Wednesday, November 16, 2011


My apologies for not explaining why I haven’t been posting.  I shattered a wrist badly in a fall 13 days ago and I’m still not able to keystroke.

A great Duke surgeon, a plate and 13 titanium screws and soon I’ll be good as knew.  More later but no it wasn’t off my Harley.

In fact if you must know it was in a bar fight down in Raleigh defending Durham’s reputation – if there hadn’t been three of them I would have been okay…right Harvey?

More later…

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

For Some Marketers It Is All About You!

For some marketers it is about you, the consumer and for others it is only about their company or the irrelevant names of huge, multi-county areas media outlets use for measurement.

Ann TaylorHere are two examples.  First is a postcard Ann Taylor is using to announce a new store in Durham.  “The Ann (heart’s) Durham!” direct mail advertisement is an example of how a company demonstrates that it understands how important the identity of a community is to those who live there.

For all I know, although the location is in Durham, the company mailed similar announcements to residents of other communities in that celebrated mall’s catchment area, covering much of the state.  Equally smart for those outside Durham would have been “Ann (heart’s) North Carolina!”

According to a survey by the organization representing chief marketing officer, 49% believe localized marketing such as this is essential to business growth and profitability and another 21% believe it is key to differentiation and competitiveness.Custom Link

Arriving in my mail on the same day was an example of a business that isn’t as marketing savvy as Ann Taylor.  It uses the name of the jointly-owned airport, Raleigh-Durham which isn’t located in either Durham or Raleigh but midway between.

Most likely though, using the airport name was a substitute for the name of a huge, obsolete media-measurement designation, Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville spanning 22 counties dozens of communities and parts of three states.

Durham and Raleigh co-own a great airport but there is simply no such place named Raleigh-Durham.  Some use it to mask their geographic uncertainty and others out of careless disregard for how important specific locations are to businesses and consumers.

The 22-county media designation, stretched to drive the price of advertising as high as possible, may be relevant to the owners of media outlets but it has absolutely no relevance to consumers.  In fact, surveys show that it is irritating.

Located in Downtown Durham, the parent company of The Arts Institute of Raleigh-Durham made the same mistake.  Unfortunately marketers at Education Management Corporation based in Pittsburgh, PA may have failed to take advertising courses taught at the for-profit chain’s forty-five campuses.  While proud to be home to an AI campus, the mistaken nomenclature is a source of irritation and an insult to Durham residents, not to mention confusing to potential students.

Demonstrate the propensity of some marketers to dig themselves into a hole and then keep on digging when it comes to their ego and in this case to the embarrassment of people who work there, the parent company plastered the errant name on the side of a building facing fans at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and search engines often bring up a paid result that is even worse, “Raleigh Art School.”

While some marketers like those for Ann Taylor make their advertising all about customers, for others it is all about them and once they step in the bucket, they pretend they did it on purpose.  Now, there’s an approach that will endear your product to consumers!

Marketers need to grasp the fact that Nearly 8 out of 10 residents prefer to characterize where they live by the name of a specific city, town or country.  The next most popular category is a specific neighborhood.  Only a tiny sliver prefer a general area or region and no one uses the name of an airport or a designation for media measurement.

Potential shoppers and the general public also appreciate knowing specific and accurate locations.  No one likes being tricked by confusing references.

Using the name of a community on marketing materials will appeal to residents there. Using the name of an area designated by media outlets may endear a marketer to the owners of the outlet but no one else.

If marketer gets it right, impressing customers with the name of their community is a great way to show that the are all about their customers.  If they want to show they don’t care, just substitute the name of a jointly owned airport or a media market designation or a general area.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Return On Luck (And Access To Opportunity)

Republicans appear to oppose “class warfare,” unless they are waging it!

Representative Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, titled his speech to the Heritage Foundation last week in part as “Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division.”  While there is much for which to recommend reading or listening to the speech at that link, I couldn’t help but remember a line on page 25 of the budget proposal he authored stating that it will:

“…ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”

As David Stockman noted as a former senior official in President Reagan’s very conservative Republican administration and also a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, wronte in an April op-ed in the New York Times:Which Group Got How Much - New York Times October 30 2001

“Trapped between the religion of low taxes and the reality of huge deficits, the Ryan plan appears to be an attack on the poor in order to coddle the rich.

To the Democrats’ invitation to class war, the Republicans have seemingly sent an R.S.V.P.”

Ryan’s seeming hypocrisy aside, a line caught my eye in an excellent essay published in the same newspaper last Sunday by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen co-authors of the new book published in October entitled Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All:

“The difference between Mr. Gates [Bill Gates] and similarly advantaged people is not luck. Mr. Gates went further, taking a confluence of lucky circumstances and creating a huge return on his luck. And this is the important difference.”

Calling it a “Return On Luck” (ROL, the authors make a good point that people like Gates “zoom out to recognize when a luck event has happened and to consider whether they should let it disrupt their plans.”  But it isn’t that simple and fortunately Gates is very articulate about the dramatic need to improve education and to reinvigorate upward mobility.

People in their 30s tell me horror stories of friends and older relatives, many even from very conservative, values-based cultures such as Mormonism, who do just what Ryan was describing in that line above from his budge proposal.  Some phony business expenses to cheat on taxes, others go on Medicaid while going to college, others milk unemployment benefits until they are dry before looking for work and some cavalierly recommend foreclosure to friends as an easy way to game the system.

Maybe the safety-nets have become too complex and instead of simplifying them to root out fraud, bureaucrats unwittingly add layers of complexity that make them harder to detect.  However, starving fraud out of the system through the draconian budget cuts Republicans seek are far more likely to thwart only the innocent, the hard-working, those legitimately pursuing the American dream.

There are just as many stories of people using forms of “corporate welfare” to achieve a phony upward mobility, many documented by Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnson in his book Free Lunch including the insanity around the prescription drug benefit passed during the last Republican-era that was not only un-funded, fueling much the current deficit, but grossly inflated healthcare costs by prohibiting government from seeking bids from companies to provide drugs for the program.

Where in Ryan’s plan is the effort to address that end of the so-called “class-warfare” spectrum?

I’m not sure staying “lost in the 1960s” as many Democrats seem to recommend is the answer.  And the chart shown as an image in this blog definitely confirms that retaining the Republican zero-sum policies of the 1980s would be worse.

Occupy Wall Street is more than a talking point and much more than metaphorically using the greed of the financial services industry, unbridled by deregulation.  From those I’ve met and talked to, I am convinced that the movement is about the need to dramatically overhaul the tax code and reinvigorate the post-WWII policies which were focused on growing the middle class as well as the cultural values as the heart of the American dream.

Exploring ways to do this is anything but “class warfare.”

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Infographic : Black Is The New Red

Click on to view at sourceBlack Is The New Red -

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Infographic: Top LGBT-Inclusive Advertisers

LGBT-Inclusive Ad Spending

Friday, November 04, 2011

My Near Connection To Johnny Appleseed

Some may trace my reverence for trees to Lewis Neeley, a great-great-great grandparent who was just six-turning-seven years old when his father, John, died as a prisoner-of-war during the early months of the War of 1812.

Migrating west after the war with his mother and siblings, Lewis partially traced the same route from his New York birthplace up and over the Alleghenies and down the Ohio River that had been used less than two decades earlier by John Chapman, who, by then was already being mythologized as Johnnie Appleseed.

In fact, they may have even passed Appleseed on the river during one of his frequent returns upriver to restock with seeds at two cider mills just south of Pittsburgh before heading out again into three of the states newly-carved from the “Old” Northwest Territory (north and west of the Ohio River) and in whose settlement he played the role of bellwether.

Lewis didn’t stop long near Cincinnati where his mother remarried and where the population was already quadrupling over that decade to 9,642, just two decades after the entire “Old” Northwest Territory had barely reached the required population of 5,000 free male settlers to warrant a legislature.

Instead he cut up across Indiana to help settle Vermilion County in Illinois, mid-way up the border with the Hoosier state and where he married Elizabeth Miller in 1828.  Reflecting the varied history of that area, Vermilion County, Illinois adopted the English spelling with only one “l” while the Vermillion across the border in Indiana adopted the two-“l” French spelling.

It’s possible Lewis found one of John Chapman’s nurseries waiting for him there.  A new book published seven months ago that separates Chapman, the man, from Johnny Appleseed the myth, demonstrates how, from the early days of the “Old” North West Territory, settlers were required to plant fifty acres of apples trees and twenty acres of peach trees within three years in order to get 100 acres of free land.

As revealed by the book’s author and former journalist Howard Means, a reality about the man affectionately called Johnny Appleseed is that Chapman had the uncanny ability to forecast the direction of new settlement and moving in advance would plant small nurseries protected from deer by brush fences to await the arrival of settlers.

Vermilion County, Illinois, is along the Appleseed-belt stretching through the central counties of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.  After marriage, Lewis and Elizabeth migrated north to help settle Dane County, Wisconsin, several years before Madison was founded.  The Neeleys, however, were driven back to Vermilion, Illinois in 1833 following two early Black Hawk War attacks on Fort Blue Mounds, leaving two children buried there.

Lewis and Elizabeth converted to Mormonism in 1839 just as the then-Church of Christ was renamed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints and three years before the future-President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Vermilion County to practice law.  Lincoln had already met another Neely, Mary with no “e” before the “y” whose progeny would later unite with those of Lewis and Elizabeth making them each my great-great and great-great-great grandparents.

Lewis Neeley and John Chapman were already abolitionists, each with roots in the Second Great Awakening at a time when the “Great Emancipator's” views were still forming.  Lewis was the same age as Mormon Church-founder Joseph Smith but had left the “Burned-Over District” of New York by the time Smith relocated there from his birthplace in Vermont.

Chapman, aka Appleseed, was a life-long missionary for the Swedenborgian New Church, also one of several formed during the Second Great Awakening.  Resembling “John The Baptist,” in dress and personal hygiene, Chapman’s missionary zeal had already been felt across central Ohio by the time Smith led his fledgling church across that terrain from Kirtland, Ohio, first to Missouri then driven by persecution and threat of “extermination” back across and up the Mississippi River to Commerce, Illinois, which was renamed Nauvoo.

Recently converted, the Neeleys relocated from Vermilion across Illinois to join other Mormons at Nauvoo.  They were moving west again by 1847 when Elizabeth died near Florence (Winter Quarters,) Nebraska just two years before John Chapman would die in Fort Wayne, Indiana, both after sudden illnesses.

Lewis remarried and with his son by Elizabeth, Armenius Miller Neeley, retreated back across the Missouri to Council Bluffs, Iowa where in the summer of 1850 they joined a train of 104 wagons headed for the Rocky Mountains and following a trail blazed three years earlier by another of my great-great-grandparents, Charles Alfred Harper, a Quaker-turned-Mormon from Upper Providence, Pennsylvania.

I was born onto yet another homestead just a hundred years after the soon-to-be widowed Lewis left Nauvoo.  It was settled at the turn of the 19th century in part by the great-granddaughter of Lewis and Elizabeth, Adah Rae Neeley Bowman who, while visiting from her birthplace of Franklin, Idaho, met and then married my grandfather Ernest Melvin Bowman while she was her sister up in that Yellowstone-Teton nook between Montana and Wyoming.00113_n_aaeuyfyqe0552

My grandparents Adah and Mel first lived in what they called a “12’ x 14’ shack,” built on a 160-acre homestead while they “proved up” (a term meaning to live on and cultivate the land) a requirement to homestead in the Pacific Northwest that didn’t specifically involve planting orchards like those required in the “Old” Northwest Territory a hundred years before.

After that, they bought an adjacent 80 acres and moved into the larger log house which was inherited 36 years later by my parents when they began to operate what by then had become more than 1,100 acres of ranch and related-feed cropland and where I spent the formative years of my life.

It is hard to believe it has only been 92 years since the events of that two month period documented in Adah’s personal history occurred and which provide a glimpse into the unpretentious strength of my grandmother:

“During the flu epidemic of 1919-20, all our family was down with the flu. My brother Elmer came and stayed two months with us, cared for stock, feeding, milking, fed and nursed five of us; Mel and I and our three children. Mel’s Mother died in October. In January, I lost my Mother, Brother Parley, Mother’s brother Uncle Jim Shumway, all in two months time.”

Adah was a tall, thin, angular woman who was always reading and I’m certain stimulated my love of reading and learning.  She and Mel boarded a series of school teachers for the nearby one-room school while my father attended in part because she loved the intellectually stimulating conversation.

I vividly remember the frequent Sunday dinners at their house in Saint Anthony, Idaho, where they retired 13 miles south and west of the ranch they had homesteaded as Adah led her four children and their spouses including my parents in a lively and passionate debate of current events while Mel quietly watched and occasionally nodded in agreement or disagreement preferring to be out “breaking in” a horse.

When I was in college, my grandmother’s frequent telephone calls to check on how I was doing always abruptly and humorously began without even a “hello” and ended when she was finished without a goodbye.  That abrupt click of the receiver that terminated each call reminded me of how far technology had come during her lifetime.

I was fortunate to often see and visit with Adah until she passed away near my 28th birthday and just six days before the 1976 Bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

I think of her often, especially while researching and writing posts for this blog.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

“THE PUBLIC is what makes THE PRIVATE possible!”

The first email was sent at MIT back when I was busy earning money over that summer between my junior and senior year in high school and pre-occupied with just released rock and roll hits such as “Satisfaction,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Help,” “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Wooly Bully.”

It was a hell of a summer for hits that still endure today, but just as 1965 was not only filled with news about the war, including the first bombing of North Vietnam and protests and Civil Rights marches, it was also when experimentation launched into innovations such as Head Start, Gatorade, and hybrid power systems for vehicles.

The point of this observation is that while those 46-year-old songs are even more ubiquitous today, good research often takes as much as two generations to incubate into something feasible in the marketplace.

People who see the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) as only the means to make a point fail to grasp that it is really about a 30-year span of “winner-take-all” economics fueled by lobbyist-rigged initiatives that intentionally or not have dramatically diminished the middle class and undermined the American Dream.

Just as it takes an average of two generations for research to incubate into many products and services, it has taken the same amount of time for people to finally hear warnings about extreme income and wealth disparity that has put America at the level of some third-world countries.

Professor George Lakoff conducts research into the application of cognitive and neural linguistics on everything from morality to politics to mathematics at the University of California – Berkley.  He suggests that OWS is a moral movement not just a policy movement.

He also notes that it is “The Public that makes the private possible,” something often lost on ultra-conservative “haves” when they lecture “have-nots” about how they made it on their own.  In reality none of it would have been possible without a foundation provided by we “The Public” cooperating to provide infrastructure and framework and research and much more.

As a moderate Independent, I follow Lakoff on the progressive end of the spectrum just as I do David Brooks on the conservative end.  I highly recommend both. They are both extremely articulate and you know what, to me they agree on many things.

Like many conservatives, Brooks tends to be dismissive of OWS, stereotyping them around a policy vs. morality.  But Brooks makes an excellent point in an essay about the nature of Blue Inequality and Red Inequality and he’s not just talking about politics.

I think Brooks and Lakoff would agree that the solution is to worry not just about the inequality of incomes but about inequality of opportunity.  To put one above the other as Brooks does seems a false choice to me.  Both must be resolved and for both we “The Public” must be part of the solution.

Oh, and that first-ever email in 1965 – it was funded by we “The Public” through Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA,) the entity credited by CEOs for laying the groundwork over the last 50 years for the technological innovations that are driving the economy today.

A clone, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is now doing the same so we “The Public” do our part to help secure energy independence based on a report requested by Congress entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Future from the National Academies.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My Uncle Albert’s Link To OWS And The World Series

My uncle Albert Schaat owned a parts and hardware store in the small town of Saint Anthony only a dozen miles south of the ranch where I was born and both are situated along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho.

On one side he had set up a sporting goods section that was my favorite place to visit during my frequent trips down to see my paternal grandparents who had relocated there after my Dad returned from Europe at the end of WWII and my parents had assumed operation of the ranch his parents had homesteaded half a century earlier.

In my memory it was as filled with balls and bats and gloves and guns and fishing and hunting gear as any of the mega-stores such as Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shop or Cabelas, which are typically nearly twice the size of the average convention center.  In reality it was the type of small, Main-Street operation these huge stores have driven out of business across the country.

Going into a Harley dealership or a sporting goods store is like visiting a museum for my two grandsons, ages 6 and 8.  In fact, the now publicly-traded Cabelas may still gain a public subsidy at each of its stores by claiming a significant portion as a museum.

On my way back home a year ago during a 6,000-mile cross-country road trip that included a visit with my grandsons, as Mugsy, my English Bulldog and I were dropping down out of Wyoming across a corner of the panhandle of Nebraska created by the nook Kansas makes out of nowhere there appeared the tiny town of Chappell, home of the Cabela brothers and the catalogue operation they launched in the 1960s before starting retail operations in 1987.Free Lunch

If you ever wonder why Cabelas stores are located where they are, read the best selling, prescient 2008 book Free Lunch – How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You With The Bill) by Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnson.

Written well before Occupy Wall Street (OWS) existed, Johnson describes why such a movement is about much more than making a point and it is protesting much more than the financial industry.  Just ask Scott Olsen, a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq as an American Marine.

Johnson's book includes a chapter on Cabelas, in which he uses words taken directly from the company's annual report to explain how they exploit IRS rules for non-profits as well as a system that rigs the economy and legally extorts land, huge monetary grants and the recapture of sales, property and other taxes from local and state governments.

Johnson’s investigation found that Cabelas demanded for a store in Pennsylvania “tribute that amounted to $8,000 for each man, woman and child in that town” at the time while promising in return that Cabelas would draw 6 million visitors a year, “as big a draw as Universal Studios in Orlando,” Florida.

To its credit, according to Johnson, the company that owns Gander Mtn stores opposes and fights this type of tribute.

An independent analysis confirmed a year after the Pennsylvania store opened that the number of actual visitors was closer to 2.5 million and the average visitation at 17 others stores opened at about the same time was around 1.5 million.

So what does all of this have to do with the World Series?  According to Johnson’s book that spectacular stadium in Arlington, Texas that we viewed over the last few weeks as the Rangers battled the Cardinals was built for some very wealthy owners using local tax dollars and then sold back to the team as a rent-to-own with every dollar of rent counted toward the purchase price which was just a third what it cost to build.

Along with 200 acres around it, obtained by government for surrounding development, it was then leveraged as pure profit in a sale by the owners decades before, if ever, taxpayers will see a return on investment.  The team at the time was part-owned by a soon-to-be and now former President and the transaction is what Johnson calls a type of “government-sponsored transfer of wealth,” in a system now being protested by OWS.

Johnson is an equal opportunity researcher in the book singling out offending supporters of Democrats as well as Republications.  Each of the 26 chapters provides a compelling example of why some parts of the economy, such as utilities and healthcare, perform miserably when privatized and how a doubling of lobbyists in Washington over the first half of the last decade helped rig the economy with government rules that benefit the wealthy and put the middle class at risk.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An Artist’s Wisdom Could Save America

One of the most articulate voices about the global transformation of organizations, institutions and business models including today’s political gridlock just happens be, not a scientist or economist or political expert or business leader but one of the 2.1 million artists and arts workers in the United States, a number documented by a new study just released.

This artist is becoming known for something coined by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor for Wired magazine as the Shirky Principle:

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution."


This principle explains why so many organizations (private, public and not-for-profit) prefer life-support and mission-creep to what Nancy Lublin calls “death by success” once they have become obsolete or completed their mission, ignoring “systematic abandonment,” one of guru Peter Drucker’s four responsibilities of management.

The far-too-infrequent essay-posts by art professor Clay Shirky on his blog found at this link are always a must read for me including one in 2009 that is still the most insightful explanation I’ve read yet about what’s happening to newspapers and now threatening television as we’ve known them.  Remember that pesky issue of “stranded costs” so prominent in the downfall of Enron?

Shirky’s incredible book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, published a year ago about the time this snippet was taped as a TED presentation on the topic is a must read for anyone seeking a glimpse into the future.

One of Shirky’s posts reminded me of a chilling book entitled The Collapse of Complex Societies by anthropologist and historian Joseph Tainter, which was published and already going into reprint as I relocated to Durham a little more than two decades ago.

Unfortunately, until recently I had skipped over Tainter’s prescient-book because back then I had just finished a far longer book but more narrowly focused book called The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers, published a year earlier by British historian Paul Kennedy and dealing predominantly with only economic and military factors.

I was reminded of the importance of an anthropological perspective while reading another blog-essay by Shirky posted last year entitled The Collapse Of Complex Business Models with an excellent introduction to Tainter’s analysis and applying it to issues and events in the news today.

In the post, Shirky summarizes Tainter’s conclusions which indicate that in the past complex societies such as ours today “hadn’t collapsed despite their cultural sophistication, they’d collapsed because of it:”

“Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond. In retrospect, this can seem mystifying. Why didn’t these societies just re-tool in less complex ways? The answer Tainter gives is the simplest one: When societies fail to respond to reduced circumstances through orderly downsizing, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t.

In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change. Tainter doesn’t regard the sudden decoherence of these societies as either a tragedy or a mistake — ‘Under a situation of declining marginal returns collapse may be the most appropriate response’, to use his pitiless phrase. Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites.’

When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.”

Shirky summarizes Tainter in a way that helps explain the double-dog-dare-standoff over the debt ceiling last summer and among members of the Super Committee with one side beholden to one unelected individual with a self-defeating pledge of no new taxes even when it makes sense and helps explain the resonance of Occupy Wall Street movement when he writes:

“One of the interesting questions about Tainter’s thesis is whether markets and democracy, the core mechanisms of the modern world, will let us avoid complexity-driven collapse, by keeping any one group of elites from seizing unbroken control.

This is, as Tainter notes in his book, an open question.  There is, however, one element of a complex society into which neither markets nor democracy reach – bureaucracy.

Bureaucracies [and here I believe Shirky’s use of the term applies to corporations as well as government] temporarily suspend the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  In a bureaucracy, it’s easier to make a process more complex than it is to make it simpler, and easier to create a new burden than kill off an old one.

it is people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.”

To me the great danger to our society comes from both the extremes of the right and the left, one, defending self-interest but excluding social responsibility while obsessed with personal responsibility and the other defending what hasn’t worked and bureaucratic complexity over common-sense and simplification.

Can the moderate center save America?  I hope so but remember another Shirky-ism, “A revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools.  It happens when society adopts new behaviors.”

I still believe that regardless of ideology we all have what Shirky names as one of the two elements helping fuel today’s “cognitive surplus” and that is “generosity of human spirit.