The Rhumb Line Headline Animator

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Olive Garden recently changed their logo from this:

to this:

But more about logos later.

According to Forbes, Olive Garden's revenues are plummeting. There are a zillion reasons why - the economy,  people have less time to eat, and so on.

Out of curiosity, we had a look at Olive Garden's social media. It doesn't seem to be helping the bottom line. In fact, it may be a major contributor to plunging revenues. Audience engagement is at less than 1% and that engagement is often negative. Make that vituperative, furious, I-hate-your-guts negative. Here are a few quotations - direct from  Olive Garden's Facebook page: HATE this place!       $10. For a plate of noodles !!! Lmfao no thanx     the drinking glasses feel dirty        I haven't spoken to a single person who has had good food at Olive Garden.  And that's just a small sample. So what's the problem?

The problem is, Olive garden uses social media to sell entrees and appetizers.  BIG MISTAKE. Social media is NOT a newspaper or a magazine. In a  newspaper, you get interesting content, and ads are mixed in, in hope you will read and respond. For those who still read Sunday newspapers, what do you do with that stack of circulars from discount drug stores and car dealers and sporting goods stores? Unless you're looking - at THAT moment - for a deal on aspirin or an automobile or a tennis racquet - you never even open them. They are nowhere near the edit, so they end up lining bird cages.

When Olive Garden isn't hawking breadsticks, they're trying to soothe angry customers. Another common error - social media is not and should not be deployed as an alternate customer service channel.

So what good is social media to the Olive Garden? The way they currently use it,  none whatsoever. Professionally managed, it could help fix a lot of their problems. Maybe more than a logo change.

Back to the logo. The original one, in bas relief on a warm slab of stone looked pretty good. It was substantial, evoking thoughts of grape arbors in the golden Tuscan sun. The new one looks... like 2nd runner up in a grammar school art project.

We don't mean to offend, we call them as we see them. But we hear the bread sticks are good.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

US Sailing Leadership Forum

Before sailing too far into this post, we thank all the great folks at US Sailing for a fantastic experience in San Diego. We want to specially thank Katie Ouellette, Tom Hubbell and Jack Gierhart for inviting us to present our take on social media.

Though we'd like to claim we've just returned from a wild, bacchanalian boondoggle, we must 'fess up that the US Sailing Leadership Forum was a perfectly planned and executed event, and every moment was time well spent. Were there cocktails? Of course - it's a sailing conference... but only a fool would over-indulge and risk missing even one second of the forum.

How often do you get to hang with rock star sailors like Ken Read or Dawn Riley? Or go for a demo sail with several manufacturers - in the same afternoon? Or learn the secrets of social media from two handsome, charming guys (ahem) whose company (VMG Media) delivers the industry's highest ROI and engagement? Does it get any better than that?

We took no formal survey, but the buzz among the 600+ attendees was entirely, enthusiastically positive. Everyone had a great time. Everyone made new friends. Everyone learned something. 

Delivering our presentation to a packed (SRO) house, we hope we helped some executives and yacht club flag officers navigate the roiling waters of social media. We learned a few things as well. No matter how emphatically social media proves itself to be the most effective and efficient marketing channel in existence, some people refuse to grant it the respect it deserves. One person believed social media is a "place to let your hair down." (We didn't know a brand could have hair.) Another one was downright proud that his social media was riddled with profanity and misspellings. He did seem flummoxed, however, when we asked why he didn't use the same vocabulary and grammar on his printed brochures and magazine ads.

Most folks have come to the realization that skilled management of social media is the single most important element of marketing. It's elected a U.S. President (twice), toppled a government (Egypt) and brought a cable network (A&E/Duck Dynasty) to its knees.
What magazine, billboard, radio or TV program has ever done that?


Sunday, January 26, 2014


With some of the highest engagement levels in social media, VMG MEDIA has been chosen to present at The Sailing Leadership Forum, San Diego, Feb 6-8, 2014. VMG founder Bruce McArthur and Creative Director Larry Bleidner will deliver How to Unleash the Power of Social Media and Make It Work for You, headlining the Marketing and Communications segment of the conference.

Attended by over 500 leaders in the sailing industry, including manufacturers of yachts, sailing apparel and equipment, the Forum is a yearly opportunity for industry principals to gather, network and guide the growth of the sport.

The Leadership Forum is presented by US Sailing, the national governing body for sailing, with a membership of over 40,000.

About VMG: Founded in 2004, VMG Media is a marketing company specializing in the marine industry. With offices in Los Angeles and Connecticut, VMG offers nearly a century of experience with Fortune 500 companies, including AOL, MTV, ABC, TIME WARNER, CBS and others.

Friday, January 10, 2014


We hate to say we told you so, but... who are we kidding?  We LOVE to say we told you so - (in that sing-song schoolyard voice, with a couple of nyah-nyahs thrown in) -- and we did, right here about a year ago, where we created the WASTIES awards to celebrate the biggest annual cash bonfire in marketing... Super Bowl ads.

A study of ads from last year's Super Bowl strongly suggests that only about 1 out of 5 ads actually sell anything. What do the other four do? Well, they give some agency creative director a fat button on his resume. They give the CMO the chance to strut around the office with thumbs hooked under his or her suspenders and act like a big shot. And they give viewers a chance to make a sandwich. Quite a deal for $4 million bucks. More precisely, $133,000 per second. That's a fast burn rate. How fast? 72% of the speed of light. Let that sink in for a bit.

When people get into the Group Think Zone, they do strange things - like goose-stepping, or planking or chugging poison Kool-Aid because... well, because everybody's doing it! Maybe VMG will create a de-programming clinic for those CMOs, Media Directors and Creative Directors who have ceded their minds to the herd mentality. We'll charge a mere fraction of what they've blown on bad advertising. We'll send them back to the office with a clear head.

Metrics aside, the idea of a Super Bowl ad is intrinsically a foolish play, rooted almost entirely in ego. The only competition should be on the field. Yet, loads of companies spend mountains of money to create an ad (often a once-run-and-it's-done ad) to play cheek-to-cheek with other ads, also everybody's best, most expensive effort, to win what? Some bravissimos from the trade?

At VMG, we like to keep our clients far from competitors, where they can be the center of attention. We've also been known to show up at foot races on a motorcycle. To us, results are everything, because you can't deposit kudos at the bank.

Even Ben Franklin looks disgusted by the waste.

Come back and see us soon and discover who wins the 2014 WASTIES.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

George Takei is Smarter Than You, and Here's Why.

In case anyone hadn't heard, Lieutenant Sulu from the original Star Trek has, of late, established himself as the king of Facebook. Though other celebs may eclipse George in total fans (Vin Diesel has over 40 million), George's social media is solid gold because his (4 million+) fans are super engaged - usually above 50%. To put it in perspective, George's Facebook page is seen by more people than most high budget network television shows, for which Fortune 500 sponsors pay handsomely. And sometimes, foolishly.

George's Facebook posts are witty, fun and off beat. And now we learn George has been getting help from a professional.

Some of George's fans are furious. We're not. We know exactly why George did what he did. For personal pages, content doesn't matter. Cat videos and blurry cell phone pictures are just fine. But business pages - and trust us - George's is a business page - had better look good - damn good. If they don't, they make your business look crappy - damn crappy.

VMG is appalled by Facebook business pages that look like they're written and maintained by a pre-schooler. Hideous misspellings, typos, point & shoot pictures posted sideways and always, always, always - more exclamation points than a 12 year-old's love letter. When we see even one tiny exclamation point --  on sale now! -- we know it's DIY page. If they have social media content management, they're getting --  ripped off!

Social media for business should be called media social. It's an advertising medium, folks -- more powerful and precise than any other. So why do businesses let someone with little or no advertising and marketing experience, nor creativity, handle it? Would you have a plumber shoot your TV commercial or design your magazine ad? How about getting a gardener to do your taxes? Need heart surgery? Here's a YouTube tutorial for do-it-yourselfers.

Try it. What have you got to lose?


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Father's Day is June 16. There's no better or funnier book for dad than MACK DADDY, written by VMG's Creative Director.

Get one here:

Friday, March 15, 2013


“We need to start thinking outside the box.”

If you are like us, when you see, hear or read that you think “What a dork.”  Turns out, that’s the problem. We hate that expression so much we forget what it means. We’ve become a society of people thinking inside the box. We are so afraid of being wrong, we’ve stopped taking chances. We don’t win for fear of losing. And it is happening everywhere - in politics, sports and most certainly in business.

Take marketing, for example. We know print is on life support. It’s expensive and the results are all but impossible to track. Yet many businesses continue to allocate a significant portion of their marketing budget there. Why? Probably because it’s what they’ve always done. Add a long term relationship with the rep and it becomes hard to say no.  That’s thinking inside the box.

"Your proposal is innovative. Unfortunately, we
won't be able to use it because we've never
tried something like that before."
Then there are conferences and shows.  Most amount to a very expensive weekend cluttered with competing options, one on top of the other. Can sales happen? Of course. But considering the amount of money and time that go into a single show, it becomes like a Super Bowl ad. Big bucks, a small pop in sales (maybe) but NO lasting effect. Yet businesses continue to spend huge amounts of their marketing budgets going to shows for fear of what will happen if they don’t go. Again, thinking inside the box.

Now we have social media. A whole new way to market that can have a significant, on-going impact on sales. You can target by age, gender, income, interests, region, whatever. It’s inexpensive but can drive awareness through incredible reach. AND it does something no other media does. It builds trust and loyalty at a degree never before seen.

So what’s the problem? It’s new. It takes time and creativity to connect on an emotional level. Most businesses have not come to that understanding yet. So they think inside the box and give control of their social media to the least experienced staffers ( When nothing happens, they write it off.

There are plenty of companies, early adapters, which have used social media to drive significant sales increases. The concept is proven. So why is there still so much hesitation to move budgets out of less effective, traditional resources?

It’s time to start thinking outside the box.