Wednesday, February 14, 2007

so many press lunches

February 14

I went to three press lunches last week, promoting cherries, Atlantic City and Providence. That’s too many press lunches and I am officially tired of PR-speak and ill-advised marketing practices. The collection of annoying press materials accumulating on my desk and in my e-mail inbox has not helped my mood, either:
I got an e-mail "introducing" me to a chef whom I’d already interviewed. That’s fine, but the publicist spelled the chef’s name wrong.
I have a booklet on my desk from Dunkin' Donuts called "The Coffee Sourcebook: Everything You want to Know about Coffee" which of course it is not. I want to know a lot about coffee — certainly more than six little pages can cover, especially if three of them are about Dunkin’ Donuts.
Remember: under-promise, over-deliver.
A press release from West Hollywood informed me that sushi is "one of the world's sexiest cuisines." Oh yeah, there's nothing like having wasabi, pickled ginger, seaweed, raw fish and bonito-flavored soy sauce on your breath to make you sexy. Ooh, baby.
But back to my lunches, which were at Town, Buddakan and a private room at Christie's, and all were delicious, as you would expect.
Well, not everyone expects good food at Buddakan. Both Zak Pelaccio and Jennifer Leuzzi have looked at me as though I were retarded when I complimented the Asian-fusion food there, but I’ve spent enough time in Asia (six-and-a-half years) to know when someone’s doing that fusion thang with respect.
At none of the lunches did the publicists seem to grasp how to get us, the journalists, to write about what they wanted us to.
At the cherry lunch the first thing they did was tell us how they were trying to reposition cherries (specifically tart cherries, which they want to promote as a super-nutritious food). But we don’t want to know about their marketing strategies. You’re not likely to see the headline: "Tart Cherry Marketing Strategy Undergoes Seismic Shift." We want to know what’s so great about tart cherries, not how their marketers plan to spin those facts.
They also might want to revisit the slogan "Cherries, not just another berry" because, of course, cherries aren’t berries at all.
My colleagues and I have been enjoying the dried cherries, cherry juice concentrate and cherry trail mix that were given to me at the event, however.
At both the Buddakan and Christie's lunches, the publicists started by introducing all of the other affiliated publicists, heads of convention and visitors bureaux and so on. I understand why they need to do that to satisfy the internal politics of their companies, but if we were interested in anything at the lunches, we were interested in what was going on in Atlantic City and Providence, not who their publicists and CVB operatives were. I’m sure they’re all very nice, but that’s not why we were there.
Of course, I’m just a food writer. Maybe I’m missing something in these tactics. After all, they did get me to write a blog entry about them...


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I agree with your comments about the cherry industry.

Disclaimer: I am involved in the cherry industry. I know many of the people in the cherry industry. I sell cherry products across the globe.

The cherry industry is probably the most self-centered industry I have ever been involved. Over my many years in business, I have been involved in several different industries. I have insight into the workings of some of the nation’s leading industry, and the cherry industry ranks near the bottom for ethics, professionalism and openness.

Like most industries, many of the players in the cherry industry are small businesses and farmers. The cherry industry is very fragmented. Thus, many don’t understand how to truly market a product and many have a very small mindset. Rather then differentiating their products in the marketplace, a few simply copy marketing campaigns and copy competitor's products. In addition, a few players/farmers don’t believe anyone else should be able to sell cherry products except a select chosen few.

If any company does enter the cherry industry and begins to actually market cherry products and spread the word about cherries, they are immediately attacked. My company has been harassed, intimated, bullied and bad mouthed by some of the cherry farmers and few of the self declared “chosen” few. The cherry industry has a mindset that unless you are a farmer or one of the “chosen” few you have no right sell any type of cherry product.

The tactics that I have experienced from a few cherry competitors include continued harassing emails, trademark violations, copyright infringement, slander and aggressively targeting my retail stores in an attempt to steal my hard earned accounts.

In my opinion, the cherry industry isn’t interested in promoting the cherry for the good of the cherry; it is more interested in making money from their individual products and preventing anyone else from selling cherry products. The industry is very closed to sharing any sort of information with all of the cherry farmers and marketers in the industry. They reserve this information for distribution to a select few. So your comments about the self-centered attitude of the cherry industry isn’t far off base.

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I thought I was the only one getting harassed by fellow cherry competitors. I have also received harassing emails, slander, stealing of my tag lines and theft of my site design and layouts. The cherry industry is full of sleazy people.

I thought the cherry farmers and those in the cherry industry are supposed to be good, down-home, friendly farmers. They are worst than used car salesmens. No ethics!!!

I started selling cherry juice concentrate several months ago. I talked with a farmer in Northern Michigan about purchasing bulk concentrate and he asked me all about my marketing plan and how I was going to sell the cherry juice concentrate.

After listening to my entire marketing plan he told me I wasn't worthy enough to sell cherry juice concentrate. I was completely taken back. I have never heard of a supplier telling a buyer they are not worthy enough. I found another supplier and I am now selling it.

As a fellow insider, the cherry industry is full of sleazy people and low lifes.

Bret Thorn said...

For the record, all I said was that the cherry people could tweak their marketing a little bit. I certainly have no reason to believe that they’re evil.
And dear commentors, although I appreciate your reading my blog and am saddened that you have had bad experiences with the cherry industry, I think your accusations would hold more water if you didn’t hide behind the name “anonymous.”