Saturday, December 30, 2006

Time to Move Past Polystyrene and on to Alternative Packaging Products

The 2006 holiday season has come and gone, along with heaps and heaps of packaging and gift wrap that kept gifts in pristine form. Ultimately, 98% of all of this gift wrap and packaging will wind up in already-overloaded landfills across the world and sit and decompose for the next few years or the next few millenia. (I'd say that 100% of it will be thrown out, but everybody has a grandmom who saves the gift wrap for wrapping a gift next year, or perhaps there's a craftsman in the family who can build a sculpture out of some of the packaging or something otherwise creative. Kudos to those resourceful people for reusing and recycling what would otherwise be trash.)

While I'm going to stay away from being labelled the Grinch or Scrooge for being "anti-gift-giving," I feel the need to come out and say that we as a civilization need to be responsible for our dwindling resources. In other words, let's ditch the polystyrene packaging, foam peanuts (the old-school, non biodegradable kind), the hard plastic wraps, and all the other nonsense that keeps these gifts all warm and cozy for a little while, and then are casually tossed out in the trash. We do indeed have alternatives to these mischievous forms of packaging, such as shredded paper, cardboard, bioplastics (great article by the way), and more. And with the rising costs of petroleum, as mentioned in the bioplastics article, there is now more reason than ever for companies and governments to fund research in better biodegradable material for packaging.

By converting from non-biodegradable packaging products to biodegradable and/or recyclable products, companies also have a lot to gain from a marketing standpoint. For example:
  • Consider how popular it is for car dealers to announce how fuel-efficient their new lines of cars are (even though many cars still are gas guzzlers). I believe a company in certain industries could make its mark by using a new form of packaging that is better for the environment. Televisions, for example, come in huge boxes packed with polystyrene. They could easily make it known that they have undertaken a new way to get products into consumers' hands without resorting to short-sighted packaging usage.
  • Perhaps a market would open up for the disposing and reusing of certain materials. Right now, most packaging is hauled off to landfills, as mentioned, but maybe there would be a way to collect used packaging from industrial sites or households and either resell it or reuse it. Perhaps companies like this even exist as we speak. But nobody that I know of is marketing this niche service area.
  • By not using plastic-based products, companies would also be able to mention that they are helping control the price of gas and oil imports, since petroleum usage in packaging certainly affects the supply and demand of this disappearing resource.
  • Lastly, think about how much of a mess a lot of these packaging products make in people's houses or businesses. Just today I had to move my couch away from a wall and I happened to find dozens of little pieces of polystyrene packaging that escaped when trying to clean up from opening boxes. Who needs that mess? If there's a way to cut down on this mess, I wouldn't mind companies bragging about it. But maybe that's just me.
Okay, that's my diatribe for the day. Hopefully this counts as "thinking outside the box". Or maybe it actually is "thinking inside the box". Whatever. I'll stop recycling jokes now. Thanks for your time!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Stand Out from the Crowd: A Marketing Lesson from Zorro

In my other (new and equally remarkable!) blog, Philly Sports Quest, I referenced a story about a Phillies game I went to about 10 years ago at the late, great Veterans Stadium. To summarize, the gist of the story pertained to a rather unusual guy who dressed in an outfit that looked like Zorro and walked by himself around the circular walkway the entire game. I, along with many others, was thoroughly impressed by the fact that he would have the idea and the wherewithall to pull off this mini-stunt, so my friends and I and other fans around us cheered for him every time he walked by.

Well, in my humble opinion, having worked in marketing for a couple of years, I must say that that's some excellent marketing right there.

Generally the way marketing works is a person/company/organization tries to find a way to interrupt a person's day with a brief message about said person/company/organization in order to encourage you to do business with same person/company/organization. You, as an innocent bystander (aka- target audience), didn't necessarily ask for that message to be brought into your life, but for a brief moment... there it is. You can choose to either tune it out or act upon it in some way. And so marketing is measured in how many people act upon your message. But I digress.

Getting back to Zorro... this guy interrupted the game I was watching by walking in front of me and catching my attention, multiple times during the game. Thousands of other people undoubtedly walked in front of me that game, but I have no recollection of any of them. Only Zorro. And that was roughly 10 years ago. He found a way to stand out from the "clutter" of other "interruptions", and leave an indellible mark in my memory. He even found a way to grow his own fan base-- the ultimate mark of a successful brand. And he did all this without a massive budget, or even having to say a word, or brandish a word or logo on his body.

That's how you market right there.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities: Bogota and Philadelphia

I recently heard about a man named Antanas Mockus-- his name sounds like a Roman emperor, but not quite. I was flipping through radio stations while on my way to work a couple weeks ago, and caught a piece of the Michael Smerconish show on 1210. He usually brings some interesting topics to the table and indeed he did this time.

Anyway, he was interviewing a professor and they talked about ways of improving the city of Philadelphia, particularly the tragically high murder rate (as of today, there have been 400 murders, the highest rate since 1997). The professor talked about Mr. Mockus and intrigued me right away. He told the story of how he became mayor in 1993 and turned the city from a cesspool of chaos into a "6.5 million person classroom" experiment that showed a city could indeed be turned around. The most interesting facet of his story is that he didn't use brute force, or use excessive spending, or other traditional tactics to turn his city around. Instead, he used creativity, ingenuity, and even laughter to turn the tides.

Rather than elaborating on what he did to improve the city, I refer you to an intriguing article about Mockus. Though a bit lengthy, I think you'll find it's an amazing story and a great template for how things can indeed be changed for the better when using a new perspective. It just proves how (pardon me for using this terrible cliche) "thinking outside the box" can go a long way in improving anything, from a community, to a company to a city, to perhaps even a whole country.

Time for Philly to start "thinking outside the box"...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rocky Balboa: The Movie Premiere in Philadelphia

This past week I had the opportunity to help with the video production for the movie premiere of "Rocky Balboa" in Philadelphia. I was on hand to help out the company that was shooting the "house video" of fan interviews, scenery shots, and an interview with Sly Stallone himself. This was my first opportunity to be a part of such a project.

Here's my round-by-round recap for this event:
  • Stallone doesn't look too bad up close, considering he's 60. Pancaked makeup does help quite a bit, however. Winner: Makeup over Stallone.
  • For people involved in the setup of the event or the press, the night involved a lot of hustle and bustle followed by long down periods in a continuous cycle. For example, before Sly's arrival, we met with the camera crews and hustled around to plan the shots that were needed. And then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then the crowd started filing in and the camera crew hustled to interview them. Then it got close to Sly's arrival, so we waited for that. And then he and the other celebs arrived and it was pandemonium. And so on and so forth. Winner: "Up and down" over "slow and steady".
  • It never ceases to amaze me how crazy people get just to see a celeb. Ok, so the actor/actress steps into your living room via a movie, performs his/her role, and then people go nuts when they actually see him/her in person. It's not as though these actors/actresses saved the planet. In fact people who are out there actually saving the planet don't get as much recognition as movie stars. I bet if Al Gore were to walk down a busy street, 75% of the people wouldn't notice, 10% wouldn't care, 10% would respectfully acknowledge his presence, and 5% would maybe go nuts. If Brad Pitt walks down the same street, he would probably need a police escort or a really good mask to make it through the crowd. Bizarre world we live in. Winner: Pretty boy over politician.
  • From a marketing perspective, things were done pretty nicely. Mini-movie posters were handed out to some or maybe all fans. There was a ton of signage outside the theater. Footage of interviews were taken with certain media angels in mind. The road was blocked off, spotlights were blaring and music from the movie was pumped in, creating some extra sizzle around the city. And all the local news stations were set to cover the night's activities, creating a big PR buzz in Philly. Not bad for a Monday night. Winner: Sizzle over fizzle. (Fo shizzle.)
So there you have it. A night on (well, around) the red carpet. Now we'll see who wins at the box office...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Athletes Not Immune to Airline Accidents

Check out this list of athletes' deaths by airplane. I find this list to be quite amazing because we (the general public) tend to elevate athletes and coaches to practically immortal status and consider them as invincible. But accidental death can strike at any moment, even for this segment of the population who are generally in extraordinary physical shape. Makes you wonder if perhaps John Madden isn't too crazy for opting to ride in a motorhome between games.

At any rate, kudos to (ironic name in this situation, perhaps), for printing this list and allowing us to remember the tragedies of days gone by involving athletes being killed in plane crashes. It's a sad and scary fact of life that these accidents can happen, even to sports idols. Let's just hope we don't see this again any time soon.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fighting a War, Not Fighting Crime

So we have approximately 152,000 troops stationed in Iraq right now, fighting a war that seems never ending. I'm not here to rant about what I think about the war, but just keep that number in mind.

Now think about your typical soldier. The" stereotype" might be: dedicated to his/her country, patriotic, hard worker, looking to help others, in search of new adventures. I think most people would conjure up those types of words when describing a typical soldier.

Now think about the latest crime statistics in the U.S. Violent crime rose quite significantly across the country.

Now allow me to make some connections between the two points...

  • With more than 152,000 of our country's "finest" young men and women gone overseas in Iraq alone, this country has lost a major chunk of its future leaders, family heads, and community citizens. This leaves a huge hole in the fabric of our country that can't be filled in. Or perhaps it can be filled in... by criminals.
  • Let's just say that we took 1/3 of those troops and trained them to walk or patrol the streets of major cities and towns, the way they do in Iraq. Perhaps not with tanks and armored vehicles, but with uniforms and protective gear on. Call them police officers, call them peacekeepers, call them re-positioned soldiers. Whatever. If these hard working, dedicated, and loyal folks were to walk around impoverished (or even beautiful) communities, imagine the improvement in tone from the citizens who see them everyday. Many cities are short on cops, so these armed forces could fill in the gaps.
  • The cost of this war is estimated to be 2 TRILLION DOLLARS. Um, that's no chump change. If this country were to take just a fraction of that, let's say one billion dolars and spread it out across major cities for programs to help police officers, provide activities for kids, or help repair destroyed communities, can you imagine what that would do? Now flow 2 trillion dollars into cities and towns and imagine what could be done. To me the possibilities are quite astounding indeed.
  • By fighting an on-going war where we hear about killings, bombings, shootings, and so forth every single day, what kind of message send to our youth, who are most vulnerable to commit or be a victim of crime? Well, Johnny, we're going to keep shooting and shooting and shooting over in Iraq, so you might as well do the same here. Kids love to be copycats, whether it's playing a game of basketball ("I wanna be like Mike") to shooting a gun. Kids learn by imitating others, and showing them a life full of guns and murders is not helping.
That's just the way I see it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Favorite Muppets: A Tribute to the Most Creative Show Ever!

Here are my favorite muppets, in no particular order:

2. Swedish Chef (Bork, bork, bork!)
8. Waldorf (The old dude in the balcony)
7. Statler (The other old dude in the balcony)
10. Lewis Kezagger (The sportscaster)
4. Sam the American Eagle (He's just a good bird)
6. Dr. Teeth (the keyboardist and bandleader of the Electric Mayhem)
3. Kermit (Gotta give props to the top frog in the land.)
9. Flying Zucchini Brothers (Ok, so this is more than one character... but man they could do some acrobatic stuff!)
5. Rowlf (The dog that tickles the ivories)
1. Animal (That boy can play the drums! Click that link to instantly put a smile on your face!)

I'm not sure what happened to creative endeavors like the Muppet Show, but apparently everything today is either computer generated or canned comedy. Lame!

Bring back the Muppet Show! It's the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational... ok, I'll stop.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Steve Jeltz: All-Time Unsung Hero

Any true Philadelphia Phillies fan who is worth his/her weight in gold knows the legend of former shortstop Steve Jeltz.

For those who don't know who he is, you probably missed, well, not a whole lot during his career. Or maybe you did. In fact, I hereby proclaim Steve Jeltz to be the most unsung hero for all things baseball. Take a look at the following points and try and tell me why Steve Jeltz wasn't one of the most unique baseball players of all time and why he doesn't deserve more recognition than he ever got (from whom? I don't know, but just play along!)...
  • Name another baseball player other than former teammate Juan Samuel who sported jerri curls and managed to not have his hat or helmet slip off of his head constantly. Didn't think so. (Okay, that was just a fun warm up question. Let's get a little bit more challenging...)
  • Name another baseball player who was born in France. 0 for 2. (If you said Bruce Bochy, I will personally cook you a French toast breakfast.)
  • Name another baseball player who hit two home runs from each side of the plate... after his team had given up TEN RUNS in the first inning. You're now 0 for 3.
  • Name another baseball player who played 148 games in one year (1988), and hit the "homicide number" batting average (.187) . Keep trying.
  • Name another baseball player who hit a lifetime batting average under Mario Mendoza (who is notoriously synonomous for consistently hitting right around .200 year after year; also known as "the Mendoza line"), yet still made over ONE MILLION DOLLARS during his career. Can't think of anybody? I figured as much.
  • Since I know you're getting frustrated by this difficult challenge, I'll end it with this one. Name another baseball player whose debut appearance came when he replaced Pete Rose in a game. I kid you not.
I don't know about you, but these are some pretteeeee, prettteeeee, pretttteeeeee impressive facts. And I don't know about you, but I still can't believe Steve Jeltz earned over one million bucks for being perhaps the most statistically invisible and insignificant player in team history. Wow.

P.S.-- Much thanks to for the amazing stats and recordkeeping. I just wish all sites were as detailed this one is, not to mention free to the public. Well done guys!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Viva La Revolution! (But for How Long?)

Just had a thought today. The word "revolution" is tossed around quite frequently in world history or current events discussions.

My question is... at what point does a revolution end?

So there's a major upheaval in a country, let's say Roughageland. The working class is tired of the way King Broccoli is treating them, so the masses start to simmer, a.k.a. the beginning of the Revolution. One day (after loud chants of "Lettuce Free") the angry mob storms the castle and they cut King Broccoli's head off, and declare Major Zucchini the new leader. Is this the end of the revolution? The old regime is out, the new one is in, life has changed, but it will still take some time for Major Zucchini to make all the necessary changes to bring happiness upon the land. So now that it's back to peas, sorry, peace time, and historians go and write the history books, what are they looking for when deciding when the revolution ended?

And if you think about a revolution in cosmic terms-- as in "it takes one year for the Earth to make one revolution around the sun," which is a very definitive distance and period of time-- how did it become associated with such a vague notion of change in historic terms when there's not always an official beginning or end? Just curious.

Silly questions, I know, but I can't always control when, where, and why these things turnip in my head. But thanks for listening.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Mystifying Ways of the Auto Industry

I was never a big admirer of cars. Some people collect them, refurbish them, pimp them up, and dream about them. That's cool. Everybody's got their thing. I've always considered cars to be a machine that gets me from here to yon.

I'm not quite sure why I never took to cars. My dad loved and still loves cars. He can watch a throwback movie from the 50's and name the year, make, and model of cars that are in the background. It's quite an impressive talent actually! But for some reason I never caught on.

I think it's mostly because I'm jaded by the whole auto industry. Their ways of doing business just totally mystify me.

Here are some points to chew on about why the auto industry bugs me:
  • Dealers: Granted, some dealers have caught on of late, but how many times do you see a car dealer commercial where the rich, slickly dressed dealership owner is yelling at you about how cheap his cars are or how fast you have to act before this price break ends? It's totally tasteless and out of control! Since when do people want to be interrupted with this garbage? Sadly, it seems to work or else they wouldn't continue to do it. But not for me.
  • Dealers, Mechanics at the: It's a universal fact that the mechanics at the dealers charge you your firstborn baby to fix a rusted tailpipe. Independent mechanics aren't usually much better. I utterly respect mechanics' knowledge of fixing cars, but don't markup the cost of a part by 200%, and don't tell me I need something when I don't. Why would I want to come back to you if you're screwing me? On the bright side, the internet has made a dent in the price of parts. To wit, I just bought a new mirror at for a total of $43, and a guy at work popped it on for me at no charge. That's the way to do it.
  • Jobs: Used to be that jobs in the auto industry were good, honest work for hard working people. Obviously things change over time, but I can't quite get excited about buying a car when I hear that 10,000 jobs need to be cut here, or 30,000 there, etc. There's got to be a better way to go about this.
  • Marketing: Twenty years ago, environmentalists were called crazy for worrying about carbon dioxide emissions, fossil fuel shortages, and so forth. Now all of the sudden, all of these car dealers are "going green" and claiming to save the environment. Look, I'm all for hybrid cars. These should have been mainstreamed decades ago. But don't all of a sudden act like you're on my side, and also, don't tell me that "the environment thanks you", as Honda says. The environment thanks me when I walk to the store, or ride a bike to work (which, unfortunately, I am guilty of not doing enough of either). It doesn't "thank me" for continuing to pump out CO2, just in lesser amounts. Let's be real here.
  • Numbers: Can anybody tell me what all those numbers are all about at the end of a commercial, on a contract to buy a car, on a car rental contract, or in the owner's manual? Whatever happened to making things simple? Not in autoland. It's just one big numbermash!
Well that's a small taste of why I dislike the auto industry. Maybe by the time I'm ready to buy my next car in a few years, they'll have figured it all out. If not, maybe it's time for a Schwinn. Keep on truckin'!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fixing Politics One Issue at a Time

For some reason, a thought about politics just flashed through my weary Monday evening brain. I can't say I've thought this one out a whole lot... more of a fleeting idea, if anything, but perhaps it has some merit. Take a gander...

So I'm thinking about politics in this country. And I'm thinking about how everything else operates in the "real world," because the political life certainly is far from what most people would consider real or normal. The two, for some reason, have gotten so far apart from the original beginnings that perhaps we need to take a look at how this system operates.

Back when this great country of America was started, there were probably a grand total of about five pressing issues, judging based on what was written in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights. The main topics were roughly: Giving people rights while having fair representation in government; defending the country from Indians and foreign countries; slavery; taxes; and crime. Granted, there were probably more, but these were the core issues, and collectively these issues could be handled pretty well by elected officials.

Fast forward now to the present day. Think about the vast number of issues on the table at any given time: the current Iraq War (or, more generally, foreign relations); the environment; the economy; taxes; disease control; social security; crime; local interests; abortion; education... the list goes on, and indeed even these main topics each have dozens of sub-topics that are pretty in-depth.

So here's the question I ask: How can any given elected official possibly be able to follow each and every issue and subsequently vote intelligently on such a wide array of bills? Before answering that question, let's take a look at a typical NFL football team for a moment. It has a head coach, an offensive coach, a defensive coach, a special teams coach, a QB coach, an offensive line coach, a.... well you get the idea! Each coach has a specialty and does his best to nail down his particular area of expertise in order to improve the team as a whole.

Another example: If you go to a big-time law firm, you'll find lawyers practicing dozens of different areas of law. Need an environmental attorney? Fifth floor. Need criminal defense? Tenth floor. Looking for a tax lawyer? Eighth floor. Again, you get the idea.

Lastly, think about a major company like Pfizer. There are probably dozens of departments divided throughout the organization, each having a specific job, perhaps focusing solely on specific product lines out of their vast array of products. Everybody's got their defined job, and they do it to the best of their abilities.

Why, then, don't we elect officials to cover specific issues, or a limited umbrella of issues? Specialization has become the name of the game these days. Except in the wild world of politics, where a politician is expected to vote effectively on a frighteningly wide array of issues. I would think that if we had to vote elected officials based on their stance on specific issues, this country would be a lot more efficiently run and the whole "liberal" vs. "conservative" stereotypes and mental blocks would be a thing of the past.

That's all I got for this Monday. Now back to the real world.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

LL Bean: Doing It Right

I'm not going to lie. I'm an LL Bean fan. I like the way they operate. They know who they are, they don't try to be anybody else, and they're completely customer-oriented.

Case in point:
On Saturday I stopped by the LL Bean near me to pick up some gifts. Yes, it was a packed house, what with Christmas rapidly approaching. However, the overall atmosphere there was mellow and comfortable, not chaotic and overwhelming like a Macy's or Kohl's can be. Here are some things that impressed me:
  • Music: For a spell while I was there they had a three piece ensemble playing Christmas melodies. This made for a cozy shopping experience. (Editor's Note: I wanted to be like Ace Ventura and yank the violinist's arm in mid-stroke just for fun, but my conscience got the best of me!)
  • Selection: I am a vertically endowed fellow. I typically like shopping at LL Bean because if I see something I like I can have it ordered in a tall size with no shipping charge if they don't have it in stock in the store. This time around I found a good number of items stocked in tall size. The only other stores that carry tall sizes that I like are J. Crew and Eddie Bauer, but they never have the tall sizes in stock. So suffice it to say, this was a pleasant surprise, and I even got myself a present since I liked the way a particular fleece pullover looked and fit on me.
  • Efficiency: Though I had to wait in line to checkout, there were at least five cashiers up and running, and a separate table was set up for gift boxes, so the line moved pretty smoothly.
  • Thoughtfulness: When I checked out I was given a $10 gift card for spending more than $50. I had no idea this was coming and it was a real nice touch; it was certainly not announced in any extravagent way, just a very subtle "thank you" before leaving. That's class.
All of these things put together made for an excellent shopping experience. Though some may not believe it, these are indeed marketing victories through and through.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Door Opening/Closing Etiquette at Work

At my regular day job, I sit right by the door, in a spot where I'm the first one people see when they walk in. I have sat at that desk for at least 300 days now and would say that I am a bona fide expert in door opening/closing etiquette.

What, you may be asking, kind of etiquette can there possibly be when it comes to opening and/or closing the front door to an office? Well, glad you asked. Here are 5 elements of etiquette in front door usage:

  1. Greeting: If you use the same damn line each time you enter in the morning, you are not being considerate of others. It's time you expand your mind and think of something more original and interesting than "Good morning". No, it's not a good morning, so don't start the day by lying to me as such, which leads me to rule #2...
  2. Follow-up chatter: After the trite, unoriginal greeting, 98% of door enterers (yes, I made that word up) the next comment or question will immediately pertain to the weather. Everybody's a meteorologist when s/he opens the door. "Miserable day out there!" Great! Thanks for clearing that up, I wasn't quite sure. Or, "Wow, gorgeous day today". Yes, I know and I'm seething because I'm sitting at a desk instead of being out and enjoying the day. Thanks for the reminder. Which brings me to rule #3...
  3. No need to comment on the temperature inside. If it's warm in the office, I'm well aware of it. If it's cold and drafty in the office, again, it has been brought to my attention by my epidermis. I deem this unnecessary small talk and is not worthy of my attention.
  4. If you have to make more than one trip to/from your car, bring all of your sh*t to the door, open it and bring it outside and leave. I don't need to see you coming in or leaving twice, nor do I need to hear the door slamming twice. Just get in, get out and be done with it already.
  5. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. This is just a matter of common courtesy.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Dry Cleaners: Marketing's Final Frontier

Dry Cleaners are without a doubt the final frontier of marketing.

Every dry cleaner that I've ever been to or can ever recall seeing is identical. It's a small storefront in a strip mall, with large windows filled with 1950's looking drawings of the various items of clothing they clean, and a faded sign announcing their hours of operation.

Inside, you walk in and the various sewing machines and other equipment are up front, leading up to a Formica counter, and ending with an endless rack of clean clothing in plastic and more machines toward the back that look slightly dangerous and angry.

This standard layout is the epitome of form follows function. Nothing ritzy, nothing cozy, nothing welcoming. Just a store with a whole lotta mess all over the place. It's an anomaly in this world of Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods Markets, or even post offices (which have stepped up their efforts to compete with the FedEx's of the world) where every minor detail is perfected to the T. But in a dry cleaner? It's the Wild, Wild West of the retail terrain.

That said, I'll let the dry cleaners slide on the areas of atmosphere and amenities . Most people will never spend more than a minute and a half in there, so the looks of the joint aren't that vital.

Here are some things I really don't get, however...

Pricing: This is just one big cloud of mystery. Nobody knows for sure how much anything will cost when dropping something off at the dry cleaner. It's just an ancient mathematical equation, passed down from generation to generation that is calculated in the shopkeeper's head and/or Casio calculator. Everywhere else in commercial world, prices are clearly posted and discounts are announced loudly. Not at the dry cleaner's. It's just a price du jour. Drop your clothes off and they'll come back clean and pressed. Just don't ask how much it will cost. Bizarre.

Process: What in the name of Ralph Lauren do the workers do to clean the clothes back there? I'd be willing to bet that 95% of all Americans have no clue as to how their clothes get clean at the dry cleaners. How long does it take to clean an item of clothing? What chemicals do they use? Is everything done on premises? Etc., etc., etc. If I were to market a dry cleaner, I'd have the processes detailed to show just how much better these processes are compared to what can be done at home, or what they do differently from their competitors. Show me the best way to pre-treat a stain to make sure it comes out when they clean. Something! Just work with me here!

Promotions: Would it kill these dry cleaners to have an Early Bird Special? Or a frequent cleaner card? Or a Trousers Tuesday special? Something? Please?

Ok, that's all; I'm done pressing this issue.

Friday, December 1, 2006

The Search is On: How to Google Something Old School Style

I moved to my current house in August of this year. I live in a pretty busy area where everything I could possibly need is a stone's throw away. Including my newly adopted hair salon.

I've gotten my hair cut at this salon twice already, yet I couldn't tell you the name of the shop. I don't know the exact street address, nor do I know the phone number. The only bit of info that I can remember is my stylist's first name. Nice gal. Good stylist. Reasonable rates. Convenient location. But something's wrong with this picture.

I will certainly take the blame for failing to put the salon's phone number in my cell phone. That should have been job 1. But getting caught up with everything else in life, I forgot.

So this week I noticed my hair beginning to 'fro a bit and wanted to set up an appointment for a cut during their limited after-work hours. But without the salon's name, number, or address (and I don't think they have a web site), how can I possibly look them up on Google or even the phone book so I can call to make an appointment? I'm stuck, right? Right!

Wrong! I have to go out of my way to drive by the salon after a long day at work through a heavily congested area to get the name and phone number from the sign in their window like I did the first two times. I'd stop in to arrange an appointment, but unless I leave work early, they're unlikely to be open.

Maybe this time I'll learn my lesson and get the info when I finally enter the shop to get my haircut. Or perhaps, the salon employees will go out of their way to make sure I have this crucial information. A brochure. A business card. A tattoo. Something with some contact or marketing info to keep in my address book or to give to a friend.

But for some reason I doubt I'll leave there with the info I need for the next time I want to call and make an appointment. History tends to repeat itself.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gun Protest in Philadelphia: Missing the Target

Christmas is fast approaching, and a Christmas tree ornament has sparked a loud protest.


In short, Urban Outfitters recently began selling a small selection of Christmas ornaments, including a skull and crossbones ornament, a hamburger ornament, a beer ornament, and a plastic gun ornament, among others.

Unfortunately, the city of Philadelphia, where Urban Outfitters is headquartered (full disclosure: writer holds shares in this stock) has been having a major problem with homicides caused by gun shootings. This is indeed a terrible trend, and the city needs all the help it can get in protecting its citizens from low-life scumbag gun slingers. But perhaps more unfortunately, Men United for a Better Philadelphia, a well-meaning and dedicated group looking to quell the violence in the city, protested the sale of these gun ornaments outside of an Urban Outfitters store yesterday.

I see their point and most definitely appreciate their outspokeness. As I said, something needs to be done about gun violence in Philly and around the world, and we need more people like them.

But perhaps this protest is a bit misdirected.

For starters, I'd prefer to see Men United or other groups protesting gun shops, if anything. This is where the killers go to pack heat. Confront them at the source and maybe divert some potential problems, such as gun straw buying. But that's not really my point here.

Instead of just protesting the company, the group could work with Urban Outfitters and include a pamphlet or notice along with the purchase of these guns to alert buyers to the unfortunate problem that real guns are causing in the city. Perhaps they could even work with Urban Outfitters to donate a portion of the ornament's sales to Men United's worthy cause. Or even ask to put a sticker on the box with a link to Men United's website.

The point being, use that positive energy to work with the major corporation to help improve lives and gain positive attention for your cause, rather than trying to bring negative publicity to the store, which has subsequently sold out of the ornament and plans to reorder because it was such a hot item. If Men United were trying to prevent the sales, their plan backfired. (Sorry, bad pun.)

Happy holidays and have fun shopping!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Greatest Innovation of Our Time?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), in my humble opinion, may prove to be one of the greatest innovations of our time. Okay, I know what you're saying, the light bulb has been around for ages, and there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of amazing inventions over the past couple of decades. But hear me out!

Here are some of my reasons as to why I praise these bulbs so highly:

1. CFLs last at least four times as long as incandescent bulbs. This means fewer trips to the store to buy them, and fewer bulbs to purchase (in spite of the higher price of CFLs) making it more convenient and economical for everyone involved.

2. According to Energy Star, CFLs use about 2/3 less energy than incandescents use. With the world's growing problems in dealing with energy consumption and global warming, any significant reduction in energy usage helps solve (or at least ease) both of these frightening problems.

3. Energy Star also claims that each bulb can save over $30 in energy costs over its lifetime (not including the cost saved of not having to buy new bulbs more frequently). Not one person will ever complain about having to save money, making it much easier for this product to be adopted more widely.

4. Virtually every building has a need for light bulbs. It makes economic sense for each home, office, hospital, dormitory, or other facility to replace as many bulbs as they can.

5. It is an extremely simple way for people to feel like they're making a difference in the world. Many people unfortunately could care less about preserving the planet, but if getting new CFL bulbs is a start for these people, then so be it.

6. Though CFL bulbs have small amounts of mercury, recycling facilities are likely to become more available; what's more, the mercury produced by the bulbs is significantly less than that of which would be produced by burning more coal to power incandescent bulbs. Over time, mercury emissions from CFL bulbs will be less of a problem than emissions caused by incandescents.

7. Ultimately, this innovation may lead to more similar innovations if people show their willingness to adapt. If CFLs become a hot item, more companies will look to innovate and improve on current technology in order to reap potential profits.

So, in conclusion, it's easy to see that CFLs are a simple, cost effective, and environmentally friendly way of improving lives on an everyday basis for the masses. How many other recent innovations can claim that?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Click to Donate

In just a couple of clicks everyday, you can do your part in donating to phenomenal causes, courtesy of advertisers. It takes less than 30 seconds and costs you nada!

Check out The Hunger Site now!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

6 Ways to Make Money on Black Friday

Yes, you too can profit on Black Friday, just like the millions of stores that will be packed with hungry shoppers, trying to knock off their extensive gift lists. It's times like these when people get a little (okay, a lot) nutty and will do just about anything to make their day go a little smoother. So why not make a few bucks while you're at it?!? Here are six ways to pick up some extra cash just by "being there"...

1. Get 4, 5, or 6 friends to drive separately to a mall late Thanksgiving night when the lots are empty. Leave all of the cars but one in the prime spots there, and have the last person drive everybody back home. Come back to the mall in mid-morning and sell your spot to desperate people who don't feel like walking and pick up 15, 25, or 50 bucks (maybe even more, depending on your location and clientele). You can laugh all your way to the bank, and drive home at your own leisure. Estimated going rate: $20 per spot.

2. Offer to stand in line for someone while they shop. Inevitably, check-out lines will be zig-zagging through countless red ropes. Why not save somebody the trouble of actually waiting and take a spot for them in line while they do their actual shopping. No fuss, no muss! Estimated going rate: $5 per person.

3. Bring your own cart to the mall and offer to lug shoppers' goods to their car for them on their way out. Hmm, I could see this being a little skeevy to most people, but hey, it could work! Estimated going rate: $2 per trip.

4. Print up a checklist of all the big sales that are going on inside of the mall that day and sell it to people entering the mall. This takes some legwork beforehand, but most stores will list their sales on their websites or in the paper. This saves people time from having to do their own research and also trying to go through every store to find the best deals. Estimated going rate: $1 per sheet.

5. Where available, set up a cart on a busy street or outside of a mall with a chock full of snacks, drinks, coffee, etc. People will be hungry and cranky, and you might just catch them at the right time! Estimated going rate: $1-2 per item.

6. Go into various stores and write down all of the good things and bad things you see going on. Make sure you point out names of employees when available when they do great things. Then, at night, send an email or letter to the store's boss/manager/PR person and let them know of what a great/terrible job you saw today. The company may likely thank you for your candor and send you coupons or free stuff for your help! (Or they may ignore you completely if they're a lame corporation.) Estimated going rate: Varies, but potentially a bunch of free samples.

So as you can see, it's pretty easy to bring home the bacon on this shopping holiday with just a little ingenuity and elbow grease.

Have fun, be safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blue Moon, I Saw You Leading the Way

My favorite football (soccer) club in the world is Manchester City, the boys in blue. Lately, they have made me proud.

Not because of their results on the pitch, mind you, although that would be tremendous. (Some day...)

But anyway, in addition to maintaining a high level squad, they are tackling a bigger problem in the world, that of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The team recently announced that they would be installing a wind turbine right outside of the City of Manchester Stadium, its home grounds, to power the stadium as well as homes nearby.

To me this is an ingenius idea. Does it get any better than having a Premiership team showing proper stewardship to this Earth, let alone being the first team in the world to do something like this? Not a chance. Positively brilliant.

And that's why I'm 'City Til I Die'!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lessons from a Magnetic Dart Board

As I sit at my computer here at home, I have the pleasure of being able to gaze at my Simpsons magnetic dart board that I got as an engagement gift from my parents (presumably because my lovely fiancee got all the other gifts), featuring classic characters from the show-- namely Homer, Moe, Duffman, and more. Simple, innocent, and good old-fashioned fun stuff.

But in staring at this dart board, in a moment of introspection, I realize this particular magnetic dart board may have a lesson or two glaring right at me, such as...

1. Creativity goes a lonnnnnngggggg way. The Simpsons have been around for a good 17 years or so and going strong (they even have a Simpsons movie coming out). It's the creative characters, story lines, and humor that has kept them around for so long. And expanding the product line to a dart board, a Homermobile model (also hanging on my wall), and so on and so forth show the strength of the creativity of this famous brand.

2. A magnetic dart board is a very imprecise game. You toss the dart at it, the dart slips a little bit once it hits the board, and the magnetic point is so wide that you can hit a fairly broad area, thus overlapping on different scores. "So?" you ask. So, just think about how imprecise life is, and how not everything is perfect, yet you can still hit the mark, without having to make the perfect shot each time.

3. Darts are fun!

Now, I wonder what lessons we can learn from donuts....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sports and marketing

Today I attended a Philadelphia Eagles football game. Yes, I am a fan of "the Iggles". (Okay, you can stop laughing now... it's a tough team to follow at times, I know, but I still love 'em. It's a weird Philly thing.) Terrible loss today on many fronts, but that's not what I'm here to discuss.

As a marketing rep at a full-service marketing agency, I am well aware of the influence that marketing has on people's lives. Sometimes I terribly regret the way marketing is shoved down everybody's throats.

For example, it's gotten to the point where professional sports games have transcended the athletic prowess of the athletes, and has instead become one gigantic billboard for corporations. At today's game, nary a second went by when I was not bombarded with some sort of ad placement, whether it was a sign, an announcement, or a sponsored winner of something or other. I suppose that this is just a fact of life nowadays, but that doesn't mean I have to like it! Here's where marketing failed, in my mind:

1. Campbell's Soup sponsored a section of fans, whereby every fan in that section won a can of soup. Gee, wow. Lucky day. Oh and by the way, this came on a day when there was a big food drive at the game to feed the poor on Thanksgiving. So not only do the fans get to win a WHOLE can of soup, but these poor saps look like complete jerks if they don't drop the can into the food drive collection box. So much for winning something for once!

2. Speaking of winning, US Airways had this ingenious idea: give away a gift certificate for $200 on a future flight. First of all, this is a lame prize if you can't afford to go away in the first place. It's not like it's a $200 gift certificate to a nice restaurant or something, where your meal is covered and everything is basically paid in full. No, you have to use this gift certificate to pay for a flight, where you then have to spend more money because you're going away! Secondly, what if you hate flying? Thirdly, well, I could go on, but you get the idea.

3. Lastly, when the players are introduced, they run out of a long inflatable tunnel and through a giant Eagles helmet. Emblazoned along the, dare I say, shaft, of the tunnel is the word "Levitra", the name of an erectile dysfunction drug. Ok, I don't mean to be gross here, but that is not not the kind of mental picture I want to have in my mind--- a bunch of beefy men charging together in a group out of a hole. Ugh. If the word were plastered across the tight-fitting Lycra of the cheerleaders, that may be a different story. But as it stands now, this marketing attempt is very flaccid.

4. Virtually all of the rest of the ads/plugs/sponsorships are lost in the fog of my memory. Way to go to guys. Nice job in spending those ad dollars.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Minor victory of the day

As we men get older, hair tends to recede from some territories and conquer new territories. As one's scalp becomes a prime terrain for skin to take over where hair once used to dominate, other landscapes find hair overtaking the prominence of skin. This tends to be a downward process as the years add up, so perhaps it's gravity related.

At any rate, today I had a minor victory of man vs. hair. As I was scratching my left ear, I felt some fuzz and a long hair or two poking out from that weird little ridge where the earlobe starts. A similar pattern had taken shape on my right ear.

Fortunately, I had my mini- Swiss Army knife with those tiny scissors handy, so I went to battle.

I gently pinched the long hairs between my fingers and snipped away at the base of the hairs. I managed to do this without the benefit of a mirror, or without the result of blood gushing from a skin gash. To me this is a minor victory, even though I know these hairs will return in due time.

Sometimes these minor accomplishments are what keep me going through the day. After starting the day by cleaning up my cat's urine and spit-up, I'll take this minor victory and celebrate. It's the simple joys in life that keep me happy.

If you have any minory victory stories, please share. I'm all ears.

Taking the plunge

Though I am no plumber, I do like to think I know how to clear a clogged toilet.

Option A:

Step 1- Grab plunger.
Step 2- Insert rubber end of plunger into toilet drain.
Step 3- Deftly push down ("plunge") on wooden end.
Step 4- Lift up.
Repeat steps 2-4 until water drains. Try flushing again.

Option B:

Pour hot water into toilet, in hopes that this will, shall we say, loosen things up.

Option C:

Put on rubber gloves and root around.

Option D:


What's the metaphor here? Beats me. I'll leave that part up to you. At any rate, I hope to open the door to ideas of new ways of doing things, or ways of getting out of a mess, or who knows what.

Thanks for joining. Let's have some fun, shall we?