November 30, 2008

New Gig and Whatnot

Filed under: Projects, School — Robert John Ed @ 6:35 pm

Good news, I got an internship from the University of Minnesota!  I’ll be handling the marketing for the Office for Business and Community Economic Development.  That is neat.  It’s funny, I spent the last three years working for a promotional company and now all of a sudden everything I’m doing marketing wise is for non profits; needless to say I’m extremely excited about the opportunity and experiences.  (The other big project on the docket is the Microfinance Alliance Fund which will get its own post.)

At first glance this situation seems very similar to other marketing dilemmas.  Most people who own their own businesses (or whatever) tend to be so busy working on big picture stuff that there isn’t a lot of time to think about marketing.  The big problem with that, of course, is that the marketing is the only thing a consumer or potential user of your services see.  So if they aren’t picking up what you’re throwing down, all is for naught.  You see this everywhere.  Running a business is difficult.  There are a great number of things that must be completed without exception.  Marketing usually doesn’t fall into that category, and it has a way of sliding down the to do list until it becomes a problem.  My guess is that many small businesses and owners aren’t flourishing or optimizing operations due to this slippery slope.  How can you fight this problem as an owner/operator?  Plans.  Build objective oriented plans for the short and long term with due dates and expectations.  Then go about completing these tasks in a methodical way, piece by piece manner and before you know it things are getting done.  It takes patience and determination; good marketing is about consistency.  Think drips, not a flash flood.

This project in particular has a great cause, to improve and stimulate economic growth within the Minneapolis/St. Paul region and beyond.  It’s very cool to be a part of that, and I only hope my efforts will help to reach that goal on an ongoing basis.  Updates to come.



November 23, 2008

Effort and Inherent Talent

Filed under: Human Relations, Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 6:11 pm

Inherent talent is pretty rare.  Most people have to work a long time at becoming good/great at something.  So when someone is a prodigy, society notices.  You can call it whatever you want, but it’s advanced evolution if anything at all.  Genius is much the same and although a genius by definition does not need be a savant, they do require an aptitude beyond three standard deviations of the mean in the upward regions of the IQ graph.  So there aren’t a whole lot of geniuses.

 Consequently, trying to build a company or a movement around genius or inherent talent is difficult to do.  Choosing who you work with based on IQ or some other measurement (GMAT, LSAT, etc.) is probably a poor choice.  Obviously these things are important to a degree, otherwise we wouldn’t use them at all.  This has been running through my head a lot lately and I’ve been trying to sort it out.  Fortunately, someone smarter already has.  Malcolm Gladwell did a piece with ESPN that explained the concept succinctly.  He speaks about Charles Barkley and his significance in regard to his ability in the NBA.  Please take a moment to read it.  (BTW Gladwell has a new book out called Outliers which has instantly jettisoned to the top of my to do list.  The guy is sincerely brilliant.)

This particular example notes how Barkley was only 6’3″, short to play small/power forward in the league even in the mid 80’s when he was a rookie.  Many admonished his play would be subpar when up against “superior” athletes.  The rest is history.

Your intelligence quotient is important to a degree.  Your ability to write and speak effectively is important to a degree.  There are minimum levels of aptitude for explicit tasks associated with a particular work.  Where we fault is in thinking that bigger is always better.  When all we look at are things that are measurable, we are certain to miss the big picture.  The funny thing is that as we work with someone or spend time around people, we rely much more on the intangible measures of their output.  Their effort and attitude in regard to work ultimately shape our perspective of their value.  Yet some organizations are still relying archaically on only measurable factors of a candidate.  

The reason?  Time.  There isn’t time to test drive someone and their work for months for a lot of situations.  So we rely on quantifiable measures and judgement over the course of a few interviews.  We ask silly questions in hopes that the person will let us into their world long enough to see if our perspectives coincide.  This is why HR is so difficult.  People are unpredictable and understanding who they are in a short time frame is quite literally impossible.  Should I ever start a company, our hires will be based on effort and understanding.  You can teach someone the importance of integrating communication to create additional value; you can not teach work ethic.  The people who truly add value are those that exude effort and improvement every day, not necessarily the people who have the most intrinsic talent to start with.  

From Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

November 21, 2008

Tribes Book Review

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 2:23 am

I’m finally finishing up Tribes.  This is actually a pretty sad state of affairs given that this book would take an average reader all of three hours to finish soup to nuts.  Yet most of my time is spent trying to master my life long passion, managerial accounting.

What I can say about this new book is that it’s typical Seth Godin; typically amazing.  Seth’s prose is wonderfully short and full of quick stories that allow you to absorb themes easily.  He really has a knack for it.  I would say this book is lighter than some of his more important conceptual pieces (permission marketing forever altered my path), but because I read him often, his books are now more often reiteration.  For people who do not read him often, this is a great new perspective on what it means to lead.

Tribes is all about leadership.  Leaders are wanted in our society, the last few months have shown us how much we clamor for capable and compelling leaders.  We need them in our lives.  Yet leaders are incredibly rare.  Not everyone can be a leader, despite what we are told.  Some just aren’t interested.  

And that’s OK.  Just because you are a leader in one place doesn’t mean should be everywhere.  Some times you should be a follower.

The idea of a tribe is simply a group of people who have real interest in a subject and the eagerness to build a community/movement/organization around it.  Leaders are merely the ones that take the initiative to harness that collective passion and build something worthwhile.  They exist everywhere.  For every popular leader such as Gates and Clinton there are another hundred great leaders behind causes close to their tribes’ hearts.  So what’s holding you back?  

In short, fear.  Fear is the reason so many would be leaders watch from the sidelines.  Why so many people take no chances at work or in life.  The chance of criticism is a roulette wheel best lain still.  Those who refuse to play will most likely remain unfortunate.  Maybe it’s time you changed that inertia to momentum.  If you are passionate about something, take charge.  Build something.  Leading is not something that people are born with, it’s a manifested ability.  It’s derived from effort and the passion to really change things in some way.    If you are still unsure, take three hours (if that) and read the book.  You can even have my copy.  Just drop me a line.

November 16, 2008

Random Thoughts

Filed under: Book Reviews, Gadgets, Information Supernova, Meeting Marketers — Robert John Ed @ 7:26 pm

Seems like lately a jumble of thoughts is easier to get down in one sitting than individual posts:

1.  Technology is really ramping up and altering the way we do things.  The PE Obama weekly Youtube address is proof positive.  This simply unheard of ten years ago. If this continues, it could set a precedent for how to communicate with the masses.  It takes away the control from big media and empowers the little guy.  Sure, Obama is hardly a little guy, but the point is that anyone can do this.  Anyone can build a series centered around whatever their fancy may be and build an audience for it.  It just takes dedication and talent, of which many people have in spades.

2.  Sticking to the Obama stuff, his campaign was a game changer.  I’m big into sites like Digg and the amount of people advocating donation was really impressive.  His overall numbers were remarkable.  During the midst of the race, I was taken aback by what was happening.  It was obvious that everyone was really adamant about needing a change.  The young vote showed up and rallied.  Now the fundraising is coming under scrutiny for some good reasons. My opinion is that political races should be fueled by the average Joe donating less than $5k.  Litigation will undoubtedly be undertaken to slow fraudulent donations, but I’m much happier seeing a lot of small people give small donations than huge corporations making huge donations.  The influence of any one vote should be limited.

3.  The Twolves are horrible.  Again.  Minneapolis is the new Philadelphia.  Like last year, I’ll be rooting for the Celts and KG.

4.  I’m extremely excited to wrap up the core at Carlson.  Everyone in our class is a bit tired of the grind and it will be great to be in classes where you have some time to reflect on the knowledge being presented.  At the same time, it will be a big change.  We won’t spend nearly as much time with the small group of people that represent our cohorts, so that will be a bummer. I’m going to take a lot of finance in the upcoming 18 months.  From everything I can gather, understanding finance is paramount to marketing at a corporate level, while the other marketing classes often overlap.  So Corporate Financial Decisions, Advanced Corporate Financial Decisions and Financial Statement Analysis here I come.  This means class will be undoubtedly tougher…and more valuable.

5.  The Microfinance Alliance is having a fundraiser throughout the first few weeks of December to raise enough for a small business loan to someone in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  Very excited to start this program and begin building the needed marketing plan around it.  I’ll update this soon.

November 15, 2008

Scientific Reasoning

Filed under: Blog Explanations, Marketing Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 6:40 pm

I started writing this blog some time ago in hopes of codifying some of the tacit knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years.  It’s a pretty basic concept, get down everything you know about a topic and hopefully it helps some people out while making new connections in the community.  It’s worked to an extent, but there are much bigger things to be done.

It has been a short time that this site has been up and running, but I’m already planning a complete rebrand and new organization for the good stuff.  I think that I’ll lay key concepts out in PDF format and post them to another area of the site, they’ll serve as official documentation in a more professional format than daily posts.  The reason this is such a big deal is because someone who comes to the site can’t pour over hundreds of posts (and eventually thousands) in order to find things that help them understand marketing today.  Sure if you read here every day you pick up some things, but the big ideas are still not so easily captured.  I’m going to have to find some way to make them polished, but I’ll figure that out when I get there.  I’ll also be putting more effort into, ahem, marketing it; although I haven’t put a lot of thought to that yet.

Marketing is based on some very concrete ideas, the most important of which is psychology.  There’s a method to the madness that is our lives on a daily basis; understanding it is paramount.  This is why brands hold sentimental value for consumers, why the way you speak with people means something more than the words that are used.  Our psychological profiles dictate everything we interpret.  What and how we interpret information is what impacts us to take action and taking action is what marketers want.  And I can’t emphasize this enough, I’m not just speaking about companies trying to make money.  I’m speaking about everyone with a cause or idea they want to spread.  Getting your friends together for a party is marketing.  Weird huh?

This is a logical segue to another huge underpinning concept, sociology.  I almost went into sociology out of high school.  We had a course in it and it has always been fascinating to me.  The idea that everything we do is affected by our interactions, shaping our perspectives and ideas of the world really hits hard.  Marketers harness sociological concepts every day in what they use to influence the market.  This is the reason that Crocs and other products hit critical mass and seemingly over night they are everywhere.  Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.

Underneath all of it lies philosophy.  I’m not sure that other people agree with me on this one.  I see philosophy as the basic system that society uses to interpret psychology and sociology.  It may not be as easy to correlate to marketing, but I believe it’s there and plays an important role.

Lastly, if those things are the components that make up the engine, then communication is the oil that allows everything to work as a cohesive unit.  Marketers must understand that their primary tool is communication.  It comes in all different forms, but the one thing a great marketer MUST have is the ability to communicate.  That means speaking well to groups, writing compelling prose that reaches audiences, creating visually appealing presentations, advertisements and signage; it’s all relative to breaking through the clutter.  And there is a lot of clutter today.

Marketing is built on scientific reasoning, but it is also an art in practice.  If it were purely mechanical, it would be done by engineers.  It’s not.  It’s done by people who excel at communication and can actively perceive and bring value to the market they’re after.   Simple premise, complex formula.

November 13, 2008

When It Reigns, It Poors: The Economy

Filed under: Marketing Tactics — Robert John Ed @ 4:38 am

There are some extremely big issues at hand today for people all over the world.  We see it in our back yards for once and it’s a little easier to understand.  For me, this is easily the worst state I’ve ever seen our economy and it holds some serious implications.

First off, in terms of marketing, consumption is down for the first time in a LONG time.  When people are consuming less, near everything you can think of is affected.  The first big companies to take hits have been retail stores.  They’ve been down around 10% over the last few months (except Walmart) and it’s an incredibly crucial time for these chains:  Christmas.  What can marketers do?  Well, coupons have taken off in the last few months, which would be expected.  But FSI’s only get you so far.  Under normal circumstances, the holiday season provides retailers with huge amounts of traffic and sales.  This year will be markedly different.  Retailers are quite worried, and should be.  Walmart will continue to do well because Mom simply won’t cancel Christmas; she will cut costs wherever she can though.  So for the rest of the lot that don’t have a brand synonymous with the lowest prices on earth, fighting for the traffic will probably come down to tremendous price slashing on door busters in order to attain corollary sales.  Keep an eye on what retailers do over the next few months.  Earnings projections are down (locally, Best Buy this morning…33%) and how they market will be telling of long term strategy and potentially short term alterations.

The sad part is that this is only the tip of the iceberg.  The ongoing housing crunch that’s leaving many homeless and many more in underwater mortgages is severely devastating on many levels.  Obviously people losing their homes and not being able to build value is painful, but the effects go far beyond.  The ability to attain loans for small business entrepreneurs (BTW these are the people that make America great, they are the ones that build businesses and provide jobs to the masses), potential homeowners, students of all kinds and others is only heightening in difficulty.  Credit is tightening up in loans and credit cards so much that government has had to urge them to remember why they are being given bailouts in the first place.

What else?  Well, there are many things, but the looming potential demise of the automakers is scary.  I mean really scary for all of the US.  GM, Chrysler and Ford are all particularly troubling, but GM has snowballed incredibly down the mountain and will soon be melting in Hell.  Watch for another bailout, it’s coming.  The automakers have been “the backbone” (via PE Obama) of our manufacturing output for a long time, and the job losses and additional effects of any of these companies filing bankruptcy would be the in similitude to a boulder dropping into a pond.  You honestly can’t predict the outcome, so you protect against the impact.

These issues are hardly the end all and be all of where we are.  I happen to read about these things every day, so they seem quite indicative of the state we are in.  Unemployment is at 6.5% due to companies tightening their belts and that number will rise.  It’s sad to know how many people are losing their jobs before the holidays.

The odd thing?  I’m actually very optimistic about the situation.  There are some large changes in store for the States.  We have a new president and a populace filled with hard working great minds.  I work with some of the brightest people in the country every day and I can attest that the next generation of business leaders will not be lacking the necessary hard work, ethics or intelligence to lead America throughout the new age.  Everything is cyclical (see: my favorite book). We will break out of this slump the same way we built ourselves up, by our bootstraps.

November 9, 2008

Class Structuring

Filed under: School — Robert John Ed @ 11:08 pm

Big midterm tomorrow, but even bigger is that Friday we have to register for new classes in the Spring.  This has been very difficult for me.  The classes offered are diverse and all hold some value.  What’s more, I really enjoy education, so I want to take a huge alottment of courses.  I’m used to learning on my own via books and the web, so the chance to learn from world class profs is all the more valuable.

The problem is that it’s near impossible to know at this point what’s going to be most valuable for you in the real world.  I’m a marketing dork and want to take everything on the docket for it, it’s just my natural inclination to eagerly take those classes because it’s more fun for me.  Whatever happens, I have a feeling I’m going to have a pretty enjoyable career simply based on the fact that I like learning and talking about this stuff.  Yet, I could end up in a number of different industries where the particular knowledge base needed to excel differs greatly.  So if I ended up at a med device company, the class structure I should be signing up for now is completely altered from that of a CPG.  It’s rough.  I like to plan out things well in advance but in this instance it’s simply not feasible.

The other issue is that just because I like marketing doesn’t mean it’s what I should be learning right now.  I got some good advice in an information session with a CPG company the other day to really focus in on finance, because any product/brand management position for a major company is going to have A LOT of numbers.  Now this particular person struck me as quite pragmatic and intelligent, so I’m going to take his advice.  That means some marketing courses are coming off the books, because I was already maxed out in terms of credits.  Anyway this whole thing hasn’t changed much in the next semester, but I have a feeling that I’ll probably end up taking at least three more financial decisions courses and probably financial statement analysis (which is actually accounting).

Here’s a breakdown for next semester (with hopes that I get into all the classes and the Brand Enterprise, more on that particular club to come):

Market Research 6051
Brand Management 6082
Corporate Financial Decisions 6241
Business Ethics 6315
Info Decision Sciences 6050
Brand Enterprise

November 3, 2008

For Those Who Don’t Know

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Random — Robert John Ed @ 1:50 pm

If you read this in Facebook, it’s actually an import from my real blog on Redmarketer.  I import it into Facebook because a lot of people wouldn’t read it otherwise.  The only problem is that I don’t necessarily want to bog down the ‘Book with a ton of posts, so if you want to stop seeing these things highlight a subject line in the news feed from me and click “Less About Robert,” hopefully that will stop the incessant posts.

For those of you who read this and want to get down with more marketing related skulduggery, try following me on twitter.  Twitter is similar to Facebook’s “What are you doing right now line” but it’s always on.  It’s meant to have people message their goings on every day.  Twitter is really very valuable on a number of levels; the longer I use it, the more valuable it seems.

What’s more, there are a TON of great bloggers and specialists out there that you can learn from.  I am but a prototype, a pithy drop in the ocean of knowledge that is teh interwebbery.  Get focused, get smart, get dorky.  IT’s on (sic).

November 2, 2008

New Music Detail

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 9:10 pm

I love Cheapo.  Their website could use some work, though.  It’s a fantastic place to look for and find music on the cheap (although often not as cheap as Amazon, but it offers a quicker fix).  A lot of people think I’m crazy for still buying music at all.  But it’s an addiction and something there is that loves a properly formatted, artist rendered piece of music.  Getting things off the net just doesn’t do it for me, the artwork and experience of picking up new stuff is almost always better.

A quick perusal of what I’ve been listening to over the last few months:

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists:  The Tyranny of Distance

Bayside:  Shudder

Of Montreal:  Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?

Jenny Lewis:  Acid Tongue

Weezer:  Pinkerton

Bright Eyes:  Cassadaga

Death Cab For Cutie:  Narrow Stairs

Sea Wolf:  Leaves In The River

Amy Winehouse:  Back To Black

The Eels:  Beautiful Freak

Smashing Pumpkins:  Adore

All of these have proven good listening, enjoy.

Create a free website or blog at