Monday, January 13, 2014

The Rationale

Music by the Bee Gees softy plays into the mall and can be heard in the men’s clothing area of J C Penney: Tragedy. When the feelings gone and you can't go on - its tragedy. When the morning cries and you don't know why - its hard to bear. With no-one to love you, you’re goin nowhere –Tragedy. When you lose control and you got no soul - its tragedy. When the morning cries and you don't know why - its hard to bear. With no-one to love you, you’re goin nowhere…

The salesman, Dave, stands behind Jimmy as they stand in front of the store full length mirrors at J C Penney. His hand on Jimmy’s shoulder telling him what a fine purchase the Quad is. The suit comes with two pairs of slacks and a reversible vest. The textured woven polyester fiber blend is ideal for a wrinkle free look. Dave knows this sale will put him on pace to make his quota for the month, with which he earns a modest, but important, bonus. The price is right but Jimmy is reluctant to add another 130 bucks to his revolving credit. He reasons however: you have spend money to make money and the interview season is upon us. Dave looks a bit like the son-in-law of Archie Bunker on the TV show All in the Family but Jimmy doesn’t quite want to bring that up. He might buy this suit from the guy but he does not want to befriend the meathead.
Dave assures Jimmy the fit will be perfect once the free tailoring is complete. He grabs the jacket between his shoulder blades and bunches the material to enhance the look from the front. “Fits you like a glove, my friend.” Jimmy needs a decent shirt and shoes too but he’ll deal with that elsewhere. “Take this ticket to the tailoring area and we’ll have you fixed in no time,” says Dave. The tailor is a caricature of an old school haberdasher. A yellow measuring tape is handing from his neck. There is a nearby pin cushion and he’s poised for fitting with marking chalk in his right hand. He is an officious little man with a bald spot which is revealed every time his back faces the mirror. He chalks the length of pant legs, sleeves and jacket back. He moves to complete the paperwork. He updates the ticket in ball point pen. “The suit will be ready for pick up on the 25th, he says adding “We’ve sold quite a few of the Quads. I think you will be happy with the flexibility it gives you.”

Jimmy stepped out into the bright sunlight in the Dadeland parking lot and paused for a moment to recall where he’d left his Ford Fiesta. The parking lot was not full an hour and a half ago but it is now. The sun shines with its usual intensity for an August day “WELCOME TO MIAMI, THE SQUINTING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD” he says to himself. (That billboard for Sunglass Hut always makes Jimmy smile because it rings so true for a kid from Cleveland as a point of contract.)   

On the 25th Jimmy and the Fiesta managed to find the exact same parking spot at Dadeland when he arrives in time to pick up his Quad. He is wearing new shoes and a button-down pin-point oxford shirt. His shirt-tails are out and he’s wearing Bermuda shorts. The spot isn’t far from the place where the Columbian drug war shootout took place and yet a location never visited by cops Crockett and Tubbs (Miami Vice) or Tony Montana (Scareface). The asphalt and concrete of the mall lot is far too ordinary for most producers. After all, this is a town where site options include the visually intriguing deco architecture, sandy beaches, palm trees, downtown skylines and shiny neon retail signage. Jimmy has lived in South Florida long enough to appreciate the sublime and the ridiculous so artfully presented by writers like Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry. 

Now he was wondering about the wisdom of the Quad suit. Jimmy didn’t expect to see his salesman again but he recognized him, even though he was not dressed for work and not at all in a pleasant mood. By the look on his face he was going to start a fight with someone. Though they exchanged glances, Dave didn’t recognize his customer and seemed preoccupied with a letter he was holding. “This is bullshit,” Dave was saying again and again to no-one in particular. Once Jimmy got his merchandise, he was quick to move to the exit and not at all curious about Dave’s grievance.

Monday morning came and Jimmy was dressed in the Quad and enjoying a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee at The Brickell Emporium. (Jimmy chose the solid color slacks and blander vest option). His interview at the advertising firm Hume Smith Mickelberry just a couple of blocks away wasn’t scheduled for another 30 minutes (at 9:30 a.m.). Over the sound system, The Bee Gees could be heard behind the mild clanking of silverware as a waiter cleared tables. When the feelings gone and you can't go on - Its tragedy. When the morning cries and you don't know why - Its hard to bear. With no-one to love you you’re Goin nowhere – Tragedy. When you lose control and you got no soul - Its tragedy. When the morning cries and you don't know why - Its hard to bear. With no-one to love you you’re Goin nowhere…

Jimmy was feeling a little sick, nauseous, now.  He managed to make his appointment on time. The receptionist was polite enough but Jimmy was not thrilled to find himself in the lobby waiting along with Salesman Dave. Thankfully Dave wasn’t wearing a Quad suit but he was smartly dressed and sporting a matching tie and pocket square.  Two guys in the lobby at Hume Smith Mickelberry waiting for an interview. No telling for sure but maybe for the same job. The Bee Gees were playing in his head: When you lose control and you got no soul - its tragedy. When the morning cries and you don't know why - its hard to bear. With no-one to love you you’re goin nowhere…

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Draw the Line

Repost from UPworld - January 3, 2014

Where do you draw the line on authorship and intellectual property ownership? That line, for marketers, is forever blurred by the notion of joining the conversation and sharing within countless networks. A generation ago it was unthinkable to plagiarize someone else’s well-researched copy. If you included another author’s published information, at the very least, you made every effort to cite credits in footnotes. Give credit where credit is due. It is still part of an elementary understanding of fairness to leading thinkers in any field of endeavor. Those rules should still prevail. Sadly the ability to police them – not so much.

A guy writes a blog for his independent insurance and financial advisor business. All he’s got to do (he believes) is subscribe to an aggregate of recent news. He may or may not identify sources. He might add a sentence to imply credibility to his piece here and there. He might say “A recent article in the Wall Street Journal…” A throw-away hint of sourcing, he reasons, gives himself a platform for peddling his expertise.

Clutter suddenly creates opportunity for misrepresentation purely by adjacency. A kid manages to photobomb a celebrity at a Hollywood premiere to get an instant endorsement. Musicians half way around the world get incredible exposure posting a video that goes viral. An author and motivational speaker builds a following with a series of e-mails followed by a FREE e-book offer. A local attorney, hoping to build his small business practice, leverages civic group presentations. The contacts turn into an inbound marketing strategy. The price of admission for these tactics: ZERO (Or nearly nothing).

In the spirit of engagement some marketers advocate a steady stream of activity including articles, photos, tips and other unsolicited tidbits. It’s a strategy that is a modern day equivalent of regular mail and ongoing telephone howdy calls. The net result could become something worse than junk mail – a kind of cyber harassment if you aren’t careful.

Marketing has always been a profession that embraces new media and communication channels. That is still true. But it is also still true that the rush to get something for nothing (or next to nothing) makes room for unfortunate abuses. Draw the line at integrity, fairness and regard for intellectual property and content and you will be better off in the long run.

Razzle Dazzle (repost from UPworld 12/16/2013)

The marketing profession has lost some of its mystique lately. Here are a dozen things that are contributing to the new realities of marketing.
1.     Media is not about mass marketing anymore. To move people you need to think about grass roots and social media.
2.     Advertising Agencies have lost their grip on clients (no longer cornering the market on unique selling propositions and brand strategy).
3.     Public Relations is actively leading marketers with a better handle on measuring web metrics.
4.     The study of Marketing is often unclear. What does it really means to study marketing? (Is a marketing degree marketable?)
5.     Companies are reluctant to invest in Marketing. Marketers are not making a strong enough case for the longer term equity and payback.
6.     Marketing Communications is too often an afterthought. Instead of planning and maintaining an integrated marketing communications program, the marketing department is playing catch up instead of leading.
7.     Marketers are not good at measuring results. The CEO wants a return on an investment.
8.     Market Research and the discipline of studying consumer behavior is becoming a lost art. Research methodology isn’t funded. Big data is still a puzzle (even when there is more of it).
9.     The new hero in business is the impresario who can understand the market and match it with customer services and a bundle of value that starts with (drum roll) personal selling - Sales.
10.   There’s no more bandwagon. People are much more selective about products that meet their preferences and needs. Being an individual is much cooler than being a conformist. It’s not about keeping up with the Jones’ but rather about your personal brand.
11.   Culture trumps marketing. Companies who show us living the brand is more powerful than trying to apply ivory tower and remote marketing function are winning the hearts and minds of consumers.
12.   Marketing isn’t magic. It can’t reverse an economic downturn or invent a breakthrough in a vacuum.
Still I hope the art and science of marketing isn’t gone, just evolving