Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, about Trump’s quick visit to flood-ravaged Baton Rouge. (Of course, that’s just what it was, further illustrating the power of celebrity, but neatly outfoxing President Obama and Hillary Clinton who bitterly criticized President Bush for not showing up in person after Hurricane Katrina.)
The Hill, “Louisiana gov: Trump helped ‘shine a spotlight’ on flood recovery,” Aug. 21, 2016
“I don’t think we’re anywhere near an insurrection,” said Gen. Michael Hayden, a former CIA and NSA head and Trump advisor. (The general was responding to questions about comments from Trump that he would use torture on Islamic terrorists and kill their families. The general got the job of sending the message to the candidate through the media that those actions were illegal and that the military would decline to follow such orders. Just one more example of Trump not knowing the issues or the job of the president.)
Buzzfeed News, “Former Bush CIA Chief: Military Won’t Obey Illegal Orders from Trump,” Aug. 2, 2016
Attacking the media and insisting that voters, “want someone that’s gonna fight back because they are tired of seeing left-wing reporters literally beat Trump supporters into submission, into supporting policies they don’t agree with,” Trump campaign spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, appeared to be imitating her boss in tone and rhetoric instead of talking about the issues that present stark contrasts between her candidate and his Democratic opponent.
“I will not lie to you,” tweeted Fox News commentator and former Bush White House press secretary, Dana Perino in response to a discussion where her colleagues claimed that polls showing Trump losing ground were flawed. The comment was one in a lengthy Twitter-ramble.
Yahoo Finance, “I WILL NOT LIE TO YOU’: Former Bush White House press secretary offers blunt assessment of election,” Aug. 18, 2016
“I know there’s a lot of smoke, but there’s no fire,” said Hillary Clinton when asked about an AP report finding that, as Secretary, she met with a significant number of foreign governments and others seeking access to the State Department and that they made significant contributions, frequently in the multi-millions of dollars, to the Clinton Foundation.)
CNN Politics, “Clinton on foundation: ‘I know there’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire,” Aug. 25, 2016
“Neither my husband, my daughter nor I have ever taken a penny of salary from the foundation,” said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. (She went on to add “My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces.” Yikes. The Clinton campaign has to know talk of the foundation never ends well. Clinton should have stuck to positive talking points, not wasting time defending herself—people have already made up their minds one way or the other.)
SOCIAL MEDIA EXAMPLES
A Gap ad email showed a boy’s t-shirt with the image of Albert Einstein with the words “the little scholar” and a girl’s T-shirt with “the social butterfly.” Predictably it caused a ruckus, compounded by girls pointing out that the original ad misspelled “Einstein.”
Mashable, “People are freaking out over this ‘sexist,’ misspelled Einstein T-shirt,” Aug. 1, 2016
NBA star Draymond Green, who had been energetically and effectively documenting Team USA’s performance at the Olympics on Snapchat accidentally included what was supposed to be a personal (although we can’t imagine to whom) picture of his genitals. Then he compounded the problem by claiming his account had been hacked, but finally admitted he was at fault. Another example of how social media postings can be effective marketing and audience building tools under the right conditions – like the Olympics – or person-to-person communication, but that it’s very easy to blur the lines and get in trouble.
Mashable, “Draymond Green apologizes for accidently posting his junk on Snapchat,” July 31, 2016
How not to use statistics: several governmental agencies fell into the trap of trying to reassure audiences about the Zika virus by using numbers. The World Health Organization announced that there was “only a remote chance” of the 500,000 visitors and 10,000 athletes getting the virus and taking it home with them, and the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control noted that the spread of the virus was caused by globalization and that “the relative contribution of the 2016 Olympics in Rio is, proportionally, a very small part of the risk.” One of Brazil’s top medical research institutes called the chance of getting the virus “negligible.” The problem with these statements is that they confirm that Zika in Rio is a problem, and people worry that they’ll be in the percentage affected.)
The Wall Street Journal, “Brazil Aims to Calm Zika Worries Ahead of Olympics,” Aug. 2, 2016
“I never set a goal which I know is unrealistic,” said Elon Musk, about the gap between the 17,000 cars he predicted Tesla would produce in the year’s second quarter versus the 14,370 it did. The story tracked his numerical predictions since 2014, noting none of them came through. The problem with statistics is that when a company cites a specific number and then falls short, it calls the company’s entire credibility into question.
The Wall Street Journal, “Elon Musk Sets Ambitious Goals at Tesla—and Often Falls Short,” Aug. 15, 2016
The power of a visual to illustrate a statistic is shown in these two pie charts. While they are very persuasive, they are also misleading because they do not account for the well-documented fact that urban police departments spend a disproportionate amount of time in poor, minority neighborhoods where crime is significantly higher.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Black Lives Matter Leader Says Even Great People Can Be Part of the Problem,” Aug. 4, 2016
You May Also Like
No April Fools here, we really did have this many BIMBOs! Throughout all our different categories we have running themes: executives, those in the political sphere and Twitter examples dominate this month. We also offer leadership advice, our… more
There are many useful examples this month! More BIMBO comments and examples from all levels of American politics as well as an Italian prosecutor, the usually perfect Bill Kristol and the never perfect Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sen. Rand Paul… more
Lots of examples in this memo! Additional BIMBOs from the general secretary of Britain’s largest trade union, an IBM executive, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) unintentionally revealing the Democrats’ underlying problems, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler, former Gov. Jeb… more