Remember that classic Seinfeld episode in which Java World offers Kramer free coffee for life to settle a lawsuit? Poor Cosmo had no idea they were also prepared to give him $50,000.
And eventually the effects of all that caffeine forced Kramer to swear off the java juice, netting him a fairly valueless settlement.
Which brings us to the story of George Ramsey the Cleveland hero.
Unlike the Seinfeld sidekick whose settlement allowed him free coffee at any location around the world, George Ramsey can only check in at a dozen locations in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania. And he can only get a free McDonalds burger “whenever he wants one.” No word on the fries or drinks or the ability to super-size.
Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, because the gesture is a nice one, but considering what George Ramsey did, it just feels like he deserves something more substantial than a beef patty on a bun.
And though I am certain he is grateful to the participating eateries, for my part, I am not “lovin’ it.”
And by “lost” I mean Gilligan’s Island.
I mean seriously, what in the name of Neptune and Poseidon is going on at JC Penney?
First you fire the skipper (Myron Ullman) because the S.S. Minnow is lost at sea. Sales are flat, the JCPenney image is out of touch and Ullman just isn’t getting the job done.
So you bring in the professor (Ron Johnson) and ask him to use his experience (as a research scientist and scoutmaster) to turn the ship around. But only half-way through the second season you decide the professor isn’t making progress fast enough.
Then what do you do? Why you jump into the way-back machine and set a course for backwards, and rehire the old skipper to save the sinking ship… even though he wasn’t getting the job done in the first place. And, of course, the new old skipper can not act fast enough to undo everything the professor just did.
First order of business? Fire the professor’s ad agency, hire a new ad agency and tell the world we made a mistake and we are sorry (we are not certain yet if the mistake was hiring the professor or bringing back the skipper, but that will become apparent in future episodes).
Anyway, here we are just two weeks into the new voyage (the second half of season 2), and the skipper is claiming to have escaped the island and reached dry land. “We’re happy to say you’ve come back to us,” declares the company’s new TV spot. Apparently the castaways have returned home (which you will recall is the place they were originally at that resulted in the skipper’s first firing two years ago).
I am fairly certain at this stage of the game that Mary Ann or Ginger or Gilligan or even Benjamin Linus could make better decisions for the USS Minnow. Or maybe not. In any event, I think the JC Penney show is almost as much fun, and definitely as campy as Gilligan’s Island. So if nothing else, it will be fun to watch until they actually get rescued in season 4… assuming they continue to follow the script from Sherwood Schwartz.
No matter how you sugar-coat it, the truth is always the truth. Chris Christie has always been obese and proud of it. He once boasted to David Letterman that he is the healthiest fat person on the planet. Likewise, Coca Cola Chief Executive Muhtar Kent has been promising for several years to create a healthier product line for the marketplace.But he has also been quoted as saying: “There is a place for all of our beverages in a healthy lifestyle.”
That’s a lot of waffling… with syrup.
So Chris Christie, who is apparently proud of his weight, but now – at age 50 – admits it may be a problem in the future, is making a change. And, of course, he is NOT doing it the old-fashioned way or the hard way. Instead, as a lesson for all Americans who aspire to greatness, he is taking the ultimate shortcut, opting for weight-loss surgery.
Meanwhile, Coca Cola, who under Kent’s leadership is determined to become a healthier organization, is making a pledge… a commitment… something just short of a promise. The pledge involves listing calories on the front and back of cans and fewer commercials and limiting ads directed at kids. You can almost see the pounds being shed.
Chris Christie once said: “Today, the biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves. To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment. To not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths. To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other.” We can only assume he was not talking about cutting corners on the road to reduced weight.
Likewise, Muhtar Kent recently said: “Obesity is today’s most challenging health issue, affecting nearly every family and community across the globe. It is a global societal problem which will take all of us working together and doing our part.” For their part, Coca Cola has absolutely no intention of removing sugar-packed beverages from store shelves.
So, what can we learn about obesity from Chris Christie and Coca Cola? Pretty much nothing. So if you want to lose weight and be healthier – and I emphasize “want to” – buy yourself a pair of athletic shoes and start walking or riding or running or whatever works. Big businesses and larger than life politicians are not, never were and never will be the solutions to your problems.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something about the new season of Mad Men that has left me totally disinterested.
I am confident, based on past seasons that the show is headed somewhere, but after four hours of pandering and meandering, I have already bailed on the show.
Quite frankly, I am bored to death with Don’s narcissistic behavior and all the sleeping around and all the backstabbing and all the whining and all the grandstanding.
It’s as if the show has become a parody of itself… a caricature. And it’s too bad. I really bought into some of these characters and story lines. But the show has become all “mad” and no “ad” and that sucks. Yes, last week we got one morsel as two agency’s pitched the Heinz account, but it was a set-up and an afterthought.
Turns out, TV shows are a lot like ads; if you don’t respect your audience, you won’t have them for long.
Fleishman- Hillard has coined the phrase “authenticity gap” as the next step in the evolution of “reputation management” or something like that. And their recent study shows there is an authenticity gap between what consumers expect and what they experience from brands.
Allow me to just say this: Duh.
Every customer or prospective customer has his or her own pre-existing expectations about what they want from a company, brand or product/service. And often (thanks to marketing) these expectations are altered (increased, lowered, etc.).
So initially I expect “A” from a product, but after seeing a lot of TV commercials and reading product reviews and talking to friends, my expectations are “A+”. So the product now needs to meet my new expectations… or I will move on to another product. It’s not complicated.
According to a news release distributed today, “Fleishman-Hillard and London-based research partner Lepere Analytics focused on the growing struggle companies face in closing the gap between the brand they project and the reputation and perceptions they actually hold in the minds of their audiences.”
Allow me to say this: Seriously?
What is the struggle? Understand what your customers expect and either deliver on the expectations or exceed the expectations; any other alternative leads to failure. If you unrealistically hype your product, raising expectations, and then do not deliver on those expectations, you will fail. Global research is not required to confirm this.
Consider JCPenney’s recent debacle. They spent a century building consumer expectations about sales, then took their sales away. How did they think it was going to turn out? Or consider Apple’s iPod revolution. Consumers expected to be able to play music from a portable device; and they were satisfied with a Discman. But Apple exceeded their expectations with a portable media player, then exceeded that by making it smaller and more powerful, then exceeded that by adding a phone, then exceeded that by creating a tablet. And that’s how your stock gets to $400/share.
It’s not complicated.
Evolution takes time. And it is generally a very unsettling, if not ugly process. Ron Johnson was brought into JCP to remove the shackles of a stodgy old retailer and breathe new life into an all but dead brand.
“Do for us what you did for Apple.”
And less than a year and a half into the courtship the poor shlub is out on his arse. Why? Oh there are lots of reasons. But at the end of the day, only two reasons matter: sales didn’t increase, and neither did the company’s stock price.
Johnson made some amazing and immediate changes at JCP – new look, new approach, new brand positioning. It might be fair to say that he did more in one year than had been accomplished in the previous 100. Think about it, who in America is not now familiar with the new red, white and blue logo and the “fair and square deal” and the everyday low prices?
And yeah, in fairness, it – the Johnson strategy – didn’t appear to be working. Well, something wasn’t working, because Johnson agreed to “evolve” the strategy and go back to the sales he ditched just a year earlier. Clearly this guy was never entirely committed to the JCP challenge; hell, he never even bothered to move into his executive office.
And so, maybe that is the lesson to be learned here. If you really, truly believe in what you are doing, then stay the course. Or as my dad used to say, “anything worth doing is worth doing right.” But the JCP Board of Directors wanted a quick fix, and they saw Johnson as a knight in shining armor who could work miracles. As for Johnson, who knows what he was thinking. Whatever it was, his conviction seemed weak.
Anyway, just one final warning to JCP’s Board of Directors: Bringing back Ullman – the guy who couldn’t get the job done in the first place – to temporarily replace Johnson, may be a good indicator that Johnson wasn’t so much the problem as the Board itself.
Pick a canard, any canard.
How about this: The world is going to end on December 21, 2012… oh wait, that didn’t happen. Global warming is going to flood every continent… oh wait, we are not sure if that is happening. North Korea is going to start a nuclear war… we’ll have to wait and see.
And anyway, those are pretty extreme examples. How about this: Obesity is killing Americans and destroying the healthcare system. Swine flu is back… or is it the bird flu? Facebook is launching its own smartphone… since that whole IPO thing worked out so well. Justin Bieber’s monkey is being held in quarantine.
Cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, texting, sexting, gambling, smoking, drinking, drugs, The Voice, NCAA Championship… has there ever been a time in the history of man with more distractions?
I am fairly certain that we are all in danger of evolving into the walking dead, or may in fact already be there. But I take solace in the words of the Cheshire Cat who assured Alice she had no reason to worry about “going among mad people.”
“Oh you can’t help that,” said the cat, “we’re all mad here.
I do not want to be the guy who “piles on” in what is quickly becoming an assault on JCPenney and CEO Ron Johnson. In fact, having just shopped at JCP last week (yeah, after going to Macy’s and two “men’s” stores, I took my 81-year-old mom’s advice and tried “Penney’s”), I must openly admit that I LOVED the experience.
The store was clean and organized and well-lit. The merchandise was effectively presented and very engaging. The assortment of brands was better than anticipated and the availability of sizes was good. And the prices – as promised – were low and clearly posted.
From a man’s point of view, this was a pretty great shopping experience. I was in and out in 10 minutes. Of course, and this is the part I find most humorous and ironic, checking out was hindered because the clerk had to use her new iPhone to ring me out, and she was clearly not comfortable with or adept at the process.
So rather than crucify Ron Johnson for his ill-conceived “fair and square” strategy, I would like to offer some sound marketing advice:
This ain’t rocket science, it’s retail science. Your core customers – past, present and future – want deals. They are price shoppers. They will love your bright, clean stores, much the same way they love your current ads and flyers. And they will love your new brand name merchandise. They will even be amused by all your associates using iPhone technology. But they want sales… and coupons… and specials. Purchasing $35 Docker slacks for $35 is fair and square and is somewhat satisfying. But buying a $50 Liz Claiborne dress for $25 is exhilarating.
I believe you are on the precipice of a great opportunity. Just keep it simple. The Apple Store concept worked because you gave your core customers what they wanted – a cool place to overpay for exclusive technology. JCPenney can work again too… if you are willing to think inside your own box.
I received an email today that linked me to a blog post that made my head want to explode.
It is a PR infographic from Beth Monaghan that shows “how things [in PR] have changed, and what will always remain.” I don’t know Beth, but she seems like an experienced and intelligent professional. Unfortunately, this infographic is moronic.
I understand the desire to simplify complex topics into elementary visuals. I get it. But we are professional communicators. We have a responsibility to our industry to communicate the “whole truth,” not just the highlights.
According to the Infographic: Once upon a time we had big computers, now we have small computers. In the past we had direct mail, now we have text messages. In the days of yore we had journalists, now we have bloggers. Yesterday we had the evening news, now we have Twitter. And it goes on and on like this.
Seriously? YouTube has replaced TV? Infographics have replaced Excel spreadsheets? Facebook has replaced the focus group? In what parallel universe did all this happen?
I know that digital marketers and inbound marketers and social media marketers and search marketers really, really, really want the world to believe that the past is dead and only the future exists, but life just isn’t that black and white. And shame on all of you for presenting such a narrow view of our industry.
The reality is of course somewhere in the middle… somewhere in the many shades of grey. Business people still read magazines and newspapers. Consumers still watch TV and listen to the radio. Journalists still exist and they still read news releases. Direct mail is still driving awareness and sales. People still attend in-person events and shows and concerts. And people read blogs and post on Facebook and shop online.
Maybe one day we will actually be where this infographic says we are, though I suspect by then a new breed of professionals will be talking about how Twitter is so old school and has clearly been replaced by RealTime and SpaceShare.
And so it goes…
I really don’t have a whole lot to say about this.
Forbes, Microsoft and Nova Southeastern University are in agreement on the subject: “How can companies and their sales teams look their best and win the sale over the competition? We think that the key to success starts with marketing departments—and their alignment with sales teams.”
Seriously? Someone might want to welcome these guys to the 21st century. If you are not treating marketing as a primary business function – an operational necessity – you missed the memo from Peter Drucker back in the 1950s.
Whatever. The bottomline for every organization is sales. Anyone who tells you different is not telling the truth or is delusional or both. Anyone who has not yet realized the critical importance of marketing as part of the mix to get those sales is out of touch.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
Just how important are the results of your marketing efforts? I’d say somewhere between “very” and “critical.” Unlike your experiences as a six-year-old on a pee wee baseball team, when it wasn’t about whether you won or lost, but how you played the game, life as an adult can be cruel.
Just ask Grady Sizemore, who not so long ago was considered one of the brightest young outfielders in the game, earning three All Star appearances, two gold gloves and one silver slugger by the time he was 25. But injuries have limited his results, and at the age of 30 he is all but forgotten.
“When you try your best, but you don’t succeed,” despite what Coldplay suggests, you are often lucky to keep your job. In the agency business, doing your best and not succeeding can lead to lots of bad outcomes, from getting an earful to getting the axe.
We live in a results-driven world. Performance matters, service matters, cost matters, relationship matters… everything matters. But don’t fool yourself, outcomes trump everything.
Which presents the opportunity for two lessons. First, we should probably be a little clearer with our children that when you play on a competitive field, everyone expects you to win (fun is a separate matter altogether). And second, setting crystal clear objectives makes it dramatically easier to know whether or not or to what extend you have succeeded – whether you are celebrating or defending yourself.
As Coldplay reminds in another song, “Nobody said it was easy.”
To know me is to know I love the Apple store, just like I love Starbucks, just like I love… well, actually, now that I think about it, I don’t love all that many retail businesses.
In fact, among my two favorites cited above, I had bad experiences with both yesterday.
And in both cases, the issue was the same: The employees (associates) who “serviced” me acted a if I was interrupting their day. Seriously.
The young man at the Apple Store (Crocker Park) greeted me warmly, but quickly stifled my desire to purchase $60 worth of cords because, “although we open at 9:00 a.m., we don’t start selling product until 10.” And while I do not blame the kid for the company’s ridiculous policy, I must acknowledge that he did not appear to care less that I was unable to purchase the cords. He simply looked down at his iPad screen and made me disappear.
So we went to Radio Shack, where we were warmly received, and gave them our money instead.
A few hours later I stopped at Starbucks (Hudson) to purchase $30 worth of bakery and coffee for a client meeting. The young woman who never greeted me at all, but rather simply stared at me, acted as if I was completely bothering her from doing whatever it was she was doing behind the counter. And to be clear, I was the only customer and there were four Starbucks employees behind the counter. If this young lady had a personality, she clearly left it at home. She never said thanks, she never said goodbye, she never said please come back again.
I truly admire the fun and often quirky environments created by Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz. And I really love their products. But I could truly do without all the bad attitude and total lack of service.
You want my $100? Then earn it. Otherwise, Radio Shack and Dunkin Donuts are my two new favorite retailers.
Did you ever have one of those existential moments when just as you were about to do something totally insane, the one sane cell left in your brain lets you know you are about to do something totally insane, but then dies just before it can stop you? That is a bad moment… let’s call it the first stage of hell.
In recounting this story, my first memory is of me sitting in my car at the drive-thru window of Burger King. I have no idea how I got there. I am fairly certain I hadn’t been drinking for the previous six hours, nor had I lost a poorly wagered bet. Regardless, there I was.
The speaker beckoned, “May I take your order sir?” I could have said no. I could have just driven away. I could have ordered a salad or pretended to not speak English. But the words I never thought would ever come out of my mouth simply erupted: “Yes, I’d like an Angry Whopper… (wait for it)… and can I get that with extra pickles?”
Naturally, the speaker did not tell me that this sandwich doesn’t come with pickles and, therefore, “extra” makes no sense. After all, this is Burger King, home of have it your way; I am fairly certain they would have given me cyanide if I had the good sense to order it. But I didn’t.
As I drove around to the pick-up window, I sensed shame and joy holding hands in the backseat of my car; that is the second stage of hell, when the best and worst of times become intimate in your backseat. .. and you are forced to drive them around, pretending nothing is happening. Yuk.
At the pick-up window, and I remember this with clarity, a woman whose eyes begged for the type of freedom William Wallace died for, simply smiled as she handed me the “bag” and suggested I have a nice day. And this is the memorable part: she barely reached out the window, forcing me to make the conscious choice to grasp for my order. Stage three.
Now what? Clearly I had not thought this plan through. Yes, I was wise enough to use the drive-thru, but where was I going to take this bag of food? Unfortunately, I knew the answer immediately and simply pulled ahead into an empty parking spot. And no, the word “empty” was not lost on me. Stage four.
The Angry Whopper was, as I suspected, a taste-bud sensation… or maybe more of an overload. I began sweating almost immediately – partly from the heat and mostly from the embarrassment. I was unable to locate the nutritional value of the Angry Whopper on the BK website before placing my order, but I was fairly certain after one bite that I was well within the 900-1,200 calorie range. And it was delicious. Stage five… denial.
Like most pleasures, it did not last long. As I backed out of my space and idled the drive of shame to the main street, my stomach started talking to me. ”What is wrong with you? Where is your self-discipline? Where is your pride? Why didn’t you order onion rings?” Stage six.
I began to weep, or maybe I was burping up pickles… this part is hazy. But I know what happened next, I woke up. Yeah, turns out I was having one of those Advil PM-induced crazy dreams about that creepy, plastic-headed Burger King and his Angry Whopper.
And while I feel perfectly fine blaming this dream on the onslaught of pre-Super Bowl commercials (coming 2.3.13) I can’t help but wonder what else might be at play. Stage seven, when you’re no longer sure if you are awake or dreaming.
Imagine you are a retailer… Dick’s Sporting Goods for instance. And imagine it is prime shopping season… the week after Christmas for instance. Now imagine a customer is trying his or her best to spend their hard-earned money with you, and you are sleeping on the job.
Okay, so you get the picture. It’s the week after Christmas and I am stoked to buy a new pair of running shoes. I’ve done all my research online and I am ready to drop as much money as is necessary to get the right brand for my normal pronation, but excessively wide feet.
So I go to Dick’s at Crocker Park and check out all the shoes I am interested in, from the new Brooks Ghost 5 to the Saucony Guide 6. I’ve got at least eight options I am willing to test. And then I wait for someone – anyone – to offer assistance. After about five minutes I approach two hooded employees and ask if one of them can help me.
“What do you want?” the male Dick’s employee responds. “Shoes,” I reply. It seemed kind of obvious since we were standing on a faux race track, but what do I know? I explain that I am looking for a running shoe but require a wide width size.
The kid just looks down at my feet and says, “Yeah, we don’t have any wide running shoes; just regular sizes.” ”Really?” I reply in a fairly defensive manner, “because the shoes I am wearing right now are wide width shoes and I bought them here about 8 months ago. Are you telling me that you are sold out of all wide width shoes or that you just don’t sell them anymore… like it’s a new policy?”
“I’ll go look, but I am pretty sure we don’t have any.” And I am pretty sure he never looked.
Fast forward to me at home. I go online only to discover that when ordering shoes from Dick’s one CAN NOT specify width when placing an order. The functionality does not exist. Seriously, we are two days away from 2013 and the e-commerce website at Dick’s will not allow you to specify width size. So I go old school and call Dick’s toll-free customer service number. Whereupon Chris tells me that I am right, there is no way to specify width size online. “So how do I get the shoe?” I implore him. ”Just order the shoe and if it doesn’t fit, send it back; our shipping is free.”
I explain to Chris that this is not a solution. I also ask if there is someone else I can talk to. He says all I can do is call all the stores in my area and see if anyone has any wide width shoes in my size. Naturally I ask if he can’t just check the inventory on his computer and he says “no.”
So I took Chris’ advice and began calling area Dick’s stores. As it turns out, there is a different Chris who works in the shoe department of the Dick’s store in North Olmsted at Westfield Shoppingtown Great Northern. He actually took five minutes and found two pairs of running shoes on my list in my size… and he set them aside for me. An hour later I was the new owner of the new Asics Gel 2170.
But what is the moral of this story? Well, there are several:
1. Tell friends and family NOT to give you Dick’s gift cards for holidays or birthdays. This way you can find a retailer that actually cares about its customers.
2. Remember, there is no “us” in Dick’s customer service. And eventually there will be no “customers.”
3. Never give up, never surrender.
In the words of Dr. Peter Venkman: ”Have you been outside lately? Do you know how weird it is out there? We’ve taken our own head count. There seem to be six million completely miserable a**holes living in the tri-state area… make that six million and one.”
So when the 12-21-12 Mayan prophecy showed up a few years ago, everyone got kinda excited. Maybe a blue star asteroid or a tectonic plate shift would end the world in a giant cataclysm, or perhaps Earth would simply shift on its axis and up would be down and down would be up. Anything is possible.
And to a degree, it makes sense. With $16 trillion dollars in debt staring us in the eyes and the constant threat of global war hanging over our heads, virtually any change would be welcome… even if it meant the end of the world (or John Cusack’s acting career).
But as it turns out, 12-21-12 was just a new version of Y2K… a lot of hype, a little hope and a tiny puff of smoke. But don’t give up, there’s sure to be another doomsday prophecy on the next bus.
Or, consider the advice of Ray Stantz: ”You know, I just can’t believe things have gotten so bad in this city that there’s no way back. I mean, sure, it’s messy, it’s crowded, it’s polluted, and there are people who would just as soon step on your face as look at you. But come on! There’s gotta be a few traces of sweet humanity left in this city.”
There’s got to be.
Every single day brings new hope for better health and a longer, pain-free life. Or so it seems.
This week, we learn the University of Colorado Cancer Center found there is a “a delicate balance of bioactive components in rice bran that together show anti-cancer activity, including the ability to inhibit cell proliferation, alter cell cycle progression and initiate the programmed cell death known as apoptosis in malignant cells. The researchers showed that bioactive rice bran derived small molecules include, but are not limited to, polyphenolics, ferulic acid, tricin, β-sitosterol, γ-oryzanol, tocotrienols/tocopherols and phytic acid.”
I have no idea what this means, but according to Food Product Design, the research “suggests that dietary rice bran may have beneficial effects against several types of cancer, such as breast, lung, liver and colorectal cancer.”
Funny thing is, back in the 60s I was a huge fan of rice bran in the form of a creepy cereal called Rice Krinkles. As you can see from the box, Post was not very concerned with racial stereotypes back then. Little “So-Hi” even offered kids a free Rickshaw Racer toy with each purchase. But from a kid’s POV, this stuff was an awesome sugary, sparkly cereal that got you running out the door in the morning. Then one day in 1969 it just disappeared off the store shelves, replaced by Puffed Rice (yuk) and Fruity Pebbles (I don’t think so).
So I gave up on the rice bran. But in light of this new turn of events, I might be willing to give it a try. After all, in the words of Peter Allen, everything old is new again. Although I find it highly unlikely we will see the resurrection of So-Hi in the neighborhood grocery store… unless of course he is doing it Gangnam style.
Earlier this week, Joe Agozzino, 57, exited this world and moved on to the next. Like his father (Charlie) before him, he left this world way too soon. It was a shock and a heartbreak to everyone who knew him. And everyone, it would seem, knew him.
Hundreds, if not thousands attended his wake on Monday, while hundreds more attended on Tuesday what could only be described as a heavenly send-off at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church (West). Not least among them being the entire wrestling squad from St. Edward High School.
And through a sea of sad tears, the question arose: “Why? Why Joe? Why now?”
Joe was a good man. A good son, a good brother, a good husband, a good father, a good friend, a good neighbor, a good co-worker. He was good. And by all accounts, he was healthy as a horse. And yet, he is gone. And a void has been created.
But upon reflection, it occurs to me that while we have lost one of the good ones, we are blessed to have so many good ones still among us. And for that we should rejoice.
Joe’s brother Leo, though in many respects completely different from his only sibling, is likewise a good man. A good son, a good husband, a good and loving father, a good friend and a man of tender mercies.
Joe’s wife, Annie, is as sweet and good as a woman can be. Caring, loving and devoted. A good daughter, a good wife, a good mom (and soon-to-be grandma).
Joe’s aunt Domenica is more than good; she is saintly. One of the finest, kindest, most sacrificing women I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life. And her daughter Josephine – Joe’s first cousin (which is like identical twins to the Irish) – is a saint in waiting. The best daughter, the best wife, the best mother, the best sister, the best friend, the best teacher, the best neighbor.
And of course, Joe’s mother Leonarda and his children Leah, Charlie and Rocky, and his uncle Sam and his good friend coach Urbis… and the list goes on and on.
And though most of us find ourselves walking in Joe Agozzino’s shadow, it is good to know – and I am certain Joe would agree – that the good are still here… and they are all around us.
My niece hit me up on Facebook last night with a most excellent request:
Was hoping I could pick your brain for a moment? What would you say are the major differences between PR & marketing/advertising? Not in a technical sense, but rather, your opinion, as someone in PR. Nothing fancy or time consuming needed, just looking for your thoughts on the basic concept?
Here is my reply…
Hey Erin! Excellent question. Marketing is really the big umbrella under which PR and advertising (among a hundred other tactics) reside. So from a marketing perspective, we are addressing the market and business conditions that affect an organization. We are looking at the economy, competition, prospects, customers, influentials (such as the media or bloggers or associations) and other things to determine the climate for marketing a product, service or cause. At this level we are identifying challenges and opportunities and setting the measurable goals we want to achieve, as well as the timetables and budgets for achieving these goals.
Advertising and PR are two of the many strategized tactics that might be applied to help achieve those goals. Today, we tend to look at these tactics in terms of traditional and digital media, so on the one hand we consider options like print and broadcast advertising, publicity and media relations, direct mail and literature development (sometimes referred to as outbound marketing) and on the digital side we consider things like email marketing and social media and search engine optimization and online advertising (sometimes referred to as inbound marketing).
Of course, I am oversimplifying all of this for the purpose of general discussion, so please feel free to ask me specific questions. I am happy to talk about any and all of this in as much detail as you would like! Marketing is not rocket science; unfortunately many practitioners treat it as though there is no science involved whatsoever and that is not the case.
The Sterling-Rice Group tapped its Culinary Council to determine the top 10 Food trends for 2013. And while some sound very exciting, others strike me as rather undesirable.
On the “sounds good to me” side are sour foods and drinks influenced by the DIY pickling and brining trend (e.g., sauerkrauts, pickles and sour cherry beer). The spicy and fresh flavors of Thailand, Korea and Vietnam are also expected to grow in popularity, witnessed by the success of restaurants like BellyQ (Chicago) and Whiskey Soda Lounge (Portland).
On the “are we really going there” side are less tempting food trends, like cauliflower T-bone steaks. Or if you prefer, trendy restaurants nationwide are offering smaller plates (not prices), such as Coppa’s (Boston) 4 oz. roasted cod fillet served with a fork. That’s it. And of course gluten-free and vegan offerings continue to trend in the store aisles and at the restaurants.
As I prepare to be thankful for my annual big fat turkey dinner, these food forecasts make me wonder: How do the creatures of the wild survive without trends? Or maybe they follow trends and we just never noticed. Certainly the diets of our domesticated dogs and cats have been subject to food trends. But do elephants and wild boars mix it up from year-to-year?
To be honest, I just don’t know. And for that, I am thankful.
There’s been a lot of chatter lately speculating the bloom is off the rose at Apple, and Samsung is the next big thing.
Samsung is a lot of things – a copy cat, a me too company, a follow the leader organization. But it is not innovative. That, despite being among the top 20 R&D spenders on the planet for the past decade. And guess who is not among the top 20 spenders? You got it… Apple.
However, in fairness, Apple is identified as the most innovative company (#1) on the planet in a survey conducted by Booz & Company. Apple is the king of innovation. Everything it does – everything it has done for the past four decades – is innovative. New, different, unique, clever, imaginative, ingenious, original.
And Samsung (aka, Same-sung) is what is known in the industry as a “fast follower”. It is exactly what you think it is. And by the way, that’s fine by me. Copy away. But please don’t pretend that because you spent $9 billion on R&D last year, you must therefore be recognized as innovative. Unless, of course, you think clinking two phones together to share song playlists is clever. But then please remember playlists didn’t exist until Apple created them.
Apple – not just Steve Jobs – has proven itself to be the most consistent and successful “innovation” company of the past two centuries. Until someone else proves they can wear the crown better, I prefer to keep them on a pedestal.
I received an email from my brother-in-law earlier this week requesting my thoughts and prayers on Monday, World Cancer Day. But it turns out Monday is not World Cancer Day; that would be in February. And it is not National Cancer Day or National Cancer Survivors Day. It is however, American Diabetes Month.
But really, who cares? Every day should be Kick Cancer’s Ass day. This diabolical disease has tormented mankind for thousands of years. Lung cancer, bone cancer, skin cancer, stomach cancer and on and on. It wears you down physically and tears you down emotionally. This year, cancer is killing an average of 1,500 Americans a day. It killed my dad 12 years ago, and it will probably kill me.
So I am doing something I have never done before. I am taking Bob’s email to heart and I am asking everyone… begging everyone: Pray for a cure for cancer. And don’t be afraid…be tenacious. Be relentless. Look it in the eye and tell it you plan to kick its ass.
I wish you all well. I wish you all good health. I wish you all the strength to fight the good fight… and to win.
I read a story last night – you probably saw it – reporting at least five deaths have been linked to Monster energy drinks. Apparently some adolescents can’t process all that caffeine and sugar they are so frequently encouraged – with minimal restriction – to consume.
But then later last night I heard that Otzi, the 5,300-year-old iceman from Italy was lactose intolerant, which means a single cup of milk (assuming he could make a cup) could have had the same impact on him as Monster drinks are having on teenagers today.
Finally as my night was coming to an end I saw President Obama on Jay Leno during which time I was treated to a gentle, humorous and seemingly fun-loving guy who fielded Facebook questions with ease and laughter. None of the disharmony, discord and apparent disgust that presided over the three presidential elections. And then I remembered the final scene of the last debate when the two candidates shook hands and cajoled like old college buddies.
And somehow that all got blended into a single thought about humanity and how, at the end of the day, life is kind of silly. And yet, at the same time, death stands in the wings waiting for us.
It was there 5,300 years ago when Otzi apparently was shot by an arrow, which likely pre-empted a pending heart attack. It was there more recently when a 14-year-old California girl was pronounced dead from cardiac arrhythmia caused by caffeine toxicity apparently fueled by drinking too much Monster drink.
Life is risky business. It lulls us into thinking everything is just fine, and then it isn’t. And sometimes we humans help it along by pretending its cool to drink energy drinks… or by making bold accusations about our opponents. And then we all hug and giggle like it was all just good fun. Like every day is Halloween.
I find that rather spooky, since I am not always certain when I am being treated and when I am being tricked. But like most people, it won’t keep me from collecting free candy. And it won’t keep me from casting my vote. But if you hear me utter the word “boo”, think twice before interpreting my meaning.
In the real world, the idea of doing something that has already been attempted and/or accomplished is considered a waste of time.
In the world of marketing, the idea of beating a dead horse is not only acceptable, it is often recommended.
The age-old answer to the age-old question – “How long should I run the same ad?” – supports this concept. “You run it for as long as it works!” Yeah, there are lots of other answers, some supported by scientific studies and most bolstered by personal opinions. And there are mitigating circumstances (like the size of the budget to produce more ads or a change in messaging).
Once upon a time, a seasoned (and probably drunk) ad guy told me that you run an ad until the marketplace is sick of it, then you run it some more. That is the essence of beating a dead horse.
In an age – the digital one to be precise – where everything is in a constant state of change and transformation, the idea of staying the course and beating the horse is anathema. Plus, it is hard for agencies to make money and employees to justify their jobs if they keep doing the same thing.
Unless, of course, doing the same thing is the right thing to do.
Oscar Wilde would argue that “consistency is the refuge of the unimaginative”, and that is a safe harbor for some to moor their boats. But in this case, I defer to the words of Confucius: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
I beg for your indulgence as I once again talk about the presidential campaign.
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES 2012… this time it’s personal.
I am now 56 years old (shocking, I know), so this isn’t my first time at the rodeo. Still, I was truly disappointed last night after devoting the better part of 90 minutes of my evening to Mitt and Barack.
And just like the endless stream of ads that have invaded our TV screens, the debate was all about Obama telling us what Romney is going to do and Romney telling us what Obama is going to do (or has already done).
I know this was supposed to be a debate, which by definition is a discussion or even an argument. But this was neither. It was just a lot of nanner neener jibber jabber. It was a bad version of an off-off-off Broadway play about Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison… and I’ve seen that show already!
Maybe I’m just an idiot. Maybe I’m an idealist. Maybe I am an eternal optimist. And maybe, in the words of Taking Back Sunday, this all was only wishful thinking. But I really hoped the candidates would tell us what they were going to do to get the country back on track. I actually thought they might do the right thing.
By all accounts, Mitt Romney was the winner of last night’s debate. The remaining 330 million citizens of the greatest country in the history of this planet were the losers.
Seriously America, what’s worse, fat cats or fat kids? And by “fat cats” I mean gluttonous bankers.
I am all about healthy lifestyles. Eating and drinking properly and exercising routinely are smart moves in terms of maintaining good health and extending your life.
But unless you are eating or drinking yourself to death, and that impending death is limiting the rights of another human being, it is clearly not my place to stop you. I can advise you. I can implore you. I can love you with hugs and kindness and beg you to take better care of yourself. But it is your life to live; your life to love.
Meanwhile, dirty thieving bankers are a whole other story. They tried to destroy our way of life and they are still going at. They accept the bail out money with one hand and introduce new interest rates, fees and penalties with the other hand. These guys make the mob look like the Sunday church choir. But do we outlaw them?
No, we nix the Big Gulp and we applaud the Fat Cat.
That’s not justice, that’s criminal. I am sure somewhere in the heartland of America there are a few honest credit unions and savings & loans and even small banks who are focused on the needs of their customers and the community-at-large. But the big boys are choking our nation’s progress and killing the nation’s ability to move ahead. Meanwhile, local, state and federal regulators are focused on limiting our intake of sugary beverages.
But perhaps that’s the whole plan: We bankrupt America until no one can afford big drinks and greasy fries and cheesy burgers. It could work. In fact, it is already working with the nearly 13% of Americans already living below the poverty level. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
There’s this game we play at my house called: “What company was that ad promoting?”
Try it sometime. It goes like this: “Hey, remember that Super Bowl ad about the vampire who drove his car to a late-night outdoor party and forgot to shut off his LED headlights, causing all the vampires to disintegrate? Yeah, that was awesome. What product was that advertising anyway?” [Spoiler alert: Audi]
Or “How about that commercial most considered the best TV spot of the Super Bowl, with the dogs racing on a track and Mr. Quiggly wearing athletic shoes and moonwalking across the finish line to Tone Loc’s Wild Thing… and he turns out to be owned by Mark Cuban? Instant classic, right? What shoe brand was that anyway? [Spoiler alert: Skechers Go Run]
In the world of advertising, funny is good, but money is better.
As for the print ad above showing world leaders in a loving embrace, yeah, that was an award-winning ad campaign. But do you remember what company it was?
Once upon a time in America, well, just four years ago actually, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle made an appeal to the people:
“For a change, do not vote out of fear, but rather out of hope.”
It was a nice idea at a good time. People wanted to hope there was a better way. We wanted to forget about 9/11 and the terrorists. We wanted to turn the economy back around. We wanted to hope.
Earlier this year, The Guardian (a leading British news journal) said this about Americans: “The year 2011 will be remembered as the time when many ever-optimistic Americans began to give up hope. President John F Kennedy once said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But now, in the receding tide, Americans are beginning to see not only that those with taller masts had been lifted far higher, but also that many of the smaller boats had been dashed to pieces in their wake.”
So, here we are just two months away form the presidential election. And by all accounts, there are more undecided votes than at any previous time in history. And some might conclude from this that we have all given up hope.
But I would suggest that the American people have not and never will give up hope. I would suggest that we are as hopeful as ever. We are simply waiting for a candidate – either candidate – to give us something to believe in. Tell us something that we can nod our heads at and say “yes!”
Tell us how you are going to create jobs. Tell us how you are going to improve education. Tell us how you are going to bring peace to the world. Don’t tell us you are going to do it. Don’t tell us how the other guy can’t do it. Tell us how you are going to do it.
I hope you can. I hope you will. I hope.
Next to Super Bowl television ads, very little gets the industry more excited than the announcement of a new corporate logo.
Pop Quiz: What do logos and opinions have in common? Answer: Everybody’s got one!
Personally I think way too much time, effort and money is put into creating logos. They are, after all, just a brand mark designed to represent the entirety of the organization.
No company ever succeeded or failed because of its logo. Still, like everyone else, I am curious about new ideas and developments. And with the unveiling of the “new” Microsoft logo, I realized a new trend in logo design: squares (like nerds) are suddenly very popular.
Consider just a handful of the major global brands (The Gap, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, JCPenney and Microsoft) that have launched new logos in the past year or so. Lots of blues and reds, lots of squares (and squares inside of squares) and a couple of colossal flops.
As you likely heard, the Gap logo was so disliked by loyal customers (or so we are told), the new logo disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. As for JCPenney, the fair and square initiative has failed so miserably that customers and investors have forced management to alter its plans and eliminate all sales from future marketing, which may actually turn out to be good news and good business.
So what’s the big deal with the squares? I mean, I get why a company like Square would have a square within a square logo (even if it is a direct ripoff of the Target logo), but why are so many heavy hitters headed in that direction. Maybe, these four-sided structures reference the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, west)… or perhaps the four major seasons (winter, spring, summer, autumn)… or the four cosmic elements (suns, moons, planets, stars)… or the four common phases of human life (birth, child, adult, death)… or perhaps the four prime elements (fire, earth, air, water).
Or maybe the designers just like squares.
Flying back from Atlanta yesterday, I purchased and attempted to read through the September issue of WIRED magazine.
Talk about “57 Channels and Nothin’ On”. I’ve been in the business for more than three decades now and I still had to struggle to figure out where the editorial started and the advertising ended. And when all was said and done, the advertising was more interesting and more informative than most of the editorial.
Once upon a time in America, news actually had value. Now everything is pitched as news. A tweet of Anthony Weiner’s wiener is news. And the real news is so sensationalized and overhyped, it appears to be a farce. As I watched Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel last night hunkered at the intersection of Hurricane Isaac and Cheap Ratings Avenue, I couldn’t help but wonder when the world became so… patronized?
It’s probably just me. I know many people (mostly my age) who live for their daily newspaper and their nightly TV news. And I know an equal number of people (mostly not my age) who salivate with each news alert that appears on their iPhone and each new Tweet they receive.
But for my taste, it mostly all sucks.
I am ever so grateful to those handful of news resources that continue to fight the good fight. People like Charlie Rose on PBS who actually understand what a newsworthy story is (even when it is an entertainment story) and deliver it in an engaging format. Magazines like Fast Company that provide meaningful and interesting insight in a well-designed publication. And even shows like ABC Nightline that at least attempt to deliver real news in a professional and entertaining manner.
I guess the only good news (pun intended) is that when news is finally taken off of life support and allowed to take its last breath, we won’t know, since no one will be there to report it.
Fact: We Americans love our fast food.
Fact: The medical community and the Federal government are doing everything in their power to lead us onto a healthier path.
Fact: We Americans love our fast food.
A recent survey by Harris Interactive looked into consumer quick-service restaurant (aka fast food) preferences. And for the first time, the top slot went to the world’s foremost sub-sandwich chain: Subway – the “eat fresh” and “lose weight” QSR! Subway is the top QSR chain on the Harris list, with an approval ranking of 73.07 (out of a possible 100.00). And it continues to win nutritional kudos as well. In a recent Consumer Reports ranking of breakfast sandwiches (of 106 sandwiches tested) only 6 ranked as “very good” nutritionally, and all 6 of those were from Subway.
That’s promising, right? Until you see that Dairy Queen ranks second in preference behind Subway. And DQ is followed by Wendy’s, Five Guys, Chick-Fil-A, McDonalds and Burger King.
So in the grand scheme of things, burgers and ice cream and french fries and chicken sandwiches and all sorts of other good mood foods, including pizza and hot dogs and anything coated with barbecue sauce and cheese continue to rule.
Fact: We Americans love our fast food. But we are making progress, one baby step at a time.
Resistance may be futile, but acceptance is insane.
Yes, the convenience of paying your dog walker or your baby sitter with a credit card instead of cash may seem alluring. But at what price? You are inviting the world to take an exclusive and all-inclusive peak into your personal diary.
Talk about insidious, the reader is free (just like the first snort of cocaine… on the house). And users are encouraged to share their world with the rest of the world. This way Square can have “a better understanding of their reputation in the ecosystem.”
Yes, those are the precise words of Square founder Jack Dorsey. He wants to know everything about you so he can protect you from fraud. Suddenly “transparency” has a whole new meaning. Square isn’t looking at your payment history, they are looking at your social media history. Through Square you can be completely naked to anyone and everyone who wants to know what you do and where you do it and how you do it. You are officially the biggest, fattest target on the street.
And why is Howard Schultz (Starbucks) so interested? In the words of the Borg, “Resistance is futile. Negotiation is irrelevant. You will be assimilated.” And oh yeah, there is money to be made here.
I have heard some talk lately that 50, which used to be the new 40, is now the new 30. That’s just great. It’s not enough to be young at heart anymore, you actually have to be young… or at least act like you are younger than you really are.
Perhaps this is the reason why energy drinks – a product once relegated to pimply boys on skateboards – reached nearly $7 billion in sales last year, outpacing bottled water by $200 million. And we are not just talking Red Bull and Monster Energy and Rockstar, we’re also talking Starbucks and Jamba Juice and V8. Main Street marketing, baby.
Because while teenagers will put just about anything into their bellies that tastes good and gives them a sugar high, 50-year-olds (and 40-year-olds and 60-year-olds) want to be healthy and natural.
According to a recent story in Food Product Design, “the greatest long-term opportunities in energy likely still exist firmly in the beverage sector—but with a decidedly “natural” spirit (think whole-food ingredients, juices, tea, whole grains, etc.).” Better still, the article reports “Aging consumers regularly cite a desire to have sufficient energy for the day’s activities.”
In other words, “We may be the new 30, but we are tired, and we would like to be laying in a hammock on a beach, but we cannot afford to retire, so we must keep working, and we cannot take drugs without a prescription (or the risk of arrest), and we really don’t want to mess up our bodily functions (we’re talking urination, bowel movements and erectile functionality here), so can someone please give us an all-natural and apparently healthy energy boost to help us make it through the day?”
If that’s not a marketing opportunity waiting to happen, I’d like to know what is.
Last month my niece (and favorite goddaughter Kerri) graduated from high school and announced that the summer of 2012 was going to be the Summer of Doing Everything.
I asked what she meant and she said, “everything.”
And maybe I am just projecting here, so please forgive me if my thoughts do not resonate, but it seems to me that everyone everywhere is in the mode of trying to do everything all the time. And the result is a hectic, chaotic frenzy of undirected energy, followed by fatigue and disappointment.
And it makes sense, because no one can do everything. No one. And yet we try. Yesterday afternoon I was in a client’s lobby waiting to be escorted to a meeting. For what seemed like an eternity I paced the lobby, as I had intentionally left my iPhone in the car so I would not be distracted by calls and texts and email alerts. And here I was – for all of 60 seconds – with nothing to do but pace. I was frantic. Surely I should be filling that void with some meaningful activity, like updating my Facebook status or composing a tweet.
I guess what I am saying – to myself, my niece and the world-at-large – is that the idea of doing everything is highly overrated. My advice: spend an hour in a hammock doing nothing. And if it feels good, stay there another hour.
I am no scientist. Just ask my son the scientist.
And I am no Facebook advocate. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.
Still, all the recent excitement over the God particle got me thinking how awesome it must be to be a scientist and to know with almost complete certainty that you’ve actually achieved something real. Think about it. Peter Higgs hypothesizes the existence of this particle, then PROVES it through experiments.
According to the LA times, two teams reported independent results that suggested the existence of a previously unseen subatomic particle with a mass of about 125 billion to 126 billion electron volts. Both groups got results at a “five sigma” level of confidence — the statistical requirement for declaring a scientific “discovery.”
“The chance that either of the two experiments had seen a fluke is less than three parts in 10 million,” said UC San Diego physicist Vivek Sharma, a former leader of one of the Higgs research groups. “There is no doubt that we have found something.”
No doubt. How awesome would it be to run a Facebook social media campaign, hypothesizing that it will achieve something, then look at your results (traffic, likes, talking about this, total reach) and be able to conclude with five sigma certainty that you actually achieved something.
That’s the problem with marketing. You can be strategic. You can apply a scientific approach. You can measure for and document results. But you will never ever get results with a sigma five level of confidence.
Face it (and if you wish, you can even Facebook it), at the end of the day, we are not scientists. And I can live with that. After all, it took Higgs nearly 50 years to prove his theory, and very few clients have the ability, desire or luxury to invest that kind of time to sell a product.
I love the term “data mining”. I can almost picture a group of industrious businessmen in hard hats shoveling away in the heat and darkness, barely able to breathe, just for the chance to discover an elusive bit of information that will not only invade my privacy, but will also state the obvious.
Who knew that consumers willing to pay more for the elegance of an Apple computer might also be willing to pay more for other items, like hotels? That shocking revelation is brought to you courtesy of Orbitz. What’s next: people who exercise more frequently are likely to maintain healthier diets? You are geniuses.
There’s just one problem, your process sucks. You stick your nose in peoples’ lives using “predictive analytics” just so you can figure out which consumers have the highest “lifetime value” as a customer. In short, based on what we do, you guess what we are going to do next and segregate the projected big spenders from the expected regular Joes.
Wow. This kind of impressive use of knowledge makes me want to shut down my computer, throw away my smart phone and revoke my membership on the worldwide web. To companies like Orbitz – whose company has been failing miserably since going public in 2007 – we consumers are little more than hosts for retailers to feed on.
Well, thank you very much for that. And God bless all the online retailers who pay large to secure this data so they can stereotype and profile me.
Seriously, you can market and sell to me all day long, but when you start probing me (without my permission) and profiling me (according to your values) and tagging me (as a cow to be milked or one to be slaughtered), you’ve gone too far.
And you want me to put all my information on a cloud… I don’t think so.
Hopefully this is not a case of the guy who turned old and lost touch with the younger generation.
But over the course of the past couple years – and more particularly over the past few weeks – I have noticed a shift in what was once standard protocol.
Take the job interviewing process as an example. Once upon a time you mailed your resume, followed up with a phone call and scheduled an interview. You then conducted the interview and followed up with a letter or card and phone calls. Not so much anymore.
Now electronic resumes are simply emailed. There are rarely if any follow-up phone calls. Even in post-interview scenarios, emails are fired off within hours of the meetings. But no follow up phone calls. None.
I have come to the inevitable conclusion that the new generation of communicators does not understand the purpose and/or value of picking up the phone and making a real-time connection. Instead you get this:
“I texted you” or “I posted it on Facebook” or “I emailed you.”
The fact that I didn’t acknowledge the text or post or email doesn’t seem to cause concern for the modern-day communicator. Apparently in the new world of instantaneous digital communications only the sending part is important… not the receiving.
And with that I am reminded of one of my favorite Seinfeld scenes: “See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”
Likewise, anyone can send a communication, but the really important part of the communication is the receiving. But maybe it’s just me.
Every day in Cleveland brings another day of hope and promise for a new and revived city.
But hope only gets you so far. It is really high time for someone – anyone – to step up with a solution.
We continue to amble around as a city with one idea after the next, kind of like throwing darts at a board.
Let’s open a medical mart and become a center for medical innovation… let’s place wind turbines along the lakeshore and become a center for energy innovation… let’s build a casino and become a center for entertainment…
Let’s get real. Cleveland needs a vision – something that goes beyond an idea and has the potential for long-term growth. This vision then needs a plan that documents what we are doing and who is doing it and includes budgets and timelines and means of measurement and accountability. And then we need to be patient as that plan is implemented and takes hold and grows.
Steve Jobs, who in addition to creating several truly cool products, created a pretty awesome business (actually, he built several of those too), once said: “Building a company is a marathon. To do anything of magnitude takes at least five years, more likely seven or eight. Rightfully or wrongfully, that’s how I think.”
I agree. But as another wise man once said, “The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.”
So, let’s set our sights on the year 2017, but let’s get started today. I am officially volunteering to help in any way I am needed. Now, who’s got a vision?
There was a time at the beginning of my career when I literally panicked over deadlines and crunches. I sweated, my heart raced and I worried about not meeting expectations or worse, getting fired.
But it all worked out. The fear drove me to work smarter and harder and faster. It showed me what I was capable of and allowed me to choose to be more productive.
And in time I gained confidence and developed my own personal swagger. I faced the challenges. I fought through the blood, sweat and tears. I was forged by fire and came out stronger. I not only survived, I exceeded expectations – mine and others.
Thirty years later I am still spinning plates; just a different kind of plates. And time is still at a premium. And on occasion I can smell the ugly odor of fear in the air. But who’s got time for that?
As my dad always said, do your best and forget about the rest.
Knowing what I know about how Facebook came into existence and what its plans are for world domination, my conclusion is simple: If this guy is for CISPA, then I am against it.
Well, that plus the desire to limit the government’s intrusion into our private lives.
I get the whole need for security and our responsibility to support the government in doing what it has to do to keep our part of the world safe. Just visit an airport for proof.
But I am vehemently opposed to giving any federal agency or group any authority or power that is not clearly and precisely outlined with every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted and every thought footnoted.
Talk about giving someone an inch and them taking a mile. Network World explains that CISPA would let Internet companies monitor and collect any user information they think poses a threat to their networks or systems. The bill would also let these companies share the collected information with the NSA and other federal agencies. Companies that share such information would enjoy a high degree of legal immunity for their actions.
Can you say “Yikes”?
Still, I cannot help but wonder if the current administration is truly interested in protecting its citizens or garnering their votes (did you know that when you scramble the word “vote” it also spells “veto”).
A statement released by the White House today stated: “Without clear legal protections and independent oversight, information sharing legislation will undermine the public’s trust in the Government as well as in the Internet by undermining fundamental privacy, confidentiality, civil liberties, and consumer protections.”
Ron Paul says CISPA is “Big Brother writ large.” I believe he simply wants to keep the government in check and protect privacy. Facebook supports CISPA because the company stands to benefit financially and legally if the bill passes. And Obama? Hopefully he is keeping a watchful eye on all Americans, not just the voters. As for Mitt Romney, to the best of my knowledge he has not voiced an opinion.
As a young boy growing up in Cleveland’s inner city (to be fair, there was very little outer city back in the ’60s), my days and nights were filled with music. Just as it has been for thousands of years.
But Dick Clark did something no one had done before. He brought that music into the home – into the living room – and it was all about kids entertaining kids. For the first time in forever, this entertainment, this rock and roll music was not for the adults, not for the parents, not for the grandparents. It was for the kids.
It was for kids like me who carried a Jade transistor radio in his pocket everywhere he went. Kids like me who managed to get his hands on a low-end reel-to-reel tape recorder and used it to tape every new song he heard on the radio so he could play it back – over and over and over again – until the tape finally wore out.
Dick Clark gave us more than music, he gave us a voice. He gave us a place in the home. A place in society. He emboldened and empowered us.
Although most kids today are more likely to recognize Ryan Seacrest than Dick Clark, they owe their gratitude to the latter. He opened the door and stood there holding it open for a long, long time.
Like, Cool Daddy-O.
Steve Jobs has been gone now for just over six months. That seems like plenty of time to turn on Apple and destroy what is arguably the most successful and respected American company today.
Steve Jobs once said that he liked living at the intersection of the humanities and technology. He loved to read… Shakespeare, Plato, Dylan Thomas. He loved music… The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Joan Baez. And his love for technology is well-documented.
And Steve Jobs was not above stealing. He loved a good idea and coveted a great one. And he publicly acknowledged his unashamed and unapologetic willingness to steal them. And Steve Jobs was not above introducing ridiculously high-priced technologies that consumers willingly purchased… because they were worth the price.
But stealing money from consumers by fixing prices on books? That does not sound like an idea Steve Jobs or anyone else at Apple would endorse.
Plus there is this: In a world so full of injustice, this is the battle the Department of Justice has decided to take on? Really? I guess in a way I am glad that Steve Jobs isn’t here to see this… unfortunately the rest of us are.
I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the individuals and/or group of individuals behind the “We Hate Sugar” movement that seems to be sweeping across the nation.
Over the last week alone, I have seen in-depth news reports on TV, heard experts interviewed on the radio, read numerous online stories and have even been counseled by a couple of consumers.
Apparently sugar is bad for you… like toxic bad. My youngest is a food scientist and he may well dispute much of what I am about to share, but it appears that sugar is the new devil. It’s making us fat and giving us diabetes and destroying our hearts and raising our blood pressure and even causing cancer.
Or maybe this is just like all those other stories about alcohol and tobacco and caffeine and pharmaceuticals and guns. Maybe these things aren’t the problem, maybe we are. Certainly we can blame the products. Or we can blame our parents and society. My personal preference is to blame corporate America for making all this processed (aka junk) food and forcing us to consume it through all their clever marketing.
Conspiracy theorists love to point to the tobacco industry and how they used science and marketing to get us addicted to smoking. They now claim the food and beverage industry is doing the same thing.
I have no clue about most of this; I assume there is some truth and some untruth in every story. But here’s what I do know: A little self-control can go a long way, and that’s something we could all benefit from. Eat a little less processed food and a little more fresh food. Drink a little less canned soda and a little more water. Smoke a few less cigarettes and take a walk in the park.
A little common sense can make a big difference, and it doesn’t require parental or spousal or government intervention.
Do you remember the old Ken-L-Ration TV commercials? My dog’s better than your dog… my dog’s bigger than your dog… my dog’s smarter than your dog.
Ranking is an obsession in this world. Who’s first? Who’s tallest? Who has the most money? Who’s the prettiest? Who’s the fastest? Maybe Charlie Sheen was right about that winning thing.
But nowhere is ranking more important these days than in the world of Internet search. SEO firms have been getting rich for more than a decade now, creating fear in the hearts of organizations whose websites don’t appear on page 1 (preferably as the first entry). They have also been playing dirty, overly optimizing websites to the point of polluting the environment with SEO junk instead of meaningful content.
So, Google plans to penalize them in order to level the playing field for other websites who do not concentrate on such efforts. If this sounds like a move the government might make, that’s because it is. No doubt the SEO service providers who have created this mess need to be stopped – partly for ripping off clients and partly for clogging the main arteries of the information superhighway.
In a recent article in TekGoblin, Google Engineer Matt Cutts explained: “We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect.”
As a marketing professional and an Internet surfer, I really like that first part. But as a freedom-fighter, I don’t like that second part quite so much.
I mean really, who put Google in charge of deciding what’s right and wrong… what’s good and bad… what’s acceptable and what’s not? Oh, wait, I just remembered; in a world where rankings are everything, Google is the biggest and the richest kid on the block, so they get to make the rules.
I just hope we can all live with them.
Hats off – or should I say helmets – to the Great Lakes Science Center for dreaming big and reaching for the stars.
The Great Lakes Science Center is widely recognized as the perfect spot to take the kids for both entertainment and education. But did you know it is an equally awesome destination for adults? And you don’t even have to be a nerd, unless of course you want to.
Next month, on Saturday, April 7, from 8:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m., the GLSC staff will be entertaining adults (sans children) to an out-of-this-world evening of heavenly delights. Close your eyes and imagine Tom Hanks from “Big” hanging with Ben Stiller in “A Night at the Museum” while doing shots with Harrison Ford at the Mos Eisley Cantina on the planet Tatooine in “Star Wars.” It’ll be sort of like that.
Music, dancing, alcoholic beverages, hors d’oeuvres, an Ominmax movie, a costume contest, a trivia contest… and a whole lot of fun science. In case you didn’t know, Yuri’s Night parties and events are held around the world every April in commemoration of April 12, 1961, the day of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight, and April 12, 1981, the inaugural launch of NASA’s Space Shuttle.
By the Numbers: In 2012 there will be 72 events in 29 countries on 5 continents on 2 worlds…and you have the opportunity to join them.
SPECIAL OFFER: If you act before St. Patrick’s day, GLSC is offering tickets for just $50 each ($10 discount). Use the promo code “Gagarin” when you purchase your tickets online: http://www.greatscience.com/yurisnight.php. [offer is good through 3/17/12]
And be forewarned. In the words of C.S. Lewis: “A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.”
I feel kind of bad for Apple CEO Tim Cook, but he is not helping himself by dressing like Steve Jobs, acting like Steve Jobs and trying to promote the company like Steve Jobs.
Apple is a great, great company with a great, great tradition. It will survive. But Tim Cook et al need to take a step back and let the company evolve or transition to its next (no pun intended) logical position.
There is no need to hold a major news conference to tell us you have a new iPad that is just like the old iPad, but slightly better in some regards…. and a much higher (and I could argue unaffordable) price level.
Just stay in the lab and keep cooking (no pun intended) up innovations. And when you have the new iScreen that can stretch from the size of an iPhone to the size of a desktop iMac, hold a news conference. When you launch the new iWall fully integrated TV system that allows us to use a full wall for Intenet, TV and movies, by all means, throw a party.
Until then, just keep working and don’t worry about some competitor sneaking up on you. Apple is so far ahead of the marketplace, you can afford a few months to just simmer and mourn the loss of Steve Jobs and think about the future of Apple and buy yourself a more colorful wardrobe… and maybe some new glasses. There is no rush.
Although, if you can figure out a way for me to keep my AT&T service plan while delivering better coverage, that would be great. But hey, I can wait.
Not so long ago, much like Apple and Steve Jobs, Starbucks and Howard Schultz were being dismissed as down and out.
And therein lies the beauty of rear view mirrors. Only now – looking back – can we see the true genius of both.
Some believe that Starbucks re-established itself by getting back to what it did best. And sure enough, it cut back on selling books and movies and extraneous equipment, and refocused on selling really great coffee in really great environments. But that is not the secret. Much like Tony Hsieh realized that Zappos was not a great shoe retailer, but rather a great service company that happened to sell shoes, Howard Schultz realized (or perhaps always knew) that Starbucks is also a great service company that happens to sell coffee.
At some point – around 2006 or 2007 – success started to spoil Rock Hunter. Fortunately, Howard Schultz realized that and quickly began making changes in order to return to the original culture he so successfully created. So instead of focusing on growth and expansion, it refocused on loyalty and enhancement. In other words, instead of worrying about getting more customers, it concentrated on understanding and servicing the ones it already had.
And the company returned to its roots and its core – innovating and investing in new ideas… like exceptionally high quality instant coffee and light roast coffee. And it got back to community initiatives, like “Jobs for the USA” wristbands that raise money to fund local start-up businesses. And it is looking forward with new retail services and new retail store ideas.
Last week my son (the scientist) schooled me on the subject of inertia. He reminded me of Newton’s Law that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. One need look no further than Howard Schultz or Steve Jobs to see that even the most successful business leaders never cease innovating. As my old boss Ellen McConneell often told me, “there is always one more thing to be done.”
Say what you want about Walmart, they know their customers and they know how to service them with excellence. As Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, authors of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business explain, Walmart customers want lots of product variety and really low prices. These are the things that are most important to them. Conversely, Walmart does not waste much energy on the things their customers want the least, including personal service and quality lighting and a comfortable, inviting environment.
On the flipside, Frei and Morriss point out how amazingly successful the airline industry as a whole has been at completely missing the boat (pun intended) on the delivery of quality customer service. They are like the USPS of air travel, with one simple directive: Just deliver the package! But they can’t do it. They arrive late, they depart late, they lose luggage, and they treat you like a family burden. In fact, according to Frei and Morriss, only two airlines seem to get it – Southwest and Virgin – and coincidentally they are the only two profitable airlines in the industry.
So, ask yourself right now, what is most important to your customers? And what is least important to them? And how are you delivering on both ends? It may seem counterintuitive or paradoxical, but it is essential to excel at delivering what your customers want most and to fail at delivering what they want least.
And it all begins by knowing who your customers are and what is most important (and least important) to them. Which also means you need to conduct research, and you must be open to the possibility of completely changing your mindset and quite possibly your entire approach to customer service… and maybe even your business model.
But in the words of Steve Jobs, to be successful, you must be willing to think different and if necessary, cannibalize your own business with better products and services – the ones your customers want the most.
February is a lot of things. It is the second and shortest month of the year…. sometimes with 29 days, but mostly with 28. In leap years, it is the only month that begins and ends on the same day of the week.
In the United States (and Canada) it is Black History Month. It is also National Bird-Feeding Month. Go figure. And there are some cool days as well.
February 2 is Groundhog Day. The first Sunday of February is the Super Bowl. February 11 is Lincoln’s Birthday, and the third Monday of the month is President’s Day (banks will be closed). George Washington’s Birthday is the 22nd.
February 14 of course is Valentine’s Day (guys, don’t forget this). And February 29 is Leap Day; Tigger will be thrilled.
It appears that February was the last month to be added to the Roman calendar back in 713 B.C. (previously the Romans considered winter to be a “monthless” period). Anyway, for the next 250 years it was the last month of the year. Then it became the second month, and at times it had as few as 23 days in it. Eventually, between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, they worked out the kinks.
February even has its own poem:
Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone
Which hath but twenty-eight, in fine,
Till leap year gives it twenty-nine.
But perhaps most intriguing to me is that today (February 9… the day after my son’s birthday) is National Toothache Day. In reverence for this important occasion, I ask everyone to stop what they are doing at 2:30 for a moment of silence.
Maybe I am just suffering from overload… I’m sure there’s a syndrome, a drug and an app for that.
But lately I’ve been feeling a little like Charlie from the first season of LOST, who notably asked his island pals, “Guys, where are we?” After watching more than a few of the Republican debates and listening to the occasional Coast-to-Coast radio broadcast in between viewing new TV shows like Alien Storage Pickers of Atlanta and catching the endless hype over the SuperBowl, the Academy Awards and whatever other “celebrity” news is out there, my head is about to explode.
That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane -
Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs. Feed it up a knock,
speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,
down height. Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government for
hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn’t coming in a hurry with the furies
breathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered
crop. Look at that low plane! Fine then. Uh oh, overflow, population,
common group, but it’ll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its
own needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and the
reverent in the right – right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright
light, feeling pretty psyched.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.
Six o’clock – TV hour. Don’t get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear – cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,
a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.
The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite.
Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic,
slam, but neck, right? Right.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine…fine…
“Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?”
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3
As an anemic economy continues to grind down many of America’s longest standing corporations and institutions, it is refreshing to see one of them fight back. JCPenney is one of our oldest and largest retailers, and it is taking a very bold risk. In the true spirit of transparency, JCP is launching an entirely new approach to retailing called the “Fair and Square” pricing strategy.
Awesome. The new model is designed to offer appealing initial prices that are not confused by multiple promotions, deep discounts and daily sales. In other words, no more smoke and mirrors, no more dog and pony shows, no more bait and switch. No more couponing, no more inflated discounts on inflated full retail prices.
In the words of J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson, “To think you can fool a customer is kind of crazy. People are disgusted with the lack of integrity on pricing.”
He is right, of course. And he ought to know, since his company is part of the problem. Still, if JCP has seen the light and is willing to invest heavily to make important changes, then good for them. And ideally it will be good for consumers.
I’m not going to say I am doubtful or even skeptical, because I am actually hopeful. But I am taking a wait-and-see attitude. Teaching old dogs new tricks – like being earnest – can be a difficult task.
“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence…”
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1
While enjoying my dinner last night, my wife asked me if I saw the new circular from McDonald’s that came in the mail. A freestanding insert that boasted not one, not two, not three, but 12 “buy one, get one FREE” coupons. Free McMuffins, free Big Macs, free large fries, free shakes, free, free, free.
“That’s interesting,” I thought to myself. “I wonder what its objective is? Is McDonald’s trying to help the little guy during these tough economic times; you know, help him make is dollar go a little further? Or is the company doing its best to make you fatter and unhealthier by giving you twice as much food as you want for half the price?”
Okay, so maybe I let my imagination get the best of me. Then I see an Arby’s TV commercial later in the evening. You know, the Good Mood Food people. “For a limited time, buy one fish sandwich and get another for free.” And we aren’t even close to the Lenten season. That’s peculiar.
I am probably making a mountain out of a mole hill. But then, just before I turn in for the night, I decide to watch the Jimmy Kimmel Live monologue. And Jimmy (yeah, we are on a first name basis) reports that Burger King is testing home delivery service in target markets. Home delivery of fast food for that segment of the marketplace that’s either too busy or too lazy to use drive-thru? Great; now you can get massive calories from flame-broiled cows, deep fried potatoes and chocolate pies delivered right to your doorstep.
This is war. These fat food companies, sorry, fast food companies, need to learn the hard way that their billions of marketing dollars will not allow them to lure poor unsuspecting consumers (aka, baitfish) into the treacherous shark tank.
If the likes of Google and Wikipedia can successfully black out content and service in protest over anti-pirating legislation, American consumers can effectively turn off the faucet of fast food companies by refusing to buy their unhealthy offers. Yeah, I said it, “they made us an offer that we can refuse.”
We need to unite and galvanize. I am calling on all weight-challenged Americans to rally around the date of Thursday, February 2, 2012, and cast a giant shadow over the fast food industry by refusing – for one day – to patronize these bloated establishments and their insidious offers.
“Don’t go, just say no.”
“Don’t go, just say no.”
“Don’t go, just say no.”
[Jan 5, 2012 Editorial Note: This story was originally posted last week but has been updated]
I am so flipping tired of my industry being maligned by idiots who crown themselves “Public Relations Professionals” or “Marketing Professionals” or “Social Media Experts”.
Seriously. This guy – Paul Christoforo – has ticked off half the electronics gaming community by ignoring every fundamental rule of good and effective communication. If he is a PR pro, Dr. Jekyll was a physician extraordinaire.
In a day and age where everyone knows everyone else’s business – because of PR and marketing and social media – how can anyone be so ignorant as to think you can treat customers like yesterday’s trash and get away with it? And then beg for forgiveness when you get caught. Not because you are truly sorry or that you even recognize the error of your ways, but because you got caught and it is killing your business.
Shame on Paul Christoforo; you are not a PR professional. Shame on Ocean Marketing; you are not a professional PR operation. And shame on N-Control; not only for hiring this marketing firm, but for retaining them after they pulled this kind of nonsense in the past. You get what you deserve.
Unfortunately, customers do NOT deserve this kind of nonsense. And since it is apparent they may have missed some of these lessons during their marketing/PR/social media training, I wanted to offer a couple of tenets to Ocean Marketing and N-Control for future consideration:
1. Be honest with your customers – even when it is bad news.
2. Own up to your mistakes just like you take credit for your achievements.
3. Make good on your promises, and if you fall short, make up for them with humility and rewards.
4. Treat customers with the respect they deserve for giving you their money and loyalty.
5. If you are incapable of relating to the public, do not call yourself a public relations professional.
As cautionary tales go, this one seems to have a good ending. N-Control fired Christoforo and Ocean Marketing, which has changed its name to Ocean Strategy (yeah, that will work), and someone (no names please) has effectively shut down N-Control’s website.
The following video (definitely R-rated for rough language) offers a quick and only slightly exaggerated summary of the basic story. Please view at your own risk with the volume set at low.
I was watching FOX news last night (don’t ask). The lead story featured a bird’s eye view of a white SUV flying down the middle of a multi-lane street. Cars parted like the Red Sea to make way. Without warning the white vehicle entered an intersection and t-boned a black SUV on the driver’s side. The runaway vehicle slammed to a dead stop; the black SUV was tossed 90 degrees. As smoke and steam began rising and unidentifiable car parts rolled along the street, two seemingly untroubled dogs jumped through the window of the black SUV and simply ran away.
What the hell? What the hell. Running is an instinct. Running is an escape. Running is freedom. Running is awesome… for dogs and humans.
In grade school I wanted to run in the worst way; unfortunately I did. As a teenager in high school I dreamt of being on the cross country or track & field teams; the closest I ever came was a hoodie I found after a meet. As a young man I became obsessed with Jim Fixx and began running (jogging), but gave it up in my late 30s because my knees kept swelling up. Then, at the ripening age of 53, I started running with my teenage niece; it was the summer of 2009. She quit running with me when school started up (teenagers!) in September, but my knees held out, so like Forest Gump, I just kept running.
Anyway, if you are seriously thinking about running, and I hope you are, I would like to offer some thoughts (not advice). On the one hand, it is just running, so you shouldn’t take it too seriously. On the other hand, it is running, so you shouldn’t take it too lightly.
1. If you are overweight and/or over 50, it would probably be a good idea to check in with your doctor before you get started. If you decide not to – and this especially applies to stubborn men with Peter Pan complexes – then at least take it slow and listen to your body.
2. It’s all about the shoes… and the socks. Sure, it is important to be comfortable in the running clothes you will be wearing, but a good pair of shoes and a good pair of socks will help prevent unnecessary and/or premature injuries that stop you from running. A good pair of shoes are not necessarily expensive, but they are rarely cheap. Buy shoes that are designed for running, ask for help at the store, try on several pairs and don’t be too proud to walk around the store a few times to see how they feel. And if you get them home and they don’t feel good when you run, take them back. I also like socks that provide additional cushion on my feet.
3. Just get started. Then stop, then start and repeat. Here’s the thing, running is perfectly normal and easy for some people and painful and difficult for others. Either way, you just need to get started. You can pump yourself up or bitch and complain… just get started.
4. Set a goal and a course. A man (or woman) without a plan is planning to fail. I decided from the beginning that I wanted to run every other day (preferably outdoors) and set a goal of three miles per run. Running every other day was easy; getting to three miles was not. But I kept at it. On my very first run, I measured out a mile course (using my car odometer) and just started running. About a third of the way through I was bent over catching my breath. So I walked it off for 60 seconds and started back up again from the spot I stopped at and ran another one-third of a mile. I was pretty convinced I could not finish, but I did. And despite the two stops, I ran a measured mile. And every time I ran it got easier (well, sort of), so I added a little distance until I eventually got up to and exceeded 3 miles.
5. Bring along a few friends. I rarely run with other people because it is so difficult to maintain your own pace and match up with someone else. That’s something I learned early on: everyone has their own unique pace. However, I never leave home without my iPod and one of my favorite running hats. My iPod has a perfect blend of high energy and cool down music, which I flip through accordingly. My favorite running band: OAR. My favorite running hat: whichever one I am wearing at the moment.
6. Never give up… never surrender! I continue to run every other day, almost without exception. Call it discipline or call it OCD; I call it essential. The body is weak, so the mind must be willing. Even when I don’t feel like running or it is too cold and rainy or I can think of a dozen more interesting things to do, I run. And I am almost always rewarded for my effort. Don’t quit. Don’t even take a break unless your doctor makes you.
7. Give yourself credit and enjoy your achievement. Every time my wife tells someone that I am a runner, I literally cringe with embarrassment. Because I know what a terrible runner I am. No one will ever confuse me with the Tarahumara Indians. But I also know that I am doing something I really enjoy… and I am doing a pretty good job. I have lost and kept off 20 pounds of unneeded and unwanted weight since I started running 2-1/2 years ago. And I still go out for ice cream at least once a week… because I love that also.
Remember what Christopher McDougall said: “You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”
Dan Pallotta is the president of Advertising for Humanity and author of Uncharitable. Last week Dan wrote a very interesting blog post about business jargon. To quote Dan, “I’d say that in about half of my business conversations, I have almost no idea what other people are saying to me.”
I could not agree more. Between the idioms, the acronyms and the hyperbole, it is almost impossible to follow conversations. Dan credits the Internet for making an already bad problem worse.
Maybe he’s right. Or maybe it is a failing education system. Or maybe it is a growing number of insecure business professionals seeking job security through language obscurity. Or maybe – just maybe – we’ve become so accustomed to marketing, we’ve forgotten how to communicate.
You remember President Reagan? He was often referred to as the great communicator. But in truth, he often did not know the difference between reality and a film reel. He rarely communicated and frequently marketed. I pass no judgement on him, and in fact openly admit that I voted for him… even when he said stuff like this:
“Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources.”
“I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.”
“How can a president not be an actor?”
In truth, President Jimmy Carter was the last great communicator of our time. There was very little marketing and a whole lot of communicating going on there. No abstract concepts, no meaningless expressions, just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth… so help us God. Stuff like this:
“I have often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can’t get my wife to go swimming.”
“I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.”
“People make a big fuss over you when you’re President. But I’m very serious about doing everything I can to make sure that it doesn’t go to my head.”
Hmmm. Now that I consider it more closely, perhaps the difference between marketing and communication is one without distinction. Maybe it does not matter so much whether one uses business jargon, but rather that one has something worth saying.
Just over a year from now, on December 21, 2012, life as we know it on planet Earth will be disrupted with a cataclysmic event that signals or perhaps even brings about the end of times.
And how do we know this? Well, according to the Mayan calendar, our time is up. Naturally, you are probably wondering how a bunch of primitive people dancing around in skirts and sacrificing humans had the ability to foresee such things, and that is a good question.
The truth is, they didn’t know anything. Let’s be honest, these people were only one foot out of the cave, there is no conceivable way they could see into the distant future and pick out a specific date for the new era of mankind to begin. So what’s happening here?
Did you know there is no longer any gold in Fort Knox? It’s true. The last time anyone ever saw it, I was still in high school. Billions and billions of dollars worth of gold… gone. And I know where it went. We gave it to the aliens in exchange for knowledge. But not just bits of information or electronic files full of secret data; we traded our gold for actual aliens.
It is a well-known and accepted fact that aliens have been harvesting gold from the planet Earth for thousands and thousands of generations. In exchange, they gave us their best teachers and their DNA. Think about it; the greatest minds and leaders in our history have always been “different” from the rest of us. Did you actually think Steve Jobs was an Earthling? Conveniently enough, like Barack Obama (yeah), we don’t really know who his parents are. How about Stephen Hawking? According to most reports, his mom and dad were separated due to the war at the time of his birth (I’ll bet).
And how about Einstein? Or better still, Sir Isaac Newton or Leonardo DaVinci (both of whom were obsessed with alchemy… the creation of gold)? The greatest minds of our species… aliens one and all. And what about the most famous alien of all time. Everyone knows the story: a “heavenly” voice tells a young virgin that she is suddenly with child… she then follows an unknown “star” that magically appears in the sky to Bethlehem… where she gives birth to the most incredible human of all time. Jesus Christ. And three magi somehow find this child to bring him gifts of frankincense, myrrh and… gold.
Anyway, these aliens have been around for millions of years, traveling through the cosmos, gathering knowledge (and gold). Some suspect they may even be us, a million years in the future. Given their knowledge and experience, one can only conclude that their sharing of the date – 12/21/12 – had a purpose.
The world as we know it is most definitely scheduled to end just over a year from now. And truthfully, there just isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. In fact, there is nothing you can do about it. Not a thing.
So, I offer to you the wise words of my old friend Desmond Hume, “See you in another life, brotha.”
[Editorial Note: All facts and data supporting this blog post are courtesy of the History Channel, Discovery and National Geographic. These guys put the REAL into REALITY TV.]
I have to be perfectly honest, I don’t know Daniel Henninger from Adam. He is a native Clevelander, which is nice. He’s also a Georgetown graduate, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial staff and an award-winning journalist.
And he has an agenda… a conservative agenda. And I am fine with that. He also has several platforms, not the least of which is the WSJ and Fox News. And I am also fine with that.
What I am not so fine with is the general idea that bloggers and the Internet are ruining journalism, presumably because the “news sources” are looked upon as renegades who present themselves as experts (often self-proclaimed and rarely verified) and offer endless opinions as if they were facts (citing dubious sources, like Wikipedia).
Yet guys like Henninger can analogize (as he puts it) our President to the Corleone family, offering nothing but opinion (very personal opinion if you ask me), and he is still viewed as a serious journalist. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
I am reminded of the War of the Worlds broadcast; not the movie, but the Orsen Welles radio broadcast back in 1938. Apparently people couldn’t tell the difference between a real news report and a radio show. As it turns out, millions of American ran from their homes, fleeing as it were, invisible martians.
Welles began the broadcast with these words: “We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s…”
Seems to me we could use a few intelligent watchdogs in the 21st century. If citizens are easily duped by radio shows and bloggers and the Internet and the President, they are likely also duped by WSJ columnists. And I am fine with that. Let’s just not pretend like the “journalist” is somehow more special or more right simply because of the masthead above his or her name.
WWE superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin used to say: Don’t Trust Anybody (DTA). Good advice for a wrestler, but not very practical for the rest of us.
Once upon a time, we went to work for a singular purpose: to do work. We dug ditches, directed traffic, operated machinery, sold insurance, created advertising, designed clothing, milked cows and on and on. And whatever your job was, that was pretty much all you did all day long.
But Duke University professor Cathy Davidson says the digital age has changed everything – the way we work, the way we learn, the way we live. The Internet, smart phones, e-mail, social media, MP3 players, digital cameras, GPS… all this phenomenal technology has done far more than simply give us 24/7 access to information, communication and entertainment. It’s changed the way we exist.
Unfortunately, we haven’t made the necessary adjustments at the office or school or home or anywhere else to accommodate the transition from the industrial age to the digital age. So here we sit in office buildings and classrooms designed for a world that existed more than a century ago functioning under practices that were developed more than a century ago and attempting to be productive (and happy) in a world that exists today.
Something’s gotta give.
And, according to Davidson, the timing is just about right. The digital age, though still in its adolescence, is approaching its 20th birthday, which is the magical time that most civilizations require to begin making important adjustments. It happened with the agricultural revolution and the information revolution and the industrial revolution. And it is happening now.
About 2,500 years ago, Socrates freaked out about the invention of the writing stylus and was quoted by Plato as having said: “[Writing] destroys memory [and] weakens the mind, relieving it of…work that makes it strong. [Writing] is an inhuman thing.” Turns out writing devices did not destroy humanity, but they did change the world. And it would seem – sooner than later – the digital age is going to do the same thing in our workplaces and our classrooms and our personal lives.
In the meantime, I have a suggestion for all you multitaskers who are risking exhaustion attempting to read every e-mail, check every Facebook update, answer every text, tweet, blog, watch videos, download MP3s, notify Foursquare of your location and also do your work at the same time. Take a nap.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.” It worked in Kindergarten, it could work at the office.
And 20 years from now, when all the necessary changes have been made to adjust to the digital age, we can eliminate the mid-day sleep breaks. Hopefully by then there will be an app for that.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if our biggest concern regarding school-age children was the weight of their backpacks… or the amount of time they spend on the Internet?
Unfortunately there is much more to worry about.
For example, the CDC estimates 173,285 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children and adolescents are treated in U.S. emergency departments each year. This does not include the hundreds and thousands of brain-jarring incidents that never get reported.
Here’s my favorite topic: Until 2004, the nutritional guidelines for the National School Lunch Program hadn’t been updated in 15 years. During that time, obesity rates among children skyrocketed. One-third of American children are either overweight or obese, with rates of diabetes and other health-related issues also showing dangerous increases. And guess what, children receive about 40 percent of their daily calories from school lunches. As for the remaining 60 percent of their calories, take a hard look in the mirror.
And then there is this…
National statistics recently released by the United States Department of Justice indicate that one out of three girls and one out of five boys will be sexually abused by the age 18. And while it is likely (according to multiple recent studies) these numbers are exaggerated, even 1 out of 100 is one too many.
Anyway, here’s the thing: our children are our future. As a former child and a current parent, I know how hard it is to make it through life unscathed. But we have to try our hardest to do our best. Watch over the children, love them and protect them. And oh yeah, especially this week, take time to be thankful for them.
Bacteria rules the world | REM’s final album is just old music… poop | unemployment benefits claims drop… deceptacons | Tiger Woods has the shakes | my brother lost his arm | my other brother lost his mind | bananas rock | I really need a vacation | The X Factor sucks… what kind of name is L.A. | snowflakes | Homer Simpson is still funny | Brian Greene’s string theory… boing, boing | Kurt Vonnegut is dead… and so it goes | I miss Michael Jackson | I miss Steve Jobs | beach glass is so smooth | Alcatraz | Irish music | Guinness | sandals | Hatteras Hammock | baseball | Cook Forest | inflatable cars | I love my iMac and my iPhone | I love my life | who was the first guy to open a peanut shell and say: “maybe I should eat these things?” | Twitter and Facebook are both so 15 seconds ago | I think I’ll buy a puppy… a Jack Russell Terrier… but I won’t call him Jack or Russell | Spartacus | Oooo, the sun is shining
You are universally recognized as one of the great visionaries of your age. Big, lofty, creative ideas flow through your brain like oxygen through your lungs. You see things most can’t fathom upon explanation… Then you create them. And still, most can barely comprehend the beauty and elegance of your achievements. Not just one or two inconceivable creations, but dozens… Maybe hundreds… Maybe more. You possess the admiration of generations and exist in a class all your own. Unique. Special.
You are Steve Jobs. You have seen virtually everything. And anything you haven’t seen you simply imagined and invented. And yet…
As your life in the world came to its inevitable conclusion, you uttered six amazingly simple words: Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.
What did you see?
According to the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, children and teens are drinking massive amounts of sugary drinks that increase the risk for obesity and diabetes.
And guess who’s to blame? According to a new report entitled: Evaluating Sugary Drink Nutrition and Marketing to Youth,” companies that are targeting young people and using more sophisticated and ubiquitous marketing tactics to reach them are the biggest problem.
And who is the biggest culprit? According to the report, “From 2008 to 2010, children’s and teens’ exposure to full-calorie soda ads on TV doubled. This increase was driven by Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper Snapple Group.”
In a recent Harvard Business Review interview, Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent stated that a company like Coca Cola isn’t able to cure a problem or issue as big (no pun intended) as obesity. “What we are doing,” says Kent, “is providing choice to the consumer… products with no calories, products with medium calories and products with full calories.”
Kent goes on to explain that eliminating full calorie products is not the solution because many people want full calorie products and do not suffer from obesity because they exercise. In other words, if you are fat and have diabetes, it is your own fault, not ours. You lack awareness and balance.
Meanwhile, Kent mentioned nothing about the excessive advertising. Yet, according to the report, “Two-thirds of the brands analyzed appeared during prime-time programming, totaling nearly 2,000 appearances in 2010. Coca-Cola Classic accounted for three-quarters of brand appearances seen by children and teens.”
The report concludes: “If beverage companies want to be part of the solution to the obesity crisis, they must do more to protect children and teens from marketing for sugary drinks and energy drinks.”
It would be entirely unfair to blame Coke and its CEO for the growing epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the U.S., but it is not a bad place to start. According to its Mission, Vision and Values, “Coke must look ahead, understand the trends and forces that will shape our business in the future and move swiftly to prepare for what’s to come.”
I’d say this trend is pretty obvious: If you don’t stop targeting kids with unhealthy products, then you are simply destroying your future customer base. That is not a good strategy for success.
In fairness to the other side, I would like to offer some pointed and useful advice on how to not succeed in business and life. In the words of Dwight Schrute: “To me, success is simply the opposite of failure.” Indeed.
I call them the Pyrite Rules.
Rule #1: Say whatever comes to mind at all times and at any cost. Don’t like the boss? Tell her. Think you are the smartest person in the office? Speak up. Holding your tongue is only going to hold you back.
Rule #2: Dress for excess. Funny hats, silly ties, colorful socks, goofy shoes and low-cut blouses are the way to get attention and get ahead. Old soldiers should fade away, not young executives.
Rule #3: Never waste valuable work time washing dishes, cleaning the microwave or making copies. You can’t make it to the top if you are concerned about the bottom. Leave the monkey work for the monkeys.
Rule #4: Regular hours are for regular people. The day starts when you get there and ends when you leave. Remember, 9-to-5 is a bad movie, not a good day’s work.
Rule #5: There is no “I” in team, so why would you want to be part of one? Teams are for baseball, not business. Colleagues are like excess baggage; unless you are flying Southwest, you’ll pay a penalty for having them.
Rule #6: The needs of the one always outweigh the needs of the many. Yeah, other people have problems and needs, but those are their problems, and who needs them? If you want to make something of yourself, you have to stay focused on what’s really important… you!
My dad (Dennis B. Sweeney) always said: “All things in moderation… too much of anything is rarely a good thing.”
Interestingly he used that advice in two distinct ways, as a warning against getting carried away with things (“it’s actually possible to drink too much beer”) and as an encouragement to lighten up (“it is actually possible to study too much”).
Regarding the latter, I believe Willy Wonka put it this way: “A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest men.”
Over the past weekend I went on a fun walk with two of my nieces and one of their friends. It was a cool, crisp, blustery Autumn day in Cleveland, and we decided to enjoy it. I was amazed that the leaves had already turned marvelous shades of yellow and red and were now covering the sidewalks. The smell of fall was strong, and I found myself kicking up leaves and gathering pine cones along the way. I am a 55-year-old man who often behaves like a 12-year old. Balance.
From 9 to 5 (I wish), Monday through Friday (I wish), I give everything I have to my work and my clients. As my dad also said: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” But when the day ends and/or the weekend arrives, I play. I run, I jump, I sing, I cook, I shop, I fish, I doodle, I have even been known to just lay in my Cape Hatteras hammock and do nothing. And sometimes in the middle of all this relaxation and outright silliness, I get a great idea for work. Balance.
When things are out of balance, they have a tendency to tip over, which is hardly ever a good thing. On the other hand, it is absolutely fine if your pendulum swings to the extremes… just so long as it eventually swings back in the other direction. Or as my dad often said, “Work hard, play hard.” Balance.
Satchel Paige, the over-aged, overachiever is famously credited for once saying this about his passion for playing baseball: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
Steve Jobs had a similar idea. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
On the surface they may sound like different ideas, but they are the same. I believe Stephen King summed it up best in Shawshank Redemption. “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
But Jobs, as he so often did in his life, took it further. His advice about work and life was to find what you are passionate about and do it… and trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. Certainly a young Steve Jobs could have been crushed under the
pressure of dropping out of college in his first year, just as a 30-year-old Jobs could have been devastated over being fired by the billion dollar company he created, just as an older and wiser Jobs could have accepted fate and given up upon learning he had cancer.
Instead, Jobs looked around to find his passion, pursued it and participated in it – taking a leap of faith as it were. And trusting that the dots would somehow connect in the future.
Of passion he said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
Satchel Paige played baseball for as long as the game would allow him. Often times he made only enough money for room and board on the “colored” side of town. But by the early 1940s, Paige’s estimated annual earnings were $40,000, which was four times the pay of the average player on the major league New York Yankees and nearly matched the pay of their top star, Joe DiMaggio. And although time took its toll, Paige, at the age of 61 (in 1967) appeared with the Globetrotters in Chicago and accepted the opportunity to play with the Indianapolis Clowns for only a $1,000 a month. Passion.
As for Steve Jobs, I think he summed it up best: “I was worth over a million dollars when I was twenty-three and over ten million dollars when I was twenty-four, and over a hundred million dollars when I was twenty-five,” he said “and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.” Passion.
If you guessed that a secret is NEVER a secret, you are correct.
As a young boy, my dad once advised me that if I didn’t want people to know my business, I should keep my mouth shut. That was pre-Internet, pre-social
media, pre-Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame, pre-reality TV, pre-it is better to be seen and not heard days.
Whether you are a business fat cat, a hot celebrity or a regular Joe, the same rule applies: nothing is private anymore. This is a fact, not an opinion. Nothing is off the record, nothing is just between us, nothing is on the down-low. Welcome to 1984.
It isn’t right, and it most definitely isn’t good, but it is what it is. The last hope for privacy is to keep your mouth shut and your hands still (as in no email or text or posting on Facebook or Twitter or your blog or LinkedIn or YouTube).
My dad said “Silence is Golden.” I had no idea.
Once upon a time, people who couldn’t keep a secret were called gossips and busybodies and loudmouths and stool pigeons. Now they are called everyone.
The entire planet has become the new Tower of Babel (Babble?). I think Glen Campbell said it best: “Everybody’s talkin’ bout me, I don’t hear a word their sayin’, only the echoes of my mind.”
Nothing is secret, very little is sacred and the more attention you can get, the better.
Evolution is a very fickle process. Is it possible to die from TMI?
Tom Hanks has nothing on me. Yeah, he was cast away on a deserted island for four years, but did he lose his iPhone? Did he survive a week without checking his email at every convenient moment? Did he suffer the inability to check baseball scores or the ESPN Fantasy Scoreboard? Did he know what it was like to not use a TV Guide app and have to actually flip through the channels to find a program? Did he go to his favorite coffee shop (Starbucks) unable to check in on Foursquare? Did he experience the anxiety of not being able to text friends and associates whenever the spirit moved him? Did he have a clue what it was like to be shunned by the mobile Facebook and Twitter communities? Did he stare into the eye of a QR Code knowing he could not scan and download?
No, Tom Hanks (aka, Chuck Noland, the FedEx systems engineer) had it easy. After all, I was one of those guys – one of those early adopters – who managed to secure the earliest version of the iPhone… the iPhone classic. And despite the crappy AT&T coverage and the grindingly slow speed at which it operated, it became a part of me. And I became a part of it.
So imagine the emotional pain of losing my right appendage.
Turns out it wasn’t that big a deal. Within the first 24 hours, I was back to my old routines (pre-iPhone). Within a couple days I was actually happy to be freed up to talk with people and avoid all the junk mail and conversations that were eating up my day. I even managed to spend the last two days in Atlanta on business without missing a beat. Suddenly my iPhone was a whyPhone, as in “why did I let it become such an important part of my life?”
By the time you read this, I will have survived seven days – a full week – without my soulmate. I will also be activating my new iPhone 4.
What can I say. Just because I don’t need it, doesn’t mean I don’t want it.
1. Unless you are an Olympic swimmer… no strike that. Any man who wears a speedo or mankini at any time for any reason is a googy.
2. Unless you are under the age of 30 and/or hiking a 20-mile trail and you find yourself wearing a backpack, you are a googy.
3. If you have been out of high school for more than 5 years and are still wearing graphic t-shirts and/or graphic shorts, you are a googy.
4. If you order a casserole in a dirty diner and they bring you a plate of unidentifiable, steaming, gooey goop, it is googy.
5. If you rub a lotion on you and it leaves a slick, slathering mess of cream on your skin, it is googy.
For more about googy, I referenced the urban dictionary:
Googy noun ˈgüˈjē
1. An obese kid who makes smart remarks and plays EverQuest 24/7. 2. To act stupid, as with a show of too much emotion; more emotion than usual, especially when tired. 3. A person who spends valuable work time reading pointless blog posts about googy.
Wait a minute…
I gas up the computer this morning and begin the daily ritual of scanning all the news alerts that appear in my inbox. Side-by-side I read these two headlines:
You can not plan this kind of thing. Anyway, I read both stories and realized that this does not have to be a bad thing for Sara Lee (I am assuming that the vast majority of their perfect deli meats find their way into school and/or daycare kid’s lunch bags). If I were Sara Lee, I would adopt this cause and find solutions. I must admit that I haven’t given this a lot of thought, but here are a couple of my initial ideas:
1. Align with an appliance manufacturer or retailer to launch a campaign goal of putting a portable refrigerator (like dorm size fridges) in every classroom in America (starting in the South).
2. Partner with an insulated lunch bag manufacturer or retailer to give every student in America a “Perfect-Lee Cool” lunch sack. At the very least, allow students/parents to earn points with every deli meat purchase that can be applied to the cost of the insulated bag.
3. Work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to increase awareness of the issue and bring an end to issue of unsafe lunches.
Memo to Sara Lee: There is a solution AND an opportunity for every problem; I hope you can find a perfect solution for this one… if you don’t, Spam might!
Not that anyone will ever see this film or even care… it is worth reporting that Morgan Spurlock has now done for the branding and advertising community what he previously did for the fast food industry.
Though not due for release on DVD until August 23, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was released domestically at theaters back in April. The production budget was $1.8 million and box office receipts to date are $636,928, meaning not a lot of people have seen it yet.
It is, in a sentence, “A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.”
A staggering 82% of the people who saw it gave it a rating of A or B, and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine says: “I’m buying into Spurlock. As ever, he makes you laugh till it hurts.” I say, “It is a riches of embarrassment.”
As a movie fan, I love it. As a tenured industry insider, I must admit that the my laughter was eventually replaced by muffled cries of sadness. In his own entertaining way, Spurlock manages to shine a light on all the worst that exists in our business, surprising even me at times.
[Editorial Disclaimer: Though I did not sponsor this film with product placements, I nonetheless highly recommend it.]
Frank Lloyd Wright would be impressed.
Imagine a living room or office or conference room or retail space with limited or no windows or windows with really bad views… only a TV or computer monitor and a few incandescent or fluorescent lights to brighten up the space (picture the first 10 minutes of “Joe Versus the Volcano“).
Now imagine the same room with sky ceilings and luminous virtual windows that allow the outdoors in from all sides. Not just pictures of the outdoors, but true high-tech “illusions of nature” that soothe the mind and body.
That’s just what The Sky Factory did, and it is amazing to behold. As a northerner who is forced to stare at gray clouds and dead trees for no less than six months out of the year, the mere idea of blue skies, babbling brooks and pounding surfs is more than I can handle. But it is not more than The Sky Factory can deliver.
We’re talking ultra high definition motion here (aka eScapes) captured by award-winning cinematographers. According to the company’s website, “Using the latest RED Digital Cinema™ technology they capture the beauty of mountains, waterfalls, beaches, streams and rivers, wildlife, and more.” And the scenes run in length from 30 minutes to two hours. And if you have a request for a particular beach – or mountaintop – a custom illusion is possible.
It’s what my dad would call a touch of heaven.
Disclaimer (this is my second disclaimer in two weeks… sheesh): I acknowledge openly that I have never actually seen the product up close and personal (though I hope to soon), and I have received no incentive to pimp this product. I simply saw it in a magazine and got unreasonably excited. What can I say, I love the outdoors… even if it is an illusion.
I’ll bet you never thought you’d see the day when I defended McDonald’s, but here it is and here I go.
Did you know… San Francisco has banned the inclusion of toys in children’s meals unless certain nutritional requirements are met?
Did you know… A New York City councilman is proposing a similar law?
Did you know… Jack in the Box announced the end of toys in its children’s meals in June of this year?
And now, Mickey D’s – king of the Happy Meal – is dropping to its knees, agreeing to revamp its Fatty McFattersteen food box with a healthier alternative.
Long believed to be a gateway drug to Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, the new Happy Meal will eliminate half of the fries and replace them with fruit. According to the New York Times, “McDonald’s made it clear that it was changing the composition of Happy Meals in response to parental and consumer pressure. It also pledged to reduce the sodium content in all of its foods by 15 percent, with the exceptions of soda and desserts.”
I am not sure whether to celebrate or cry. On the one hand, McDonald’s offering healthier foods is a good thing, right? But on the other hand, McDonald’s just publicly confirmed that parents and consumers are totally incapable of handling their own lives… they can’t even feed their children properly.
So rather than wait for the government to step in and force their hand, McDonald’s has buckled. And so begins the end. Mark your calenders and warn your children.
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. “Reality control,” they called it: in Newspeak, “doublethink.”
Though I consider myself a fairly smart guy, I am admittedly not a scientist. So I won’t pretend to understand the chemistry of Alcoa Architectural Products’ new Reynobond® with EcoClean™ – aluminum building panels (cladding) – that clean themselves, as well as the air around them.
Fortunately, I don’t require an advanced degree to recognize the new technology’s value: Reynobond with EcoClean constantly works to remove pollutants by using sunlight and the water vapor and oxygen in the air to clean the air itself. According to the company’s website, “10,000 square feet of Reynobond with EcoClean has the approximate air cleansing power of 80 trees. That’s enough cleaning power to offset the smog created by the pollution output of four cars every day.”
In addition, because the EcoClean™ coating is superhydrophilic, it makes the surface of the Reynobond® super slick in the presence of water. So when it rains, water doesn’t bead on the surface. Instead, it collapses and runs evenly off the building, taking most of the broken-down organic matter and nitrates with it. Even the slightest amount of rain or humidity in the air creates the effect, so the building is constantly washing away contaminants. That means lower maintenance costs for owners, and a consistently cleaner image for the building over time.
In summary, EcoClean is a really innovative technology that is good for building owners, good for the environment and good for the community-at-large. Congratulations Alcoa.
P.S. Please update me when you introduce the self-cleaning car.
[Disclaimer: Alcoa did not request or pay for this review.]
It’s the dead of summer, the heat index is above 100 and the media is laser-focused on pretty much any lame story that will get their audiences’ attention. One of my favorites – and I never tire of hearing this – is the “staycation” story. This is a modern version of the “I’m vacationing on Porchville this summer!”
But I have come to learn that Staycation is just one of many of the new breed of vacations being popularized this summer. Here are a few of the others:
NBAcation: This is when you are locked out of the office – without pay – for an undetermined amount of time.
Daycation: This involves scheduling every friday as a vacation day from June till September to create a virtual 4-day work week. For the record, people in the office hate the guy who does this.
Fraycation: This is when you take two weeks off work, but spend the vast majority of your time worrying about your clients and the security of your job. Prescription cocktails are required.
Playcation: No work? No worries… just fun in the sun. No one actually ever does this, it is just talked about around the water cooler.
Whattheheycation: This is the unexpected vacation resulting from a power outage that kills all the open documents on your desktop.
Graycation/Greycation: This is actually retirement.
I am writing this post from a remote location today, as the power grid that feeds our building went dead last night. And so it goes.
Once upon a time, you couldn’t read “once upon a time” unless you first visited the local library. But that’s no longer the case… and it is causing a serious problem.
Due to decreased funding, libraries are short on technology, short on hours and short on visitors. In fact, library closings have become a viable alternative for many public and even school libraries.
The recently released 2010-2011 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study concludes that libraries are “grappling with a “new normal” of flat or decreased funding, paired with increased demand for public library technology resources. The result is a mix of the grim austerity, reflected in decreased operating hours and closed library outlets, in contrast with the robust delivery of technology resources that support workforce development, e-government services, and skills training for the competitive global marketplace.”
So what’s a library to do?
On college campuses, the bookless library is not just taking shape, it is taking the place of the traditional library. As reported in TIME on Monday, “At Drexel University’s new Library Learning Terrace, which opened just last month, there is nary a bound volume, just rows of computers and plenty of seating offering access to the Philadelphia university’s 170 million electronic items.” And Drexel is just one of hundreds of schools making the transition.
On the public front, big city institutions continue to secure essential funding. The New York Public Library for example is preparing to unveil a transformed main branch that architect Norman Foster says “anticipates the parallel and integrated worlds of electronic digital systems and traditional books.”
Meanwhile, in smaller towns like Kent, Ohio, funding is a little harder to come by. Kent Free Library has been faced with diminishing state support. In response, it has reduced its hours and cut its materials budget from $360,000 in 2008 to $120,000 this year. Library director Stacey Richardson must now market a 1.8 mill continuing levy just to secure necessary operating funds.
As a man who covets his original copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, and still owns his first library card, I am sad to think libraries may one day become little more than glorified Starbucks stores that “fit seamlessly within a neighborhood and provide visitors a place to find a connection.” Think it’s a crazy comparison?
According to the Starbucks website, “it’s the wonderful people you meet that make Starbucks so special. People like you. People with ideas, passion and curiosity. We’d like to help you have fun, dream big and connect to the people and ideas that interest you. Because we believe marvelous things happen when you put great coffee and great people together.”
According to American Library Association president Roberta Stevens, “Libraries have been and are continuing to transform themselves to be responsive to the needs of the populations they serve. Libraries are busy because they are central to the lives of millions of families, students, older adults, entrepreneurs and those who require assistance in weathering the economic challenges of the past few years.”
Maybe we should just put Howard Schultz in charge of this issue and see what he can work out.
I have been in this business of marketing and public relations for more than 30 years now. All of it on the agency side.
During that time I have had the opportunity to work with and represent hundreds of organizations, from global industry leaders to one-person start-up businesses.
And I can state without hesitation that the single biggest oversight of most is the inability or unwillingness to set and document goals and objectives before planning and implementing marketing initiatives.
Don’t get me wrong, there is almost always a general agreement that the organization knows what it wants to accomplish – we want to increase sales, we want to successfully launch a new product, we want to crush the competition, we want to change market perception of our company, we want to become the industry leader – and some might accept these vague, abstract and intangible intentions as goals. And perhaps they are.
But without their companion – precise, tangible, measurable objectives – they are little more than ideas. And unless both are committed to paper and shared across the organization, they are simply ideas floating through the atmosphere.
The best strategies, the best creative and the best implementation – even if they win prestigious awards – amount to nothing more than a bag of crap if they do not achieve the specific goals and objectives they were intended to reach.
But if there are no specific, concrete, documented and shared goals and objectives that can be measured and analyzed, how can you ever hope to validate your achievement?
“Well,” you might say, “This is both obvious and ridiculous. Every organization – particularly industry leaders – have documented goals and objectives that drive their ongoing and continuously evolving marketing and public relations initiatives.”
Really? Please send me a copy of your current goals and objectives. I would like nothing more than to give you credit for doing the right thing.
Packaged Facts just released its newest report on Snack Foods in the U.S. (4th edition). And apparently “meals” (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are slowly but surely being replaced by snackles (just what you want, whenever you want).
In fact, the report predicts that Americans will plow through $77 billion worth of snacks annually by 2015.
According to Vending Marketwatch, this growth in snacking is being fueled by “less frequent restaurant dining, frenzied lifestyles that encourage on-the-go eating, a growing tendency to replace meals with several smaller snacks, and marketer efforts to combat the obesity epidemic by developing healthier snack foods that still taste appealing.”
Implicit in this last point (and not by accident) is the idea that a lot of packaged snacks are healthy. And while it appears to be true that consumers have a larger selection of snacks to choose from – many of which claim to be “better for you” – I am guessing that the vast majority of those billions of dollars can be traced back to the four basic snack food groups – chips, soda, candy and cookies.
Still, it must be noted that even these traditional snack favorites contain less sugar, less fat, more nutrients and a host of special additives. So, snack on America… and don’t be afraid to include fruits and veggies with your snackles.
Considered a serious frontrunner in the 1988 U.S. presidential elections, Gary Hart did what so many politicians before and after him did… he lost his way. Like the Kennedy’s before him and John Edwards and Bill Clinton after him, Gary Hart allowed himself to go where many men had gone before, but shouldn’t have.
Most recently, Anthony Weiner likewise acknowledged that he too was skipping along a slippery slope and found himself in a place where two paths diverged in a wood… and he took the one most traveled by.
Hart and Weiner both denied the initial reports of their bad behavior, only to admit the truths later when confronted with all the facts. And while Weiner is holding firm to his conviction to stay in office, Hart actually pulled out of the 1988 presidential race… only to reappear seven months afterwards when public opinion polls led him to believe he had a shot at getting elected. But as he soon discovered, opinion did not translate into votes.
And so it would seem that some things never change. Men make mistakes, men get caught, men deny bad behavior, men finally fess up when they realize there is no alternative, and they spend the rest of their careers trying to make things right… whatever that means.
As far as I can see, the only thing that has changed through all the years is the technology involved in the revelation of their activities.
You would think an iconic figure like Mr. Clean would be synonymous with truth, justice and the American way. But you tell me. Is the new Magic Eraser 30% larger AND 30% more durable or is it just 30% larger and some other percentage more durable?
And what is it 30% larger than? Oh, wait, if you look down in the lower left corner and get out a magnifying glass, you will see that it is 30% larger than its old self.
Just yesterday, Kathy ran up to the store to take advantage of a special on Arm & Hammer toothpaste that was $.75 cheaper per tube if you purchased four tubes. But when she arrived home – pleased with her $3.00 savings – she learned that the tubes are significantly smaller than the old tubes. In short, you pay less because you get less.
Did you know that in the food industry, many manufacturers have adopted something called the “clean label” approach to packaging, wherein you only tell consumers what you think they want to hear. Terms like “natural” and “wholesome” and “found-in-the-cupboard” are preferred over terms like “additives” and “processed.” It is nothing if not confusing.
The real problem with all this – or at least one of them – is the assumption that consumers can not be trusted with the truth. Really? I am pretty sure that when Gary Dahl launched the Pet Rock craze back in 1975, every consumer who bought one (or several) knew exactly what they were buying. No one really thought they were pets.
So, here’s an idea: Tell us the truth (You want answers?). Keep it transparent (I want the truth!). Be clever if you want to (You can’t handle the truth!). But don’t play games with us (Well, we appreciate that but you are under oath now and I think as unpleasant as it may be we’d all just as soon hear the truth.).
It’s bad enough when your CEO looks like a goober, but when he starts talking nonsense that threatens to undermine your entire brand, what do you do?
According to the Associated Press, “The head of cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc. told a cancer nurse Wednesday that while cigarettes are harmful and addictive, it is not that hard to quit.”
Says CEO Louis C. Camilleri, “We take our responsibility very seriously, and I don’t think we get enough recognition for the efforts we make to ensure that there is effective worldwide regulation of a product that is harmful and that is addictive. Nevertheless, whilst it is addictive, it is not that hard to quit. … There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers.”
“Whilst?” Clearly somebody has gotten into the medical marijuana cabinet.
Don’t get me wrong, I am one of those people who believes other people have the right to make their own choices. And while I believe it would be better for everyone if no one smoked at all, I am not forcing my opinions on anyone.
But this arrogant jackass needs to check himself before he ruins what little reputation his company has left. Anyone who has ever smoked – and that includes me and Barack Obama – knows how incredibly impossible it is to quit.
So if you’re the head of marketing and communications at Philip Morris, what do you do?
Step One: Confront CEO Lou with the truth and recommend sensitivity training.
Step Two: Tell him to sincerely apologize for making cavalier statements about a life and death subject.
Step Three: Don’t allow him to spin the story with obfuscated messaging.
Step Four: Tell him to quit smoking publicly to show us all just how easy it is.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Easter boosted April retail sales and allowed retailers to experience continued momentum, “posting strong sales.”
Well that’s good news. Now everyone can go back to work, companies can start spending again and all will be right in the world.
The End. But wait… according to this WSJ article, the only stores that actually showed signs of life were Costco and teen retailers.
Target posted a 13% gain, but it was below what analysts expected. J.C. Penney’s same-store sales were significantly below what was expected. Kohl’s posted a 10% gain, but were projected by analysts to hit 15%. On the luxury side, Saks and Nordstrom also failed to meet expectations. Gap is scrambling, Sears is running scared and Big Lots is in decline.
So what is really going on in this fantasy world? According to the same article, nearly half (43%) of Americans say gas prices are having a significant impact on their spending and budgeting decisions.
But, of course, gas is not our only problem. There’s the massive debt and the lack of jobs and the high cost of war and the lack of healthcare insurance and skyrocketing city, state and federal taxes, and on and on.
And worst of all? The left and the right simply continue to bicker and argue and disagree and point fingers and call names… as if they don’t realize or don’t care that we are down the rabbithole. But we are. And it is time to admit it so we can set about getting out.
Recognizing that American consumers are “under renewed economic pressures”, Walmart CEO is confident that his scenario “could work in Walmart’s favor.”
In short, what’s bad for consumers could be good for Walmart. What a lovely and empathetic sentiment.
Mr. Duke, I wish you could be poor enough for one month to know what it feels like to run out of cash at the end of the month, as you so accurately portray the condition of the average Walmart customer. Do you really think that people who don’t have enough money for gas actually have enough money to shop at Walmart?
Maybe you didn’t mean what you said. Or maybe you didn’t mean it the way it came out. Or maybe you weren’t thinking clearly considering your audience (attendees of the Barclays Capital Retail & Restaurants Conference on Tuesday). I understand that you are a businessman and that your priority goals involve sales and profitability, but dude, show a little compassion.
If you really want to attract more customers to Walmart for all their shopping, and you want to ease their financial pressures, install a few Walmart gas pumps that offer a free gallon of gas for every $20 spent on Walmart products.
In America we call that “give and take.”
The past half decade has been brutal for many – if not most – consumers. The economy has either cost them their job or denied them pay increases essential to keep up with rising expenses. Meanwhile, taxes continue to increase, the cost of staple goods continues to increase and the value of what little consumers own has plummeted. In the meantime, mother nature has dealt the global population a non-stop smackdown that includes hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, blizzards and droughts that have devastated lives. Then there are the wars and the oil spills and the Bernie Madoffs of the world.
Nearly 15% of Americans are living below the poverty line. The number of people in poverty reached its highest level in 51 years. Median annual household income is below $50,000.
Consumers are under daily distress… and they need a break. Product manufacturers and service providers who can figure out how to ease their pain and minimize their anxiety in thoughtful, sincere and meaningful ways, have a unique opportunity to establish relationships that could last a lifetime.
On the other hand, greedy, thoughtless business leaders – let’s use the NFL owners, players and agents as an example – will reap what they sew. During the 2010 season, the minimum salary for rookies on active NFL rosters was $285,000. For rookies on practice squads, the minimum salary was $88,000… and these are the lowest salaries. Billions and billions of dollars being fought over in public by greedy, selfish men who could not care less about the consumers who create all that money for them.
Perhaps they are confident that history will repeat itself and fans will come flocking back to support their opulent lifestyles… willing to forgive and forget without consequences. Maybe.
But I wouldn’t bet on it.
What does Walmart suddenly know that no one else seems to know? At a time when traditional retail sales are struggling to even stay in the shadows of online sales, Walmart has decided to increase its base of SKUs with more than 8,500 products it had previously removed from its already cluttered and overstocked shelves.
One might rightly ask: What’s up with that? Does Walmart suddenly care about its customers? I doubt it; this is the same retailer who maintains 30 checkout aisles in every store but only opens four at a time just to remind customers who is in charge. No, let’s be clear, Walmart hasn’t cared about customers since Sam Walton crossed over in 1992. And even he saw customers pretty much the same way P.T. Barnum saw them.
And that is just fine. People and their companies have the right to generate revenue and make profits, just as consumers have the right to avoid them or willingly hand over their hard-earned incomes. We are a free market economy… sell what you want, buy what you want.
But I have a bad feeling about this new Walmart move. I think they finally realized (or accepted) who their primary demographic is and they are now pulling out all the stops to get them back in their stores before it is all over. I think they now know that older Americans who don’t shop online and need somewhere to go during the day are a prime target. I think they know that middle and lower income families who have yet to embrace online shopping are a prime target. I think they know that a huge assortment of consumers looking for deals on things they simply can not or will not purchase online – everything from cotton balls and laundry baskets to cereal and spaghetti sauce – are a prime target. That’s a pretty diversified audience requiring a pretty diversified product line. And it sounds a little more like Sam’s Club or Costco than Walmart.
Then again, everybody loves a circus. So, maybe Walmart really does know something that no one else knows.
Look at this guy; even he knows he is cool.
This is the face of American entrepreneurialism at its very best.
Ron Rezek is an industrial design rock star. Perhaps best known for his contemporary light fixtures and ceiling fans, the likes of which make you weak in the knees. Like all great entrepreneurs – American and otherwise – Ron Rezek set no boundaries for himself.
While still a grad student at UCLA in 1970, he designed a lifeguard rescue device that is still in use today. He then turned his attention to decorative light fixtures and later started in on the ceiling fans. His designs broke barriers and offered relevance for commercial and residential applications alike. He earned degrees and took chances and won awards.
Best of all, rock star Ron Rezek didn’t just design stuff, he made stuff. He held patents for design and mechanical innovations. He created businesses and made them flourish… companies like Ron Rezek Lighting and The Modern Fan Co. and the Period Arts Fan Co.
You perhaps never heard of Ron Rezek, but you likely read about him or saw his work – in movies or on TV shows or in books and magazines – and you just didn’t know it.
Ron Rezek is the stuff of modern legend. He is a 21st century cowboy. And he is still riding tall in the saddle (or maybe he is riding a wave on his surfboard)… Either way, he is making our world a much cooler place.
Thank you Ron… you rock.
Hello Diet Coke! Goodbye Pepsi.
Hello traditional media! See you later online marketing.
According to the Wall Street Journal: “PepsiCo made a big bet in 2010, when it didn’t market its flagship cola on the Super Bowl or in other TV spots. Instead, it launched the Refresh Project, an online charitable-giving program that disbursed $20 million in donations “for refreshing ideas that change the world.”
Here’s the bottomline: when it comes to marketing there is no silver bullet or magic potion, let alone an effortless solution or easy answer.
The most effective product and brand marketing campaigns involve a mix of traditional, digital and social media strategies that feature connectiveness as a priority characteristic. Not just integrated marketing strategies, but interactively connected tactics that enable consumers to participate through all the media and in all the channels they prefer – TV, websites, newspapers, blogs, magazines, text, e-mail, snail mail, blogs, coupons, mobile apps, telemarketing, outdoor, in-store, events, exhibits, seminars, webinars, podcasts, in-game, etc.
Or get used to being #3.