Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Going Zen in 2010

Over the holiday weekend I managed to catch about five minutes of A Christmas Carol on TV. It wasn't the classic movie starring Reginald Owen or even the 50s favorite starring Alastair Sim. And it wasn't the new Jim Carey animation. Instead it was the 1999 made-for-TV video starring Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Anyway, I have read the book numerous times and watched the movies even more often. But this time, I heard something that I do not ever recall hearing before. It was a rather simple line spoken by Scrooge himself, quoting his old boss - Fezziwig:

"Ebenezer, when happiness shows up, always give it a comfortable seat."

As we wrap up 2009 and finalize our plans for 2010, I wish this sentiment for all of you: When happiness shows up, always give it a comfortable seat.

As Scrooge suggests, "you have to be open to joy. If you are, it’s yours! If you aren’t, it won’t be found anywhere."

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sometimes a Cigar is Not a Cigar.

Once upon a time (in the early 1980s) I was an account executive with Burson-Marsteller/Chicago. One of my accounts was the National LP Gas Association and gas prices were soaring, which was good for the propane industry. So good in fact that Ford Motor Co. was retrofitting some of its vehicles with propane tanks and we (NLPGA and B-M) were holding a press conference on the south side of Chicago to watch the vehicles come off the assembly line. It was a big story for us, but the media was only mildly interested in attending... until a fire broke out at some factory along S. Torrence Avenue, just down the road from the Ford facility.

Suddenly there were media everywhere. And after they covered the fire, they came to watch our retrofitted vehicles roll off the assembly line. The resulting coverage was phenomenal, but you won't find any evidence of it in my professional portfolio. After all, if it were not for the fire, the media would not have come.

Anyway, this morning I read that Walgreens is pretty stoked that its focus on core consumer needs is paying off, with both sales and profits for the first quarter of its fiscal year hitting record levels. According to the story, "Some of the company's record results are directly linked to flu-fretting consumers: It [Walgreens] says it jabbed 5.4 million flu shots into consumers' arms in the quarter, up from 1.2 million last year."

The smoke made me think about the fire on South Torrence.

president and CEO Greg Wasson says the success of its flu shot campaign proves that "consumers across the country value the services of community pharmacists. Our center of gravity continues to be the community pharmacy." Wasson says it was the largest flu shot campaign in its history, and calls it "one of the best-executed initiatives in my 30 years at Walgreens."

Maybe. Or perhaps the endless barrage of media coverage warning consumers of the worst flu epidemic the world has experienced in a century had something to do with it. Maybe the five million people who came to Walgreens would have gone to Starbucks or even Macy's if they were giving out the shots.

In the words of Cindy Wang, "I'm just saying... give the fire a little credit."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


So how's that $100 million advertising investment to launch Bing working out for you Microsoft? And what about that billion-dollar-a-year investment you are making in your Yahoo partnership?

Well, according to data from Experian Hitwise, as reported in ClickZ, Bing lost ground during the four-week-period leading up to and ending November 28, while Google continued to gain. Ouch.

According to the report, "Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing both experienced a decline, dropping 5 percent and 2 percent respectively." Google experienced an increase of one percentage point. Oh snap.

Of course experts and insiders are saying it is too early to determine whether these investments will pay off. According to eWeek: "Whether the Yahoo-Microsoft agreement, combined with new functionality for Bing, can drive up Microsoft’s U.S. search engine market share is a question that will only start to be answered later in 2010." Sure, sure, sure.

But it occurs to me that Microsoft may find itself between a rock and a hard place. For years, the company has grown and grown not just as a result of innovation, but also because of its ability to "embrace, extend and extinguish" the competition. But suddenly that approach isn't working anymore. Suddenly the competition - in this case Google - isn't quaking in its boots. Somehow this all seems so familiar...

Michael: My credit good enough to buy you out?
Moe Greene: Buy me out?
[Fredo laughs nervously]
Michael: The hotel, the casino. The Corleone Family wants to buy you out.
Moe Greene: The Corleone Family wants to buy me out? No, I buy you out, you don't buy me out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Marketing Initiative Worthy of Our Involvement

Did you know more than 12.5 million children in the U.S. – 17% of kids and adolescents ages 2 to 19 – are overweight?

Did you know as they grow older, these overweight children and adolescents – our babies – are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes? Not to mention the emotional stress and psychological trauma.

Please help stop the madness.

Who lets their precious children eat themselves into sickness and death? Scratch that; who cares. Instead, "how can we help you to get your children into better health?" Because that is, after all, what this is all about.

Everyday we are bombarded with endless commercials and ads and promotions and events and videos that make fun of the issue and encourage us all to eat until we explode. And many of them are – by design – absolutely hilarious.

But there is nothing whatsoever funny about an overweight 12-year-old with diabetes. Or a 35-year-old who dies of heart failure.

Here are a few more facts to ponder from the Office of the Surgeon General:
  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • The number of overweight children has more than tripled over the past three decades.
  • Studies show that nearly 34 percent of children and teens in America are either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
  • Research has shown that parents are often their children’s most important role model. If children see their caregivers enjoying healthy foods and being physically active, they are more likely to do the same.
But there is good – maybe even great – news: This is not inevitable and it is not a losing battle.

To demonstrate, I salute the good folks at the Biggest Loser – the most real of all reality shows – for demonstrating not only the importance of healthy living, but the ability to take charge of life and overcome obesity.

Please get involved. Please reach out to an overweight family member or neighborhood child, or join a group or initiative. Please let them know they are loved. Please help save their lives.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Where's the Balloon Boy When You Need Him?

Maybe we're all just tired from the Thanksgiving weekend followed by a five-day work week. Maybe the recession has us all in a funk. Maybe we're all just demented.

Regardless of the reason, Tiger Woods has suddenly captured the world's attention beyond anything he ever imagined on the golf course.

I have no desire to think about this, yet alone talk about it, so I will keep it short and sweet:

1. As my brother Kevin would say, "It is nunya," as in "nunya business."
2. In case you haven't noticed, Tiger is just a golfer; nothing more, nothing less.
3. In case you haven't noticed, we are still in a global recession.
4. In case you haven't noticed, our President has vowed to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
5. In case you haven't noticed, the holiday season (peace on Earth, good will toward men) is upon us.

I get the initial surprise of a little boy trapped in a balloon or an actor caught picking up a transvestite prostitute or a national leader having oral sex in the White House or a golfer driving his car into a fire hydrant. I get it. It is virtually impossible to not look into the sun during an eclipse. I get it.

But why do we insist on continuing to stare after the initial impulse? I don't get that.

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad