I know, I know enough about politics. Don’t worry, I won’t be disclosing my personal political views or really talking about the issues involved with the government shutdown at all. What I do want to talk about is how two national and several companies in the DC area are taking advantage of the unfortunate situation to advance their image while simultaneously helping out those directly affected by the shutdown.
The first round of applause goes to USAA and Hyundai. USAA was informing its members via its blog that they would (again) be offering interest free loans before the government even officially shut down stating, “Amid uncertainty about federal government funding, USAA is ready to offer a zero-interest payroll advance loan and other temporary solutions to affected members whose paychecks could be impacted.” I know not everyone can be a USAA member, and I may be biased because I am one, but USAA continuously truly goes above and beyond to provide great service.
Hyundai, in similar efforts is helping furloughed workers by allowing them to defer loan/lease payments until the shutdown is over. According to a posting on autoblog.com, “The automaker also says it will allow furloughed employees to buy new cars during October with help from a 90-day payment deferral.”
Some of the best displays of shutdown marketing are occurring right here in in and our nation’s capital, where it seems the largest amount of workers have been affected. According to articles/reports posted by USA Today and ABC News, the following companies in the DC area, ranging from food and drink to car services, are offering the following promotions, freebies and discounts in conjunction with the shutdown:
- Cupcake Blvd: One free cupcake to federal employees affected by the shutdown from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., through this Friday
- Del Campo: Happy hour prices for the duration of the shutdown, all day long, with a government ID
- Fibre Space: Free knitting lessons with entry into their daily “Intro to Knitting” classes
- Gourmet Cottage: 15% off for all furloughed government workers and contractors. Present your valid government ID, and the discount is good until the government re-opens
- Hailo: The DC Taxi app is offering $10 off your next ride with the code SHUTDOWN!
- The Howard Theatre: Free tickets for federal employees for three upcoming shows and 50% off the Sunday Rufus featuring Sly Stone Show
- Jose Andres’ restaurants (Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel): Free sandwiches for affected workers “everyday until it’s over”
- Koons of Silver Spring, MD: A single free oil change for all furloughed government employees. Koons "realizes the importance of the livelihood of the federal government workforce," the article reports.
- Pork Barrel BBQ: Free food for the duration of the shutdown to all government employees (except members of Congress!)
- Potomac River Running: 15% off your entire purchase with a government or military ID, while the shutdown lasts!
- Sophie's Cuban DC: Make any purchase at the restaurant, and receive three free empanadas with a government ID
- Soupergirl: 10% "furlough special" discount for most government employees (Members of Congress will be charged DOUBLE!)
- Taylor Gourmet: Receive a “10 percent discount, career counseling and a cookie" with the purchase of any hoagie or salad
- Z-Burger: Free burgers to those with a federal ID card - "This might put us out of business," says co-founder Peter Tabibian. "But we want to show that we care more about the people than the politicians do."
What these companies are doing for their city is nothing short of awesome. But, it’s also smart marketing. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, or Independent, not getting a paycheck sucks. And, when the doors of government re-open and money filters back into empty pockets, I’m sure those affected will remember these establishments and how they had their backs during a hard time.
Is there anything I missed? If so, please let us know!
"Do you really need one of me shirtless, clutching a bayonet? Oh -- you do."
Lately, I’ve become entranced by the increasingly bizarre tale of John McAfee.
Now I do work for Symantec, so perhaps I'm more interested than most in the plight of John’s eponymous anti-virus company (recently acquired by Intel).
But the unprecedented weirdness of this particular McAfee news story transcends my Symantec tribalism – I believe – and leaves me simply awed by the phantasmagorical details.
I’ll even admit to a tinge of sympathy for the McAfee PR folks, who were forced to release this company statement on November 19th:
"John McAfee left the company in 1994. He has no current affiliation or association with the company."
Sounds a lot like the press statement that Hitler Industrial Smoothing put out in 1939. Anyway, here’s what we know so far about the bizarre series of events:
1. John McAfee has been living in Belize for the past four years, working as a chemist.
2. When I say chemist, what I really mean is that he's been synthesizing hallucinogenic drugs -- principally the stimulant MDPV, commonly referred to as "bath salts."
3. According to his postings on Russian-hosted-drug-themed Internet message board BlueLight (I'm not making this up), McAfee is interested in MDPV for its "hypersexual" effects and has perfected a technique for ingesting the compound rectally -- which he refers to colloquially as "plugging."
4. A short while ago, McAfee's dogs were poisoned and killed.
5. Soon after, his neighbor (who had often quarelled with McAfee over those very dogs) was murdered.
6. The Belize National Gang Suppression Unit moves to arrest McAfee for the murder of his neigher.
7. McAfee begins “live-blogging” his life on the lam via the website WhoIsMcAfee.com. (Legally, this may prove to be a dubious strategy. But it's certainly an entertaining website and presumably virus-free.)
8. In the blog, McAfee claims he's been returning to the scene of the crime in various disguises -- including one that features a "shaved-down tampon inserted into his right nostril" to alter the shape of his nose (still not making this up).
9. McAfee may or may not have been apprehended by Belize authorities at the Mexican border on Saturday.
So we may indeed have some closure. But back to that "live-blog." This thing is really something:
Oddly poignant in parts (as in the section where McAfee discusses his complex sexual relationship with a 20-year old companion named Samantha), often vicious (as in the section where McAfee accuses Gizmodo reporter Jeff Wise of a personal vendetta sparked by the false belief that McAfee sent adulterous pictures of the newsman to the newsman's wife), and chock-full of good old-fashioned paranoia (as in the section where McAfee accuses the Belize police department of poisoning his dogs, themselves).
What’s really interesting, though, is how all this will end up impacting McAfee the corporation. Fair or not, when you've got an alleged murderer as your corporate founder (who's also drugged out of his... err... backside), it’s going to get covered in the technology press and on the evening news, and eventually, it just might start hurting your bottom line -- or at least your brand equity.
We'll have to wait and see.
Perhaps, though, it’s best to downplay individual corporate personalities these days. One thing's for certain: If Peyton Manning ever runs into a scandal, our entire consumer economy is at risk. Maybe that’s the real fiscal cliff, come to think of it.
"You know what, John, that's not half bad. You can really taste the healthcare."
McAfee posted to his blog Monday morning that he's successfully fled Belize. He explains the reports of his (greatly exaggerated) demise thusly:
My “double," carrying on a North Korean passport under my name, was in fact detained in Mexico for pre-planned misbehavior, but due to indifference on the part of authorities was evicted from the jail and was unable to serve his intended purpose in our exit plan. He is now safely out of Mexico.
I just... I really love this story...
If you’re anything like us SpeakerBoxers, you love food. That's why last month, after we all felt sick from consuming 2 dozen Georgetown Cupcakes we won in HomeSnap’s Twitter contest, we started drawing up plans for an app called “Remorsel.” Our app was going to include user-based reviews of favorite dishes (or, in Georgetown Cupcake’s case, flavors) at local eateries in the DC area, including photos of said dishes.
Well, I guess we have a leak in the office, because somehow Yelp caught wind and announced some updates to their app today that clearly were stolen from our masterful plan that we never wrote down or really developed to any extent. According to Travis B. (a Yelp product manager) in his recent blog post entitled “Yelp Menus: Connecting People with Great Local Food Porn:”
“I hate to break it to you, but your little problem is about to get much more serious thanks to the brand new mouthwatering Menus feature Yelp is rolling out today. We’ve combed the site to compile visual menus incorporating Yelp reviews and user-uploaded food pictures. Now you can not only read about that decadent chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake swimming in a pool of hot fudge, you can see real users’ photos of said gut-busting dessert from every angle right alongside the menu item.”
Along with the graphics, they will also now have a “favorite dish” option that will show us the preferred dishes at specific restaurants. Since these new features accomplish everything we intended our new app to do, I guess we’ll have to go back to the drawing board on the app front. Or, we can simply hope that one of the flavors we submitted for the Lays “Next Great Potato Chip Flavor” competition is a winner.
But, the new app features aren’t the only announcement Yelp made today. Looks like they’re also putting their foot down on fake reviews. According to their official release, they’ve launched a pop-up consumer alert feature that will notify their users of businesses who are tooting their own horn, so to speak. To punish the offending businesses, violators’ names will remain on “the list” for 90 days, dissuading them from continuing to falsify their businesses reviews. Sounds good to me!
Headlines get clicks. This I know.
So congrats to Business Insider for today's "Kindle Fire is the Fruitcake of Tablets." Obviously I had to click on that.
Turns out, it's a brilliant metaphor. (Kindle Fire market share collapsed after the holidays, suggesting that people will buy the economical tablets as gifts, but not for themselves.)
So what makes a great headline? Wit? Pith? Snark? Other noises that Batman makes when he's punching a guy?
To shed some light on the topic, here are my top 10 headlines of the last 101 years
10. “Ford to City: Drop Dead”
This 1975 headline from The Daily News may have cost Gerald Ford the election. Too bad he never actually said it.
9. “Britney Loses Kids”
2007’s headline from The Sun sounds entirely plausible. But the subhead -- “K-Fed wins custody” (written in two-point font) -- dampens the impact a bit.
8. “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”
The Crimson’s headline from 1968, now a "major" motion picture.
7. "Woman in sumo wrestler suit assaulted her ex-girlfriend in gay pub after she waved at man dressed as a Snickers bar"
From Ireland’s Evening Herald in 2010. What could I possibly add to this?
6. “This Sport Is Stupid Anyway”
Headline from 2010’s New York Post after the U.S. got ousted from the World Cup. Ha.
5. “Dewey Defeats Truman”
Yawn. I guess I have to include this because it’s on every newspaper headline top 10 list. Thanks a lot, 1948’s Chicago Tribune. Now we have to wait until 3AM before CNN will call a freakin' election.
4. “Small Step for Man, Giant Gaffe for NASA”
In reference to NASA erasing the original moon landing tapes. Who knew the 2009 Associated Press had a sense of humor? Also, am I the only one who thinks this has enormous government cover-up written all over it?
3. “This Is Your Captain Freaking”
Nice wordplay by the New York Post in March -- after JetBlue’s Captain Osborn went nuts mid-flight and started ranting about al Qaeda and stuff.
2. “Proud Peacock Vies with Mrs. Astor for Ballroom Sensation”
May 26, 1911. It was a simpler time
1. “County to pay $250,000 to advertise lack of funds”
Well... you gotta spend money to make money. Thanks for the laughs, 2006‘s The Register Guard.
Okay, loyal readers, your turn: What did I miss?