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May 2007

Too bad about politics.

I only really know two people in politics. They’re both people I love and respect. They disagree with each other. I disagree with both of them. Guess that means we’re true friends. Right now, they’re both running for the same office (opposite parties). I wish they wouldn’t do that. You can’t convince either of them that you really don’t want to take sides. But I want to go on record right now...I’m not voting for EITHER of them. Love ’em. Not votin’ for ’em. That’s that.

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Catching up.

It’s funny about old friends. I got an email from my college roommate, Tom, a while back. Hadn’t seen him since 1983. But he’s the kind of guy who ought to be in PR (turns out he is). We caught up about folks we know. He gave me some news about his family. Talked about the rivalry between his Cleveland Browns and my Pittsburgh Steelers. Found out that he’s a big expert on national parks. Some people are just easy to catch up with.Today I had lunch with our old pal JR. Used to do business with her every single…

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I fall to pieces.

Isn’t that the Patsy Cline song? I think Michael Nesmith also covered it back in the 70s—I loved his album, From a Radio Engine to A Photon Wing; contained one of the funniest songs in the history of music video, Rio. Anyhow, about that falling to pieces thing, did you ever notice how you hear an old song and immediately start feeling the way you used to feel when you first heard it? I have that with a lot of late Steely Dan songs. And early Wynton Marsalis makes me feel lonely. But that’s just me. Well, turns out that…

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Would a rose by any other name be the same color?

It’s been a few days since I last blogged. It was our anniversary—we had the foresight to get married around the Memorial Day holiday—so we took a long weekend in one of our favorite top-secret, undisclosed locations. While sitting next to the bocci court, overlooking the Tennessee River, we met a dad and teenage daughter in town from Memphis for a soccer tournament (he pays, she plays). He mentioned two interesting, seemingly unrelated things about Memphis. First, they have a great deal of race-related conflict. Second, they have idiosyncratic (love that word) street naming habits: you’re driving down the street…

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What should your budget be?

I don’t know about the client perspective on this. Maybe somebody should tell me. But from the agency side, there are few things more frustrating than having to estimate, line by line, a laundry list of items—some of which turn out to bear little connection to actual objectives—in order to back into a budget, so we can start to provide advice to our client. I see the problem as two-fold. 1. Few people have a handle on how much their advertising should cost. So they look to the marketplace to set their prices. This is counterproductive, of course, because the…

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My First Branding Experience.

It was 1963—maybe ’62—and I was sitting in the second row of the First Baptist Church of Martins Ferry, Ohio, along with my cousin Dan, my second cousin Mark Wilson, and some other little guys (all of us five our younger). We were kicking the pew in front of us, playing with our Matchbox cars, dropping things, giggling, fidgeting…generally acting like five-year-olds in Church, when suddenly, Dan and I were levitated out of the pew from behind, by the left and right hands of our steel-worker, ordained-deacon grandfather. Dan and I never touched the ground until we were on the…

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How magnets work.

Do you remember that episode of WKRP in Cincinatti where Venus Flytrap has to get a kid to understand atoms in order to get him to stay in school and stay out of gangs? So he makes up a story about a neighborhood and three gangs called the “pros,” the “nuboys,” and the “elected ones.” Well, I did a lot of presentations last week. One was an advertising presentation to a room full of master tool makers. The other was a presentation about the economic theories of pricing to a room full of advertising people. It’s started to dawn on…

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Who gets rich?

I was just reading a quote from Peter Drucker. The gist of it is that a business exists for one reason—to create wealth for its customer. Of course, this is right. And not just ethically, but economically. But it is contrary to the practices and even stated policies of a lot of businesses these days. I was at an event (not surprisingly at the Chamber of Commerce), when a business owner introduced himself as doing “a little of this, a little of that, whatever we can make some money on…cause we’re in business to get rich.” Shockingly, that business is…

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What should it cost?

It’s become common wisdom that the price of a thing should be the cost of producing it plus an X factor for desired profit. This is more common than wisdom. A thing should cost the value that a willing, able buyer places on it. The problem with all the MBA/CPA/Cost-Plus guys, is that they assume everything effecting the product happens within the four walls of the firm. Fact is, most of what effects the product and the firm is outside of the firm, in the marketplace. No matter what your cost accountant says, the customer determines the price—unless you’re leaving…

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Who cares what you believe?

Al Davis, renegade owner of the Oakland...LA...Oakland Raiders is quoted as saying, “Just win, baby.” Of course, Al Davis is a notorious jerk. And, by the way, his Raiders haven’t done that much winning lately. Personally, I think cultures win because of their beliefs. Companies that succeed over a long period of time tend to be companies that stand for something more than just making money. GE, for example, has been about systematic invention ever since Thomas Edison started the company. Apple is about being user friendly. Wal-Mart is about continuous improvement in the efficiency of the supply channel. I…

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