Image 01

Fujifilm Getting into Ebola Fight

torossian-ebola

Ebola is hot international news, and billions are on the edge of their seats, waiting to see when a successful treatment will be released, followed hopefully, by an effective vaccine. President Obama has called the West African Ebola outbreak a “threat to regional and global security” and has pledged the United States help in combating the disease and stemming its spread. China, Britain, Japan and other international powers are also mobilizing forces to combat the epidemic.

Three pharmaceutical companies are hard at work developing treatments and vaccines. Now the battle has what some may call an unlikely ally.

International tech giant Fujifilm has jumped into the battle against Ebola…and the company is already making a huge impact.

Fujifilm has manufactured an experimental treatment drug called Avigan, an antiviral medication that many believe could be a breakthrough in Ebola treatment. That name may seem strange to Monday morning quarterbacks across the globe, but not to those who have their fingers on the pulse of Japanese economics. With one of the highest percentages of elderly in the developed world, Japan has focused much of its commercial research and development on medications, cosmetics and other ways to help people age gracefully – and pain free. Back in 2006, Fujifilm branched out into OTC medications and cosmetics in an effort to catch a piece of that market. As they have in previous endeavors, the company has succeeded in a big way.

In 2008 the company bought Toyama Chemical, the drug company behind Avigan. Now, some are reporting that Fujifilm is literally giving the drug away. The company has already paid for development, and Fuji can certainly afford it, but the move still has people turning heads and raising eyebrows. A successful Ebola treatment could mean an incredible windfall. Why give it away?

First, there’s the public relations opportunities. Fujifilm is not one of the first names you think of in the world of pharmaceuticals. Now the company is being listed as one of the Big Four working to combat the most feared virus in the world. Second, if any windfall is to come in the Ebola fight (and it will), the first to arrive at the party has a big advantage. Well, Avigan is pretty much ready to go, already produced for mass marketing, poised and ready for battle. Finally, success in this endeavor will forever change Fujifilm’s brand, and it will do so GLOBALLY in a single endeavor. Talk about a rebranding campaign!

Robert Kraft and the Pats epitomize class on Sunday night

torossianIn the first week of October, AFC powerhouse, the New England Patriots, took the field against surprise conference leader, the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a game both teams needed to win. It was the Old Guard against Cinderella. The winner would, at least early in the season, establish themselves as the team to beat in the AFC. Ronn Torossian recalls that, although there was a lot on the line for each team, neither was entirely focused on the game at hand.

Leah Still, the daughter of Bengals defensive tackle, Devon Still, is fighting pediatric cancer. It’s a tragic diagnosis for any child and a horrific situation for any parent to endure. Even more so for a parent who must perform before a national audience playing a game a week – week after week. As a professional football player, you have to be focused and sharp with your mind totally on the game, before and afterward. Having a sick child at home, how could you maintain your solid stance as an effective player – how could anyone?

Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, obviously felt the same way. Instead of allowing his team’s opponent to suffer in silence, Kraft orchestrated the event so that the entire stadium shared, just for one night, Still’s struggle. During the second half of the game, New England’s cheerleaders donned Still’s Bengals jersey. Let me repeat that again – In the hyper-competitive, money first industry that is the NFL today, an opposing team’s cheerleaders wore the other guy’s uniform. Afterward, it was announced that Robert Kraft would donate $25,000 to the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center in Leah’s name.

But the Patriots’ nod to Still and his daughter did not stop there. The game stopped, the crowd stood, and all of Gillette Stadium treated Devon Still to a standing ovation. For that one shining moment, rivalries were put aside and even die-hard fans raised their voices for a 25 year old father who had to watch his 4 year old daughter go through surgery to remove a tumor, her right adrenal gland, and all of her lymph nodes.

The video is sobering: A young man is visibly moved, his teammates gather around him offering hugs and silent encouragement, as the other team’s cheerleaders rev up the crowd to offer support for a sick little girl. Ron Torossian described the moment as heartwarming.

There is another matter that needs to be said – something that’s tough for a New Yorker to utter in reference to New England, but that is apt and true – Mr. Kraft, that was a class move, class all the way.

Will Apple Pay usher in a New Era of Mobile Retail?

apple-pay-torossian

With the release of Apple Pay, more than 220,000 retailers from coast to coast are cashing in. This system may be the best way to open proverbial wallets since the credit card. Statistics have long shown that paying with plastic causes people to buy more – and likely pay more for it. Where the dwindling stack of bills in your wallet was a bit prohibitive, turning cash into a convenient swipe removes that visual reminder. This is not news. From prepaid cards, to poker chips, everywhere money is exchanged, more of it flows when cash is absent in the transaction.

Apple Pay makes this transaction even easier. Now, practically all an iPhone user has to do is take his or her phone out and wave it at the register. This takes the emotional and psychological disconnect to an entirely different level. Buying things actually becomes fun and trendy. Instead of the emotional check or cash task, consumers get the social pleasure of doing something new, different and convenient.

Soon consumers can expect to see retailers blatantly advertising the opportunity to “tap to pay” in their stores. That convenience and the novelty of the transaction may actually help some retailers recapture some of the market share they have been losing to online retailers in recent years.

Doubtful? Businessweek recently reported that Citibank tested “tap to pay” programming way back in the dark ages of 2009. This pilot program proved that consumers bought more things and spent significantly more each time.

Apple Pay is even easier than “tap to pay” because the program does not require button tapping. Touch your finger to the button and wave the iPhone at the cash register. That’s it. Transaction complete with a flick and a swish – not a bad idea for a generation that grew up on Harry Potter.

Better Call Saul doubles down on weird

better-call-saul-marketing

When you want viral and don’t have anything to pique attention, going weird is not the worst idea. At least that seems to be the thought process behind the latest advert for “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul.”

The rumor mill has been churning overtime ever since it was announced (leaked) that there would be a Breaking Bad spin-off starring standout supporting character Saul Goodman, a wheeling and dealing amoral defense attorney. In a show chock full of interested and well crafted supporting characters, Saul is the perfect antihero to pull off his own show. First, he’s not dead. But since this is a prequel, that wouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker.

What really makes Saul the best choice is both his depth and the mysterious aspect to the character. He doesn’t really have a conscience, per se, but he does care about his associates in his own way. That makes him both endearing as well as unpredictable. You never really know which direction Saul is going to go. Which brings us to the first full-length advertisement for the spin-off. Apparently, we can’t predict what the producers will do either, because, if we had to describe this commercial in a single word, only one comes to mind: WEIRD.


First, it’s a song. A weird thrill-billy country-western riff crooned in classic cowboy baritone by Junior Brown. Then you have the weird assortment of red, waving blow-up balloons, the ancient console TVs and the blinking GUILTY sign floating in the background. Also, the wide-eyed Stepford women pushing around the TV carts. Interspersed amidst this bizarre bazaar you see screen clips of Saul in action. Standing tall, busting into a courtroom, staring down a conference table … he’s large and in charge. Though not nearly as large as Junior’s ten gallon hat.

If nothing else, the video is memorable, particularly in that ‘can never get it out of your head, stuck there forever way.’ To call it brilliant PR would be a stretch. To call it effective? That’s easy. Nobody can watch that all the way through and either forget the catchphrase (which is the show title) or that the program begins in February. Want to understand the rest of it? Better tune in.

George Galgano, Zig Ziglar & other Entrepreneurial Quotes

  • “There is no substitute for Hard work.” George Galgano
  • “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Steve Jobs
  • “You cannot expect to be effective and successful in business unless you truly believe in your business and in the goods and services that you sell.” James Stephenson
  • “I’ve found that entrepreneurial success usually comes through great execution, simply by doing a superior job of doing the blocking and tackling.” Naveen Jain
  • “Honesty and integrity are by far the most important assets of an entrepreneur.” Zig Ziglar
  • “An entrepreneur can have the most unique product offering, one that offers tremendous value, but if her underlying business plan is not sound she has nothing. A quality plan is the key “how” of a business.” Bob Diener
  • “Great entrepreneurs are the ones that know how to properly split their focus and make their understanding of the past work with their future expectations.” Jennifer Foster
  • “The road to being a true-blue entrepreneur is paved with spectacular stories of crash-and-burn. It requires a certain type of stamina that few possess and an insatiable desire to do better than the day before.” Dan Antonelli
  • “As an entrepreneur, it is so important to stay on top of trends in the industry.” Jamelle Sanders
  • “The entrepreneurs that make it are the ones with genuine solutions to real problems.” Williams Shaker
  • “Take chances and keep dreaming.” Mark Birnbaum
  • “The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” Nolan Bushnell
  • “Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.” Tony Hsieh
  • “When times are bad is when the real entrepreneurs emerge.” Robert Kiyosaki
  • “But as an entrepreneur you have to feel like you can jump out of an airplane because your confident that you’ll catch a bird flying by. It’s an act of stupidity, and most entrepreneurs go splay because the bird doesn’t come by, but a few times it does.” Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix
  • “Before dreaming about the future or marking plans, you need to articulate what you already have going for you – as entrepreneurs do.” Reid Hoffman
  • “What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.” Dave Thomas
  • “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” Tony Hsieh
  • “If you just work on stuff that you like and you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” Mark Zuckerberg
  • “When you reach an obstacle, turn it into an opportunity. You have the choice. You can overcome and be a winner, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a loser.” Mary Kay Ash
  • “Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service.” Peter F. Drucker
  • “Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice with their money or reputation on the line in support of an idea or enterprise. They willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.” Victor Kiam

 

Jimmy John’s data breach extends a PR crisis

It took them seven weeks to confirm it, but Ronn Torossian says that’s not nearly the worst thing wrong with the data breach at Jimmy John’s.

First, the bad. Nearly two months ago, tech watchdogs and business sites broke the news of a possible credit card breach at the Jimmy John’s sandwich chain. It took the company that long to acknowledge the breach … an infiltration of a payment vendor that impacted 216 stores. Now, that’s not to say Jimmy John’s was hiding anything. These things take time to investigate. And you definitely don’t want to come out and say, “There’s a problem, but we don’t know where or how much of one.”

When you make that statement you need to be able to answer that question. So, wisely, they waited until they had the information. It was bad news, but it could have been worse.

Well, it was … worse, that is. Not only had the breach happened, it happened over a 3 to 4 month time period in which people were going blissfully about their business, unaware they could be or were about to be victims.

And that, Torossian says, highlights the larger PR issue here. These breaches keep happening, and people often don’t hear about them until months after the fact. Had they known sooner they could have taken care of the issue and never become a victim.

That puts the onus back on ALL retailers to calm their customers’ legitimate concerns about cyber security while also enjoying the benefits brought by paying with plastic. See, retailers understand very well that people who “put it on plastic” tend to spend more. But if that easy breezy confidence goes out the window, you may find sales dropping at retailers that never had a whiff of cyber security problems.

That’s the unfortunate reality, and the growing PR problem. It’s not about a single retail victim, it’s about damaging consumer confidence and corroding consumer culture. How many breaches will it take before a large segment of society just pays cash “just in case.”

That will likely never be a majority again, but consider how many industries would be impacted if these breaches keep happening. Particularly if they happen and go unreported for months on end. It won’t be everyone, but there will be a significant percentage of the consumer population who will decide the convenience isn’t worth the risk.

Retailers need to make a concerted PR effort to stop that momentum …because the rumblings have already started.

Investors Recipe to fix Olive Garden is nearly endless

Once billed as family friendly authentic Italian, Olive Garden has been taking some PR lumps in the past few years. The butt of running jokes about it being more prefab suburban eatery than authentic Italian kitchen have come fast and furious. But according to 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian says that is not the only thing critics say the Garden needs to get right.

Businessweek recently reported on a hedge fund’s interest in “fixing” the restaurant chain. A nearly 300-page report that is as detailed as it is damning.

Some reported highlights? Olive Garden doesn’t know how to cook pasta, soaks salads in too much dressing, forgets to offer wine and sells menu items no one in Italy would touch with a ten-foot breadstick. Did we mention this was a report published by people who WANT the chain to be successful?

Yep. That tough course of bad news was cooked up by Starboard Value, a large shareholder who believes that, despite the current shortcomings, Olive Garden can rise again, bigger and tastier. But only if it makes many changes to nearly every aspect of its operation.

No aspect is safe or sacred. The report criticizes limo rides, jet trips, straw size, and chicken preparation. Not to mention the quality of the take home containers. Oh, right, it also calls for the entire board to get the boot.

Extreme? Well, maybe, but consider, according to sales numbers, Olive Garden is “forgetting” to sell one of the most important aspects of any Italian meal experience. Wine sales have plummeted.

Not quite as blatantly miscalculated, but still a high source of waste, Olive Garden is tossing out baskets full of breadsticks with nearly every meal. An issue Bloomberg reported the report as calling a “massive, unnecessary waste.”

Oh, and they taste like hot dog buns. And the pasta is terrible. Ouch.

The report delivers hit after hit after hit … but really nothing detractors of the chain have not been saying for years. The only difference is that now, the naysayers have a document that they can assert “proves” their complaints are valid.

Tough to argue with that. Tough as reheated breadsticks.

The Ray Rice Crisis: A PR Nightmare for the NFL

ray rice crisis prUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last month, chances are you are aware of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal that has shaken the NFL to its core. After discovering that Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, had punched his then-fiancée in an elevator and knocked her out, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Rice a two-game suspension, setting off a firestorm of outrage from women’s groups and people everywhere.

Just when the NFL thought things were starting to settle down, along comes TMZ to release a more extensive videotape of the elevator incident. The tape, showing Rice actually hitting his now-wife with a left hook to the head, then dragging her out and putting her face-first on the floor outside the elevator, prompted more outrage, forcing the Ravens to cut Rice and the NFL to suspend him indefinitely. However, now the questions loom as to who knew what, when did they know it and did the league have access to this videotape when Rice was given the two-game suspension. A PR nightmare for the NFL, there are several steps the league needs to take to weather the storm.The league has already taken a strong first step by appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into how the league handled the incident and how evidence was handled. By bringing in an independent party with Mueller’s credentials, the league is sending a message that it wants a quick and thorough resolution to the matter.

A critical part of how this will play out for Goodell and the NFL will be how well they appear to accept responsibility for any missteps along the way. As with most PR crisis situations, being honest often goes far in helping to resolve the matter. The current question most are asking is whether the NFL had the newest tape in its possession at the time they gave Rice his two-game suspension. Law enforcement says they did, while the league disputes that claim. If it’s found the league did have the tape, standing up early as possible and accepting responsibility will help.

To regain the public’s trust in the league, many possibilities exist. Some have called for Goodell to step down as Commissioner, but others think if the league takes a strong stand on the issue of domestic violence the crisis may be resolved. Several other players are currently dealing with domestic violence charges, so the league has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to protecting women and deterring this behavior in its players. As for Rice, opinion is mixed as to whether he should be allowed to play again. Most experts believe if he stays out of the league for a year or two, completes the appropriate counseling programs and works with domestic violence groups he can restore his image enough to get a second chance. However the situation plays out, it’s a black eye for the NFL that may take longer than anyone wants to heal properly.

Volvo catching up with BMW

volvo-vs-bmw

Volvo has been struggling with sales over the past several years, but the launch of a new luxury SUV may put the brand back on top. Ronn Torossian says that sales for the new SUV may even rival Volvo’s long-time German competitor, GMB. Excitement for the new vehicle is already at a fever pitch after a tantalizing marketing campaign that only revealed portions of the new XC90. Now, the SUV is hitting the market and already gaining momentum on its climb to the top.

According to Torossian, the furor from the XC90’s launch could reverse the downward slide that Volvo has had since being owned by Ford Motors from 1999 t0 2010. Now owned by a Chinese company, Volvo is returning to its roots and only using Swedish parts to make its vehicles. The company hopes that the XC90 will help to double sales of Volvos in the United States by the year 2020.

Volvo began to reveal the XC90 with a tantalizing marketing campaign that featured photos of parts of the new SUV, but never unveiled the entire vehicle. Back in June, the interior was finally revealed. A big flatscreen in the console, blonde wood trim, and all the bells and whistles make the XC90 a top of the line luxury SUV, and the recently revealed exterior is just as attractive.

One of the major selling points of the XC90 is that it is the first car in fifteen years to be made entirely from Swedish parts. It is a complete relaunching of the Volvo brand after the legacy left by Ford Motors. After being purchased by Chinese company, Geely, Volvo has undergone several changes including an all-new, ultra efficient engine that will be cleaner than the Toyota P
rius.

Such advances, however, do not come cheap. The XC90 is priced at $66,000 dollars initially with a limited edition version that jumps to $91,000. Only 1,927 of these will be sold. The price may seem steep for what Volvo has done in the past, but the company is confident that the new SUV will compete with other vehicles in the same price range such as the BMW X5.

Torossian says that Volvo has made huge strides in rebranding itself and earning back a share of the American market with the XC90. A slow marketing campaign was key for intriguing potential buyers, and now Volvo is confident that they will be able to compete with car companies such as BMW.

5 tips for Online Fundraising

Increasingly, nonprofits are finding a ready market of willing donors online. The days in which giving was suspect are over. Nearly everyone pays almost exclusively with plastic these days, and eight out of ten consumers are accustomed to making transactions online.

Given this trend, many nonprofits are looking for ways to expand their donor base online. But if you are just getting into this game you have missed the early days where you get to make the rules. Online donors now have expectations. If you don’t meet those expectations, you should expect to lose out on otherwise willing donors.

Saturation

Donors are not interested in hunting for your “give” button. Put it in a “top third” spot, prominently but not obnoxiously displayed on every single page. Viewers realize you are a nonprofit and you need funds. If you make it convenient without being rude, they will understand. And they will respond accordingly.

Offer options

If your group or organizations gives to different causes or supports various different aspects of a single cause, let people know. All donors have a basic desire to give, but this charity is also motivated by a specific internal call to action. They want to make a specific difference, not just a difference.

Make it mobile friendly

If anything about your donation process is not mobile friendly you are losing a huge percentage of Internet users. Desktops, and even to an extent, laptops, are a dying technology. Everyone is on a mobile device these days. You better be ready, or your donor will move on.

Monthly donations

If you don’t already have one, create a program for which donors can make monthly donations. Sure, you love those big ticket corporate sponsorships, but, increasingly, people are opting for smaller, monthly donations. They never miss the money and it can make a big difference for you.

 

Be grateful

Always remember to say thank you, both in your landing page and with every opportunity you get. Any chance to say thank you is an opportunity to touch that donor one more time, keeping your group nearer the front of their mind.

While these tips cannot guarantee a nonprofit organization will increase their donations through online means, better digital communication makes this much more likely.