Been going through one of those phases where you wonder whether the effort of opening up TypePad to rant about your latest bit of angst actually matters at all. Particularly when we have people, in the run-up to celebrating our 'African Unity' on Africa Day, mutilating some and burning alive, others of their peers. Dear Jesus. What a world we live in. More specifically, what a country. However, this morning I was skim-reading the Sunday Crimes, er Times and ran across this exquisitely insightful piece by the talented wordsmith, Helen Walne. It's not about Xenophobia, or crime. But about social media. Read it. It helps put certain things into context. Right click on the article and select 'Open link in a new window' to read. Yeah, and just discovered the article online anyhow. So if you're too lazy to right click, then click here! ;-)
You are looking at the packaging of the most divine latte known to tastebuds. I've been buying the Chilla brand for several years. I gave it a break for a bit and then last week bought two new packets, pleasantly surprised to see that it still retails at about R 42 a bag.
I've never done (until today) the math on how many lattes one gets out of the packet, but even with my truly excessive and over-generous portions of the powder, you'd get out 8 at least, really full-bodied, to daah-for as the Kugels would say, drinks.
Working out at roughly R 5 an extremely satisfying beverage, that's still only half the price of a halfway-decent decaf cappuccino. So, good value in any terms.
I've always joked that the Chilla manufacturers have included an addictive substance in the formulation, because once tried, it will take intensive therapy to wean you from it.
Here's my reason for this posting though: being the tres observant individual that I am, the first thing I noticed when cutting open the foil bag at home, was that it's lost weight. Perceptibly so. I flipped the package over and saw 250 grams as the given weight on the rear. But even my Alzheimer's-befogged memory recalled 300 grams, previously. Howzat for brilliant recall? At a subliminal level too. I looked closely and noticed that a little 250 gram sticker very neatly covered the original, printed-on-pack 300 gram legend. And that made me feel uncomfortable. If every manufacturer or importer appeared to maintain the same price, but surreptitiously removed (in this case 50 grams) of the contents in order not to 'up the price', that would herald an unacceptable marketing trend.
I called the Chilla Beverage company and spoke to their very helpful Kevin Lipschitz. Kevin assured me that there was no intention or attempt by Chillas to be dishonest, but he understood that the manner in which the price retention had been handled, could be construed as unacceptable.
This is a premium product. It's never going to be aimed at (or be affordable to) the mass market. So why not use more inventive marketing? A flash on the pack, reading 'still less than half the price of a coffee-shop cappucino' or something like that? But give me the choice. To buy or not to buy. In my marketing and advertising-trained mind, the way this was handled has potential to do damage to a marvellous brand. Guys - go revisit your future pricing strategy and how you implement it, is my suggestion.
And hey, I'll continue drinking Chillas. I'll just keep checking to see if the pack heads for anorexia! ;-)
Update 18th June '08: Hmm. Pack hasn't gone anorexic. Price remains the same, but the overlay 250 gram sticker is gone and the 300 grams of content is visible again. So why did I pay the same R 42 odd for the 250 gram pack? Not an OK explanation in my opinion.... anyone from Chilla Beverage Company care to comment?
If you want
to confuse people, then keep changing your position on an issue. Do it often
enough and they’ll simply begin to ignore anything you say. Two organisations
in South Africa have successfully gotten themselves into this invidious position in the last few months.
The ‘Biggest Loser’ on this score is power utility Parastatal,
Eskom. Faced with the worst crisis in living memory, it employed a PR company
to handle consumer perceptions and then promptly shackled them. See update 2nd May below...
adage of ‘You don’t buy a dog and then sit on the stoep and bark yourself’
applies. In industry, particularly high-tech industry, you don’t necessarily want to put your engineers on show.
Rarely are they blessed with adequate communication skills. When they are,
they’re often cursed with a linearity and obsession with detail that can
obfuscate the simplest issue.
They’re also typically poorly versed in the art
of presenting an issue to best advantage. As an example, Eskom’s Dr. Steve
Lennon (pictured), the poster-child for media ineptitude, displayed embarrassing naiveté when
arguing that Eskom had very adequate coal reserves at power stations, whilst
helicopter shots of empty coal storage yards featured with his voice-over on
the TV screen. Ouch.
previously written about Nationwide Airlines’ ‘ground-hog’ policy of hiding away
when anything went
wrong - the worst possible thing for an airline, of all
industry sectors. Forget your engine falling off in the sky. Forget your fleet
being grounded. If you don’t have candid, credible, consistent and constant
contact with your stakeholders in the face of such travails, you deserve to go
bust. How do people retain confidence in you when you don’t tell them anything?
is also on the razor’s edge of becoming
as vilified as our damp-squib president
‘no crisis’ Mbeki. You can’t do 180° flip-flops on issues in vain, if
well-intended, attempts to please everyone, and expect to retain any vestige of
The quicker Zuma follows the lead of the pragmatic Gwede Mantashe (pictured),
deputy president of the ANC, the better. This is the man who is comfortable in
his Freedom Day speech, criticising power failures and baby deaths caused by contaminated tap
water and (yet again) klebsiella bacteria. Let’s see (and I pray not) if this gets the ‘quoted
out of context treatment’ or whether he flies in the face of party opinion and
sticks to his guns.
The majority of the current crop of political 'non-leaders' in South Africa today have reached their sell-by date. What’s now needed is for more people like
Mantashe to stand up and be counted. Let’s know that when he says something, he
means what he says and there is meaning in what he says. What a sea-change in
government communications that will be!
Even the redoubtable, well-oiled and slick PR machine at Vodacom came a cropper with its 'BMW a day' promotion and BEE partner issues recently. Complacency and big-company clout are not a compensation for good communication and conceding when you've made a cock-up.
organisations and institutions today – the era of having your PR people put out
a fuzzy little press release to contain fall-out from your latest bit of poop
on the doorstep, simply won’t cut it. Get with the plan and ratchet up the most
vital component of your business – your communications apparatus.
UPDATE: 2ND May. So Eskom has decided no longer to 'punish' us like recalcitrant schoolchildren, despite some in our midst having made no effort to save 10% on power usage. Albeit that it's common cause that industry is responsible for the real power consumption.
Now the asses at Eskom would have us believe that because industry's got its act together they don't have to engage any longer in cutting our power. It's no longer part of their strategy. Do they even know the meaning of that word, one wonders?
They clearly believe we have a collective IQ of room-temperature or lower. The real reason - and it's an open secret among the electrical cognoscenti - is that the bloody substations and switching gear can't handle the power on-off-on-off, that comes with deliberate blackouts. The switches burn, things explode. Just ask the poor souls in Kempton Park and elsewhere. A week or more without any power in the middle of a freeze...
Just watch the space between the collective Eskom ears for their next blinding solution to the big switch-on of heaters in Winter....
In any halfway-developed economy, the head of some dumb sod at Eskom would roll. Instead of course, they tried to vote themselves bonuses. They deserve bonuses only for being the most grossly incompetent, breath-taking, Guinness-Book liars that any country could have inflicted on it. We now wait with bated breath for their next disingenuous 'PR communication'.
Click on 'Continue Reading....' below for a Saturday Star article added 3rd May '08. Click on the article to enlarge.
is the life-blood of social interaction. Like me, you may not class social
events as your favourite activity. You may, like me, even be averse to them.
You may, also like me, actively avoid them. Frankly, I regard a cocktail party
or similar function as a preview of purgatory. But if I have to attend such an
event, I make a success of it. How?
but plenty of guidelines for surviving or thriving in a social setting:
Adage says: Shyness is ‘I’-ness. If you think everyone’s going to be focused on you and how you engage, you’re wrong.
They’re typically quite focused on themselves!
You can’t converse or communicate well if you’re excessively worried about what people will think of you or your ideas.
People are not psychic or telepathic, so the greatest response or riposte inside your head means nothing, unless you open your mouth and vocalise it! So speak up. The more frequently you do, the easier it becomes.
The greatest aid to developing a really interesting conversational ‘menu’ is to read. The more widely and eclectically you read the greater will be the range of topics on which you’ll be informed.
Good journalism has the essence of the story in the first paragraph. So learn to skim-read newspapers, magazines and online publications. You don’t need all the details, but you’ll at least have a grasp of the issue and its topicality.
Give up on the idea that you need to be or are expected to be informed on every topic imaginable. I know nothing about sport for example. But I can keep sport fanatics engaged for hours, by asking them questions. They love nothing better than an opportunity to re-populate the national rugby, soccer or cricket teams.
Having said that, I hate the idea that you go to a social function prepared to ask stupid things like, ‘How do you know the host?’ Or ‘What’s your favourite food?’ That tells me you’ve been on a ‘Conversational skills 101’ course.
If you do want to (sincerely) ask questions, then make sure they’re ‘open-ended’. Example of a close-ended question (the wrong kind): ‘Do you like chocolate?’ I’ll typically get a one word answer. But if I ask, ‘What are your views on chocolate?’ (open-ended) I’ll get at least a phrase in response. So use Why? When? Where? How? Avoid like the plague ‘Do you?’ or ‘Have you?’ The answers are inevitably just ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
I once attended a stamp exhibition in the Benoni Town Hall – not by choice I hasten to add. I was cornered by an 80-something year-old man. He’d spent his life collecting stamps with dogs on them. I’ve yet to see a stamp (do people still use them anyhow?) with a dog on it. I walked away from the discussion newly informed. I now know how to pronounce philatelic (as in exhibition) and philately (the art of stamp collecting) and knowing that I was talking to a philatelist. So don’t waste an opportunity. If you have to be there, then make the most of it.
Go subscribe to ‘The Week’ It’s a superb distillation of the best of journalism in the UK and elsewhere. It'll put your finger on the pulse of global events and issues that you'll reasonably be expected to know something about.
A tense and anxious brain doesn’t work well. It causes your body to produce cortisol, which negatively affects short-term memory. Be prepared to be adventurous. Have fun. Treat the conversation as something of an adventure. Then your brain is optimally relaxed and will function at its best.
Finally, listen. Really listen. To what people are talking about in the room or at the event. Just by
adding a conversational nudge like, ‘That’s a really interesting thought. What would you do to rectify the situation?’ can keep someone chatting away. Listen to how people you regard as good conversationalists keep the ball rolling - and learn from them.