Chipotle and the disconnect between consumer perception and reality.

»Posted by in Consumer Behavior, Marketing | 0 comments

Chipotle and the disconnect between consumer perception and reality.

If you are one of those consumers — and there are many — who believe that Chipotle is a healthy alternative to traditional fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King, today’s article in the New York Times about Chipotle is an eye-opener.

As headlined at the beginning of the article, most meals ordered at Chipotle contain more than 1,000 calories and have almost a day’s worth of sodium. Consumers assume that lots of calories and high sodium levels only apply to meals ordered at places like the Golden Arches or perhaps at Pizza Hut.

The new conventional wisdom suggests that Chipotle is the guilt-free, healthier way to eat on the run (or trot, as the case may be). It’s hard not to get that impression from most media, especially social media. All those new social media types seem to love the company. Indeed, as a college marketing instructor, several of my students have written papers about Chipotle, basically to sing its praises as the “smart person’s” alternative to traditional quick-serve chains.

What interests me is not so much the Times’ revelations about calorie counts and sodium levels, it’s the obvious disconnect between consumer perception of Chipotle and the reality. The Times article makes it clear: it is not a healthier place to eat. Its meals are not low-calorie, low sodium, or more nutritious than other chains. But people — mostly younger consumers — believe it is. Why is that?

In our marketing classes we teach students about the importance of consumer perception, e.g. selective perception, perceptual distortion, etc.  The fact is, what we perceive is usually what we want to perceive — or not perceive. Esse est percipi. Just as several recent scientific studies show that we can innocently manufacture “memories” about events that never happened to us (one article suggested that Brian Williams, the defrocked pope of evening news, was a victim of false memory, not an intentional liar), we see in brands and their products and services what we want to see.

In many cases, what we “see” is what we have been led to believe, either by the brand itself and its advertising, the subculture and age culture we belong to, and the negative attitudes that develop among peers about less attractive or less “cool” brands. The attitudes and the perceptions that reinforce those beliefs are learned. McDonald’s, Microsoft, and Facebook (it’s falling from grace, albeit slowly) are seen by many consumers, especially younger consumers, as uncool, old school, and injurious to one’s image, health, and pocketbook.

Unless someone stops eating, something has to fill the void left by the demolition of McDonald’s. Chipotle has been chosen to play that role. Necessarily, to be a suitable replacement, it has to be healthier than the chain it is replacing. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

From a branding perspective, I suppose this is a “good guys” versus “bad guys” story — or good brand versus bad brand. Chipotle represents the good guys, and McDonald’s the bad, old guys. This is what people want to believe, so they believe it. It’s the willing suspension of disbelief that all fast-food is bad for you that keeps the Chipotle image from crumbling.

For those of us who are old enough to remember when McDonald’s was new and the word “healthy” hadn’t been invented yet, the Times’ piece has proven what we have always known: there’s no such thing as a free meal or, more precisely, a low-calorie, healthy, fast-food meal.

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For HR managers: Orange is the new black.

»Posted by in Human Resources | 0 comments

For HR managers: Orange is the new black.

After 20 years of consulting, the one area of an organization that I dread dealing with as an employee is the HR department and HR managers.

Certainly there are exceptions to the rule — more exceptions now that  younger people are going into HR. But there is still this lingering attitude among HR managers that employees are like inmates and HR is the rule of law that keeps those bad-assed employees in line. Without HR and its many rules and policies, chaos would reign. The organization would collapse under the weight of personal preferences, exceptions, hardship cases, and lack of compliance. In other words, the organization would become too humane for the Human Resources Department to control.

I wish I could say that my point of view is all that unusual. It is not. Employees, job-hunters, even company executives, want as little to do with HR as humanly possible. They know that any interaction won’t be the highlight of their day. As something tells me, misanthropic HR managers prefer it that way.

Keep the inmates, if not at arm’s length, then at least far enough away that they won’t question HR’s authority or cause any trouble.

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The 10 best FREE press release distribution services.

»Posted by in Marketing | 0 comments

Internet businesses, consultants, coaches, service businesses — all have an insatiable need for new prospects. “Keeping the pipeline full” is a constant source of worry and an on-going battle. Most businesses wisely use an integrated marketing approach: networking, directory advertising, local and Internet advertising, and participation in various online social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

megaphoneOne marketing tool that is often under-utilized or applied ineffectively is publicity, either generated by press releases or feature stories. Although “getting ink” in the local newspaper and business magazine is a terrific lead generator, many other publicity channels are frequently overlooked. Blogs, web sites, RSS feeds, social media and other online news outlets are all hungry for news. And one of the best methods of delivering news to these channels is through an online news distribution service.

I’ve put together a list of the ten best free press release services. All of these sites are suitable for businesses trying to market their services. In fact, there is no reason why you could not use several of them to extend your reach. Most offer additional, fee-based products in addition to their free services. After visiting all their web sites during the past week, it appears that each site does offer a free service. Sometimes you have to explore the web site for a while before you find the magic door into the free service area.

Of course, to distribute a press release for free means you need to write a press release or have one written for you. At the end of this article, I provide a link to my press release writing service. For new customers, I am offering a significantly reduced rate. My goal is do a great job so that you will want to come back for other public relations and marketing services.

Here’s my list of the Ten Best Free Press Release Services –

#1  Free Press has been the No. 1 in the free press release distribution service area since 2003. Customers can submit an unlimited number of release, up to 3,000 words in length.

#2  Some of the features of this service include: HTML links in the press release body, search engine optimized dedicated web page; PDF version, multiple categories; keywords, spam protection on your email address, the ability to edit/delete press releases, press release scheduling. Press release distribution includes Google News, numerous search engines, numerous javascript, html; RSS feeds.

#3  Customers can distribute releases to search engines, news-wires and websites to help increase awareness of their product, company, or self.  Services aim to help customers reach journalists and improve visibility in search engine listings, a concept known as search engine optimization, so customers can get the most publicity possible. The service allows customers to attach files, logos or images to their press release so they’re ready for journalists and others who need the information for publication. A customer’s website can also be displayed within the press release to make it easy to lead readers directly to the site.

#4  Customers may only submit one release per week per website per company. Customers found abusing the free submission can be banned from using the service. They do not allow the placement of html in the releases; however, customers may use complete URL’s in their releases.

#5 is a directory of businesses, products and services, a press release distribution service, job search website, and online publication of articles, reviews and celebrity interviews.  Customers can submit news and press releases via their global online news and press release distribution service with distribution points such as AskJeeves News, Excite News,, MSN News.

#6  Free-Press-Release-Center  This is an online news and press release distribution service for small and medium-sized businesses and corporate communications. The service allows keyword linking. With each press release customers can choose a keyword and a URL which will appear as a link (using the keyword as the anchor text) in their press release.

#7  24-7 Press Release  They offer a free trial version that allows you to submit one release per day. It stays in their directory of releases for six months. They make it clear that the approval of a release is at their discretion and that releases should have a compelling news angle. In addition to their free press release service, they also offer submission approvals within 48 hours, the ability to schedule your release for a future date, over 400 industry channels, distribution to opt-in journalists, freelance writers and RSS/Javascript subscribers, and press releases stored in database for possible future story seekers. Through their strategic partnership with PR Newswire, this service’s Mass Media Distribution distribution package offers broad exposure for paying customers. The PR Newswire network allows press releases to be accessed by nearly 80,000 journalists and distribution to approximately 4000+ web sites.

#8  Free-Press-Releases
This service says its press releases end up on Google News and thousands of niche sites across the Internet. Many websites with focused subject areas take content from its categories relevant to their readers and display as news on their own sites.  Freepressreleases is also indexed by many global news mining organisations that hunt for specific information.  Freepressreleases also offers each category as a specific RSS feed.

#9  Free-Press-Index is a new addition to our list, although it has been in business since 2007. The process on this web site is straightforward. Register for the service with some basic information, submit your release, and “if accepted” it will be added to their directory. According to their web site, they do not remove older releases from their directory. That means that your press release will be available for others to read and publish well into the future.

#10  Free Press Release Center does indeed offer a free press release service. Like most free services, they stay in business by selling upgraded accounts. Even then, the costs are very reasonable. I just signed up to see how smooth the process is and it is very user-friendly with the SOP of verifying accounts via email. Just click on the link and you can then sign in to your account.

If you would rather have a professional writer do your press release, I am offering new customers a significantly reduced rate on my press release service. Click here to find out more about pricing and what I can offer you.

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