Friday, July 17, 2009

Promotional Opportunism

Chance favors the prepared mind,” was how Louis Pasteur saw his abilities to invent and innovate. Dr. Richard Hamming, a scientist at Bell Labs told his colleagues, “The prepared mind sooner or later finds something to do and does it.”

How many times have you seen or heard you something that was right before your eyes but you never previously noticed until someone opportunistically embraced and exploited it?

Similarly, some of the best promotions are born of opportunistic circumstances. Just in time for today’s economic realities and courtesy of Trend Central are three ideas for fun-on-the-cheap - one from a corporation, one from a group of friends and one from an individual.

• Dumpster Diving. This has taken on a new meaning in Brooklyn, NY as Macro Sea has converted old dumpsters into urban swimming pools – complete with decks – and set them up in empty lots and backyards for no charge fun. The dumpsters have been cleaned and lined to keep their past history from seeping into the present.

• DIY Art Show. Some Brooklyn-based artists set up a display of their sculptures on a rooftop where their friends could make like the upper crust at an art show only without the expensive formal wear and toasts with 40s instead of Champaign.

• Make your own home Tiki bar. Or maybe ‘tacky’ bar would be more like it. One man’s night out at the bar is another’s stay-at-home good time. His basement bar was constructed from used/discarded wood and bar stools, Christmas lights, an old TV that plays an amateur loop of fish swimming, and various thrift store decorations.

Observation, timing, the ability to shelve existing plans, and recognizing that "random forces often conspire to make things ridiculously easy just as often as they conspire to create hurricanes and earthquakes…” are traits of an opportunist.

What do you see around you that could be the spring board for a talk-generating, opportunistic promotion?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rules of the Road

I’ve owned a few Chryslers and Dodges in my time so the slideshow “Chrysler: What It Was, What It Is, and What It Could Have Been” caught my eye.

The slides feature Chryslers new and old, and the accompanying text recounts some company highs and lows.

Scrolling through, several recurring themes jumped out at me.

• Rushing things to market by cutting corners usually results in failure.

• Maintaining the status quo not only forfeits a chance at leadership but
allows competitors to leave you behind.

• Getting things “half right” doesn’t make you “half successful.”

• Create what people want to buy. Developing high-demand products for previously un- or under-served segments of the marketplace pays big dividends. Of course this requires intimacy with the market.

• While “new for the sake of being new” may satisfy some internal company goal, it’s “timely innovation” (the right idea at the right time for a receptive consumer) that brings flush times.

• There’s a success/failure cycle: innovate, maintain the status quo, be outmoded (repeat cycle).

• Innovation is frequently rooted in simplicity.

I’m especially excited about the last bullet.

Are you, like me, encouraged to review all aspects of your product looking for simple innovations?

Where will you start?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Faces of the Fourth

We were first attracted to Milltown, NJ as much by what wasn’t here as what was. And what’s still missing remains one of the appeals.

There wasn’t/isn’t much crime or chains or traffic or industry or high-rises. To date our borough of about 7000 still doesn’t have a Wal-Mart, a movie theater, a McDonald's, or a high school. You can find all these within a few miles of course, but they're not here in Milltown.

What we do have is a barber shop, a hardware store, a taxidermist, and a place to buy an ice cream cone on a summer night. There are streets with sidewalks, several good sized parks and paved path which winds along the lake/river that cuts through the middle of town.

But Milltown is at its Norman Rockwell best on the 4th of July. There’s a fishing derby, a fun run, and a parade featuring Veterans’ groups from Milltown and neighboring towns, local boy and girl scouts troops, antique cars, and what must be every fire truck and emergency vehicle within a 20 mile radius that has a working siren.

Post-parade, the colors are presented at Borough Park and an afternoon of entertainment, kids’ rides and free hot dogs and birch beer continues until the fireworks start at 9:30.

This year, I captured a lot of the day in pictures. Not surprisingly, the most interesting photos were of people.

I took one shot of what might have been a middle-aged woman and her 20-something daughter, laughing hysterically while riding on a spinning carnival ride clearly intended for kids. I imagined one dared the other with some back and forth dialogue like, “Remember how much fun this was when we were kids?" and "I don’t care if someone laughs, they won’t be laughing harder than you and me!”

There’s one of a guy juggling while riding a five foot unicycle and trading barbs with onlookers. What possessed him to want to do this? How do you practice to be good at this? His legs must be tired; there are hills on the parade route! And he’s cracking jokes, too!

I took some shots of the Mummers that marched, wondering how much their elaborate costumes must weigh (and cost) and how hard they must be to care for.

And then there are my two favorite pictures – one of a pair of long-retied firemen, in full dress uniform, sitting in the shade outside the Main Street Firehouse, talking quietly amidst the activities swirling around them. Perhaps they were recalling past moments of bravery or fellow firefighters now long gone.

But my favorite picture was of a Milltown Vet/Legionnaire, returned from marching at the head of the parade, now sitting and taking in the rest of the procession with his kids and what I assume were his grandkids that was my favorite. There was enough in his face and eyes to fill a book – or a several incredible breaks on a show the Monday after the 4th.

I tried to be extra observant yesterday because knew I wanted to blog today about my 4th of July (that's also what I would have done if I was going to be on the air tomorrow). I wanted to have some interesting stories to tell when people ask, as they will, “How was your 4th?”

I wanted to be ready to participate in what is going to be the number one talk about for many. I wanted to be prepared to share some stories to share about my town, its people, and the way we celebrate Independence Day. I wanted to think about how to frame them so that you'll readily recognize YOUR town and YOUR experiences in my stories - you versions of memorable people and their stories because I'm certain that there are a lot of interesting citizens and stories in your town that I too would find interesting and relatable.

Reports are about facts; stories are about feelings. What interesting stories will you have prepared to share with your friends and listeners about your 4th?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Book Packagers. Who Knew?

I’d never heard of a ‘book packager’ until I read Seth Godin’s blog Monday.

What struck me about the packager’s job description and skill requirements was how applicable many are to being a great air talent.

“…find isolated assets and connect them in a way that creates value, at the same time…put in the effort to actually ship the product out of the door.”

“The skills you bring to the table are vision, taste and a knack for seeing what's missing. You also have to be a project manager, a salesperson and the voice of reason, the person who brings the entire thing together and to market without it falling apart.”

If you have an air staff that has or will embrace these skills, I’m thinking you have or have the makings of a strong group of talent.

If you’re intrigued, read the whole blog especially numbers 3, 5 and 8 of Seth’s 9 rules of thumb.