Volume 35, Number 4, April 2000




Smiley Faces—Part Two

so what happened anyway?

by Lyle R. Hill


In part one, old acquaintance “Jungle Jim Bruney” talked the writer into initiating a company-wide “Smiley Face” program intended to reap higher sales and profits and boost overall morale.

 “So Hill,” the all too familiar voice began, “I ran into a couple of your guys downtown yesterday and asked them how the ‘Smiley Face Campaign’ was going and they said they didn’t know anything about it. What gives? The last thing you told me almost 8 weeks ago was that you were going to try it. What happened?”

“It was a disaster, Jungle Jim. I told you from the beginning that it was a dopey idea but I did try … believe me, I tried.”

“But Hill, this was one of my best ideas ever. Guaranteed success. Can’t miss. What happened?”

“Well, I first shared your concept with Koziac, the Polish accountant.

“What did he say?”

“He saw a problem … of course he’s an accountant so he always sees problems. But anyway, he thought I’d better run the idea by our legal guys because he reminded me that WalMart uses the Smiley Face thing a lot and he didn’t want to see us in any legal battles with them. So, I called the lawyers.”

“And what did they say?” Bruney asked.

“They were very concerned. They didn’t like the idea of copying somebody else’s campaign but they were even more worried about liability. You know … what if someone stuck himself with the pin on the back of one of the buttons and claimed he got a disease or something? So they drew up a simple 27-page disclaimer that each person that handled, gave away, looked at, or even thought about wearing one of the buttons had to sign. They also suggested that I alter the design slightly in case WalMart started to get a little jumpy.”

“You didn’t let those screwball lawyers scare you off did you?” Bruney whined with a fair amount of sarcasm in his voice.

“No, you know how I feel about those guys. But I did call in an architect I know and asked him to help alter the button’s design a bit”

“And … ”

“Well, by the time he was through with his minor design changes, the thing looked more like a Norse fertility symbol than a smiley face. But I plowed ahead anyway.”

“That a boy, Hill,” Bruney offered. “Then what?”

“Next, I called in our largest metal supplier and showed him the design. I ordered 1,000 buttons and he promised delivery in 4-6 weeks. Some sales rep also wandered in at about the same time and asked if he could bid on the pin. Told me he could save us a fortune. But while he was fondling the sample, he accidentally stuck himself with the crazy thing. Next thing I know, he’s making this hissing sound and flying around my office. You know, maybe the lawyers were right. People could get hurt with those things.”

“Sales reps aren’t really people,” Bruney replied. “But they always drive nice cars. I wonder what kind of a car he was driving? Oh well, what happened next?”

“To be honest, Jungle Jim, at this point I’m starting to have second thoughts. I mean I told you all along I thought it was a crazy idea and the first attempt I make at getting the thing off the ground is a disaster. So I decided that if one more thing went wrong, I’m pulling the plug.”

“Yeah, OK Hill, I see where this is going but tell me, what happened to the sales rep’s car? Those guys usually drive some pretty nice cars.”

“Bruney! Have you no conscience? The guy probably had a family.”

“I doubt it, but finish your story. Did the metal supplier deliver or not?”

“Oh sure, 17 weeks later. And all the buttons were the wrong size.”

“That’s no big deal,” Bruney quipped.

“And the wrong color.”

“Still not that bad,” stated Bruney.

“And they were printed inside out so that the viewing side was blank and what was left of the smiley face was facing down!”

“Now that’s going to be tough to overcome,” Bruney said. “OK, let’s forget the Smiley Face thing. Maybe I was wrong or maybe I am just too advanced for your industry. But either way, could you do me a favor?”

“Yeah, I guess so. What?”

“Could you find out what happened to that rep’s car for me?”

wpe6.jpg (4635 bytes)Lyle Hill is president of MTH Industries-Glass America of Chicago, IL.




Copyright 2000 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.