Viral Sensations

A horrifying tale made headlines this week after three women, held captive for decades, were abruptly freed in an escape aided by a neighbor. What we know about the event is that a concerned neighbor, hearing the cries of one young woman and suspecting domestic abuse, kicked in a door to free her. Her subsequent 9-1-1 call and rescue of her and her companions by police made national headlines. The story is still unfolding. The man, Charles Ramsey, is a colorful personality who seems to have a knack for creative sound bytes in news interviews. Even fast-food chain McDonald’s, prominently mentioned as the food of choice by the local hero, restrained itself in turning it into a publicity opportunity–likely out of respect for the families and their privacy. Internet sensations like these seem to pop up regularly and oftentimes a company must decide whether to jump on the publicity bandwagon or to pass up the opportunity in the interest of courtesy or human dignity. As we watch this play out in national media, let’s see who takes the high road.

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P.S. In a recent update, McDonald’s confirmed it will offer him free burgers for a year. (Sensitively handled very well by their PR team.)

PR is no substitute for bad products

Two very interesting articles in today’s Wall Street Journal. The first one discusses the recent poor financial performance of McDonald’s. Interestingly, the company’s response is to encourage franchisees to provide better service with a smile. It identified the top customer complaint as “rude or unprofessional employees.” Customers apparently have found service chaotic and it described the average drive-thru order wait time of 188.83 seconds. I suppose a three minute wait time for your order must feel like forever in an idling vehicle, but that still sounds awfully fast to me. The company is even remodeling and sprucing up restaurants to appear more appealing, but one major area of emphasis seems to be missing: the food. It’s awful. Nutritionally lacking, poor tasting, lukewarm products are the problem. And, have you actually tried a milkshake? It tastes more like flavored foam than actual ice cream. The burgers are disgusting no matter how many condiments are used to either drown the ugliness or spice up the bland mystery meat. Clearly I’m no fan of McDonald’s food, but I don’t think it’s just me. What do you think is the problem at McDonalds?

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The next article does not bode well for the future of traditional computer sales. Apparently the rapid growth of iPads and tablet PCs have sharply decreased the demand for personal computers, including laptops and desktops. In separate reports from IDC and Gartner, both respected industry research firms, estimated a decline of 14 percent and 11 percent respectively in world-wide shipments. Adding to the problem is the latest operating system from Microsoft, Windows 8, that has failed to take off. In fact, it has been shunned by so many I.T. professionals as an inferior product to its predecessor, Windows 7, that many companies are choosing not to upgrade. The problem: Windows 8 has at best, missed the window of sales opportunity or is simply a bad product. It has certainly failed to deliver on the long-promised user experience with features many hoped would make the transition from desktops and tablets an easy, uncomplicated and glitch-free experience. Ask any IT professional what they think about Windows 8 and if this is the case of a bad product.

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