So, I'm Having a Conversation with Betty Now...

Continuing the dialogue with a Betty user, what if....

Just to refresh your memory, this product was launched by Betty Beauty, a New York startup that is marketing pubic hair dye for “the hair down there.” The dye comes packaged in kits with names like Brown Betty, Auburn Betty, Blonde Betty, Black Betty and Fun Betty (hot pink). And it’s not just for female Bettys either.

I ended my last post with having started an imaginary conversation with you about why you use Brown Betty and your friend uses Fun Betty and why I don’t use Betty at all. And from a PR point of view, that’s great. But if our ultimate PR goal is to adhere to a two-way symmetrical model, then that means that I have to not only hear you but also respond to what you’re saying.

So, we have a difference between us. I don’t see any reason to use Betty products, but you do. And in order to convince me that Betty products are worth using, you’ll have to tell me a lot more about the product itself. For instance, what’s in the product? Are there any ingredients that are harmful? Where is the product made? Since it’s new, do we really know about all the side effects of it? Do we really know that the dye isn’t permanent?

In answering these questions, what would happen if, for instance, you tell me that using Betty products is helping provide jobs in a Third World country? Shouldn’t that make a difference to me? And what if, through PR’s two-way dialogue, I find out that Betty folks are launching a campaign against nonusers simply because they’ve developed the idea that a real Betty is defined as one who uses Betty products?

If collectively we don’t continue a conversation, tensions could presumably escalate to the point where opinion becomes belief and belief is translated into action. And the actions of Bettys might not be all that fun to the rest of us. What if Bettys everywhere united and made it their mission to make everyone a “real Betty”? The role of PR becomes more important, seen from this viewpoint. Why? Because through PR, we can discuss what is reasonable, what is principled and what is conscionable. And in the end, together we might find that “Betty truth” may exist somewhere between the nonuser position I advocate and the user position you advocate. Another result might be that Betty users realize that nonusers pose no threat—and vice versa. And that’s a conversation worth having if it transcends the disrepect inherent in promoting our own definition of what a real Betty is. Maybe in the long run, a real Betty means continuing the conversation. And that's what PR does best.

Question of the Week: When someone disagrees with you, do you continue the conversation?


Viva la différence!

This headline caught my attention:

Launch of Pubic-Hair-Coloring Product Line Scores PR Coup

Betty products. For the hair down there.

Made for Bettys everywhere, the product was launched by Betty Beauty, a New York startup that is marketing pubic hair dye for “the hair down there.” The dye comes packaged in kits with names like Brown Betty, Auburn Betty, Blonde Betty, Black Betty and Fun Betty (hot pink). And it’s not just for female Bettys either.

The owner of Betty Beauty is Nancy Jarecki and to date, she’s only spent $1,995 on advertising. Yet, her product is the current buzz from Bean Town to Star Town.

In thinking about all the Betty products, I was reminded of cosmopolitanism. Now, you might not see the immediate connection, so bear with me.

Nancy was inspired with the idea while she was on vacation in Italy. As to her epiphanous thinking, she says, "I thought, 'Of course, who wouldn't want to be a true blonde? "' On her return home, she worked with a gynecologist, a chemist and a toxicologist to develop a gentle, no-drip formula and special dye tools.

Now, I’ll be the first to give Nancy credit for her spark, naming creativity and persistence. But I have to admit, I just don’t think I’m ever actually going to use her product. I don’t see a reason to. But I’m not going to stop you from using it, if that’s what you feel compelled to do. I’m definitely going to talk to you though, to try to understand the reasons you have for using Betty. (Be prepared, however. I’m too nosy not to also want to know which Betty product you use!)

And essentially that’s what the heart of cosmopolitanism is, being able to create dialogue where there are differences. And during that conversation, I might discover that you use Brown Betty while a good friend of yours uses Fun Betty. And then we could talk about whether you might ever use Fun Betty or whether you only want to use Brown Betty. I might also discover, through that dialogue, that using Betty products is worth trying. And then again, I might decide Betty products are worthwhile but still not have the desire to try it.

So many options can come from that conversation. And that’s the point for PR. Starting the conversation. And that’s for Bettys everywhere.

Question of the Week: How can you start a conversation with your pubics, er, publics?


WOMMA, ignoring Big Macs?

Well, they finally did it. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) adopted an ethics toolkit this past week. The toolkit provides guidance, and in some cases, even templates, for companies and marketers to use, depending on the communication and the medium. WOMMA guidelines cover word-of-mouth campaigns and the blogosphere along with providing an assessment kit.

After a summer brouhaha over an intern’s disparaging blog response to Jeff Jarvis' Dell Hell, Dell Computers was the first company that issued a statement in which they pledge to abide by the association’s guidelines, stating that they are, well, committed to online transparency and that their employees and vendors better be, too.

Not only was Dell’s situation a public relations snafu, but Wal-Mart underwent a similar flogging. I suspect McDonald’s tripped up, too, but that hasn’t been as widely discussed. I think if WOMMA is going to jump in and put Edelman’s on probation, they may as well address other companies who have skirted the fringe.

According to WOMMA, if a company is employing a fictional character, then disclosure is unnecessary. The problem is, if you’re paying someone to act like a customer—and they’re really not one—then the person and the company can always claim that the exercise was the opinion of a “fictional customer.” I don’t like this loophole. Online, it’s just too hard to tell who’s real and who’s not. Don’t forget YouTube’s Lonely Girl (aka paid actress).

One thing I do think WOMMA is correct in promoting is the requirement for corporations to encourage their vendors to adopt an ethics program. That type of peer B2B policy may just actually work to the point that it has an effect. The policy states:

You can do your part to end stealth marketing practices by educating your vendors, and by requiring them to honor the WOMMA Ethics Code in their own operations.

I’d actually like to see the PRSA explore avenues in which PR practitioners could encourage those within their sphere of influence to adhere to—or at least inquire about--an ethics philosophy. And that’s not fiction!

Question of the Week: Who is within your sphere of influence that you could encourage to act ethically?

PS Check out Mohawk Paper’s CSR policies—they’re great!

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Going Gaga Over Google

Is this name worth protecting?

I’m an avid blog reader, but I don’t necessarily read the same blogs every week. This week, I read Gord Hotchkiss’ guest blog for Media Post’s Inside Search. I’m not terribly surprised that he blogged on Google, what with all the recent buzz about the company, including Bush’s reference to The Google.

I wasn’t surprised either, that as a marketer, he thought Google’s defense of its trademark was lame. How easy his job would be if all those nettlesome lawyers and public relations folks would just get out of his way and let him do his job—make the brand recognizable across the landscape with the thought that if people just recognize your product or service, it will sell, seLL, SELL!

It’s exactly this shallow view of communications that, in my opinion, doesn’t hold up in the new media. Communications has converged too rapidly for that, making integrated communications a staple now and for the foreseeable future. Being in PR, I’d rather take the long view—and the trouble—to sit down with my marketing counterpart to plan strategy. Ditto for advertising.

Hotchkiss’ explanation for companies defending its trademark is that these companies are basically in the “getting complacent” stage which is just another way of saying that they’re getting lazy about their brand. On the contrary, I don’t see Google in that light at all. I see Google as an innovative, take-risk brand that has a terribly reliable product. And I think that’s worth protecting, however the company chooses to do it.

And let’s not forget the legal ramifications if a company doesn’t protect its name. That could ultimately lead to a whole different set of headaches.

Of the 20 or so responses to Hotchkiss’ commentary, eight were supportive of Hotchkiss’ view (although two of the responses were posted from the same person, making it seven people who agreed with him). I think the majority of attorneys and public relations people (and, I’d venture to guess, the advertising crowd, too) understand broader implications of brand management than what Hotchkiss stated.

Ultimately, if you’re not going to defend your brand, why work so hard to develop one in the first place?

Question of the Week: If you noticed your company’s brand being used outside of trademark, would you ignore it?