Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Breakfast with a Great Man


They’re Gr-r-reat





Tony the Tiger is an important symbol for me. He has appeared on packaging of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes for years. Since his debut in 1951, the character has spanned several generations and become a breakfast cereal icon. As it happens Frosted Flakes were a favorite breatkfast choice of my father. He didn’t eat them every day, but he did eat them often enough to leave an impression on me.

The voice of Tony told us emphatically and repeatedly in TV commercials that the cereal was Gr-r-reat. I was growing up in a world of possibilities and Tony was a source of positive reinforcement. My Dad prepared his breakfast cereal with slices of banana and whole milk. Fortified with Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes and information gleaned from the Today Show on NBC and the daily newspaper (The Cleveland Plain Dealer), he looked forward to each day with incredible enthusiasm. It was a simpler time to be sure. TV now offers more than a handful of choices. The daily newspaper has a lot of competition from the internet. Tony is now more politically correct and the folks at Kellogg’s downplay the sugar content. But it is still indelible in my mind how you can start each and every day feeling Gr-r-reat!

Never mind the product. I really felt the confidence and the energy. It had nothing to do with the cereal and everything to do with the circumstances. I was lucky. My Dad was (and still is) every bit a Gr-r-reat man. There is an important message here. I hope you will also be inspired to make each and every day Gr-r-reat! Gr-r-reat! Grrr-r-reat!

Incidentally my Dad started his business, Morgan Studio, in 1951. You can ask any of his former clients, the work was Gr-r-reat because he approached his life and work with such vigor.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Victim of Circumstances

Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit the Kemper Art Museum on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis and find myself in front a Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph the artist made of the dancer Jane Avril.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born into an aristocratic family in the south of France in 1864. He suffered from a genetic condition that prevented his bones from healing properly. As a young boy he broke his legs and both ceased to grow while the rest of his body continued to grow normally. At maturity, he was only 4 1/2 feet tall. This misfortune may have been a sort of blessing in disguise. After his accidents he was no longer able to follow in the typically aristocratic pastimes of riding and hunting. Instead, he focused on sketching and painting.

As a young man, he lived in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his artwork. Toulouse-Lautrec was very much an active part of this community. Often he could be found sitting in a crowded nightclub making swift sketches. In his studio, he would expand the sketches into brightly colored paintings or use them to make lithographs.

Toulouse-Lautrec is now widely known in the art world as the archetypical bohemian artist of the belle époque, the "beautiful era" in Paris in the last decade of the 19th Century. He captured the spirit and emotion of the era in his posters and portraits. His unique condition made it difficult for him to live up to the status quo for a well born aristocrat. Nevertheless, he clearly shared in the joie de vivre of the time. Sadly, he died at the age of 36, but today his legacy can be viewed in some of the great art museums and art collections of the world.

You might say he was a victim of circumstances. But then again you might say that it was because of the circumstances he is the acclaimed artist even today – more than one hundred and ten years after his death. He was blessed with great talent. We are blessed by his legacy and his influence.

Just say thank you.

The simple act of sending a heartfelt Thank You is a powerful thing and yet it is becoming a lost art. We forget that a personal correspondence in the mail to someone’s home might be arriving at just the right time and place to cheer them up or make them smile. A Thank You note amongst all the bills, junk mail and business correspondence is a true treat. Such a note is low cost, relatively low effort and high return but nevertheless rare and unexpected.

Instead, we expect instant gratification. The rapid pace by which we all live work and travel in our modern society changes how we do things. Social Media, electronic communication, texting, cell phones and e-mail are effective but they sometimes can be the enemy of a well-crafted message. It makes sense to slow down and turn back the clock every once in a while. Could it be the reason for the drop in the use of the conventional note as an expression of gratitude is due in part to the corresponding drop in attention to skills like penmanship, grammar and spelling?

If you went to Catholic school you may have been taught the Palmer Method of cursive writing. Developed by Austin Norman Palmer around 1888, it was introduced in the 1894book Palmer's Guide to Business Writing. It became the most popular handwriting system in the early 1900s.

Grammar is important too. Even though, people often associate grammar with errors and correctness they should also realize knowing about grammar helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear, interesting and precise.

Spelling, it seems, is experiencing a resurgence, albeit as a spectator sport. Live primetime coverage; the critically-acclaimed motion picture, Akeelah and the Bee; and the Tony award-winning musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee celebrate the tradition of The National Spelling Bee, which began in 1925. (Perhaps it is evidence that some appreciate the effort it takes to learn to spell words correctly.)

Here’s a great way to catch someone by surprise. Prepare a thoughtfully handwritten note and mail it! It is a rare pleasure to receive such a note and it could be a friendly reminder of a simpler time. A time when carefully considered thoughts were committed to paper and handwriting with language used to communicate appreciation.

Please allow me to thank you, in advance, for your beautiful note. I believe it will start a chain - reaction that will make people happy. Sincerely.

Golf Course Architect Sets Stage

Donald Ross vision is setting for a remarkable day in 2003

Eight years ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. Lindsey was in college and Ben in High School at the time, but the Winter break created a window of opportunity for such a trip. Lynn and I were looking forward to some quality time as a family.

One day, we scheduled an early brunch/lunch so my son Ben and I could play the recently renovated Donald Ross Course there. Lynn and Lindsey were planning to do some sight seeing when Curly, our waiter tell us his life story. Lynn is always willing to encourage such behavior. Yeah, yeah, Curly relocated from Atlanta where he ran a restaurant and is originally from Brooklyn and blah blah blah…..and ohhh no…another waitress is drawn into the conversation because she’s from New Jersey. (Who cares? Forgive me – it’s fun to talk to people but I was hoping we’d talk to each other and catch up with what was important to the individuals in our little family unit. Call me crazy. I guess that just isn’t gonna happen on my timetable.)

Ben is getting a head cold and is sniffling. I am grateful that he’s still willing to slug it out on the golf course with me. He’s such a natural. I wish he’d play more. I just love spending time with him on a golf course. He demonstrates such confidence and poise. He insists it’s because he doesn’t really care. I know it’s because he is too cool and would hate to admit it is fun doing something – even if you aren’t the very best at it.

In the pro-shop at Grove Park Inn’s course I learn that a guy in the group behind us has scored a hole-in-one. I buy him a beer – sight unseen. Later the guy thanks me. I am happy for the guy. Ben and I have hit at least 8 balls at that short part three and haven’t even come close to the flagstick.

What a great place the Grove Park Inn is. And now I learn that it actually has a place in the history of golf. I noted earlier the picture of Bobby Jones, the golf great from the 20’s and 30’s – my hero – on the wall of celebrity guests. I have to take a picture of the Donald Ross statue and plaque in front of the pro shop.

Here’s what the plaque says:

“Golf is a gentleman’s game…as long as we keep golf a game of honor we are on the right road.”
-Donald J. Ross

Donald Ross, a founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, was both a playing and teaching golf professional. As an accomplished tournament player, Donald Ross won two Massachusetts Opens, placed eight in the 1910 British Open at St. Andrews, and competed in seven U.S. Opens, finishing in the top ten four times.

However, by 1910 Donald Ross had made golf course architecture his primary occupation. Within ten years, he had become the first superstar of American golf. No architects in his day had more influence on his craft. Ross transformed golf design into an art form and the profession into one for an artist.

In 1926, Ross redesigned Grove Park Inn's golf course, creating a beautiful challenge for all levels of Players. In 2002, they completed a golf course renovation project, restoring the original Ross vision to his mountain gem at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, North Carolina.

Donald Ross had a passion and a dream and pursued it until he was the very best in his class. On a given day in 2003 a father and son enjoyed a little time together and a guy gets a hole-in-one. Thank you Mr. Ross for setting the stage for that terrific day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thoughts on Measuring Advertising Success

Advertising works. It helps position your product. It helps build your brand. It helps consumers make informed decisions about product choices. Advertising is an investment. How are you going to measure the results? How are you going to justify the expense?

Here are some thoughts you might consider as you plan your marketing communications program:

The relationship between advertising and sales: Some suggest that brand leadership is a result of brilliant advertising. They say that advertising leads to sales. It may be true. In most cases, however, the scientific cause/effect proof is lacking. There is very little data showing how advertising works. Really.

Cash Register as Measure: Sales results alone are not proof that you are making the right decisions about advertising. Don't risk trading-off longer term goals (e.g. deep discounting might get you unit sales and market share but your brand equity will erode with the price-value perceptions longer term).

The Marketing Mix: Advertising is highly visible. It gets a lot of attention. The best advertising in the world will not overcome a poor distribution strategy or an unrealistic pricing scenario. Remember, Marketing 101: Product, Promotion, Price and Place? Set objectives after you've analyzed the environment, the competition and the relative strength of your brand. Don't let advertising take the hit for shortcomings elsewhere in the marketing equation.

Long Term vs. Short Term Goals: Brands evolve over time. Consumer trust is cumulative over time too. Brand equity is built over time. It can take years. It's okay to be a little impatient but always remember you are building something that potentially give you an edge in the marketplace.

Research Methodology: Tracking Studies monitor perceptions over time. They provide a benchmark as well as a roadmap for future communications. Take the time to design the study so you compare results against your communications goals. Focus Groups are a great way to get insight, too. They force you to make sure your message is engaging and credible. They often raise issues worthy of further study. Be careful though. Don't allow focus group panelists to become creative directors. If you let them art direct and write your advertising, you are allowing amateurs do the work you pay professionals to do.

Value of Perfect Information: Often the information you really want is either unavailable or too expensive. Ask yourself: What information will help me get better advertising? The cost/return tradeoff on original research may not payout. Consider secondary data sources.

Most of all - Be creative.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lynn & Wes Morgan at Wimbledon.


June 22-29, 2010

It’s more than 4,000 miles from St. Louis to London; yet anticipation, a cancelled connecting flight and a six-hour time differential makes is seem more like a million light-years away. Lynn and I have been planning this vacation for a year. Weather conditions cause our trip to be delayed by a full eight hours. This is the year in which we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our marriage. We’re going to Wimbledon to see some tennis and the fashionable Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London is our headquarters for the duration of our stay.

Our accommodations at the Chelsea Cloisters luxury serviced studio efficiency apartment is a modest flat arranged for us by Chi Chi Travel Services in St. Louis. This is home-base from June 22 through June 29, 2010. Lynn and I remember the last time we spent this much time living in such close quarters was when began our life together and lived in a garage apartment in Miami.

Nothing like airport delays at the top of a journey to bring all sorts of anxiety, frustration and general disappointment to mind and ruin the mood. Needless to say, the beginning of our get-away vacation was having the exact opposite of the intended effect on both of us, Lynn especially. But our travel nightmare finally came to a close as we checked in and settled into our London flat mid-day June 22. We soak in a little local color (colour) and look forward to our seats at Centre Court at Wimbledon the very next day.

An English breakfast on Kinds Road, a short walk to the Sloane Square underground station, and a ride on the Underground Tube (subway) to Southfields Station and we are on our way to Wimbledon. The weather was fantastic and unlike what you might expect this time of year. The entire week was in the 70’s and the skies were blue to partly cloudy and no rain. Before we knew it we were in our seats at Centre Court. We were impressed at the intimacy of the venue we’ve seen on TV for so many years. We saw the American Andy Roddick win. We saw American Venus Williams win easily. We absorb the atmosphere and know that we will always remember being here.

Of course, Strawberries and Cream are in season and delicious. The whole first day made the travel endurance test worthwhile. We got everything we bargained for at Day One of our trip, The rest was “sugar on top.” We returned to Wimbledon again on June 24th with tickets to Court One just in time to greet the Queen of England! Elizabeth II arrived via small motorcade and we had the unique and rare pleasure of seeing the Queen in her stunning soft sky-blue dress and matching hat exit her car and be escorted on her way to the Royal Box. This was her first visit to Wimbledon in 33 years. We just happened to be in the right place to catch her arrival. What a thrill. A moment in history. She was there to see the English favorite, Andy Murray.

We went on to watch Maria Sharapova beat her opponent on Court One. But the buzz of the day was the historic match between John Isner (American) and the gutsy Nicolas Mahut (French) on Court 18. The match was postponed due to darkness and was to resume this afternoon. Since you could not get near Court 18, we joined thousands of other tennis fans at Henman Hill to watch the amazing match finally come to a close in favor of Isner. (Aorangi Terrace, colloquially known as Henman Hill is an area in the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where, during the annual Wimbledon tennis championship, crowds of people can watch the tennis matches live on a giant television screen.) The match ran11 hours and 5 minutes. It would be in all of the papers and all over the news. (183 games, 112 aces by Isner at speeds up to 138 MPH) Another bit of history. We were just about 100 yards away when they presented a special award to both players and the umpire. Incredible and so much fun to be a part of it.

We were able to join Dr. John Lewington, his wife Barbara and Dr. Mary Albrecht for dinner. John and Mary are with a group of students on a study abroad trip and as luck would have it John and his wife were staying just down the block from the Chelsea Cloisters at the Nell Glynn Hotel on Sloane Avenue. Dinner was full of amusing travel stories and the joy of just being there. We sat outside as the night fell and the temperature cooled. A lovely evening. Nothing fancy, just a simple meal and good company, a highlight of which was Mary’s shower door story. Everyone laughed with her as she painted the picture of panic at being trapped behind a glass door in her hotel bathroom in London before she was able to maneuver the door open. She was thankful that she didn’t have to scream for help and suffer the embarrassment of a hotel rescue. She’s used the shower again but is now careful to leave the glass door ajar instead of fully closed.

As residents of London, albeit for just eight nights, we are compelled to visit the National Gallery and Tate Modern. We bought discount tickets in Theatreland (London’s Theater District). We saw an Australian production called Tap Dogs (a wall-to-wall tap dance exposition with six performers supported by two woman percussionists). We also saw a revival of Hair, the soundtrack of which Lynn and I both remember so very well from our teenage years. (The play originally debuted in 1968 and is full of references to a time when the Viet Nam conflict and anti-war protests were a part of the nation’s consciousness in the United States. The simplicity and bitter sweetness of the show moved us both.)

World Cup news was everywhere too. Sadly, England fell to Germany and USA was defeated by Ghana in the Quarterfinals. (The English took this defeat as a mandate for the dismissal of the Team Manager, Fabio Capello, and the discussion could be overheard all over town). South Africa is proud to host the event and the BBC is broadcasting all games and much commentary. Fans are everywhere wearing national colors and carrying flags. The finals of Wimbledon and The World Cup will be broadcast around the world. We’ll be able to see them on our own Television in St. Louis. London will too soon be a memory and we’ll return to our daily routines.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Goodbye Mom.

Saying goodbye as the curtain closes.
February 26, 1922- May 31, 2011

My mom died this past May and suddenly it dawns on me what made her so great. She had this uncanny way of making you feel special. Case in point: I was one of six children – number three in order of birth – but she insisted in calling me the “oldest of the four.” Maybe it was to ignore my older siblings. I don’t think so. Maybe it was to deprive me of the middle child syndrome. Probably not.

My brother is 11 years older. So, for a long time, he was an only child. My sister is three years older and the only girl. My brother Greg was declared the “navigator” on family vacations and relished the opportunity to monitor the maps and travel directions. He was “Greg the Great” on his birthday cakes from Hough Bakeries every year. Dan was always “so sensitive.” Rob is the youngest and both parents pronounced him “the Best” which, no doubt gave him the ability to be his own person. Each of us had a niche that helped us define ourselves. Each, in our own way, a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Mom was larger than life. She loved the theater. She performed in countless community productions. She directed plays too. She and dad made annual trips to New York City that included Broadway Shows, of which she kept a collection of Playbill programs. She studied and read plays. She completed a Master’s Degree in Dramatic Arts at Case Western Reserve University in her early forties. She was talented. She could turn on the star-power at business functions with important clients, at parties, at social events, at presentations, in large rooms, in small rooms or one-on-one. She had skills she was able to use in juggling six children in a way that made each feel unique and special.

The drama of growing up, as you might imagine, with mom directing the activity, is one that includes countless sub-plots. After all, life isn’t easy – even if you are fortunate enough to live with the Morgan family at 15106 Edgewater Drive. As we reflect on our experiences and memories of mom we each have our own take on what it all means.

The Irish Catholic in mom would have been smiling when we came together in Southlake, Texas to celebrate her life. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the good Lord bless and keep you in the hallow of his hand. It was a competition, as family members took turns sharing stories often not waiting for a lull in the cacophony of overlapping dialogue, tears and laughter. (After all, we naturally want to cast ourselves in the lead role of this production.)

We compete for airtime because we want to perform and entertain. Indeed, we are all talented in projecting lines and expressing ourselves. The stories are all familiar and retold with the usual flaws due to our own brand revisionist history. Mom always said “I will do anything for you kids, as long as you remember.” We will mom. (Even though, with time, we may modify a detail in the script or staging.) We are all grown up now, but when we are together we cannot forget that we were all once just children. The sadness only comes when we realize we must go on without you mom.

If the job of a parent is to raise children to be self-confident and assured we have it in abundance.
Dad is 93, and still has the ability to laugh at things. Mom was that woman behind the great man. Dad served in WWII. He started a business and ran it successfully for the better part of four decades. All the while, mom is ready for each grand entrance at the Cleveland Yachting Club, the family road trip to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton (Ohio) or at a parent-teacher conference. Someone’s got to feed these kids too. She is not much of a cook, but the dinner theater makes up for it. So it’s Hamburger-Helper, Sloppy Joes, Pizza, Tuna Casserole or mom’s famous chicken soup. There’s always enough somehow. Take your time eating and chew your food. If you are good you might just get a chocolate cupcake for desert.

The outpouring of sympathy from friends of the family on social media (notably facebook postings) starts to give a picture of just what a magnificent performance her life was. “Your mom was a great lady.” “Your mom helped my mother deal with the death of my father and gave her courage to go on.” “I always loved your mom.” “I remember having so much fun when I was at your house growing up.”

As I look around the room at my siblings, I see they all have self-confidence. They all have that extra talent it takes to be a successful person. Whatever you do: Photographer, Commercial Real Estate Advisor, Retailer, Tennis Instructor, Corporate Communications Specialist or Company President, you will need that. If you are lucky, someone will catch you early in your development and say. “Oh honey, you always know just what to do. Just make sure you remember to enunciate, pronounce your words and project.” It’s all about me. Thanks mom.

Wes Morgan is director of marketing and communications for Crossland Construction Company, a top building contractor based in Kansas (with offices in Missouri, Arkansas and Texas). Morgan is also founder of Morgan Studio/East, a firm that help companies with planning and execution of effective communications. For More Information e-mail morganwes@aol.com or visit www.morganstudioeast.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Original Founder of Morgan Studio

My father, James O’Connell Morgan is a great man and always will be in my mind. Morgan Studio is the business he started and ran for the better part of four decades. A few highlights on him are presented here.

He Graduated from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. (He was an average student, but showed early talent as a promising artist and illustrator.)

He Graduated from John Carroll University where he was a Three-year letter winner and two-year starter as both offensive and defensive lineman on John Carroll's first and only Big Four championship team in 1939. Team's record was 13-3-1 (.794) in his two years as a starter.(He was 60-minute Morgan at John Carroll University in Cleveland). Years after he graduated, he was installed in JCU’s sports Hall of Fame.

He studied at Pratt Institute of Design in New York where he began to solidify his career path before the call of military duty caused him to take a detour. The year at Pratt and the time he spent in New York City influenced him greatly.

He was a soldier during World War II. First enlisting and later entering officer candidate school (OCS). He served as a leader of a camouflage unit and led Black troops (at a time when the army was still segregated). He went wherever they asked him to go and yet was able to stay out of harm’s way. He served his country with honor for over four years.

After his time in the U.S. Army, he began his career at Malmquist Studio as a commercial artist until he left to to start his own business in Cleveland, Ohio. He founded Morgan Studio in 1951 as “the architects of the printed page.” He was convinced that design was a noble and worthy profession. Along the way, Morgan Studio served a roster of blue chip clients including Ohio Bell Telephone, Youngstown Steel Door, Lake Erie Screw Corporation, Mooney Chemicals, Cleveland Federal Savings and Bonne Bell Cosmetics.

He was a devoted husband to Mary Francis Lawton Morgan (married in December of 1942 –Mary died May 2011). They were married for almost 70 years.

James O’C. Morgan and his wife had six children: Sundance (formerly James O’Connell Morgan Jr. – born 1944), Mary Lynn (born 1952), Wesley (born 1955), Gregory (born 1956), Daniel (Born 1958) and Robert Morgan (born 1959).

He has nine grandchildren:

Lynn’s children
James O’Connell Varney
Philip Varney

Wes’ children
Lindsey Lawton Morgan
John Benjamin Morgan

Greg’s children
Wesley Morgan
Matthew Morgan

Rob’s children
Megan Morgan
Tara Morgan
Kevin Morgan

Why Dad says he started Morgan Studio
Dad: Did I ever tell you why I started Morgan Studio?
Wes: Yes you have. (I do not think he heard me. Or maybe he decided to repeat the story for Greg) I was working for Malmquist Studio in Cleveland. I was routinely putting together this magazine for GE. I had been there about four years. On payday, I got the wrong check by mistake. It was the paycheck of a new hire. I realized very quickly that this new guy, who was doing pretty much the same thing as me, was getting a bigger paycheck. I decided then and there to learn as much as I could about running this kind of shop and open my own.
(I love that story. As I understand it, it took a little while longer before he worked up the nerve to leave and open Morgan Studio in 1951. Apparently the office manager made the mistake with the paychecks. He got her to agree to help him understand the systems for keeping and collecting time sheets and how to handle billing, making it clear that he was not happy with the inequity of the situation.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Blessing in Disguise

I started out in life very interested in art and the commercial application of how art meets commerce. In school, I became aware of an artist who inspired me because he was, in fact, an early innovator in advertising design in a different era. Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit the Kemper Art Museum on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis and found myself in front a Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph he made of the dancer Jane Avril.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born into an aristocratic family in the south of France in 1864. He suffered from a genetic condition that prevented his bones from healing properly. As a young boy he broke his legs and both ceased to grow while the rest of his body continued to grow normally. At maturity, he was only 4 1/2 feet tall. This misfortune may have been a sort of blessing in disguise. After his accidents he was no longer able to follow in the typically aristocratic pastimes of riding and hunting. Instead, he focused on sketching and painting.

As a young man, he lived in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his artwork. Toulouse-Lautrec was very much an active part of this community. Often he could be found sitting in a crowded nightclub making swift sketches. In his studio, he would expand the sketches into brightly colored paintings or use them to make lithographs.

Toulouse-Lautrec is now widely known in the art world as the archetypical bohemian artist of the belle époque, the "beautiful era" in Paris in the last decade of the 19th Century. He captured the spirit and emotion of the era in his posters and portraits. His unique condition made it difficult for him to live up to the status quo for a well born aristocrat. Nevertheless, he clearly shared in the joie de vivre of the time. Sadly, he died at the age of 36, but today his legacy can be viewed in some of the great art museums and art collections of the world.

You might say he was a victim of circumstances. But then again you might say that it was because of the circumstances he is the acclaimed artist even today – more than one hundred and ten years after his death. He was blessed with great talent. We are blessed by his legacy and his influence.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Agency Evaluation

The client-agency relationship is a delicate thing. By definition, your advertising agency should act on your behalf in matters concerning your marketing communication. At the same time, you want the agency to be responsive to direction. You want a partnership. After all, we will be judged on the quality of marketing communications developed within the scope of our limited resources (time, marketing budget etc.) Like any relationship, it takes work. As the client, we need our agency to understand expectations. You don't want the agency-client relationship to become disruptive. Here is a five-point agency evaluation system. Maybe it will be helpful in evaluating your agency-client relationship.

Creative Excellence: Above all, the agency should be creative and not just in art direction and copy. They should be able to look at your marketing problems creatively. They should consider creative ways to allocate media spending. They should be creative when it comes to spending money and managing limited resources. They should be creative in presenting fresh
ideas.

Smart Marketing Thinking: Your agency doesn't have to know as much about your business as you do (Although that can be beneficial). They should think like business people. They should recommend ways that will build the business. They should suggest ideas that are reasonable and strategic.

Problem Solvers: The best agencies will be able to read between the lines a little. If the budget is limited, an agency should be able to deal with that. If selling ideas into the organization or the distribution channels is an issue it might be appropriate for them to help with this process. They should be able to work with you to take anxiety out of your life and not add to it.

Capabilities: The agency relationships you establish should match well with our needs. Evaluate the agency on what it does well. Suggest improvement when you can. Some agencies offer an uneven range of services. If they can't or won't accommodate you, you may need to unbundle some services. Weight this notion against the added time and energy it may take to build an additional agency-client relationship.

Flawless Execution: Careless errors can cripple the effectiveness of any advertising. Nobody's perfect. But the greatest idea in the world will suffer if not produced well. This is a tough place for an agency to fall short but it's all too common.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ode to Marketing in the Coming Ages

Marketing is part commerce and part art. The creative side of our profession can make a huge difference in the results we get. I am inspired by a poem that was written in the second half of the 19th century. It’s a poem about poetry but I think it offers all of us a unique challenge in our lives and in our careers. What will we as marketing professionals bring to the coming new age? I hope this poem inspires you as it has me. Be a leader. Do great work. Why? Here's a good answer in a timeless poem:

ODE
BY ARTHUR O’SHAUGHNESSY

WE ARE THE MUSIC MAKERS,
AND WE ARE THE DREAMERS OF DREAMS,
WANDERING BY LONE SEA-BREAKERS,
AND SITTING BY DESOLATE STREAMS;
WORLD LOSERS AND WORLD FORSAKERS,
ON WHOM THE PALE MOON GLEAMS:
YET WE ARE THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS
OF THE WORLD FOREVER. IT SEEMS.

WITH WONDERFUL DEATHLESS DITTIES
WE BUILD UP THE WORLD’S GREAT CITIES,
AND OUT OF A FABULOUS STORY
WE FASHION AN EMPIRE’S GLORY:
ONE MAN WITH A DREAM, AT PLEASURE,
SHALL GO FORTH AND CONQUER A CROWN;
AND THREE WITH A NEW SONG’S MEASURE
CAN TRAMPLE AN EMPIRE DOWN.

WE IN THE AGES LYING
IN THE BURIED PAST OF THE EARTH,
BUILT NINEVEH WITH OUR SIGHING;
AND BABEL ITSELF WITH OUR MIRTH;
AND O’ERTHREW THEM WITH PROPHESYING
TO THE OLD OF THE NEW WORLD’S WORTH;
FOR EACH AGE IS A DREAM THAT IS DYING,
OR ONE THAT IS COMING TO BIRTH.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Make My Day

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the San Francisco police detective character played by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry movies. Harry Callahan is someone who does not hesitate to cross boundaries in pursuit of justice, especially when it is clear that justice is poorly served by the law and a flawed system. It’s fantastic to see Harry get the bad guys in spite of inept bureaucracies, corruption in city government, punitive suspensions from duty and all kinds of collateral damage to property - all with little or no harm to countless innocent bystanders between episodic gunfire and car chases.

Movies are made as a form of escapism. We all know we can’t take the law into our own hands and single-handedly and swiftly get retribution. We can’t right all the wrongs that happen in the course of our lives or even fully mitigate the threats of our potential enemies. We love Harry because he represents a hero who can make snap judgments and correctly comprehend the magnitude of evil and with his powerful weapon and extreme precision make things right.

In real life, so much depends on each and every one of us to do a part in making the world a better, fairer and safer place. The real heroes in life never get to confront the bad guy at a moment of truth and say something like: Go ahead, make my day.

I will always be a fan of the iconoclastic rogue police detective in movie fiction. It’s entertaining to see resolution inside the context of a two-hour motion picture. But for me, outside that format I am always inspired by the collective courage people show every single day with kindness, compassion, caring and love for humanity. You are the real heroes. You add up to a better world. You are important. I hope you know - you make my day. Thank you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Enhance value and dramatically improve company performance.

No doubt the current business and economic environment have had an impact our on your plans and goals as an organization. Challenging times require extra care in managing your business. As you evaluate alternatives, marketing and communications will play an important role in shaping the future. A few unsolicited thoughts on things to consider:

Building a plan and using that plan as a benchmark - You have a mission and a number of exceptional programs and initiatives. The annual meeting/conference, ongoing efforts to guide regional sales, thought leadership/position papers and publications – to name just a few. Resources are always limited, but your chances of making progress on an annual basis are more likely to be achieved if they are part of a dynamic planning process that organizes and prioritizes activity. Done well, a dynamic plan becomes a documentation of success as well as o commitment to focus on best practices.

Budgeting for success - The plan document is important and should have broad readership. The budget, on the other hand, is best managed with a smaller circulation. Budgets for marketing and communications activity can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Many companies simply do the best they can with a ballpark that has been established within in the past two-three years. Consumer products marketers often battle for “share of voice” and budget based on best estimates of competitive spending. New products often try to obtain rating points against the target prospect. When all is said and done, the budget should be a companion document to the marketing and communications plan. It should be realistic and fair. The budget also needs to be evaluated at least quarterly as they year unfolds. My experience has been within a relevant range of a wide variety of budget scenarios.

Engaging customers - You must attract new prospects and keep repeat customers each year. To accomplish this you must understand what products and services add value. If your value proposition falls short or it not fully understood, you will experience attrition and lose business.

Managing the brand - Your company is a brand. Like all brands, it is a reflection of a positioning in the minds of your stakeholders and customers. The brand comes with a promise. The promise must be reliable and true. Otherwise the brand loses equity and can be tarnished. Marketing and communications programs designed to reinforce the brand are a critical pieces to the puzzle. If you visit a Starbuck’s Coffee Shop, anywhere in the world, you see a dramatic illustration of a company effectively managing a brand.

Innovation and thinking outside the box - The brand platform enables you to apply brand building strategies that will result in meaningful success that added value to the company overall. The discipline and processes for uncovering this equity and leveraging it is very real and palpable.

Social media and thought leadership - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs and a host of other digital media options are generating opportunities for exponential exposure (and at a modest cost). It begins with understanding the attitude of key stakeholders. But the only way to earn exposure is to go viral with news that is relevant, compelling and timely. In short, it starts with CONTENT. Like all media, the interactive media presents opportunities to be an important part of a bigger picture. The whole has an opportunity to be far more significant that the sum of its parts!

Targeting market segments - Your brand has market segments that merit effort and attention. Underdeveloped segments may require some investment, mature segments may require some fresh thinking and new products might require exploration.

Reputation Management - Be mindful of reputation. Be prepared with crisis communication and smart about how you present yourself to your customers and prospects. Reinforce the brand with an ongoing program of public relations activity. Have a process by which the successful measurement can guide ongoing programs designed to add credibility and showcase expertise. Use innovation and creative thinking. Everyone wants to be a part of an organization that is viewed in a positive light.

Managing the team - Marketing and communications are often undervalued. The activity can boost sales, enhance value and dramatically improve an organization’s performance. Yet, so often, much activity falls on a small cadre of soldiers motivated more by the art than the commerce of their daily tasks. This is as it should be. Let’s face it; movies would be boring if actors and directors thought of nothing else but box-office draw. Instead, you need actors and directors who are passionate about telling a story and telling it well. Managing such a team, takes finesse. It also requires discipline and guidance to contain and focus energy on priorities. At the start of each day there needs to be a sense of purpose. At the end of each day a feeling of accomplishment (and being a part of a larger mission). The internal team needs to be strong and cohesive. Where appropriate, outsourcing may be necessary. The best teams function as a unit with a common purpose.

Friday, August 5, 2011

YOU ARE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN

Charlie Brown is a lovable loser. He can’t win at baseball or fly a kite without facing disappointment and ultimate failure. He has insecurities and is often taken advantage of by his peers. Lucy holds a football for Charlie Brown to kick, but pulls it away before he kicks it, causing Charlie Brown to fly into the air and fall on his back.

Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown, is the most widely syndicated cartoonist in history, with work appearing in over 2,300 newspapers. He published more than 1,400 books, won Peabody and Emmy awards for animated specials. You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown is the one of the most-produced musicals in the American theater. All this diversity and recognition and continuous success began when the United Feature Syndicate ran the first installment of the comic strip Peanuts in 1950. The strip deals in psychology, social commentary and often bitter humor yet all these issues are experienced, evaluated, and ultimately decided upon by a group of kids."There is a market for innocence" Schulz once said “I don't think I'm a true artist. I would love to be Andrew Wyeth or Picasso...But I can draw pretty well and I can write pretty well, and I think I'm doing the best with whatever abilities I have been given. And what more can one ask?"

What makes Charlie Brown so lovable is that he possesses endless determination and hope. What makes Charles Schulz so remarkable is that he nurtured Charlie Brown and the Peanuts franchise for more than five decades and remained humble and hard at work his whole life. .

You're a good man, Charlie Brown
You're the kind of reminder we need
You have humility, nobility and a sense of honor
that is very rare indeed.

Good Grief. What could be more inspiring that the determination and perseverance of good ole Charlie Brown and his creator Charles M. Schulz? Both characters remind us never to give up and to the best we can with the abilities we have.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Life is a Journey

Ralph Waldo Emerson became one of America's best known and best loved 19th century figures. He left his original profession as a Unitarian minister to pursue a career in writing and public speaking. "Life is a journey, not a destination," he once said. I have said this to my kids, hundreds of times as they grew up. I believe it more and more myself.

The Chinese proverb “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step,” suggests that our life’s journey starts with taking those steps required to get closer to those ultimate achievements we hope can obtain. Effort, determination and perseverance will get you where you want to go. However, as we get older, we realize upon reflection that the greatest happiness is not about achieving those goals at all. It’s more about the joy we encounter along the way. Only later in life do you start to realize and appreciate it. We are so impatient when we are young and ambitious.

Robert M. Pirsig wrote in his acclaimed 1974 novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - “You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been a pattern seems to emerge.”

The annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is something I look forward to each year. I have been fortunate enough to be among the crowd several times when I lived and worked in NYC metropolitan area. I am now living in the Midwest but this year I hope to see it up close and live once again. It makes me smile. I know it’s just a parade but it is so full of celebration and optimism. There just is nothing like being there.
I know, as I watch the Balloon handlers, bands and characters passing by I’ll be reminded of the sensational feeling so many things that have happened over the course of my lifetime. If you’ve seen the parade, you know what I mean. It’s a spectacle and a thrill to behold.

Live life to the fullest and enjoy the parade as it passes. Time marches on.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Winning is Super but…

The 2011 Super Bowl held on Sunday, February 6th at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas was played in front of a capacity of over 100,000 people - the largest attendance in Super Bowl history. The Super Bowl broadcast was viewed by more than 100 Million people. The winner of the game takes home the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The trophy is named for a great coach and a great man. Vince Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. He was head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers (1959–67). He imposed a strenuous regimen and led his team to five NFL championships (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967). He won first two Super Bowls (1967, 1968). His success made him a symbol of single-minded determination to win.

The odds of winning a championship in any professional sport are always long. Maybe that is why we care so much about what makes a winning team. To be sure, we can learn a great deal about character, hard work, grit and determination from the individuals who win championships. But maybe there is even more inspiration inherent in the heroic efforts made in spite of falling short. Consider those individuals who find the courage to continue in a losing effort who bravely battle but ultimately do not win. They are unsung heroes and in many ways can be even more noble.

Vince Lombardi died of Cancer in September 1970. Surely he would be astounded at how big the game has become and would be most honored that the trophy is a constant reminder of what it takes to win. Yet, the trophy that bears his name might also be appropriately be awarded for battling against impossible odds. Lombardi deserves the fame he earned for winning but perhaps it is more notable that he is a role model for those driven to succeed – doing what it takes to win, in spite of never knowing for certain of the outcome.

Lombardi's success is legendary, and he is often associated with the maxim, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." He did not coin that phrase. It is uncertain if he actually ever even said it. However, he did say something that might be more important: "Winning isn't everything, but wanting to is."

I wish there was a trophy for all those people who do what it takes to win but bravely accept the result of the outcome in spite of their best efforts to prevail. You are winners too!

Celebrate Everything

Learn from experiences. Life, after all, is a journey. Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Everything that happens; happens for a reason. Everything that happens is relevant. There will be peaks and valleys in your life. My uncle David (my father’s brother) is fond of saying “Don’t forget to smell the flowers.” He’s right.

I am blessed. There is so much for which I am thankful. I could write an entire book about my wife Lynn, who has been CEO of our household for nearly 30 years. I could go on for hundreds of pages about our daughter Lindsey, my first born. I have said often, and I mean it: “The world is a better place with her in it.” (Lindsey has been a youth group advisor since she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2004. She has already made a difference in hundreds of lives since then.) And our son Ben is just entering the world of business as a financial analyst in NYC. A long time ago a camp counselor described Ben as a “silent leader.” I’ve never forgotten that because it is so true about him. He quietly excels in everything he sets out to do. He is a young man but already he is a role model.

Bear in mind that you simply cannot separate your business life and your personal life, really. You may feel the urge to compartmentalize things. And sometimes that is appropriate. But don’t forget to appreciate everything and everyone. Life is short. You will be tested. I will resist the temptation to get all spiritual and philosophical here but the message is a simple one. Celebrate everything. There are lots of smart people who have more ability than I do and can better articulate the meaning of existence. All I am saying is to recognize the little blessings while you accept challenges in your life. Find joy in bright stars, stunning sunsets and random acts of kindness. Laugh when you can and cry when you need too. Share with friends and family. Celebrate successes and learn from defeats and you will find greater fulfillment in your life. (That includes your career and work life too.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Resolution for a new age

Each year millions of people make resolutions as the new year begins. Many of us fail to live up to even the best intended vows to be healthier, exercise more and improve ourselves. Still the notion should not be abandoned. We are human, sure, but we are can be part of something much more – a rebirth and a new generation of hope and promise.

Consider the Renaissance. It was a rebirth during a cultural movement that started in Italy in the fourteenth century. It encompassed a resurgence of learning and widespread educational reform. It is perhaps best known for its artistic developments of the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who inspired the term Renaissance man.

Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote a poem simply titled ODE in the second half of the 19th century that concludes with an observation that is also a challenge:

“ EACH AGE IS A DREAM THAT IS DYING,
OR ONE THAT IS COMING TO BIRTH.”

O’Shaughnessy’s poem makes us think about what we as individuals and as a generation might bring to the coming new age and what kind of influence we might all be on the next generation. We look at the enormous challenges the world faces and at times feel discouraged. But remember, the future depends on all of us. Together we can instigate a rebirth with some simple resolutions that can truly change the world and its prospects for the future.

Maybe if we all think a little differently. Consider being more like the Renaissance man. Approach each new day with a positive outlook and thereby influence greatness in others. Don’t forget, in spite of all the troubles in the world, we have unprecedented communication tools and fantastic research and development moving forward at a remarkable pace.

We are not all great artists and thinkers but we can all consider the hopes and dreams of future generations and apply that simple vision to become part of a better world. Hope and vision can inspire greatness. Be a patron. Encourage others. Be a mentor. Help a child learn something new. Look at how much influence you can have in a single day. The rebirth has to start somewhere and that start could very well be you.

Donut Day!


As you travel through life, my brother,
Whatever be your goal
Keep your eye upon the donut
And not upon the hole.

Years ago I saw this sign in a donut shop and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was such a simple idea, yet so powerful. It certainly left an impression on me. The idea is to focus on what is and not what might be missing. Without the absence of donut in the middle it would not be a donut. Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole. Indeed, look for the good in things and don’t dwell on what is missing. What a beautiful and simple idea.

Fans of Caddyshack will remember Chevy Chase’s character, the club’s most talented golfer - Ty Webb, offering a little philosophy lesson to his caddy.”Don't be obsessed with your desires Danny. The Zen philosopher Basha once wrote, 'A flute with no holes, is not a flute. A donut with no hole, is a Danish.' He was a funny guy.” The Caddyshake philosophy lesson is perhaps lost in the comedic representation of that practice round of golf with his caddy, but the character of Ty Webb is sort of inspirational in his carefree approach to life.

I was visiting with cousins in New England when I was introduced to a family tradition. My cousin Philip would wake up and stir the household on any given Saturday morning with the joyful declaration. “Get up, it’s donut day, yeah!” His kids were just toddlers then and his wife Deena shared the glee of this routine. She knew the kids would be thrilled to take a trip to the local donut shop and select a fresh baked donut. What to do: glazed, sprinkles, frosted or plain? It didn’t matter really. It struck me even then that it was not only about the donut itself, but the entire experience of donut day from the break of dawn through the last delicious bite. It was fun.

My wife is an expert baker. It is fun to see how excited people get just looking over her products. Scones, cookies, muffins, biscotti – everything she does is a work of art and the aroma of fresh baked goods in the process is special in itself. Like the anticipation on donut day, the anticipation is the most exciting part of the process.

So concentrate on what you have and not what you do not. Be carefree and enjoy what is. Start your days with a purpose. Enjoy the anticipation of things. Do this, and I will bet dollars to donuts you will be a happier human being.