Your Gullibility Knows No Bounds

Mine too.

The Gal Pal and I have migrated south. As a result, we’ve exchanged snow and ice for rain. Last night we dined at a “craft eatery”. What a bullshit phrase! That type of wording thrives on our anemic marketing immune systems. The whole menu was a case study in descriptive gobbledygook. As it turned out, the grub was very ordinary, but the place was packed. As I scanned the packed “craft eatery”, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would’ve been as crowded if it was just a mere “restaurant”.

Then I thought about the steady stream of public figures who market themselves one way in public and act completely different in private. Take NFL quarterback Russell Wilson for example. He’s la ultima “craft eatery” athlete. Among other signs of hypocrisy, he’s a committed Christian who runs an (allegedly) bullshit charitable foundation that mostly pads the employees’ pockets.

We fall for “craft eatery” bullshit all the time without realizing it. Marketing has seeped into our collective subconscious.

Maybe resistance is futile and I should stop complaining and just lean into the incessant upselling of style over substance. That’s probably a saner path forward.

Thus, from this point forward, I cast off my identity as a “blogger”. From now on, please refer to me as a “craft writer” and the humble blog as an “organic platform for advanced cognition”. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Monday Assorted Links

1. What to do when you’re fired.

“The owner came up to me and said, ‘I’ve been thinking, why should I pay you when I can do what you do?’ And he let me go,’ said Carroll, 51, of Macomb Township. ‘I was driving home, crying my eyes out, to tell you the truth. I thought, ‘What are you going to do? How are you going to make it?’”

One resilient dude with a bullet-proof business philosophy.

“I take care of things. If you take care of one person, it turns into 10. If you do one person bad, it turns into 100.”

2. The Disneyfication of a University. Not sure whether to laugh or cry.

“We were given ‘Service Priorities’ table-tent cards, conveniently sized for our pocketbooks and billfolds so we can whip them out whenever we needed to remind ourselves how we change the world. These cards offer a series of declarative statements—pabulum, some might say—about our “care” priorities. Here’s a sample: ‘I support a caring environment by greeting, welcoming, and thanking others.’ To help us care for others, the university has established a ‘positive vibes submission’ website, where we ‘can send a positive vibe to someone.’ It was hard to detect many positive vibes in the workshop itself.”

3. The latest recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in his own words. Will the reward ever recover?

4A. Pay equity for skiers and snowboarders. 4B. The battle against crowded ski hills.

5. Is this what progress looks like? U, G, L, Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly!

Apple Will Get You To Open Your Wallet

Despite the new Apple Watch Series 4’s central features—a built in EKG and “fall detection”—being designed for aging Baby Boomers who may not be able to use it without their grandchildren’s help, the marketing skews young, urban, global, and very creative and good. The bifurcated approach to design and selling is interesting. Go ahead and criticize the high prices for the incremental improvements in hardware, but give Apple’s advertising team credit for continued brilliance.

Reader Beware

From today’s inbox.

Hi Ron,

We are interested in sending over a quality and relevant article to your site ( as a contribution. Is this something you might consider? If yes, please email me back and I’ll be happy to send over the article for your review asap.

Note that the copy will include a few references to our client. We’ll also pay you $100 per post through PayPal, for your time and effort. I look forward to hearing from you, Ron.

Have a good day!

Marketing Manager
[email address]

You’re probably hip to product placement in television and film, but what about in on-line and traditional print? When reading, do you ever ask, “What am I being sold?” If not, it’s time to start.

Please help me refine my reply to Ms. Marketing Manager. Here’s what I have so far.

Dear Ms. Marketing Manager,

Hell no.


Ronald S. Byrnes

Rooting for the Millennials

Car makers are worried.

Today’s teens and twenty-somethings don’t seem all that interested in car ownership. Or driving more generally. Less than half of potential drivers age 19 or younger had a license in 2008, down from nearly two-thirds in 1998. The fraction of 20-to-24-year-olds with a license has also dropped. And adults between the ages of 21 and 34 buy just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, a far cry from the peak of 38 percent in 1985.

Jordan Weissmann in the Atlantic writes, “The billion-dollar question for automakers is whether this shift is truly permanent, the result of a baked-in attitude shift among Millennials that will last well into adulthood, or the product of an economy that’s been particularly brutal on the young.”

I’m guessing both and.

Wiessmann asks why purchase a new car given the five figure cost, insurance, repairs, and $4/gallon gas, especially if there are reasonable, nearby alternatives like a Zip Car membership, bicycle sharing program, or subway?

Also Millennials are more likely than past generations to live in cities, about 32 percent, somewhat higher than the proportion of Generation X’ers or Baby Boomers who did when they were the same age. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, surveys have found that 88 percent want to live in cities. When they’re forced to settle down in a suburb, they prefer communities which feature plenty of walking distance restaurants, retail, and public transportation.

“If the Millennials truly become the peripatetic generation,” Weissmann warns (emphasis added), “walking to the office, the bus stop, or the corner store, it could mean a longterm dent in car sales. It’s doubly problematic (emphasis added) if they choose to raise children in the city. Growing up in the ‘burbs was part of the reason driving was so central to Baby Boomers’ lives. Car keys meant freedom. To city dwellers, they mean struggling to find an empty parking spot.”

Josh Allan Dykstra in Fast Company asks, “What if it’s not an ‘age thing’ at all? What’s really causing this strange new behavior (or rather, lack of behavior)? He likes the thinking of a USA Today writer who blames (emphasis added) the change on the cloud, the heavenly home our entertainment goes to when current media models die. Dykstra writes, “As all forms of media make their journey into a digital, de-corporeal space, research shows that people are beginning to actually prefer this disconnected reality to owning a physical product.”

“Humanity,” he contends, “is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to ‘own’ something. This is why a similar ambivalence towards ownership is emerging in all sorts of areas, from car-buying to music listening to entertainment consumption. Though technology facilitates this evolution and new generations champion it, the big push behind it all is that our thinking is changing.”

I like Wiessmann’s and Dykstra’s analyses and insights, but not their conclusions. They’re singleminded focus is on twentysomethings’ impact on economic growth as if everything valuable in life hinges on sales receipts. Ultimately, they’re coaching car makers on how to entice Millennials back into the market.

I’m more interested in cheering them on. For resolving to live differently than their parents, meaning within their means. For caring about the quality of the environment for future generations. For contributing to our country’s energy independence and making it less likely we’ll fight foreign wars. And for challenging the status quo of conspicuous consumption.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, an inspiring generation.


App Review—Zite Personalized Magazine—Algorithms Ain’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be

When I first met the Zite Personalized Magazine App I was totally infatuated. She was a total looker, great interface, and totally customizable. Our first dates were fantastic. We created structure by selecting several newspaper “sections” including: architecture, arts & culture, automotive, business & investing, film & tv, food & cooking, gadgets, health& exercise, mac news, personal finance, philosophy & spirituality, and sports.

Then we settled into a nice daily rhythm of just hanging out and reading. When I read an article on Steve Jobs, she asked me if I’d like more like it. “Yes,” I answered. Always so selfless, when I read a Sports Illustrated article on recruiting controversies at the University of Oregon she asked if I’d like more articles from Sports Illustrated (yes), about the University of Oregon (no), and NCAA recruiting (no). So inquisitive, and such a patient listener, she totally “got me” in very short order.

But now we’ve plateaued, maybe even started to drift apart a bit, and I’m not sure how to get the lovin’ feeling back. The problem is, with all her fancy pants algorithms, she’s gone overboard in personalizing my homepage. Nevermind what’s happening in Iran, Syria, or Putin’s Russia, my home page is filled with stories about Apple computer, college sports, and, not sure where she got this, Prince Harry partying in Belize.

As you know, whether we answer “did you like” inquiries or not, algorithm-based highly personalized internet suggestions and marketing are the future. iTunes and Netflix tells us what music and movies we’d like based each of our choices. Same with Amazon. At Amazon and other commercial sites we don’t even have to make purchases. Big Commercial Brother tracks our internet surfing and then creates personalized suggestions and ads.

“Free” customizable newspaper apps shouldn’t be as controversial should they? It’s a real time saver not having to sift through less interesting stories. Right? The problem is the end result—hyperpersonalized newspapers that make it less likely we’ll stumble upon interesting, quirky, challenging stories that stretch us. Spontaneity is sexy, endlessly staring into a mirror is not. We already live in economically and racially segregated neighborhoods, we watch television that affirms our political biases, and we attend churches and recreate with people that look like us.

Where are the diverse neighborhoods, schools, churches, and public places where people can begin learning how to get along with people different than them? People who are richer or poorer, people from across the political spectrum, people who are and aren’t religious. And where are the internet apps and websites where people’s thinking is challenged, nourished, deepened?

Another article on my Zite homepage today is titled, “The Gray Divorcés” which is about the increasing percentage of 50+ year olds deciding to divorce. (More evidence I was right that divorce is the new default.) I’m not quite ready to break it off with Zite altogether, but she’s getting on my nerves.

Grade: B-

For Hire

I’ve been lurking on Craigs for quite awhile now looking for a time trial bike, a 58 cm Cervelo P3 that goes real fast without hardly any pedaling. Everyone should always be shopping for (or selling) something on Craigs.

Many Craigers’ ad writing abilities leave A LOT to be desired. Can I have an ahmen?! There’s no picture guy, crummy picture guy, cut and paste product detail guy, depreciation calculation challenged guy, tweeter guy, and the worst of the lot, no frame size bike guy. There’s a special place in the back of the peloton of life for no frame size bike guy.

Since it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness, I am here to help. Send me a rough draft of your ad and I’ll improve it. You’ll sell your item much more quickly and for tons more money. All I ask in return is x% of the sale’s price. What, I wonder, is the fair value of X?

Other jobs I’d be great at include: Miami Heat reserve, professional golf caddy, chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company, travel writer, the guy who drives the team car during the Tour de France, and breakfast grill chef.

Without Commercials

Most people are far more accepting of ubiquitous advertising than me. Resistance may be futile when it comes to Madison Avenue, but I’m not going down without a fight, even if I’m the last one standing. Not sure how to explain my intense anti-commercialism, except that it relates to my dislike of mindless consumerism more generally.

What forms does my quirkiness take? I can’t believe people don’t replace or remove the dealer’s license plate frame when they buy a vehicle. Why add advertising to my field of vision and provide the dealer with free advertising? If you think that’s odd, I also wonder why I provide free advertising in terms of my car’s badging. I’d remove my car’s badging, but I’m afraid I’d scratch the paint and leave holes. I’d love to overhear someone say “What kind of car is that?” In this same some-what demented spirit, I wish I could pay more for advertising-free versions of the periodicals I subscribe to. Of course if it made economic sense to offer two versions, one with advertising, one without, publishers would do it. More evidence I’m in a distinct minority.

Related to this, check out this incredible innovation. Thank you David Pogue for bringing that to my attention and to the creators whomever you are. My nomination for the Nobel Prize for Technological Innovation.

Readability is one salvo in the war for people’s attention when on-line. These days, when I click on “Gamecast” to see a sport’s scoreboard on ESPN’s website, I have to endure a 30 second commercial before the score and statistics are visible. Apparently, my preferred computer company has applied for a patent that will give them the potential to apply that same diabolical form of advertising to future devices. I’ll be very disappointed if that turns out to be true.

In related news, believe it or not, Mr. Late Adaptor bought a new television a few months ago. [In the background right now three teens are doing homework (mostly). They’ve just been joined by a fourth on a laptop via Skype video-conferencing. Best quote, “We should probably work.”] I can’t tell you the brand of my new television otherwise I might provide them free advertising. Let’s just say it rhymes with Supersonic. The picture is unbelievable and I’ve connected it to the internet via ethernet cable.

This is where it starts to get good. The Supersonic comes with Amazon-On-Demand built in. Created an account in 30 seconds and a few minutes later downloaded nine or ten episodes of Mad Men for $2.99/per or $3.17 with taxes. We can stream movies too. Soon I’m sure they’ll add Netflix. Now L and I can watch MadMen whenever we want without commercials. I repeat, without commercials. Twelve minutes of commercials times the fifteen or so episodes. Serious time savings, not to mention improved continuity. Another fam favorite, Modern Family. That was a form of advertising wasn’t it?

I can hear the early and middle adaptors laughing. I know, welcome to the 21st Century. For me, this represents a great leap forward in television viewing. Soon my preferred computer company will charge $30 or so per month for unlimited streaming. People will stream programming of their choice to their televisions and handheld personal devices. Sometime soon we’ll tell young people about how we used to gather together on Thursday nights to watch commercials with some Cheers, Seinfield, and the Office mixed in. I suppose we’ll still gather together in real-time for some sporting events, but I’m looking forward to this bold new world of commercial free streaming.

I’m not so naive to think the MadAve army is going to raise a white flag. But for now at least, it’s advantage A, L, to the Dizzle.