Monday, September 12, 2011

I Am the Sun

The truth is that we are the center of our universe, in terms of the marketplace.  We are not interested in things that do not benefit us in some way.  We are not interested in viewing, reading, watching, or entertaining anything with any of our senses if it is not directly relevant to me.  This is not, in any way, to say we are arrogant people.  I have experienced very giving and charitable people who could be described as selfless.  Even these selfless people are not interested in things that do not pertain to them though, from a sales or advertising standpoint.  The future of companies advertising and marketing themselves to consumers is very bright and full of changes, yet, as you look around many companies are downright throwing their money away on traditional mediums of expression.  When is the last time you saw a billboard and were inspired to buy that product or service?  On the same note, when’s the last time a commercial on TV or some busy jersey at a sporting event inspired you to buy?  If anything I find those kinds of advertisements repulsive and create distaste for the very product or service they’re attempting to get you to buy.  Why?  Simply put, neither I nor any other consumer is interested in buying something they don’t want.  Trying to make a consumer want to want something is no longer accurate or appropriate, especially with the change in communication this society has, social media.

Internet marketing is the way to go these days and companies owe it to themselves to get on the train early.  Twitter is popular and newspapers are declining because consumers only want to read or see things they deem valuable. Following online users’ interests and researching their values can allow a company to show them only what is relevant to them.  It is time for companies to stop thinking about how to get their name out and about alone.  Instead, learn what people are about and learn to only show your product to those who would be interested.  90% off a new, fancy stroller is a great deal, but doesn’t matter to me, as a young married guy with no kids.  The future looks a little more like twitter than we all would like to admit.  TV soon will all be through the internet and the only commercials shown to the viewer will be based on their interests and online activity.  I’m looking to adapt to these changes and help others along the way.  What about you?

Michigan Needs Adam

We just spent a week and a half in Northern Michigan.  I’ve learned to love Michigan; it is a place of unknown and untapped beauty.  It is also a place of sobering reality and reminders of past successes.  My thought as I left was this: Michigan needs Adam.  Obviously, this is a dramatic statement covering a sweeping generalization.  A thought before I dive into Michigan because, like I said, many people have no clue about Michigan.  Detroit’s failure (auto industry in general) overshadows Michigan’s beauty.  This I my theory and based on experience I’ve found that peoples’ most natural tendency is to correlate Detroit with the whole state of Michigan.  Detroit is just a small part of Michigan, but the collapse of the auto industry in Michigan was so big that nationally Michigan is just seen as Detroit, which is unfortunate.  So, for those who don’t know, I’ll tell you a little about Michigan.  Most recently the big news about Michigan is that Sleeping Bear Dunes was named America’s most beautiful place by ABC News.  The part of Michigan where we spent the majority of our time is the Leelanau Peninsula.  If you meet someone who is from or frequents Michigan often they will raise their right hand and point to their pinky, the right hand is the universal (at least to those familiar with Michigan) visual representation of the state.  This little peninsula is sprinkled with wineries and neat little small downtown cities that still hum from their days of abundance.  Local businesses crowd the street as tourists explore the rich history of these towns. Michigan at one time in history was a bustling state full of small towns operated and flourishing with small businesses; places where everyone knows your name (like Cheers!).

As neat and cool as these small towns are I could not help looking back as we left the main strip of a once bustling downtown and be deeply saddened.  My remorse comes from seeing all the vacancies and boarded up store fronts.  Small businesses just couldn’t compete with the larger places that came in and some of this is understandable due to the vacuum the auto industry’s downfall created in people and resources in the state.  My natural inclination is to ask why and try to analyze this result, trying to reduce data down to simple reasoning.  Why did these towns shut down?  Why did these small businesses not last?  Why are these vacancies not being filled by more small businesses (that’s an easy answer, no smart business is going to invest and risk in an unstable market)?

We spent 11 days exploring and enjoying Michigan.  Within those 11 days we relished the nectar of the gods; the amazing fermented grape; wine.  We visited around 15 wineries in our travels and learned what we did and did not like.  Aside from the wine I found several things that left a dry bitter taste in my mouth, it was the people making the product I was trying.  A good product can be overshadowed by poor representation.  On a large scale the greatest example of this is Michigan and my story of Detroit’s failure over shadowing Michigan’s beauty.  On a smaller scale a good quality wine can be overshadowed by poor quality people or processes.  We found several wines that we enjoyed but because the experience was not good or made us feel uncomfortable we walked away with no bottles.  On the contrary the nostalgia of a good experience can lead you to mentally buy into a product that upon later review you find not to be that great.  A bottle that brings back such fond memories may not make your tongue want to do a song and dance as much as you “remember” it doing before.  Seth Godin says “great products are marketing.”  Businesses should be aware that dependence on a product alone cannot sustain an efficacious trade.  The downside of this reality is that a bad product can continue for some time with poor quality if the representation (marketing) creates pleasure.  An example: Grey Goose Vodka.  If you’ve read Chasing Cool you know where I am going already.  Grey Goose Vodka is the same quality as Smirnoff.  It is filtered the in the same method and frequency, however, Grey Goose is the brand name you drop at a bar to impress the masses. A Grey Goose and Cranberry is the drink of choice for a classy lady in the late night, not a Smirnoff and Cranberry.  Why is this? The bottle and box that Grey Goose is packaged in gives you the illusion that it is truly “top shelf,” when in actuality it is just the prettier step sister of Smirnoff.  Neither quality is poor, but neither is superior to another.  I experienced several wineries that had a particularly great tasting wine, but had horrible experiences at their tasting rooms, either because you were made to feel inferior or it seemed as if the person across the counter were an evil robot that hated it’s lowly life.  These wineries are sadly mistaken if they think their product can stand alone and compete or even survive.

I really have a passion to see small businesses succeed and have a strong belief that ultimately small business will make a resurgence and challenge larger corporations.  I think small business innovation is what will drive America into the future, if we learn to adapt.  We can empower small businesses to do more if we continue to challenge ourselves and realize that products cannot and do not stand alone and that good marketing is necessary to success.  Like Seth says, “Good products are marketing,” and this is why Michigan needs Adam.



There is only one place in the beautiful world that this statement is true, or at least thought to be true.  You can find this place under the bright lights of a big house, with wood floors reflecting all the self-proclaimed glory of your average recreational league basketball player.  I always find it a bit mind numbing to hear and see the things a bunch of grown-ups can think and do when on the basketball court.  Let’s start with a huge reality check about anyone who plays in a recreational league:

  1. 1.       The reason you play in a rec league is because you didn't make it pro
    1. a.       If you played college ball please see above
    2. b.      If you played a D1 school and average 70 points a game please see above

There are two unique groups within a rec league.  Within those two groups there are subcategories that can crossover between groups (see my past blog on this).  Overall though, there are two, the realistic guys trying to have a good time and the guys who lose all logical sense when those sneaks hit the hardwood.  The reason any of us are in a rec league is because we all have competitiveness running through our veins.  We are all united by our competitiveness and can be found on the edge of our seats most Sunday afternoons routing for our favorite teams.  Unfortunately, the two groups diverge from there unity when it comes to cognitive journeys.  One group realizes that even though they want to win and want to be good that at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter and we get to go home to our real lives and hopefully hot wives.  This group is full of guys who crack jokes at each other and smile and laugh a lot.  These guys like playing together.  We will even go as far to create secret nights a week where only we type of guys are invited to play because we don’t do to well with the other group.  This other group is a small group; however, their big mouths and even loftier egos make it seem so much bigger than it is.  This group likes to argue every call and talk trash to people like they are getting paid to play or something.  Recently I played with a group of guys like this and heard the most ridiculous statement I’ve heard in at least a week.  “I am un-guardable, there is no one out here who can guard me.”  This was said a mere 3 minutes prior to one of the slowest cats on the court stealing the ball from him.  What leads to this kind of ridiculous logic?  The reflection from the nicely waxed wood floors shows someone 40lbs heavier and at least 8 inches taller than what reality has given him.  The essence of what this group is about though is ego and that ego is what makes 1+1=17.  They don’t pass the ball because they truly believe that 1:5 ratio makes sense.  It’s almost like the hardwood gives these guys some kind of odd allergic reaction where any sense of logic dissipates into drooling foolish babbling.  This small group ruins games and makes it difficult for others to truly enjoy what is going on here, a bunch of people who are either past their prime or never made it trying to get out some of their competitive juices while smiling.

1+1=17 doesn’t it?  No fool, it equals two.  Off the basketball court 100% of dudes would agree to this logic, but for a few, when they hit that shiny pine, 1+1 does equal 17 and there is nothing you can do about it.  Question is, who are you?