Thursday, August 27, 2020

That time when Shark Tank laughed a surgical mask designer off the stage [Abbott Media Group]


When you make a mistake, own it. That's a solid public relations principle far too few in business, politics, and entertainment follow, probably because it's difficult.

Shark Tank's Daymond John recently demonstrated just that principle, however, in a video and post on his Instagram feed.

On September 6, 2009, Irinia Blok, a 32-year-old American immigrant from Russia, had appeared on the ABC show "Shark Tank," then in its first season.

She was pitching her unique business idea, "Face Blok," surgical masks that are whimsically decorated. She told the sharks that there was actually demand for them in hospitals, though she had only sold a few hundred.

She was met with uproarious laughter from all the Sharks almost immediately.

Her segment, when it aired, was clearly played for laughs, with "circus clown" music heard on the show when she spoke.

The Sharks were incredulous at the concept, most even refusing to try on the masks when Blok offered. Kevin O'Leary tried on a mask featuring a pig snout, doubting openly whether anyone would wear such a thing. Daymond John mockingly wore one on his head.

She said she received 700,000 hours on her website after media coverage. But O'Leary noted that the Swine Flu epidemic earlier that year was "an epidemic that came and went," and prophetically said, "You need a new epidemic to get that kind of hit profile again."

Jump ahead to Aug. 26, 2020, when that same Daymond John posted a video of the segment to his Instagram feed titled, "hindsight is 2020." He wrote:
"As we've come to see, many entrepreneurs have visions/ideas better way ahead of the times. Sure, the ideas may seem ridiculous or even comical, at the time, but as we're starting to learn, we shouldn't dismiss them all together because one day, they may prove to be useful, such as these novelty masks. 
There didn't seem to be a purpose for them back then, but Irinia Blok was definitely on to something because look at us now... we're all wearing masks. The joke is on us now!"
The bottom line is that it's important to admit and "own" your mistakes, hasty judgements, and oversights. Kudos to Daymond John for doing that so publicly!

As for Irinia, she's doing just fine. Before her appearance on the show, in 2007, as a member of Google's graphic design staff, she had independently created the now-famous green robot logo later adopted by the company for its Android phone operating system. It became synonymous with the product in the 2010s.

She no longer sells the designer masks, but has a full-time job as design lead at Google Research/AI.

Online: https://www.irinablok.com/