Monday, June 23, 2008

They're Calling it Generation I: But Does The 'I' Stand for "Internet" or "Id"?!

Last you heard from me I was happily typing away at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, awaiting my flight to Providence. We finally boarded the plane three hours late, and by that point the young kids who'd been waiting in the terminal for more than four hours were either fast asleep or in the beginning stages of Category Five meltdowns (those of you who are parents are familiar with Cat V meltdowns; those of you who are not, I'd advise witnessing one in real time as the most effective form of birth control).

We board without problems; everyone finds a seat. In my general vicinity is apparently a family of seven: Two sets of grandparents, a mother, a father, and what appears to be a four or five year old boy. Everyone's attention is focused on the boy: What he's doing (bouncing up and down in his seat--which thankfully is not in front of mine); what he's eating (cheerios, apparently, as one lands in my lap from his flinging them about the cabin); and what he's saying (as far as I can tell--and I am conversant in toddler talk--he's screeching about Elmo).

The grandparents and the parents are doing nothing to stop the kid from bouncing, flinging O's and screeching about Elmo. In fact, they're doting on him, which serves to encourage him to bigger bounces, more vigorous O-throwing, and louder screeches. Of course, the bouncing stops when he hits his head on the bulkhead and starts wailing at the top of his lungs.

This, my friends, is a classic Cat V Meltdown. The mother--seated by the window in my row--calms him down a bit by plugging him into a DVD. But the DVD was merely the eye of the storm. The brat isn't done--no, not by a long shot. He refuses to wear the headphones. The grandparents and the parents transfer the kid from lap to lap, trying without success to get him to put on the earphones.

They give up and decide that rather than insist the child put on the earphones or not watch the DVD, they'll subject the entire area to the Elmo DVD. Mind you, this is after a three+ hour delay and on a full plane flying through turbulence.

My questions:
* Since when is a four-year-old brat in charge of SIX ADULTS?
* Since when does a four-year-old brat have the ability to hold a plane hostage?
* Since when has it become acceptable for adults to subsume the needs and desires of a community to the needs of a spoiled child?

While I understand it may be easier to rely on the indulgence and understanding of strangers rather than risk another catastrophic meltdown, the scenario perfectly explains why the kids of Generation I are growing up to believe that everything centers around their needs and desires.

Rather than describe them as Generation I (as in Internet--that is, the first generation that has grown up fully integrated with the web), perhaps we may want to call them Generation Id--as in, the generation reared to believe that it's ok to be ruled by your id.

The id, you'll recall, is responsible for basic drives such as food, sex, and aggressive impulses. It is amoral and egocentric, ruled by the pleasure–pain principle; it is without a sense of time, completely illogical, primarily sexual, infantile in its emotional development, and will not take "no" for an answer.

I am not a perfect parent. I'm probably average. But I can damn for sure tell you that my daughter would either have worn the earphones or not listened to the DVD. Discovering that the world does not revolve around him or her is one of the earliest and most profound lessons a child learns--withhold the lesson and you render the child a disservice. You foster the Id and indulge the I.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Overheard at Fort Lauderdale Airport...

It's absolutely amazing what you hear when the weather halts airline flights. I'm sitting alongside the status boards at Fort Lauderdale airport, awaiting my flight to Providence. The flight is already three hours late, but a command performance moments ago by a Southwest gate attendant put everything in perspective for me. Too bad the irate flyers didn't hear it.

She gets on the gate microphone and says, "Well folks, I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"

Thereupon in gate-land a collective grown arose, audible throughout the packed hallway. After the groan, the gate attendant said, "Here's the bad news: In addition to the weather delay, the plane at the gate is broken. So we won't be taking off for a long while."

The groan grew to a growl. From the crowd, the question is fired like a bullet: "What's the good news?!"

To which she responds, brightly, "The good news is, we're on the ground."

And that, my dear friends, has put this entire delay in perfect perspective for me.

Still, I have to wonder: Why is it that we can put a man on the moon, we can fly unmanned drones from thousands of miles away, and we can't fly in bad weather?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

As Quoted in the Chicago Daily Herald:

Yesterday I received an email inquiry from Anna Marie Kukec; she asked me to comment on a "free gas" promotion going on in a Chicago suburb. Her query was interesting from two perspectives:

1) Generally the Market Research Association doesn't field these types of queries (we respond mostly to "pure" market research or polling/surveying questions)
2) It conveyed to me the simple point that inasmuch as PR folks are encouraged to research and become familiar with the "beat" of the reporters to whom we pitch stories, so should the latter take a moment or two to discover a little more about the organizations to whom they turn for professional insights/remarks.

Regardless, I enjoyed parsing responses to her questions, and as you'll note from the article below, she found my responses sufficiently compelling as to devote significant space to them--and generate a nice unexpected media hit for the MRA.

Gas giveaways hottest new promotion for businesses
By Anna Marie Kukec (Daily Herald staff)

Forget the free toaster or $50 added to a newly opened checking account.

Gasoline has become the hot new promotional must-have.

As that prized commodity exceeded $4 a gallon, it has taken on celebrity status in corporate contests and giveaways. Automobile manufacturers, travel firms, even a politician and a candy company are using gasoline as part of their marketing and promotional events.

The Holy Grail of such promotions came Tuesday as hundreds of cars lined up for free gasoline at a filling station in Romeoville -- sponsored by a candy bar. One Hummer driver reportedly saved about $130 with the gimmick, sponsored by The Hershey Co.'s PayDay and Skor candy bars.

The national kickoff for the Hershey contest aimed to help fuel your appetite and your tank. But the use of gasoline as a marketing or promotional tool has been fueling a new spin on getting your attention -- and ultimately more of your dollars.

Bruce Mendelsohn, spokesman for Glastonbury, Conn.-based Marketing Research Association, notes that "substantial anecdotal evidence" indicates the more scarce the resource, the more likely companies are to use it in marketing and promotional campaigns. This is especially evident when the resource ties into the company's line of business, Mendelsohn said.

"We think it's another example of the incredibly creative ways some businesses are adapting to challenging economic circumstances," he said. "As market researchers, we're always studying and evaluating consumer behavior; we're curious to discover how successful businesses will be by using gasoline as a marketing and/or promotional tool."

Using gasoline in a contest or promotion isn't unique. Similar contests, although not as sophisticated, happened during the oil embargo in the 1970s.

On alternate rationing days, some companies conducted "Are you odd?" or "Are you even?" campaigns, seeking to draw consumers to their respective stores, Mendelsohn said.

"While there's no doubt the exponentially increasing gas prices are depleting consumers' wallets, businesses that find ways to relieve the pressure on consumers are certain to be viewed favorably by consumers and generate some media attention," Mendelsohn said.

The Hershey promotion, for example, hinged on its new "Cash 4 Gas" instant-win game, which will give away cash for more than 100,000 gallons of gasoline through December. The Romeoville kickoff offered more than 5,000 gallons of free gas to roughly 380 customers, the company said.

"High gas prices continue to be a concern for everyone and The Hershey Company is excited to offer a fun and delicious way to save on gas costs," Hersey Product Publicity Director Jody Cook said in a statement.

Another such attention-getter was Democrat congressional candidate Dan Seals' campaign event to help passing motorists fill up their tanks at cut-rate -- $1.85 a gallon -- at a Lincolnshire station last May. That was the price of gasoline when his opponent Mark Kirk as well as President George W. Bush came into office in 2001. The political ploy, like the Hershey giveaway, also jammed traffic and was a boost to about 50 drivers.

More promotions are expected to continue, including Chrysler car dealerships nationwide offering $2.99 a gallon with the purchase of a vehicle as well as Meijer grocery stores with gas stations trimming 10 cents a gallon when its Meijer credit card is used through Labor Day.

Some industry experts said more companies are likely to use gasoline as a carrot, needing to entice consumers to look at their products or service. After all, companies need such incentives to stand up to competition. So, don't expect these promotions to end anytime soon, especially as the price of gasoline climbs even higher.

Also, such enticements create a psychological impression on consumers, said D. Joel Whalen, associate professor of marketing at DePaul University in Chicago.

"When you have a shortage of gasoline and an increase in price, it creates scarcity," said Whalen. "And that creates an unmediated response in consumers. It's something they don't think about, but they then attach an increase in value to that scarce item."

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Voice of Reason (At Least in This Case) from Islam

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently called the Rachael Ray Keffiyeh kontroversy an "incredibly silly situation."

A move by Dunkin' Donuts to pull an online ad featuring Rachael Ray after columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin said it was "hate couture," was an "incredibly silly situation," said CAIR spokesman Ahmed Rehab. The ad (see entry, below) showed TV host Ray wearing a black and white scarf that some critics likened to a keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress.

"It's sad that Dunkin' Donuts pandered to that kind of fear–mongering. They have businesses in the Middle East, in the Arab world. It's interesting to see how that will affect business there," said Rehab.

Dunkin' Donuts said in a statement Ray had been wearing a silk scarf with a "paisley design" selected by a stylist with no intended symbolism. It pulled the ad due to the possibility of misperception, the company said.

When asked about the ad's removal, Ray's spokesman Charlie Dougiello told Reuters: "Our comment is no comment whatsoever."

In fairness, let's give CAIR the last word: "It seems like anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bigoted expression is the last frontier of accepted bigotry," said Rehab. "There is still racism against African Americans, Latinos and other ethnicities, but the average person would think twice about making their racist feelings public. Not so with Muslims and Arabs. We need to move beyond that."

A voice of reason from a most unexpected source.