Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It’s all connected!

“I think print advertising is a waste of money.”

“Trade shows are a big waste of time.”

“Social Media is trivial and unimportant.”

“Our business is about building personal relationships”

These are the kinds of comments I often hear business owners say. The higher up the ladder the less likely those remarks are challenged. And maybe they need to be. Tactics need to be reviewed in a larger context. You sometimes need to park your predispositions and listen.  

I know everyone is trying to watch their nickels and dimes. I get it. It is a tough time for business and a lot of decisions are made in a survival mode mindset. I get that too. But. But. But. Can we step back for just a moment please?

An organization, a company, a brand and (for that matter) even a person is much bigger than the sum of the parts. I find myself sometimes defending tactics on the narrowest of understanding. You gotta look at the big picture.

Let’s look at the comments at the top of this article for a moment. On the surface, they may be true enough. But if you examine them a little bit you might discover your bias is keeping you from truly exploring marketing options.

“I think print advertising is a waste of money.”
Discussion: Maybe the investment is misunderstood. Did you know that by working with a publication you can leverage your status as an advertiser? Editors do not want to be influenced by advertising sales (Fair enough, the integrity of the publication is on the line.) But mailing lists, merchandising, events and a whole host of other value-added options can change your perception of such an investment. Maybe enough to be convinced the effort is worthwhile.  

“Trade shows are a big waste of time.”
It is an investment (in time and money). You won't get much out of it if you don't put much in. It is much like going to a party and not participating. You leave that party thinking it was no fun. On the other hand, if you engage others: work the pre-show and post show contacts; and think creatively about your exhibit goals you might be surprised. That trade show might be just the puzzle piece that completes your business development initiative.

“Social Media is trivial and unimportant.”
The world of communication is changing very quickly. You want to be a part of the conversation. You cannot deny the opportunity to develop a community of followers. But this is a strategic opportunity. Think of this very real set of channels and the opportunities it might represent for your business.

“Our business is about building personal relationships”
Sometimes I’m afraid this statement is code for “We aren’t going to spend any money on marketing.” Again, it takes an open mind. Think about how relationships are formed. Could it be that an investment in advertising starts a dialogue? Could it be that a personal contact was made at a Trade Show that will lead to business?  Is it possible that a twitter stream about a local sports team reinforced some common ground that creates an opportunity to form a friendship?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Punch Line

So St. Peter says “There are no lawyers in heaven”

Q: How many copywriters does it take to change a light bulb?
A: I’m not changing anything.

So the bartender says “We don’t get many Gorillas in here” to which the Gorilla says “It’s no wonder at these prices…”

Q: How do you make Elephant Jello?
A: Read the directions on the box.

Give me another beer before the trouble starts?
That will be $3.50 for the first one.
Ohhhhhhh, now the trouble starts…

The Devil says "Yeah but then you were a prospect, now you are a customer!"

...One to hold the light bulb and one to file for overtime....

Rim Shot...bah dum bump!

I am big fan of jokes. Making people laugh with a funny story is a great thing to witness and it makes me smile too. However, I have a short attention span. I don't have a great ability for telling jokes. Jokes involving a winding yarn that ends up with a predictable punch line are sometimes hard to listen to especially if you take too long getting to the punch line. I've noticed that sales people are often fond of telling jokes. (I think it is something they learn in salesmanship school.)

So a Rabbi, a Priest and a Minister walk into a bar.
The Bartender says "Hey, is this some kind of joke?"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Portfolio Review

I was thrilled to once again be invited to help the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) in St. Louis by participation in their annual portfolio review. Students came together with examples of their work and put it on display at Maryville University and also subjected themselves to multiple one-on-one presentations. They seek input and reactions. They hope to make connections that will allow them to begin their careers as artist, designers and creative leaders.

Having started my own career as a graphic artist, I always hope the emerging designers will have a passion for type, color, composition and style that I still have today. But, for their sake, I also hope they will work on sharpening their presentation and selling skills. After all, the world is a competitive place and the best doesn’t always win.  

“It’s Not Creative Unless It Sells” was a philosophy promoted by Benton & Bowles, an advertising agency founded in 1929 that eventually merged to become part of D’Arcy. (An agency St. Louisans may remember.) The designers and artists entering the market would do well to consider that point of view. They need to understand it is important to be able to persuade others and articulate the rationale behind their choices. Furthermore, they will need to understand that the design and innovation they create will only be marketable commercially if they understand basic salesmanship and find a way to be marketable as business people.

Like many students, I was first attracted to graphic design because I felt a career based on the wonderful prospect of being involved in work that for me meant being where art meets commerce. These kids are ready and willing. Their work is great.

Amanda Kilwin, a design student form University of Kansas drove across the State of Missouri with a fellow student from Kansas. There were students from Missouri State, Washington University/St. Louis, University of Missouri at St. Louis (UMSL) and of course Maryville University.

To Amanda and all of those portfolio creators as they enter the workforce: We look forward to your enthusiasm and creative energy!    

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brand Against the Machine

John Morgan’s book Brand Against the Machine begins with the premise that the model of marketing with tactics designed to bombard a mass audience is flawed. He tells us the system is broken. Messages are unwelcome and unwanted. We need to stop marketing to people and start marketing with people. John is an expert in digital media and has become, almost by default, a leader of a movement. The book is already a top seller among marketing books.  It was released just a few months ago. (More information at  www.brandagainstthemachine)

John was the keynote speaker in St. Louis as a guest of the American Marketing Associations chapter where he was joined by an all-star line up of marketing people. The conference featured kick off speaker Mark Quinn, Vice President of Marketing at Leggett & Platt, a leader in inner-spring engineering/technology for furniture, automotive seats and bedding. Next on the stage as speaker was Brian Hall, the Chief Marketing Officer for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. The event also included a thought provoking panel discussion that included Denise Bentele, President of Common Ground Public Relations; Donna Heckler, Brand Strategy Lead for Ingersoll Rand, the makers of Trane HVAC products; and Jim Stone, Executive Vice President for one of the nation’s leading research companies. Brand strategist and business coach Bill Ellis was master of ceremonies at this event. It was remarkable!

Even though this is the 51st annual marketing conference in St. Louis presented by the local chapter of the American Marketing Association of which I am a board member it is incredible how the whole thing came together to get a full house at the Lee Auditorium of the Missouri History Museum at Forest Park. But is came together and the excitement was palpable.

A rapid fire line-up and so much energy! Around thought leaders like this you can’t help but to be inspired and encouraged. The world is changing rapidly. Methods of marketing and communicating must evolve too. People still do business with people. They prefer working with those they know, like and trust. Your business is now more about you that ever. You want to pay attention to your brand. Your company is a brand. You are a brand too. And now more than ever we are operating in an environment of transparency. You have to know who you are, own it and share it with your prospects. Offer value. Be relevant. Be true. Be a success.   

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Cleveland, Believeland, The Dawg Pound,the Boss and Obama November 1-2, 2008

Arrival and Tour - Ad Man Pat Morin had a pair of Browns tickets (courtesy copywriter Mark Doyle). He invited me to the game in the Cleveland Browns Stadium. I jumped at the opportunity and booked a Southwest Airlines “wanna go” fare round trip between St. Louis and Cleveland. My brother Dan and his wife Anette (Nettie) agreed to have me stay with them for a couple of nights. They have a small apartment in The Carlyle (a high rise overlooking Lake Erie). The futon in the living room has my name on it. Dan was good enough to pick me up at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Saturday night. Dan and Netti are both Clevelanders but both are vested in the New York City lifestyle. The high rise overlooking the water could be Sutton Place on the Upper East Side, only the commute from their current digs is eight hours by Ford Taurus to midtown Manhattan. The drive isn’t enough to dissuade them from actually taking this road trip periodically. This isn’t the same Taurus Steve Eggert sold Dan (above Blue Book value). That car was a piece of crap. But we’ll never let Eggert know. “Yeah Steve that car was a dream. I put another 60,000 miles on it. That’s why I bought another one,” Dan insists. Steve is an airline pilot on leave from his job at Delta Airlines. He’s over 50 and lives alone in an unassuming boathouse on Clifton Lagoon. We drop in on Steve because it allows our random tour of Lakewood and surrounding environs to include the break wall, a view of the Cleveland Yachting Club channel, and a peek at the Graces’ old house (the one they sold before moving to Florida). The tour continues. Bobby McDonnell lives over here. The Brockley house is getting a new roof. The house at 15106 Edgewater Drive doesn’t look anything like the house I grew up in. My Grandmother’s house is painted in light colors too. Both residences have chosen color schemes that hide the essence of their English Tutor character. So what. The whole trip down memory lane gives me the creeps anyway. Thank God Nettie has reservations at a new restaurant in town.

Luxe Kitchen and Lounge - Luxe is a trendy spot on Cleveland’s near West Side. The mussels are to die for! The garlic from this very appetizer is on Amy Wain’s breath, as a chance encounter of a college girlfriend leads to an awkward exchange of “So what have you been up to these past 15-20 years? A 14 year old and an 11 year old, you don’t say? And your husband is here? Well let’s go meet him.” Marlin is the owner of Luxe and a chef. He gets us a table straight away. His visit at the end of the meal could mean curtains for at least one Heritage Turkey. Dan will deliver it in person after an appropriate execution carried out by one of Dan and Nettie’s Amish neighbors in Ashland, Ohio. The farm is now a rental property for visitors to sample country living. The Turkeys are a quaint touch but even they seem to know
Thanksgiving is coming. The price of Gas and some sharp pencils lead Dan and Nettie to the conclusion that they wanted to move closer to civilization. Netti can better orchestrate her nursing career and Dan hopes keep building his commercial photography client-base. The light Pinot Noir with dinner is selected by Nettie. Dan doesn’t drink. (Good for him.) Dan and Nettie quit together seven years ago. Nettie recently decided to “not be a quitter” and drink responsibly.

Swingo’s on the Lake - There are lots of shades of gray. The wine with dinner topped off by the retro club scene at Swingo’s on the Lake with Wes could lead to some trouble. Cognac is supposed to be a nightcap but the bartender offers a generous pour. This place is part of a restaurant legacy in it’s the third generation. The five piece band on one end of the bar and the Texas Tech vs. #1 ranked Texas Longhorns on the TV at our end of the bar leaves no choice but to have another refreshing adult beverage. We can’t decide between Cognac and Heineken. Dan is politely drinking water with a couple of breaks to dance with Netti. “Do you dance?” Nettie slides off her bar stool and is determined cut a rug. “No thanks, it looks like this game is going to be close. Texas Quarterback Colt McCoy is a Heisman trophy candidate.” This
information is offered but of no interest to Nettie. “Yeah, I don’t really get sports. Dan, let’s dance.” Dan and Nettie are urban sophisticates even as they coolly move to the base, piano, and the soft snare drum beat. It could be NYC at The Algonguin or Top of the Sixes maybe. I’m happy to have a Football game and a Heineken. The music isn’t lively enough to keep the place jumping for long. A couple of numbers later the band takes a short break. Nettie and Dan rejoin me at the bar. Nettie sips the Cognac but would prefer a Heineken. We confuse the bartender enough so that we get another generous cognac and at least a couple more Heinekens before we’re done. “You know I didn’t get married until I was forty. I had plenty of freedom and didn’t need to be tied down. I met Dan and, well, I love him.” It’s the booze talking. Most of what Nettie has to say is sweet but she is the sort of person (like me) who uses sarcasm and personal jabs of wit that can be hurtful at times. Dan has a great sense of humor but he’s not entirely amused.

Good thing the apartment is just a short walk away. We left with 1:29 on the clock. Texas Tech beat Texas. (And Nettie could care less.) For the record that minute and a half led to an upset of the number one team and may jeopardized Colt McCoy’s Heisman trophy chances. (Who cares? Well a Good few people in Lubbock, Texas at least. Netti was so excited it gave her the dry heaves.)

LUBBOCK, Tex. – After his Texas Tech football team had scored the biggest victory in its history, knocking off No.1 Texas on Saturday night, Coach Michael Leach stood in a narrow hallway under the stadium with a Styrofoam cup of coffee. Instead of talking about Michael Crabtree’s last second touchdown in the Red Raiders’ 39-33 victory or their place in Bowl Championship Series standings, Leach, who was reading “The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill,” began quoting Churchill. The New York Times, Monday November 3, 2008

The Dawg Pound - Fortified with a short stack of pumpkin pancakes, two eggs over easy and three strips of bacon from Grumpy’s CafĂ© in Tremont (West 14th Street), I was ready for a day of football. Dan recognized the waitress, Julia, and we learned about her struggling career in residential real estate. She’s been at it for five years now. It’s a crazy time to be selling homes in Cleveland because there is a lot of inventory and it ain’t moving. (Julia is voting straight Republican ticket so Dan’s pitch for Obama falls on deaf ears.) Dan and Nettie returned me to the Carlyle to meet up with Pat Morin who agreed to pick me up at 11:30 a.m. sharp on Sunday morning. Like clockwork Morin pulls up in his Mercedes Benz Sedan. “Ya know I may be over-thinking this thing but there’s a rally downtown right after the football game and…I have a parking space but I’m thinking it might be difficult to get out. So, maybe we should take the Rapid Transit. We can pick it up at 117th and Madison,” explains Morin as we pull out onto Lake Avenue. That’s fine with me. The public transportation allows up to get into the spirit of the day with brown and orange everywhere: sweatshirts, wool caps and face paint. “Go Brownies!” All over town, it’s not too early to be firing up grills and tailgating before the game between the old Browns (ArtModell’s The Baltimore Ravens) and today’s Cleveland Browns in their new 73,200 seat stadium (The Stadium was designed by HOK Sports and completed in 1999.)

As we made our way from the Terminal Tower building to the stadium with throngs of Browns fans, Pat and I compared notes on our advertising careers. Pat and I both worked in New York at J. Walter Thompson (at different times). Pat managed to leverage his Ohio State Law School Degree and charming diplomacy into a long career that included being president and general manager of Griswold in Cleveland. Nearing retirement age now, Pat is now founder of a much more modest operation, Pat Morin Inc. I jumped the wall (going client-side) in 1998 and became a corporate communications specialist. It was a perfect day for football (sunny and in the mid-fifties). Mark Doyle’s seats are in section 108 near the 45 yard line. Great seats. Great day. (But not for the Browns.)

Ravens 37, Browns 27 - Pivotal play: With the score tied at 27 in the forth quarter, Cleveland WR Braylon Edwards dropped what would have been the go ahead 77-yard TD pass from Derek Anderson. The Browns never threatened again. Unheralded performance: Cleveland NT Shaun Rogers continued his strong season, compiling nine tackles, including one sack. Key stats: Baltimore out gained Cleveland on offence 429-274 and held the ball for nearly 34 minutes. The Browns partially offset that disadvantage with a 278-102 edge in return yards, including Josh Cribbs’ 92-yard kickoff return. Noteworthy: Playing in only his second game in a month, Browns TE Kellen Winslow II caught five passes for 64 yards. Browns fans screamed “Bra-dy!” Bra-dy!” hoping popular backup QB Brady Quinn would replace Anderson. - USA TODAY Monday, November 3, 2008

At the end of the game, Browns fans dispersed, exasperated at the missed opportunities and disgusted with a 3-5 record. As they spill into the downtown area, the police and the barricadesand the helicopters let you know the Obama rally will soon begin. Bruce Springsteen will perform. Pat Morin has no interest in Bruce, Barack or in hanging around. After a hearty handshake, we part ways. It was reported later Monday, that Romeo Crennel the Browns head coach intends to start Brady Quinn at QB on Thursday night vs. the Denver Broncos.

Rise Up – Mall B adjacent to the Convention Center in Downtown Cleveland
Incredibly as I worked my way though the crowd and settled on a view of the big screen near the convention center, I ran into Dan and Nettie (who after some deliberation decided to be a part of history.) The election is just two days away!
We didn’t wait long. Bruce Springsteen appeared, sang a half dozen songs including Thunder Road, an ode to Youngstown (an Ohio steel town), and folk ballad This land is your land. Bruce Springsteen is the Boss and he let Clevelanders know he wanted change. “Today we are at the crossroads. It’s been a long, long, long time coming. I want my country back. I want my dream back. I want my America back.” Barack and Bruce embraced each other. Bruce is joined by his wife Patty. Barack is joined by his wife Michelle and their two daughters. Obama addresses the crowd. “I ask of you what has been asked of Americans throughout our history. I ask you to believe – not just in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.” (Back in St. Louis, on Tuesday, Election Day, I made my way to the line already forming at 5:45 a.m. to my neighborhood polling place.)