It’s spring time and besides being the season for March Madness, it’s also the season for companies to issue Annual Reports. And the authors behind Why Business People Speak Like Idiots have turned their attention to showcasing the most vacuous and idiotic shareholder letters from 32 of the largest corporations in America.
They're calling it Manure Madness and are conducting a Tournament where the ultimate vacuous and idiotic shareholder letter will be rewarded with their 2005’s Shining Beacon of Business Idiocy.
Round 1 judged letters on Verbal Diarrhea (“… the inability to say something in less than a page when one sentence would suffice").
Round 2 judged letters on their percentage of Empty Calories (the % of total words that are all fluff and convey nothing measurably substantive).
Round 3 will judge letters on their level of Committophobia (how deftly the company shakes responsibility and dismisses accountability).
Round 4 will judge letters based upon their Cheese Factor (measuring “…who can offer up the cheesiest load of tired clichés (‘our people are our most important asset’), overused catchphrases (‘we are well positioned for growth’) and syrupy say-nothing slogans (‘building a better world for all")).
Round 5 is the Inspired Insipidness championship game and the winner of the 2005’s Shining Beacon of Business Idiocy crown will be the most dull, boring, and lifeless shareholder letter.
Creative stuff to say the least and all of their commentary is ruthless with some comments more ruthless and more brutal than others.
For example, here is their take on the annual report from AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical services company.
[The authors write] The first problem with AmerisourceBergen’s annual report is the ginormous full page profile shot of CEO R. David Yost (don’t leave the R. off). OK, say you’re the CEO of some big humongous Fortune 50 company. It’s time for you to review the annual report, and your Reese Witherspoon Legally Blonde Communications Department Assistant Manager in Charge of Annual Reports comes in to show you the first draft. And you see, right there on page two, this picture of you that shows in full IMAX relief every single Botox neglected wrinkle on your face. So what do you do? Any executive with an ego within six sigma of the human mean would say, “Oh my, isn’t that just a little much? Why don’t we go with a slightly smaller version, say about 98% smaller”. But not R. As in R. David Yost. R. decides to go with the supersized version. We call this the Mt. Rushmore syndrome. Major league Cheese Factory infraction for this one.
After the full page tribute to R., we get a nice helping of Commitophobia. We do give them credit for admitting 2004 performance was below expectations. But then the dissembling starts. Here are the reasons for 2004’s performance:
“In fiscal 2004, a very competitive pricing environment in all our business units, a decrease in drug price appreciation in the September quarter, and a shift in manufacturer compensation contributed to a very challenging year. We lost our largest provider customer, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to a competitor’s lower priced bid and another large account due to its sale to a company we do not service”
Oh, those silly competitors. Always coming in and undercutting our prices. Will they never learn? And what has happened to our luck lately – it just never seems to go our way anymore. How about some cheese to go with all that whine?
More ruthless commentary is directed at the Altria annual report.
[The authors write] This is the kind of photo that really inspires confidence. Check out Shifty Eyes Szymanczyk on the lower right, and Mr. I-smoked-more-than-just-tobacco-today Greenberg on the top, second from left. Wanna’ take bets on how many Marlboro Reds each of them inhales a day?
Beyond the class photo, Altria gets props for introducing a new buzz term into the business person’s vernacular: “societal alignment initiatives.” We have no idea what these are, because Altria refuses to explain the term, which leads us to believe it’s their Super Secret plot to lace all Kraft Foods with tobacco, and eventually get the whole world addicted.
“We are witnessing more innovation and more activity on the business development front. And very importantly, societal alignment initiatives are placing our operating companies at the forefront of the tobacco and food industries.”
“Although PM USA has been increasingly successful in pursuing its societal alignment initiatives, regrettably, Congressional legislation providing for regulation of the tobacco industry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was not passed in 2004.”
All you marketing gadflies out there … why are you still reading this? Go visit Manure Madness NOW!!! Your marketing gadlfy mind will be better for it. Dig?
[Thanks for the PR Machine for the link to the Fight The Bull Blog.]