Friday, December 19, 2008

The Top 10 Things I am Grateful for in 2008.

I probably should have done this three weeks ago, but I wanted to get as close to the end of the year as I could. Anyway, here goes:

10. Nearly 123 million Americans voted in the 2008 presidential election. Hip-hip-hooray.

9. The Cleveland Indians comeback. Okay, maybe it's just me, but the second half of the Tribe's season was one very special half of a season (typical Cleveland sports fan).

8. Season 4 of LOST was the best season to date. Get lost. No, really. Get Lost.

7. The Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Awesome.

6. The volatile price for a gallon of gas got America excited about new alternatives. It's about time.

5. Hurricane Gustav did not become a category 4 beast. We needed a break and we got it.

4. Charlie Rose. When everyone else in the media was sensationalizing and politicizing, Charlie just towed the line. I love Charlie.

3. Gears of War 2 was voted the second best video game of 2008. My son helped make that happen.

2. Apple iPhone 3G launch. Welcome to the brave new world.

1. Good health and good friends. That combination just never gets old... and I had plenty of both in 2008.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marketers Could Learn A Lesson or Two from Coach Wooden

Some say John Wooden is the most influential, if not the greatest coach of the 20th century. At 98, he is definitely one of the oldest living coaches from the 20th century.

Mr. Wooden is most notable for his success as the coach of UCLA's championship basketball teams from 1948 to 1975 (from 1946-1948 he was the coach of Indiana State, where he racked up a 44-15 record). Under his guidance, the Bruins won 81% of their games and set all-time records with four perfect 30-0 seasons, 88 consecutive victories, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories, 20 PAC-10 championships, and 10 national championships - seven of them consecutive.

What else... oh yeah, since 1977, one of the four college basketball player of the year awards has been named the John R. Wooden Award. And two annual doubleheader men's basketball events called the "John R. Wooden Classic"and "The Wooden Tradition" are held in Wooden's honor.

The 95,000 square foot John Wooden recreation center on the UCLA campus for student intramural athletics is named after legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

On July 23, 2003, John Wooden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. On November 17, 2006, Wooden was recognized for his impact on college basketball as a member of the founding class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. And UCLA celebrates John Wooden Day every February 29.

If you didn't know better, you would think this guy was pretty special. But really, he's just a farm boy from Hall, Indiana... a farm boy who became so successful that he created The Pyramid of Success, a philosophy for winning at basketball and at life.

At the heart of his success formula are four building blocks: Enthusiasm (doing what you enjoy and enjoying what you do), Industriousness (because success in any endeavor takes hard work), Patience (because success sometimes takes a while) and Faith (for those times when you are not having fun, don't feel like working hard and you get tired of waiting for success).

But here is the really intersting thing: Coach Wooden does not define "success" as winning championships or making money. In his view:

"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

Sounds a lot to me like something my dad would say.

According to Coach, defining success is a lot like differentiating between your character and your reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are. Your character is who you really are. And what you really are - your character - is what really counts.

At a time in the world when "reputation management" is looked upon as a noble act, marketers could do worse than to take a lesson from Coach John Wooden. Consider all those companies who just a few months ago were considered industry leaders and now are standing in the Government soup line looking for handouts.

The next time a client tells you they want to be perceived as in industry leader, tell them to focus on character, not reputation. If they are leaders, the marketplace will know it. If they are not leaders, they will eventually be recognized as the frauds they are.

And remember that success derives from knowing you gave it your best shot as the best professional you are capable of being. Hard work, enthusiasm, patience, faith.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Goodnight Denny Crane

The funny thing about Alzheimer's Disease... Oh, wait, there isn't anything funny about Alzheimer's Disease. In point fo fact, it is the only thing about Boston Legal that was not funny.

The idea of Denny Crane finally being taken down by an invisible foe was painful and sad. And so, with as much dignity as it could bring to the small screen, Boston Legal spared Denny Crane and all of its fans the inevitable undoing of a story that has been strong and bold since its debut.

Thank you Denny Crane. Thank you Alan Shore. Thank you Shirley Schmidt. Your witty dialogue and outlandish opinions will be missed.

Yes, Virginia, some of us still do watch TV.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

He'll Just Buy $2000 Worth of Ugly Suits!

Something about the big 3 automakers going to Congress today with their collective hats in hand reminded me of an old story.

Once upon a time (in the early '80s) I was a Vice President and Public Relations Manager for Griswold-Eshleman, a very prominent ad agency headquartered in Cleveland (with offices around the world). In an effort to appease one of its accounts, the president of the ad agency insisted I hire just the right kind of account executive to make a client happy.

Now I am neither a pretentious nor judgmental guy, but one of the candidates they put in front of me was a young man who was so inappropriately dressed for a job interview that even I was taken aback. I mean he was wearing the wrong shoes, the wrong socks, the wrong shirt and tie and the wrong suit. And it had nothing to do with his station in life. He was simply clueless and not the least bit bothered by it.

Given that there was nothing in particular about this candidate that would cause one to look beyond his attire, I passed on him. Unfortunately, the agency CFO (a Yale grad no less) insisted that this candidate's trade magazine writing background made him the perfect man for the job. We argued relentlessly for what seemed like seconds before he offered a grand solution:

"We'll give him a $2,000 hiring bonus and tell him to buy a new wardrobe," said Ed with glee in his eyes (I am not kidding, he was full of glee).

"No," I retorted, "he'll just go out and buy $2,000 worth of ugly clothes."

What Ed could not see was that this young man was content with his look and was not going to change it, though with $2,000 he could surely expand on it.

Anyway, back to the automakers. GM wants our government to give them $4 billion initially and up to $12 billion later, Ford wants an investment of about $14 billion and Chrysler is asking for $7 billion.

That's a lot of billions of dollars that I am fairly certain will buy a lot of ugly suits and may or may not change anything.

What does it all mean?

In the case of Griswold-Eshleman, I did not hire the candidate the organization insisted I hire (it wasn't personal, it was business). I have no idea what happened to him, but I know what happened to the company that wanted to invest money in him: They went out of business.