January 31, 2009

The Difficulties

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 5:42 pm

At any point in your life, you are going to face significant adversity. It’s apparent that the way you face those challenges is far more important than the challenges themselves. The economy is bad. Finding jobs is hard. My sister and her husband are laid off. My uncle was recently laid off along with half the work force at my father’s place of employment in a small town. Here’s a quick list of companies that have laid people off:

Caterpillar, Target, Best Buy, 3M, Microsoft, Ecolab, Starbucks, Phizer/Wyeth, Disney, Sprint Nextel, General Motors, Texas Instruments, Home Depot and IBM. That’s not anywhere near a complete list of bigger corporations slashing jobs. These companies cut big numbers, but that’s only the start. Small businesses are cutting jobs too! People forget this. The unemployment rate is climbing and our President is doing his best to turn it around (btw the bonuses that Wall Street handed themselves are deplorable, people are starving and paying what little they have in taxes to cover this kind of thing–how can these people sleep at night?)

The difficulties are there. They always are. But having a negative outlook and woe is me attitude about it isn’t going to do a damn thing. I’m impressed with my class and how they’ve addressed the adversity. Sure, we’re all a bit more stressed, but overall people are resolute. You should be too. Every generation goes through ups and downs. This is only one of many tests we’ll face as a nation over the next era. This only means you have to be that much better, that much more focused on being better than the competition and building real value for the stakeholders of your organization. Sometimes that’s your stockholders, sometimes that’s your kids. My family hasn’t complained despite being hit hard by this market crisis. No one is going to come along and give you a hand out; complaining is little more than a waste of breath. The hard work of American families will overcome this with persistence; I’m sure of it. I have the luxury of being in school during this, but I’m taking it as a challenge to work as hard as my family and be ready to lend a hand wherever I can otherwise.

Good luck to everyone who has lost a job out there. We point out 75,000 layoffs in one day. The human brain isn’t geared to understand that type of number in terms of each one being a person with hopes, fears, dreams and potentially a family that depends on their income. My heart goes out to you.


January 29, 2009

I Love This Stuff

Filed under: Marketing Tactics — Robert John Ed @ 9:23 pm

This is why I love marketing.  Did you hear about Starbuck’s not brewing decaf coffee after noon?  Silly, as most consumers are MORE likely to drink it later in the day.

Well check out Caribou and their response.  Well played, in my opinion.  This is why marketing is so fun to me.  It really is a fast paced chess game with opponents of all kinds.  Some bigger, some smaller.  Some with a great deal of assets and some without.  Some fast moving some slow.  Yet it’s all a chess game and it’s easy to lose the game when focusing on defense.

I should also take this moment to point out that the St. Paul/Minneapolis Business Journal is quickly becoming my publication of choice, right up there with the NY Times.  It’s a must read for any business person in the area.

Immortal Game:


Fast Month = Slow Month

Filed under: Blog Explanations — Robert John Ed @ 2:09 pm

Being back in school with a part time job and preparing for a few interviews has really taken a lot of time.  Frankly, I’m exhausted this morning but wanted to get something down.  Yesterday was one of those days with a morning meeting, homework, class, info session over the lunch hour, class, class and another event that night.  These are trying times.

So that’s the reason for the lack of posts.  It bums me out because a more thorough examination of this time of life would be beneficial for a few reasons later, but it’s pretty low on the priority list.  It should get better in a few weeks.

January 25, 2009

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Parity (& The Hornets)

Filed under: Event MKTG, Meeting Marketers — Robert John Ed @ 6:02 pm

An opportunity arose through school to see the Minnesota Timberwolves play the Hornets came up this last Friday.  It was a great game and we won, which is hardly a foregone conclusion.  The Timberwolves are my all time favorite sports team (I’m a big basketball fan and a huge homer) so it was great to get out to the game.

More interesting though, was the President of  the business, Chris Wright (scroll down the page) and a small speech he gave before the game.  His main articulation was around the economy and the effect it has on the business.  In entertainment focused businesses (movies, television, music, events of all kinds) we often get caught up in the product and forget to think of the business behind it; well, I certainly do.  Who wants to think about lowering cost of goods sold/services rendered when Randy Foye is going off for 24 and 9?  But Mr. Wright really brought the levity of the situation into perspective.  The Wolves will not be profitable this year and the potential for next year is weighing heavily on their organization.  He spoke about the marketing mix and offering that they needed to find in order to motivate consumers.  He believes that there is an offering that will get people out to games, citing corporate cut backs (e.g. they stay in the city instead of retreats) and high traffic for movie theaters as representation of consumer interest.  Frankly, I think he’s right, there is a lot of opportunity for the Wolves to sell tickets.  

The business was broken down into two buckets, if I remember correctly, ticket sales and league revenues.  It seems to me that their organization is primarily focused on improving ticket sales.  Strategically speaking, I’d like to see what the Wolves do to build a fan base early and often.  Minnesota is not a basketball city.  As noted, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles regularly sell out there games.  Minneapolis could be that kind of city, with the right type of marketing and dedication.

I differed with Chris when he spoke about the product.  Paraphrasing, he said that being in this business was similar to trying to sell a car that won’t start 60 times out of 100.  How do you sell that?  Good question.  It’s true that management has little to no real say in how the team actually plays, which is a tremendous part of the product.  But as a marketer for this business, you aren’t speaking about just wins and losses.  You are a purveyor of an entertainment destination and inclusion group.  I love the Wolves and have since I was a kid, yet I’ve never reached out to the organization and they haven’t done likewise.  It would be interesting to see the types of programs they offer in order to build fan base and if they have metrics in place for LVC or how good of a handle they have on customer retention beyond season tickets.  That’s easy.  Tell me how many times the average single white female attends a game in a season and if she buys face value or only purchases at discount, as well as the volume of those kinds of segments and specific marketing behind it.  Now we’re building something.  The Timberwolves should (and probably do) focus on kids and building life time fans of the team.  I’m a life time fan.  How many games have I been to?  Not enough.

 So the easy way out for management is to blame the play of the team.  Parity is a given in any professional sport.  And you are absolutely correct, MPLS is not New York.  From a marketing perspective, you have to view your product as a constant.  Some times you’ll win 50 games, sometimes you’ll win 30 (and unfortunately for the Wolves, occasionally less) but the product is essentially the same.  It’s entertainment.  What’s great for the business is that it’s not a one shot wonder, a individual performance to be judged on its own merit (like a movie).  It’s a tribe of devoted and caring fans that grew up with and love basketball.  Market that, not W’s and L’s.  




January 21, 2009

Social Media Pundits

Filed under: Information Supernova, Media Origination — Robert John Ed @ 2:36 pm

The problem with being a social media expert or whatever you want to call it, is that there really isn’t much of substance there.  Most people that will tell you they are specialist have no real clue how to apply there so called influence to an external business. Chances are they don’t know how to monetize it for themselves.  And don’t give me that BS about building brand equity through new media.  I’m old school.  Or new school.   Well, maybe I’m new school to the oldschoolers and old school to the new schoolers.  Less posters, more rulers.

If you can’t put a number on your services, I can’t put any numbers behind you.

I was meandering through this post that Hugh linked to and saw a good comment from Collin Douma, whom I’d previously never heard of:

“There is only one measure of a social media expert; results. It doesn’t matter how many people follow them, or how well their blog ranks. What matters are the results they have provided for their clients. Look for ones that ask as many questions about your business as you do about theirs. Look for ones that have real experience in actual SM programs, and not simply a book or blog about it.  Finally, look for ones that talk about goals, and calibrate how you will measure a win.”

Anyone with genuine knowledge and a pragmatic countenance in this day and age is worth lending an ear, if only a short time.  The wisdom of crowds is cool, but there is also a definitive push of the mob towards the edge of a cliff.  No one can see it until they fall off.  The fervor behind new technology is a good thing in most instances, but business people simply must be ROI/EVA focused.  I find that the vast majority of social media pundits are a lot of talk.  And although I value their opinions, until results enter the spectrum, it’s just opinion.

The sheer volume of output for some of these experts boggles my mind.  Making time to write every day is difficult for me (granted I’m a full time student with a part time job), yet some people are wired all day and near constantly on Twitter, Facebook, Techmeme, Digg or whatnot.  I’m left wondering at what point all these pointers and posts are just pontification.

Finally, I’m taking an actual structured course on this kind of technology at the U.  Weird huh?  Anyway I’m very excited about it and hoping to get some concrete takeaways and ideas for applying new technologies to existing business models.  The course is called Information and Decision Sciences 6050.  It focuses on understanding basic and advanced technology and it’s application in practice and potentially in the future.  I’ll post on it more as the semester progresses.  Stay up.

January 20, 2009

Welcoming Barack Obama With Open Arms

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 4:41 am

It has been some time since our country has been in such dire straights.  High unemployment rates, two wars, an economy in very poor health and maybe most importantly a low opinion of the US internationally.  Our country is supposed to be a leader and stand for everything right about the world and the human race, and the last two terms of presidency have been very disheartening for me.  I did not see leadership and the kind of political stances that I’d read about as a child.  I saw deliberate misinterpretation and manipulation, a society conflicted and purposefully polarized and eventually a declining morale and trust in the government.  All of this surmounting with the aforementioned issues of today.

It is very seldom that I’m moved by a political candidate.  I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited or hopeful about America and its future than I have been since Barack Hussein Obama won the 2008 United States Presidential Election.  Even more, I’m proud that we made what was in my mind a difficult but necessary choice.  As a nation state, it is up to us to change for the better and McCain, although a good candidate, was hardly the change necessary to turn things around (and don’t get me started on Sarah Palin, eep.)  This time feels different.  And although I’m not fool enough to count chicks before they’ve hatched, I truly believe that this choice has the potential to direct our nation to a new era of prosperity and leadership of the free world.  I am not awarding Obama anything he has not earned as of yet, but I believe he truly understands the levity and difficulty of the situation presented before him.  His ability to unite others and deference toward hiring past opponents is a triumph in looking past politics and into the real needs of our country.  His obvious love of research and the written word can only serve to aid him and express the ideas that need clarification.  The past president was no Emerson and I it only further exposed his lack of overall leadership.  Obama has already proven a person who is willing to listen to all sides before making a decision, we can only hope that this can somehow combat the partisan practices of the past.

The fact that he is a man of color is only icing on the cake.  That our nation has finally broken through the intellectual barrier of the last eight years is far more important.  Yet something can be said for our populace accepting and promoting diversity in our most important position; in everyone’s most important position.  This coming from a caucasian male.  Despite only one man having one position, it shows a progression that may not have been possible some years ago.  It would be wrong for this man to be anointed as a great leader today, but regardless of the outcome, I’m hopeful for that very thing.

Tomorrow is a very big day for all of us.  The history books were wrote with historical greatness.  I never understood where that greatness went.  Granted there were capable leaders in the past, but none of them with the stature and mythical adulation taught to us.  I don’t ask for that now, I merely ask for intelligence, due prudence and a genuine concern for the commonwealth.  This time around, we may just get it.  

Thank you America.


January 19, 2009

Brain Lock

Filed under: Emo (EQ), Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 2:10 am

The last few days of break have seen me trying to prepare for interviews and basically chilling out.  During that time, I’d assume my mind would be running amuck with thoughts on all kinds of topics, but not much has really been coming.  Which is incredibly odd given that while I’m working, there is a ridiculous amount of things running through my mind that warrant some attention.  Yet during the small hiatus from any real responsibility the well has somewhat run dry.  It makes me think that the real good ideas come while your mind is busy working on something, nay, anything else.  Sometimes ideas will come while working on a specific subject, but just last week I was working on a new logo design and it was like pulling teeth because it was the only thing to do.  Yet when I’m busy on other things, my mind has time to breathe and take other things into consideration.

This gets back to the idea of fresh eyes.  Fresh eyes are really important for businesses and ideas of all sorts.  It’s too easy to get caught up in the weeds while you are on one particular piece of a business or project.  Just today I met with my former boss and CEO of the first company I worked for.  He has a really amazing idea that we talked a lot about before I left and it truly has the potential to revolutionize his business.  I’d go so far as to say it could potentially disrupt the industry.  I have a fresh set of eyes for it and still really think it has legs; to me that’s very important.

A few friends of mine were talking a few nights ago about how when you work for a company you drink the Kool Aid and do things that you normally might not subscribe to or agree with ideas you normally might not.   It’s not as if you are being submissive to the powers that be, more that you are part of the organization and are subject to losing a truthful perspective.  Your perspective becomes skewed; there may not be a lot you can do about it, but you can be cognizant of it.

The idea of biases really intrigues me.  Go down that list and “Corporate Bias” (no real definition behind it though) is listed as bias toward a corporation.  This list of cognitive biases may be the most important decision making tool anyone could ever have.  We make so many decisions involving some sort of bias.  I think I should catalog all of them, maybe I’ll do that some time in the future.


January 17, 2009

Marketers On and Or Around The Interwebbery

Lately the idea of building an audience has been on my mind a lot.  Many people write on the internet with the sole intent to build a decent size audience (20-300k per month) and then start advertising on their site in order to do it for a living.  Other people merely want to be known as an influencer in the industry they work in.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these objectives either, but they aren’t mine.  Building an audience should be an aftereffect of good writing.  And good writing is meant to serve a purpose.

The internet is already in the fourth or fifth stage of sorting through spammers.  I tend to associate with marketers, so I know see a lot of their actions.  It seems as though many of them take the self publishing ability and push it in order to get attention.  This will be drown out in all cases where the published material is of little value to the readers.  So the first reader you have to worry about is you.  Write about things that you care about and make sense.  Then take those things and add on aspects that other people can potentially use.  It sounds pretty basic, but you’d be surprised by the amount of link posts, pet posts and personal information posts out there.  We’re all guilty to an extent, I suppose.

Even some of my absolute favorite bloggers out there have a pretty obvious agenda.  They are pushing something that they’ve endorsed, one way or another.  Yawn.  Only problem is that they’re good enough that value still pervades.

So what is this for?  I always think about it and it’s constantly shifting.  But when I think about audiences, I think that I’d love to have 100 marketers (or friends) that read this and provide feedback here or on their own blogs.  The thoughts aren’t for sale, so big numbers are pretty irrelevant.  This site needs to do a better job of addressing marketing, I know.  It’s mostly a time thing, but that will change at some point.  Thanks for reading and feel free to drop me a line or tell me about what you write sometime, I’d really like to see it.

January 13, 2009

Some Things to Chew On

Filed under: Information Supernova, Projects, Random — Robert John Ed @ 11:14 pm

Here is a bevy of topics happening.  It’s late, so bare with me.

There are a ton of bloggers I read but can’ t fully appreciate.  Reason being that they don’t write about an issue or idea in a way that gets me wanting to write about it too.  If something is well written, it usually inspires you to write too.  Doing this consistently really separates the good and great.  The problem is that bloggers (and I’m speaking toward a lot of the popular people) are just kind of going through the motions, but who am I to complain?  The unsubscribe button is right there.  I don’t expect consistent mind blowing stuff, just ideas that are addressed to specific subject matter, events or thoughts.  Believe me I’m aware the irony regarding this specific post, but I’m allowed a stream of consciousness/variant posts once a month or so.  The reason I bring this up is that after subscribing to a new feed, I’ll go through their newer stuff and find a ton of links, citation of another service or “me too” posts.  Um, hey we all know how to use the internet here, I’m interested in your thoughts on the world, your vocation or something that is worth writing about…please.  Stop with the ambiguous analogy toward overarching concepts.  Get down to specifics if at all possible.  I love that material.

Joining the ranks of a few friends and running a half marathon come May.  I’ve started running on the free tread mill garnered over the break.  It feels so good to work the ab muscles again (running does his extremely well) as well as the whole body.  Running about two miles in about twenty minutes now, hope to up that and run six miles consistently by spring.  Hopefully that will prepare me for the half marathon.

Just starting to get into a groove at the BCED for my new job.  My first major responsibility is to design there flagship brochure/informational vehicle.  If you take a look at that site and their other materials, it becomes clear they need a cohesive logo; the current materials are a bit scattered (although they are a great tone and feel for the organization).  Things have changed a lot in the last three years.  The reason I say so is that designing and picking a logo is something that is very distressing to me.  Earlier in my career (if you can even call it that out of school) I would have fallen in lust with an idea, taken it home finalized plans for marriage and detested it’s very existence within weeks of the hitch date.  Today, the levity of this decision weighs heavily and attempting to rationalize a logo worthy of an organization with such altruistic and worthy purposes is difficult.  In short, it’s too important to mess up.  I’ll build this for the office today, be gone in a couple years.  They have to live with and use this imagery for years.  I’m going to make absolutely sure we get it right the first time.

On that note, it never really ceases to amaze me how often what little Photoshop skills I have come in handy.  Sketching something on a post it note just doesn’t work the way you need for a logo or other kind of marketing piece.

The Sounds album I purchased last week is actually very good, street mod rock with a great female vocalist (I love females, especially vocalists).  Mates of State EP is really good too, very indie pop.

Running out of time, it’s late.  I’m heading up to Lutsen with my classmates for the next three days, then starting the next semester.  Interviews with a few companies right away, as well as a lot of classes and projects to get back into.  Enjoy the time.

January 11, 2009

A Random Walk Down Wall Street

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 5:25 am

After asking my brilliant finance prof where an imbecile should go to learn about personal finance and strategy, he gave me five words:  Random Walk Down Wall Street.  Although I’ve read extremely small amount on finance and investment, this book covered such a huge amount of ground in such a logical way, I feel as though investing is actually very simple now.  That’s saying a lot.

Written by Burton Malkiel, the thesis of the book is essentially that the market is incredibly efficient.   So efficient, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to consistently beat the market by attempting to hold a portfolio that out performs.  Why is it so difficult?  What about all those professionals that DO outperform the market?  The first question can be answered simply by the fact that stock prices (or any medium of investment) are effected by a series of random events that can’t be predicted by anyone.  Since the market is so incredibly efficient as mentioned, the ability to be ahead of the markets is very hard.  The reason that portfolio managers do beat the market averages is also pretty simple.  They beat the market in the short term, not the long term.  The rub, of course, is that no one consistently beats the market in the short term.  There are winners and losers every quarter, but most of the guys who get the big paychecks don’t out perform the market over a series of years.  In fact, a great many actually do far worse.  What does all this mean?  You can’t beat the market.  By all means you can’t consistently do it.  You can try, it’s fun, but it is a gamble no matter who you are.  Like all gambling, it’s very easy to get caught up in a gambler’s fallacy and over play your hand.

Now that we’ve seen that you can’t win (btw this is statistically backed up in the book, my word for it is hardly enough verification) we have to examine the extraneous pressures caused by attempting to beat the market.  Trading costs money.  So do all of the agents you employ to help you trade.  Brokerage fees cost an investor a great deal and the humorous aspect is that (as noted) the professionals are no more likely to succeed in out performing the market than your average joe.  So why exactly do these professional analysts get paid so much?  Why do people line up for those services?  There is no rule or law that states that efficient market theory is true.  It’s just statistically relevant and proven over the time periods where stocks have been employed.  So people assume that these professionals know what they’re doing, they assume that a suit and tie will get them a good return.  They don’t think about the fact that excess trades and fees are decimating their returns.

The book has a very simple strategy.  It’s so simple that it’s boring.  Buy and hold.  Buy a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and real estate while reinvesting the dividends into the portfolio.  Hold it and reap long term rewards.  Diversification is a large aspect of the investment as it dilutes the potential for large holdings of a few stocks to swing the value of your investment one way or the other.  Diversify internationally with variances in types of investment, risk of investment and maturity of investment.  All while considering the age and needs of the portfolio manager (you.)

There were so many great things in this book to learn.  It is a long read, although it’s written in a way that is often interesting despite the rather dry material.  The introductory chapters that delineate why bubbles begin and burst is especially interesting.  The tulip crash of 1637 really points out the problem of groupthink and why it’s bound to happen again…and did with the internet bubble. 

Bottom line:  this is THE book to read on personal finance.  It is completely worth while, despite the amount of time it will probably take.  At 400+ pages, it wasn’t the easiest title in my library, but it may well prove to be the most valuable.


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