It’s Not A “Brand” — It’s A Fundamental Principle

Here’s yet another piece I wrote some time ago and is, if anything, more appropriate today than it was then.

Not A Brand

May 20, 2008
5:00 AM CDT

Here’s an article which managed to set my teeth on edge. Former-European and now-Californian RINO Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us how he thinks the Republican Party should look:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created shock and awe in the Republican Party when he warned years ago that the GOP was in danger of “dying at the box office” by failing to make the sale to a wide swath of voters.
And with the presidential election looming, the Republican governor of the nation’s most populous state – a decidedly blue state – has now found a chorus of agreement. The Republican “brand” – thanks to an unpopular president, a war, gas prices, foreclosures and deficit – has become such damaged goods that GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia groused last week that “if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

“The Republican idea is a great idea, but we can’t go and get stuck with just the right wing,” Schwarzenegger said. “Let’s let the party come all the way to the center. Let those people be heard as much as the right. Let it be the big tent we’ve talked about.
“Let’s invade and let’s cross over that (political) center,” he said. “The issues that they’re talking about? Let them be our issues, and let the party be known for that.”

Leaving aside the obvious cognitive dissonance caused by an Austrian talking of “invasion”, I take exception to a political philosophy being referred to as a “brand” — because at the root of it all, brands are the invention of Marketing: they are a way to differentiate similar products, like Folgers and Maxwell House, and are kept alive by marketing and advertising, not by conviction.

But since everyone is so all-fired intent on turning a political philosophy into a soft drink, let’s examine the “brand” concept a little more closely, because I understand this stuff about as well as anyone on the planet.

When I studied this stuff, back when I was managing the customer-shopping database at a Great Big Retailer, I learned something really interesting. Most of a brand’s sales came from loyal customers, and a very few loyal customers at that. In any single supermarket, the destiny of a brand (even giant brands like Folgers or Charmin) lay in the purses of about two hundred customers. Across two hundred stores, therefore, the fate of, say, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes lay in the hands of about five thousand housewives — out of a customer base of about four million shoppers. If something were to happen to that loyal base — if some mysterious disease were to kill all five thousand — the brand would die, within a matter of weeks.

This was as true about supermarkets as it was about packaged goods. In any single store, once again, about two thousand customers (out of a total of about twenty-five thousand customers) accounted for over 75% of sales — and about 90% of the store’s profits.

The entire enterprise, a chain of two hundred stores covering four Northeastern states, rested therefore in the hands of a few hundred thousand shoppers (out of a total customer base of 2.5 million regular customers in a regional population of well over twenty million).

Using the same logic for our company as for Frosted Flakes: had we lost that half-million or so loyal customers (our “base”), the chain would have had to shut its doors in about a month. We, or rather I knew where our bread was buttered: and I made sure that we pampered and cosseted those customers to within an inch of their lives — preferential discounts, premium rewards, and non-store services (our Platinum customers, for instance, got free long-distance phone time and free roadside assistance).

What we could not afford to do was anything which would disenchant those valuable customers. Study after study, backed by purchase data (those pesky “shopper” cards) showed us that our strongest features were the quality of our Meat department, the quality of our Produce department, and the quality of our Deli department. That “quality” feature allowed us to stock more upscale products, charge a little more, and make a decent profit. Our customer base was not as large as that of our competitors, but they spent more with us. They were slightly older: more established families with older kids, executives in their peak earning years, and wealthy retirees.

The along came a new CEO and a new management team, who decided that they wanted to “broaden” the customer base, and start going after “young families”. As a marketing idea, it made sense — sense, that is, to anyone who didn’t understand marketing, but his background was in finance, so ‘nuff said.

In vain did I argue that “young families” required not only lower prices on all our merchandise, but a change in merchandise — larger pack sizes, cheaper meat products, cheaper deli products and cheaper produce items. Even more frightening was the fact that “young families” were not loyal customers: they bought from whichever store was selling coffee most cheaply that week, bought only “sale” (i.e. not profitable) items and products, which meant that we’d have to buy their business each and every single week. And worst of all, by tampering with our brand’s quality image, our existing “base” — those finicky, quality-driven folks — would become disenchanted with us, and leave. We would become, in other words, just another supermarket.

Well, I was only a mid-level executive, and everyone thought the new CEO walked on water, so the policy was changed over my objections and I resigned in disgust.

The supermarket chain went out of business three years later.

So let’s see exactly what it is that Schwarzenegger is proposing. He wants the Republican Party to be all things to all people, even if the “right wing” becomes disenchanted, because the Republican Party is a big tent (how I loathe that expression). He wants us to become more “centrist”, more “Democrat” so we can appeal to those people who switch between parties at will, depending on which party has the most “gimmies” on offer. And in the meantime, the much-maligned Republican base — those rightwingers, those gun owners, those religious people, those… Constitutionalists, well, they’ll just have to live with the new, improved Republican brand.

In the short term, that might work somewhat. And given that politicians live from election to election — just as finance people live from quarter to quarter — you can’t blame them for thinking like that.

But we are not a nation of panderers, a nation of accountants, a nation of short-term thinkers.

We are a nation formed in the fire of a revolution, and united under a Constitution which says that our government, in all its forms, must exist with the smallest amount of power possible, limited from excess by each of its three branches, and subject to frequent recall by We The People.

We are not a nation of cafeteria customers, shopping from one party or another.

We are, mostly, a nation of conservatives: we wish to preserve our Constitution, and this nation with all its freedoms.

There are, however, some people in our nation who want to change all that. They want us to become more creatures of the state, more beholden to government, more… European.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that chief among these people is a man born in Europe, a man for whom the founding principles of this country are malleable and can be changed in order to buy the votes of other people.

Like I said, it’s a strategy which might bring short-term success. But it’s a strategy which will ensure long-term failure, of both the Republican Party and the nation.

It really is that simple.

Grandstanding Blackmail

If there’s any modern trend I hate, it’s the one where a guy makes a marriage proposal to his girlfriend in as public a manner as possible, supposedly to “show the world his devotion to her”. Here’s an excellent example of this nonsense.

Regardless of how any public marriage proposal is presented, it’s really nothing more than moral blackmail. When presented with a marriage proposal in front of hundreds of people, of course the hapless girl is going to say “yes”, if for no other reason than to spare her lovestruck swain considerable embarrassment and humiliation.

And yet that’s precisely what the conniving little shit deserves. On principle, every girl who gets a proposal via the stadium jumbotron screen should not only turn the proposal down, but walk out on the relationship for good — slap in the face is optional — because trust me, this manipulative behavior will not end there.

When I see this compilation, though, I feel better immediately.  (#3 is my absolute favorite, by the way.)

A marriage proposal is probably the most important decision a couple can make in their entire life — certainly, it’s one of the most intimate — and therefore it should not be stuck out in the public eye.

Say What?

From this blog comes the following piece of idiocy from the NRA’s Carry Guard program:

*NOTE: NRA Carry Guard Level One is designed for training with a semi-automatic handgun (Glock 19/17, Sig P226/P228 or equivalent). We will not allow revolvers or 1911s as your primary firearm in this class. [my emphasis]

Guess I won’t bother taking that class, then. Or maybe I will — only I’ll bring a Browning High Power as my primary, and my 1911 as a backup.

For those who are unaware of the irony (and there may be one or two), I should point out that both the Colt Government 1911A1 (1911) and the Browning High Power (BHP) were designed by the same man, John Moses Browning, and are functionally identical but for chambering (.45 ACP vs. 9mm Para respectively), magazine capacity (7-10 for the 1911, 12-15 for the BHP) and disassembly routine (which is irrelevant in this case). Other than that, both are single-action semi-automatic handguns, and I love both of them almost equally (because BHP = 9mm, a marginal self-defense cartridge).

 

I have no idea what the NRA was thinking (or if they were thinking at all), but the 1911 is one of America’s favorite carry pieces and to exclude this wonderful gun from a “carry” class is doing a huge disservice to a large number of gun owners.

On second thoughts, I won’t be taking the stupid class at all, because no doubt the NRA weasels would take issue with the way I carry my 1911 anyway.

But that’s a topic for another time, when I discuss handgun carry. Watch this space.

 

The Great Skin Debate

Aaah, tattoos… or as I prefer to call them, body graffiti.

I have two major points to make about this topic.

The first is that I think that the acceptance of tattoos is yet another sign of the coarsening of our society and its growing decadence. If we look at who’s sported tattoos on their bodies in the distant past, it’s been primitive tribes attempting to make their warriors look more fearsome (e.g. Maoris, Amazon tribes), or else the womenfolk of the tribes trying to make themselves look unappealing to men once they were married / paired off permanently, or else all members of a tribe wearing the same markings as a symbol of identity, to distance them from members of other tribes. Regardless of why, however, the common aspect of all was that these were the actions of primitive peoples. So now it appears that because tattoos have become somehow “cool” or tokens of individuality, we as a society have to accept them. After all, nobody gets hurt, right? (I’m leaving out the tragedy of infection and so on, because that’s relatively rare nowadays.)

My other point is personal, so buckle yourself in, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. To start with a humorous take, here’s a little guide to tattoo placement:

I’ve never really understood tattoos as decoration. Maybe it’s because I was brought up to believe that only low-class types got tattoos: they, sailors and strange Asian people. However, it seems that nowadays just about everyone has them, except for every woman I’ve ever dated — it’s an immediate disqualifier for me: no matter how small, how discreet or how “tasteful”, ink on a woman’s skin = Kim moving in the general direction of away. I can understand why men get tattoos, because we’re idiots and do stupid shit all the time — not excusing, just understanding — but I see no reason why a woman should ever deface her body, for any reason whatsoever. (Yeah, I’m pedestalizing, to use that horrible modern term. Sue me.) Even stuff like this, while undoubtedly artistic and aesthetically pleasant to look at, occasions from me at best a disgusted curl of the lip when I see it in (or on) the flesh. On silk, it’s beautiful; on a woman’s skin, repulsive.

Then, of course, you get outcomes such as this one, which turns an already-trashy-looking girl into a vision of pure horror:

You just know she’s got a “tramp stamp” at the base of her spine. (My take on tramp stamps: regardless of the design or verbiage, what they’re all saying is: Insert Here.) Don’t even get me started on tattoos around the vulva… ugh.

I’ve also never understood why a beautiful woman would get a tattoo. (Ugly ones, sure: why not? You’re already ugly.) A good example would be Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden. Unquestionably, a lovely woman:

Inexplicably, she has two (!) tattoos. “Yeah, but they’re not visible, Kim!” Well, except (and one hopes, only) to her husband. Seems kinda pointless to me, especially for a woman who seems to have everything in her life under control. (But I’ll get to that later.) Then you get this neurotic bint, who says that older women getting a tattoo means that “they still have something to say”. Yes, and that something is: “Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser.”

Of course, my ire is not just aimed at women. David Beckham, supremely-talented footballer and canny businessman, has turned his once-handsome body into some kind of freak show:

Jesus wept. (Literally: see bottom-left corner.) I know: footballers are generally low-class scum (also musicians, another massively-tattooed segment of the population), but even for scum, Beckham’s taken it A Picture Too Far (or several pictures too far). (For my Lady Readers, here’s Beckham, pre-body-decorations:)

Note, by the way, that he’s wearing a shirt to cover up some of his arm tattoos. That was the manufacturer’s marketing department, not wanting to alienate the average consumer.

When it comes to men, I sort of get the “bonding” rationale — “Semper Fi”, “U.S.S. Arizona”, “Rangers Lead The Way”, and even “Harley-Davidson” and so on. I also get the “commemorative” ones: “Bagram AFB 2015”, “Bastogne 1944” etc. I don’t agree with the rationale, but I get it. But as for examples like Beckham’s? Sorry, I got nothing. I just ascribe it to “Men Do Stupid Shit” and move along. (And please spare me the “bad boy” bullshit. Real bad boys don’t advertise; and women who get taken in by that deserve everything they get, e.g. hepatitis C.)

Here’s how I approach the whole issue. If I were going to get a tattoo, I say to myself, what would it be? What would I want to immortalize on my skin?

Right off, I can eliminate messages, sayings, or any verbiage whatsoever. I can think of no saying or statement that would qualify as worthy of being on my body, forever. “Mother”? Give me a break. If I’d ever got one of those idiotic things, my mom would have killed me. Yeah, you love your mother. Me too. Everybody else too. BFD. And as for those “affirmation” expressions: “Love Is All”, “Strength Through Willpower”, “Keep Believing” (in what? God? yourself? the Chicago Cubs? a Doobie Brothers reunion?”), and my All-Time Bullshit Message: “No Mercy”… really? You’re that much of a bad-ass that you have to advertise it? It’s “message” body art by Hallmark, except Hallmark would never create crap messages such as these. I also love the ones which feature Chinese or Japanese pictograms, and laugh like hell when the hapless recipient discovers that the tattooist has actually written “Idiot Gaijin” or “Won Ton Soup” instead of “Mighty Warrior”, as requested.

And then there’s the stupefying array of crucifixes. Yeah, I bet Jesus is SO proud of you. Why don’t you just wear a simple crucifix on a chain around your neck — it says the same thing, is less painful / expensive, and as a bonus, you don’t look trashy. If it comes to Christians like this, give me an Orthodox Jew any day. (Tattoos are forbidden under Talmudic Law as something like “defiling God’s creation”. No truer words were ever written.)

The problem is, when we think of images to be tattooed onto our skin, we fondly think they’re likely to look beautiful and artistic, like this:

…when the odds are better that they’ll instead come out like this:

You know, that last pic actually makes me feel nauseated. Imagine that woman serving you food at a restaurant… and yes, I have asked to be moved to another table featuring a non-sleeved waitress (Kirby Lane in Austin, TX).

And I note that tattoo reversal is becoming HUGE business in Japan, because companies are finding that employees with unmarked skin tend to be better at their jobs — less absenteeism, better attitude, more reliable — and are therefore refusing to hire people with visible tattoos. Just sayin’.

I remember doing one of those foul “speed-dating” things once, back when I was a single guy. My very first question to a prospective date was: “So… tell me the story behind your tattoos.” (There’s always a story / excuse.) Any response which wasn’t “I don’t have any tattoos!” meant she had no chance with me. More than half the women I spoke to were tattooed, sadly, so I didn’t bother with the speed-dating thing again. And for the record: I have never slept with a woman who has a tattoo. Won’t ever, either.

Here’s my final take. With only a few exceptions, I think decorative tattoos — especially comprehensive ones like full-body or sleeves — are indicative of some mild form of pyschosis. There is a peculiar strain of either narcissism or self-loathing involved, and (paradoxically) maybe both. Whatever it is, I’m not really interested in trying to understand it.

Yup. You call it “clever-ironic-witty”, I call it confirmation.

———————————————————————————

 Afterthought: I’ve probably pissed off a sizeable number of people with this post. I don’t care. If you are thus defaced, know that there’s a considerable proportion of the population who feels exactly the same way as I do — and as I always say, if you’re going to deliberately set yourself apart from polite society, don’t be surprised when you’re treated like a pariah. Or maybe that’s the point: “I’m a rebel!” Yeah, you and all the other people with tattoos. Repeat after me: “We’re all individuals!

Yeesh.

Teaching, My Ass

Aaugh! as Charlie Brown used to say. If you haven’t taken yer blood-pressure meds yet, you may want to pop them before reading any further. This takes the bloody cake.

Penn State York is now offering a week-long “Social Justice and Education” course to teach educators, counselors, and social workers to employ a “culturally responsive lens” in the classroom.
According to the university’s website, the course will be taught by Kathy Roy, associate professor of literacy education at Penn State Harrisburg and coordinator of the literary education program, and will focus on training educators to be “culturally responsive” toward their students.

The school notes that Roy’s academic experience is “grounded in social justice frameworks,” saying her research primarily “examines the classroom and community experiences of new and existing refugee and immigrant populations in the U.S., focusing particularly on the intersections of race, culture, language, and other markers of identity.”

I think that “associate professor of literacy education” means that she teaches people how to read, but maybe I’m just being too literal and stuff. Note too the sex of the “educators” who will be foisting this utter bullshit on the delicate flowers known as “students” as per this priceless finale:

Francine Baker, coordinator of the master of education in Teaching and Curriculum at Penn State York, said the course will provide useful tools and techniques to “maximize the learning experience” in the classroom.
“Every day, every teacher makes multiple decisions that impact social justice and equity in their classroom, school, and thus the community-at-large,” Baker explained. “Every student comes with their own story, beliefs, values and ideas. The summer institute at Penn State offers educators the research and strategies to support and expand educational practices that connect students and maximize the learning experience.”
Baker also maintained that the course will allow educators to “design activities to directly embed in their curricular area, classroom and school, while earning three graduate credits or Act 48 hours.

Good, so the educators will receive bribes (“credits”) for perpetrating this insanity, which is cloaked in meaningless jargon such as “maximize the learning experience“. And this part, “intersections of race, culture, language, and other markers of identity” makes me want to have intersectional intercourse with their mothers. And excuse me, but since when was it a goal of tertiary education to “connect students“?

And if all that doesn’t take the cake, this surely will: [RELATED: University to host ‘social justice summer camp’]

Follow that link at your peril. That whirring sound is that of Plato and Socrates (and anyone who ever taught students prior to 1970) spinning in their graves.

New motto for this particular college: “Penn State York: a place to keep hidden from your children.” Or if we want to go all Classical (I know, Irony Alert):

Non Attendendum.

Object Lesson

Hmmmm….

While jogging on a familiar, overgrown, wooded trail near her home on a recent warm afternoon, Rachel Borch thought to herself, “what a beautiful day.”
Little did she know she was about to be attacked by a rabid raccoon she would end up killing with her bare hands. In the midst of appreciating the weather and scenery, she looked ahead and noticed a raccoon obstructing the narrow foot path, baring its tiny teeth. Suddenly, it began “bounding” toward her, Borch recalled Wednesday afternoon during an interview at her home on Hatchet Mountain Road in Hope.
“I knew instantly it had to be rabid,” said Borch, who remembers ripping out her headphones and dropping her phone on the ground.

It’s a gripping story, and you should read the whole thing.

However: I can’t help wondering whether she wouldn’t have saved herself from a whole lot of trouble (and pain, and medical attention, and stress) if she’d only been carrying a gun.

Of course, she wouldn’t have been: she’s a vegetarian, and cute lil’ furry animals are All God’s Creatures, after all… except when they’re rabid little fuckers trying to kill you.

Let’s add a little recommendation to the thus-begged question: “If I’m going to go jogging along a lonely country trail all by myself, and danger threatens, what gun should I be carrying to protect myself?”

Of course, the gun has to be a small one, because otherwise it’s going to bounce around all over the place. (Unless, of course, you have a proper holster for it – which I’ll be discussing later when I talk about carry guns.) I must confess to being not the best authority on “jogging guns” because I don’t jog – a stately saunter is about my limit – but I can’t see why a decent little carry piece wouldn’t do the trick.

Frankly, I think that the gun may not be as important as the ammo you’ve loaded it with. When I go for my daily walks, if it’s a short one (to buy lottery tickets at the corner 7-Eleven) I carry a little NAA Mini-revolver (.22 Magnum: two shotshells  followed by three solids):

If it’s a longer walk (up the hill to the liquor store), then I carry in addition my S&W Model 637 loaded with Winchester SXT .38 Special +P jacketed hollowpoints.

I am fully aware that these may not be the best options for other people (e.g. our hapless jogger in the story above), so I will happily entertain further discussion in Comments.