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The Great Re-Depression

I was listening to the radio and heard mention that the recent recession ended in 2009. This is the typical sugar-coated White House version of reality, but it really ticked me off!  I’ll believe the recession is over when unemployment is under 5%, GDP exceeds debt and my house is worth more than it was in early 2006!!  I’m thinkin’ that’s probably 4-5 years away at best!

If you look at it from the typical American’s viewpoint, you can’t help notice that this will be a 10-year minimum crisis. Most middle-class citizens are heavily invested in their homes, and many of us made the mistake of treating them like living, breathing 401ks…investing most of our earnings into the home we live in and banking on the year-over-year returns.

This all got me thinking, and got me pissed at the same time. I’ve been looking for inspiration for a new book and I think I’ve got it. My contention is that the recession is not over, it didn’t start in 2006 and in fact America has been in steady (sometimes steep) decline since JFK was shot on Dealey Plaza. Think about it…we were crowned the world’s super power in 1945-6. Our economy blasted off and remained the global leader until the early 60s. Since then we’ve:

  • Fought and lost the most unpopular war in the last 1000 years
  • Eroded our manufacturing base starting with the Automobile and continuing with the Steel, Consumer Goods and Technology industries.
  • Let our nation’s  infrastructure (once the envy of the world) go to shit. Take a look around at our bridges, roads, power plants, etc. – it’s downright scary!
  • Enacted so many social entitlement programs that we’ve become a nation of takers. Nearly 50% of Americans are on some government assistance program. If you’re bad at math, that means those of us who are not, are supporting ourselves and the at least one other citizen.
  • Finally, we’ve become such politically-correct pussies that when we do notice all the above our first notion isn’t to raise holy Hell until the problem is fixed…no, we concern ourselves with which special-interest group will be offended by our frank words, and how we will protect ourselves in what has become a litigious America.

Yes, I’m pissed and you should be too! When will I start writing?  About 20 minutes ago!


Back in the Fold

OK, it’s been a while since we visited each other here. My excuse – well, I’ve been traveling the world promoting solar power and all its virtues!  My new “day” job has me hopping all over the country and SE Asia and we’re doing some wonderful things.

Now, my background for those who don’t know me personally (and what a shame if you don’t!) is not only marketing, but electronics technology also. Most notably, working within the photovoltaic industry. “Photo – Vol – what” ? I hear you say? It’s not as geeky as it sounds. Photo = light, like what comes from the sun. Voltaic = Volts or electricity. So, sun-generated electricity…see, that wasn’t so hard. We’ve been bringing clean power to villages in Malaysia and some Government installations around the globe. Much more to do and many more places for me to see; but I promise to keep you in the loop!

Anyway, that along with my new book collaboration – The Good Book of Business, has been keeping me quite busy.  I’ll be writing more about the GBOB as the weeks progress and we get closer to publishing the book (very soon, I promise!). OK, out for now…the sun’s shining somewhere!


If it Weren’t for Bad Luck…

 

Have I ever told you the story about my uncle Erving? You know – the one who won the NY lottery back in 1986 only to get hit by a taxi on the way to cash in his winning ticket. Uncle Erving survived but the ticket was dislodged from him during the impact and never located; he died penniless and angry just a few years later.

Or the one about my cousin Derek, when under severe marital stress committed adultery (the only time in his life, mind you) only to contract a severe case of syphilis, lose his mind and spend the rest of his days locked in a state asylum?

Seems my family has a history of falling victim to incredible circumstances. Like my great aunt Heather, who fell for a circus entertainer when she was just 17 years old and ran off from home during the Great Depression. A year after her leaving, Philo her high-school sweetheart, invents the television and becomes rich beyond his wildest dreams. Great Aunt Heather? She was stuck with a hairy strongman until their untimely deaths during a freak train derailment in northern Idaho.

No, my family has not been on the fast-track to fortune or success and has certainly seen its share of heartache and disappointment. I’m not sure about my future, but I can tell you I will be staying in today, avoiding women, the circus and any temptation to hit it rich on a Mega Millions ticket. Oh yeah, did I also mention it is April 1st!  Happy April Fools  🙂


A Resolute 2011

 

“Admirably purposeful, determined and unwavering”, that’s how the New Oxford dictionary defines the word “resolute”, the base of “resolution”.  Determined and unwavering is not how I would describe most of my resolutions! Only one I can think of have I actually held true, and not even 100% there. Two years ago I decided that drinking three Venti Starbuck’s coffees every day might be contributing to my overall anxiety, sleeplessness and need to whiten my teeth every other week. I can confidently say that after two years of almost no coffee, I don’t have to whiten my teeth as much.

Here we are (I say “we” to fashion some sort of community here) on the second day of the new year and I’m thinking about resolutions past, present and future. With the one exception, all past decrees have come and gone without much notice or purpose. So, what will this year bring?

I found myself thinking about this year’s promise at 2 am today…kinda strange but true. I had not thought about a resolution for 2011 leading up to January 1st, but for some weird reason I began to in the wee hours of day two. What can I do differently that will positively change my life? Should it be work-related, financial, relationship or health-based? No, none of those struck a chord with me. Hummm…dilemma, dilemma.  What can I realistically accomplish that I really should change?

One word, “Music”. “What”? I hear you ask? “Music”, not listening to, or downloading more but playing. See, I’m a musician at heart, though I barely have made a peep in years. At 2 am I got to thinking about my father who passed over a year ago, and remembering then that I had thoughts of blowing the dust off of the drums in the basement. Why? Because of all the talents he possessed and achievements (athlete, veteran, artist, computer pioneer), he would have always described himself a “musician”; and that love of music passed on to me. I never considered myself talented, especially compared to dad, who could play any instrument known to mankind (and had them all in his house to prove it!) but I did enjoy it.  

So here, day two I’m setting off to the basement (after 12 noon of course) and sitting down behind the kit to make some noise.  I’m sure it will annoy and anger some of me neighbors, but hey – I’ll need a resolution for 2012!


After Christmas Blues…

I’ve been anxious this past week and I’m just starting to define why. Leading up to Christmas (like, two months prior!) I’m consumed with what to get everyone on my list. I’m canvassing the Internet and the local stores doing research on everything from a laser parking assistant (trust me, it’s a real product) to the cleverest Hallmark card I can find. All of this frantic activity stops on the morning of the 25th. Even with all the moaning and griping I do about shopping, I find that I miss the hustle of it all after the holiday.

I’m sure I’m not the only one suffering the blues here; retailers must be going insane. After the rush to return the ugly sweaters and the imitation iPods, there’s not a lot of activity until we all go looking for Valentines’ cards, jewlery and over-priced chocolates. What is the solution? I’m not sure, but what if we developed (and marketed) gifts that have some immediate recurring revenue? The Wii and Blu-Ray players are a start, but even then the initial gift usually comes with a bevy of games and asssorted DVDs.

Retailers and e-tailers need to be thinking about how to bring those shoppers back shortly after the holidays; maybe it’s holding customer events in the store (e-vents online) that begin to build a community among the shoppers. Gaming contests, chefs teaching us how to properly use those new Ginsu knives or a class on getting the most out of our iPads. As marketers, we must keep the momentum going after the holidays or we’ll all be singing the blues this winter.


My Christmas Conundrum

 

Let me start by confessing something.  It’s been eating away at me for years and years. Whew, so here it goes…I am a horrible Christmas gift shopper! OK, I said it and now it’s out there in the open. I’m truly awful at every aspect of the gifting process.

I can never figure out what to get someone, even those I’ve known all my life (Hell, especially those I’ve known all my life!) Once I do decide on a gift, usually with input from friends; I’m sure I don’t shop for the best deal and almost always pay too much.  I can’t even wrap the damn things; my gifts are so easy to spot under the tree because they look like they’ve been wrapped by a kindergartener or a gorilla. OK, that’s not fair; I have in fact seen some gorillas do a better job than me.  

This year is no different, I’m stressing on what to get mom (she’s the most difficult to shop for on my list). Having dinner with a friend, I mentioned the problem and she asked what my mother liked. “Reading”, I said – remembering all the books I’ve given my mother on Christmases past. Then something amazing happened, instead of offering a book idea, she offered a “reading” idea. “How about a Kindle”? She asked. Wow! What a great idea.  So, I ran with it.

I had thought about them in the past for myself, and thought that the iPad might be a better buy, until I read a review about customers’ “love” for the Kindle. What emerged was an overwhelming preference for the “readablility” of the Kindle. Most quotes were from people who owned both gadgets, and the results were heavily favoring the Kindle because it is lighter and easier to hold in one hand, the screen had less glare, and the non-backlit feature was actually easier on the eyes!

The folks at Amazon should play up on this positioning but no where in the ads or campaigns have I seen direct comparisons to the iPad. I know when considering a digital reader, the iPad is in the evoked set of competitive products but the Kindle rates superior as an e-book reader. Maybe they don’t want to go toe-to-toe with Apple, but in this case I think they should.

OK, there’s one Christmas gift down and only a few more to go… I wonder if Amazon offers gift wrapping?


Cyber This!

 

Well, is the recession finally starting to let up on us a bit? Maybe, if you look at, and take into account the sales numbers for this past Monday. To be more specific, online sales on what we now call Cyber Monday.  According to ClickZ we reached a billion dollars in sales online Monday for the very first time. I’m taking this as good news on a few fronts.

First, consumer spending is up this holiday season – way up; up 9% Friday, 16% on Monday; and that 16% equals well over $100M over last year’s figures. Next, retailers are capitalizing on online shoppers as Cyber Monday blew away Black Friday, $1.028B to $648M. Now, 2/3 of a million is nothing to sneeze at but topping a billion online is significant.

Lastly, consumers are spending more per capita. The average sale was $114 online versus $102 last year; up a full 12%. I’m encouraged by this news and I hope you are also. I mean really, when was the last time we had any increases in sales figures, let alone double-digit gains. Let’s hope this a sign of a strong 2011 to come!


Know your customers during the holidays – or “the Santas of Segmentation”

Have you ever heard of Icebreaker? Not the ships that pound throught the Artic blazing the way for lesser sailing vessels, but the outdoor clothing company from New Zealand. No? Well, me either until I read a recent case study on MarketingProfs.com .  This company has relatively low brand awareness in the United States, somewhere around 25,000 subscribers to their catalogs, but still pulled off a wildly successful campaign last holiday season.

Seems the smart folks in their marketing department set out to segment those 25,000 U.S. prospects. Now, I know the marketers in the crowd are already forming groups in their heads – Males 18-35, females 41 and up, blah blah blah! But Icebreaker decided to segment not by demographic, but by gift-giving habits…f-ing brilliant!!

They had segments like “it’s hot” for those who give cutting edge gifts, “Black Friday” for the deal finders, “Gift Guide” for the person who has trouble figuring out what to get everyone (this would be me). All in all Icebreaker had 11 separate gift-giving segments! So, each subscriber was “touched” many times, sales soared and the one’s who received the gifts were now aware of Icebreaker. Ho, ho, ho –  it’s off to the bank we go!


Yeah, but she has a great personality…

What do great brands have in common? Market awareness? A loyal following? Strong product or service image? Yes, yes and yes. But there’s more. Think of Apple, Scion or Abercrombie & Fitch; don’t those brands stand above in some way. Isn’t the bond between them and their customers stronger than most? How come?  Personality.

Yes, these brands, and virtually all powerful brands, have a certain aura about them. Just like humans, these brands carry an essence that people latch on to. Ever been to a party and there’s that one person who has everyone rolling on the floor laughing or is a captivating story-teller? A crowd grows around them as they weave a tale or tell a joke. We are drawn to people (and products) that make us feel good, intrigue us or enlighten us.

So, back to the brands. Apple is the slick techie who’s cool and knows it.  A&F is the stylish one who always is in vogue. Scion is the rebel but with a hidden sensible side. All personalities that people are drawn to; so much that we’ll wait in line outside the store to buy the latest Mac, iPad or Pod!

What does your brand say about you? What do your customers say about you? Are you enlightening, educative or fun? Think about those traits that would draw customers to you and play them up!


3…2…1…Liftoff!

 

There’s one moment in history, and only one, that is this monumental to me. You see it’s my first post on my brand new blog! thebrandedblogger launches today and I could not be more excited. Why? Let me count the ways:

  1. I can now write purely about marketing and communications as my former blog was a bit restrictive and owned by the corporation I worked for.
  2. I can also use any kind of language I damn well please (see #1) however, I will keep it “R”-rated for the most part.
  3. I’ll be able to reach a wider, more diverse audience of marketers…my peeps!
  4. Finally, I’ll write more often as I’m inspired by marketing topics.

So, jump on board with me and let’s take a ride on the marketing rollercoaster; it can be bumpy and scary at times, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun than the merry-go-round!