Monday, October 31, 2011

Inc. November 2011

I don't want this essay idea to hang over my head for weeks while I freeze to death so I'm going to plunge in and write non stop until I've got something down. Then I'll edit it in my dreams.

See, I've recently realized that I'm as good a writer as P.J. O'Rourke but I have to do everything in half the time and at a public computer where there is a clock decreasing in time in the corner of the screen and if I don't have the essay written in that time then I get kicked out to where I live in my van. But O'Rourke is funny in that high-minded way that is one or two steps beyond the initial knee-jerk reaction/response of the lizards in the commuter lane listening to paid hyenas on morning talk shows. Also, I have to write while I'm sober which is something O'Rourke does only once a decade.

I knew I had to do something when I read the article in Inc. "Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic (starting over stitch by stitch)" a feel good story of a single mom in Santa Monica, CA (this by itself is laughable as Santa Monica has the highest rent in the world which means her ex-hubby was a film producer or drug dealer) The picture is like Martha Stewart before she turned to the dark side. Earth tones/sans make-up. etc. And Shabby Chic started as flea market furniture with custom slip covers something my mother was doing in 1973 New Mexico. Famous people threw some money at Rachel, her crap was featured on the sitcom Friends, she did a show on E!, Oprah anointed her, etc. T-shirt bed sheets were as popular as sub-prime mortgages. And it all basically comes down to the vapidity of Los Angeles being exposed and exploited with no substance at all. White picket fences around concrete big box stores. It's like calling vanilla ice cream "Anti-Chocolate" and suddenly your ice cream shop takes off...and you're a big hero. BULLSHIT. Within 5 years she filed for bankruptcy, closed 80 stores of prepackaged Chinese crap and started flipping couches from Round Top, Texas and she's happy now. But what I see is vapidity and narcissism making money in a place that is saturated with stolen water and silicone tits. That sums up Inc magazine and my perception of the content and made me want to analyze the entire magazine to expose something in the process. So here it goes:

This magazine is called Inc. and it is an abomination. The cover has that matte white finish like "We're so pure" mythology Steve Jobs invented for the environmental catastrophe known as Apple computers. Sure, they are totally harmless as long as you are not Chinese or a fish living in the ocean. If you are then your blood will slowly be poisoned by mercury leached from the disposed lithium batteries that power our gadgets. So, that's the kind of ridiculous propaganda that the editor, Jane Berentson, thinks she will slip by the recently graduated M.B.A set whose dry cleaning bill is more than a Haitian's food budget. It's all business propaganda for an audience that grew up reading People mag, watching TMZ and acting in porn flicks to finance their first business. Really, everyone in it wants to be Steve Jobs, a "visionary" who couldn't write html but could tell the person who writes it to write it faster and better. Example:

Tara Hunt: CEO of buyosphere (ha! Like calling me CEO of Oggy World!). Oh, my great good god. Out of desire to be thorough, I visited buyosphere and it's like Narcissus designed a website with Jennifer Weiner as consulatant. "Kevin wants this. I want that. I like this. I have this....etc" It's really horrifying. Basically, I've got a suede jacket I don't want so I go and see what men want to buy a suede jacket. "Jack wants a Suede Jacket" Then I offer it up to them. "Oggy Has a suede Jacket" Oggy and Jack make a deal and buyosphere gets a cut. It's a facebook-enabled shopping spree. Clever--but a symptom of credit and consumer happy and essentially a middleman/used car salesman ethic who exploits rampant consumption. Way to go, Tara.

Then there are some consumer reports graphs about how many people will hear gossip about a good customer service experience (9, see my Greyhound story) opposed to 16 people hearing a bad experience. and fluff "research corner"  "Why it pays to help customers relax" Apple stores have "roaming salespeople equipped with hand held card swipers" thank Steve Jobs for no lines.

Another feel-good story about a brewmaster who got a state law changed that made it illegal to sell beer to customers on the site of a former abrasive's manufacturer. (how this place was allowed to produce consumables is another question). Easier access to beer. Great. Drive safe.

Random quote from an ad by Cessna: "When you told us you wanted a larger cabin and the freedom to move around [in your private leer jet] we listened. A wide world of comfort starts here."


Gastronaut delivers buffet meals in S.F. to offices. That sounds functional but listen to the three companies they fed: Credit card processor. Online test-prep. User Generated reviews of websites. Never say gay people can't make money from nothing.

Then there is a column written by Norm Brodsky where he dolls out advice to the anonymous masses. "Never buy a business for the wrong reasons, and buying one to stifle competition is definitely a wrong reason." "Emphasize the company's internal quality control..." "Good salespeople focus on the particular feature that the customer cares most about." blah blah blah.
This is all good advice but Norm Brodsky's specialty is "records storage" which basically means taking all those dusty boxes of tax returns in your basement and putting them in his basement. Visionary.

A company called 37signals writes an article bragging that he hired a videographer to video their genius in action. They have a word for this and it's spelled N-a-r-c-i-s-s-i-s-m

Innovation: something called the mChip tests a drop of blood for $1 and can identify 10 different diseases in 10 minutes. This is fucking completely remarkable and I'm an asshole for doubting Man's ingenuity. This means that when I go to Amsterdam and buy some street prostitutes I can use the card to make sure I don't get HIV. Bonus!

Reviews of smart phones and computer tune up software, luggage return tags, digital crap, etc. Pure product placement.

Article: Michael Plummer Jr. was a respectable medic when he took over his father's company: Our Town America. (can you fit any more patriotic key words into a company name?) The company sends those annoying bundles of junk mail to your door when you move into a neighborhood. 99% of them get thrown away except for the "Save $1 on your next taco" which hangs around in your wallet until it expires. He didn't want to, but he decided to keep the business going so you can thank Michael when you throw away that envelope of useless paper.

Article: This one is the worst because it combines flagrant hedonism with frivolous business models. Jared Heyman started infosurv which is totally useless badgering of customers and employees. It's like someone heard some gossip at the water cooler and thought , "If I recorded that anonymously, that would be a good indicator of company health." Flash forward 12 years and it's worth $2.1 million and I personally wouldn't take it if he was giving it away. So, Jared is getting itchy feet and wants to see the world he has been annoying for a decade so he leaves to travel around the world. My budget for the last 3 years has been about $6K. He budgeted $70K for one year. Now, the article is basically about what happens to him and what happens to his company when he takes his long vacation. BIG FUCKING DEAL> LIKE ANYONE CARES IF INFOSURV GOES BELLY UP. It's all about demographics and focusing in on a market. Like, I saw a Glade Air Freshener commercial during a football game. I guess they didn't use infosurv to tell them MEN DON'T CARE WHAT THE ROOM SMELLS LIKE.
Ok, here's an example of why you who are reading this are not going on a $70K world tour. Heyman had the brilliant idea to create something called "iCE" Infosurv Concept Exchange. Let me explain: People, (losers who have nothing better to do with their time) get $1000 in fake iCE dollars. They are given a mock stock exchange of prototype companies/stock/products/food/burgers/condoms/etc. How they spend this fake money is supposed to predict the value of that prototype/idea/concept. I don't have an example because I have better things to do with my time than spend fake iCE money on non-existent products but it shows you how the other half thinks. (I'm sure the products are food-based concoctions a'la Wendys or cell phone designs.) He basically looked at how companies test markets and put a spin on it with a fake marketplace. How people spend fake money on virtual products will reflect how they spend real money in the future on real products. Doctor it up with some pretty graphs and pie charts and BOOM you have a $2.1 million dollar business and a nice trip around the world to practice kite surfing. Now, you and I would not enter this picture because it is an abomination and we know that fake money spent when we are stoned in our bathrobes is not how we will spend real money when we are sober and slouching around the mall looking at teenage girls. But for some reason a company like Sony or Pixar will hire Infosurv to monitor the use of fake money in a fake marketplace. Well, I'm a hippie living in a van chopping wood at the park & ride in pitch blackness, cooking hot dogs over an open flame of a wood stove and the wood is motorcycle pallets hand sawed and chopped with a dull hatchet in the woods as security did their rounds. SO WHAT DO I KNOW?
The point of the article is lost on me as writer Amy Barrett must've been so happy to get the year long assignment to chase a handsome rich guy around the world that she totally commits a metaphoric atrocity by comparing Heyman to Che Guevara who was 22 when he was studying medicine and went to explore his continent, practiced medicine (not kite surfing) and then determinedly banded with Fidel Castro to liberate Cuba from the grips of capitalist corporations (like Heyman's) and the dog dictator Fulgencio Batista. Similarities? NONE. Oh, Heyman rides a motorcycle to his kite surfing lessons in Brazil...yeah, he's EXACTLY LIKE CHE. The company survives. Heyman learns to kite surf. End of article.
Nowhere in this article does it ask the question of how this money gets generated and if it does any good.

Question: Do you know who tells you that it is vital to focus your product on a specific market?
Answer: A company that does customer research.

I would tell you that you should make a product you like and if it good then someone will want to buy it. Otherwise you get hillbillies saying "I like the idea of a chicken stuffed with hamburger and covered with chocolate." and Wendys puts it on their "get fat" menu. More on this later.

The next article is on social media and it enrages me because it's pure narcissism. facebook (gossipbook), twitter, youtube all are used to promote mattresses and after shave. But it's the evolution of advertising where people are targeted specifically and feel special. we're all doomed if this doesn't stop.

Then there is a congratulatory article showcasing Stan Richards who "brands" concepts. Corona, milk, chicken, tequila, home depot. motel 6. All those brands were from his agency. Basically, if I had no conscience I would've ended up there and you'd all be eating out of my palm instead of my living off scavenged berries. 90 minutes after the hip ad associates make their pitches on how to brand an energy company Richards says, "My only comment is that we have figured out 20 different ways to complicate the offer to the point where it's almost impossible to figure it out." That's why he's Stan Richards. I also learn that "Spinning" class is really Biking...which makes me laugh because it's pure marketing thrown at yuppies who can't ride a bike because they wanted nice granite curbs that make the street too narrow for a car and a bike. assholes.

The next article is titled "Why is it so hard to find good people. The problem might be you." This is a spin article because it can be rehashed every month by any competent writer. I could write you this article in the next two hours if I wanted because hiring is a huge part of companies. Think about how I, Oggy Bleacher, must brand and market myself so some innocent company will think I'm a good fit. It's a total joke. I definitely don't belong on a job but I must package myself thusly.
I told someone, " I need to doctor my resume." Then my temp agency called and said, "Let's tailor your resume." So I started using that word instead. This article basically blah blah blahs about ways that hiring is a problem...perfectionism, unhealthy attraction, over analysis, procrastination. etc. I see this less about the content as about writer April Joyner making her monthly rent check. It is frivolous and ambiguous. Any HR dept could defend all her "mistakes".

Strategy: here's a trendy one where branding meets organic food. Sweetgreen is a D.C. based restaurant chain and they wanted to get into the music festival biz. I am not sure how this festival will promote organic food but I've never been to Sweetgreen. Is it good? Anyone know? I love salads but I unless it's overpriced Philbricks then I can't eat it. I don't think the ecstasy/crowd surfing crowd cares what they are eating. I guess Sweetgreen is a good concept that will be a success if Haitians are allowed to eat food. God, I'm soooo hungry.

A graph article compares 4 micro-funding/crowdfunding options. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Profounder, Microventures. These are ways to make a good/bad idea seem like a good idea to others so you can lose their money and not your own. smart! If I was ambitious I would use one of these sites to fund my idea to record all the accents of America and create a video montage of every one saying something like the "I have a dream" speech by MLK Jr. But I'm a pride-ful loser and would rather do it on my own dime which means it will never get done.

Elevator Pitch: One page to do exactly what the crowdfunding article talks about: convince other people to invest. Three guys built a computer platform to match speakers of other languages to learners of those languages. Their audience/jury was three heavy hitters in the finance world. All three basically said, "Good idea, but it's been done better and with more features. Go back to college."

Marketing: How to navigate the Hispanic marketplace basically came down to one word: Tits.

An Essay written first person by a young executive who pays nannies to raise his kids. David Sacks describes his day and sprains his arm patting himself on the back. His software is called Yammer. It facilitates idle gossip in the workplace.

Special Advertising Section: What? I thought the whole magazine was a special advertising section. School of Rock franchises, seniors helping seniors franchises (these are the notes in the library promising money to read to the infirm. ha!) A franchise with environmental waste solutions costs $26K. You get a digital camera and some company letterhead to tell a mcdonalds to shut off lights when they aren't in the bathroom.
Franchise those dvd rental boxes. Boy, my dreams will be coming true when I drive around replacing Lindsay Lohan's old movie with her new movie on christmas eve.

Fittingly, the magazine ends with an obituary of a deli owner named Rose Kravitz who worked every day and died at 95 years old. "If you can't make it working 40 hours, work 60," she said and probably worked 70 hours a week. But most importantly, she didn't outsource and she would eat all the food in her deli and she never hired infosurv or Stan Richards or had a corned beef music festival or used twitter. They do have a facebook account but that's not what makes them a success. The food is good, tested by the owners and the staff, priced and aimed at the market they are in, dirt poor Youngstown, Ohio, and they are content to do a good job. CONTENT. They aren't doing flips going to work everyday. Nowhere does the magazine mention that Rose, who had no M.B.A., is the only person in the magazine who had any common sense about economic matters. Everyone else basically tries to make money out of nothing. They make money out of manipulating the need for their product. Go ask a tire salesman if you need new tires. Rose clearly remembered the old days when the staples of life were all that made a buck. Fake people using Fake money to buy virtual concepts in a fake marketplace is something that could only exist in 2011. The fact this economic anomaly allows a vapid CEO to cruise around the world learning to Kite Surf makes me want to throw up my corned beef.

As I suspected, this magazine is an indicator species for the decrepit attitudes in the vapid business world of today. It's written like People magazine writers read the wall street journal instead of seeing whose cellulite has run down their bloated ass cheeks. I'm repulsed by both because they lack critical thinking skills. Inc. acts as a lap dog to small business owners, telling them what they want to know, inventing a market for their own empty advice. I know that business is a part of modern world but the ignorance of these articles is appalling. The editors seem utterly entranced with their own fake success. They even believe they deserve to be rich managing boxes of old files and creating virtual marketplaces for fake money to be spent by robots on gross food concepts that don't exist. Or branding products as a job. Do you think I need help branding Oggy Bleacher? That's been the experiment since day 1. Can I manufacture an identity? The answer is yes. It isn't that hard. You don't need an expert. Ask Rose Kravitz. Most importantly, get some common sense about basic values. Would your grandfather eat your menu? Would Rose Kravitz use your service? If not then get back in line.

The back of the magazine has an ad from Dell.

"Virtualization not only improves your outlook, it says "look out" to your competition.

What the fuck does that mean?
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.