Archive | September, 2011

When Great Brands Tell Us “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Coke Does It Again.

18 Sep

            Good brands know what they are and who they’re talking to.  Great brands inspire others to do the talking and share the experience.

            In the latter category, Coca-Cola has done it again.  Coke’s brand has always been about happiness in a bottle.  Its message has always been about sharing the happiness.

            But only great brands can use their core reputation to get people to think about how the brand extends to other walks of life.  Coke’s new internet video called “Experience the Great Happification” is a musical teaching machine on the six secrets of happiness.

            In these times of high unemployment, falling stocks, and perhaps an impending world recession, Coke gives us a lesson in how to be happy.  That’s a brand that knows its power and knows how to extend it.

            And all of it from a bottle of sugar water.    Thanks, Coke.   I’ll take a cold one.

A Case of the Disappearing Middle Class Job Market

17 Sep

            If every economic report comes with a list of footnotes, I just found one that deserves to move to the front of the narrative.  This footnote comes with high hopes and a stack of resumes.

            Her name is Jeannette Doss.  She’s unemployed and looking for a job.  She’s fluent in sign language and Spanish and has worked in the past as an interpreter.  This time she’s struggling to just find a job as a receptionist.

Jeannette Doss Looking for Work at the Hennepin Co. Jobs Fair

            “It’s very, very hard.  It’s very difficult.  There are lots of people out here.  And everybody is actually going for the same thing,” said Jeannette.

            She joined dozens of other unemployed workers at the Hennepin County Jobs Fair held at the Mall of America.  Representatives from 35 companies were on hand ready to accept applications.  Stir Crazy, a new restaurant opening at MOA needs to hire 160 employees.  Macy’s at Ridgedale Shopping Center is now hiring 250 seasonal workers for the holidays.   All are welcome job openings in a dismal economy that the experts actually call a recovery.  However, accept any of these jobs and one will struggle to pay the grocery bill.  Or the winter heating bill.  Or the mortgage.  Stir Crazy’s pay range is just $8-$13 an hour.

Figure 1: Recession Unemployment Recovery- BLS

            The reality of the New Economy is underscored by brand new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the American worker is losing the war on wages.  For the month of August alone, pay dropped 2.3 percent from a year ago as consumer prices rose 3.8 percent.  It coincides with additional BLS research that shows the economic recovery is the slowest and most painful in modern times. (Figure 1)  The recessions of ’90-’91, ’81-’82, and the oil crisis recession of ’74-’75 all had recoveries that produced jobs at an exponentially faster rate than now.  The BLS notes that for the first time the employment ratio for women has fallen as fast as men.

            Which brings us back to Jeannette Doss, unemployed and having trouble finding a decent job at a decent wage.  Fortunately, she’s optimistic.

            “There are some prospects and I’m looking for call backs,” said Doss.

            And while you ponder Doss’ fate ponder this, too.  CEO pay in 2011 has risen 23 percent.

Bridging The Memories of 9-11: One Man’s Mission to Never Forget

10 Sep

            It began with a single American flag. 

            The stars and stripes on this day stood not just for freedom, but for defiance, resolve, and honor.  The man holding and waving the flag pole high above the Main Street Bridge in Coon Rapids, Minnesota was Daniel Hanson.  With a long white beard and wavy grey hair, he looked like Santa in search of a sleigh.  In reality, he was a statement in search of a cause.

            The cause found him.  It was 9-11.

            Every September 11th for the past five years, Hanson has been waving his flag on the bridge and every year he is joined by a growing crowd of firefighters, police officers, soldiers, families and children. 

            “We want to remember what happened to our country on that day, we don’t want anyone to ever forget,” said Hanson.

            “But we want to be able to honor those men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”

            That’s why this year, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Hanson and Coon Rapids firefighters are turning their simple bridge display into a grand community commemoration.

Daniel Hanson and Coon Rapids Fire Captain Ken Boelter standing next to a section of I-beam from the World Trade Center

           Starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 11th at Coon Rapids High School the city is holding a special ceremony to honor the 9-11 anniversary with a piece of the Twin Towers as a center piece.  The Coon Rapids Fire Department has acquired a section of I-beam from the ruins of the former World Trade Center that they’ll dedicate on Sunday at the high school and then lead it on a procession to Fire Station 1 where they’ll mount it in a permanent memorial to the victims of 9-11.

            Firefighters will also have a Halligan tool belonging to FDNY unit Rescue 5.  The men of Rescue 5 stormed into the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11th, only one of them ever survived.  Their Halligan tool, a piece of equipment as ubiquitous as an axe, was among the only items ever recovered from the rescue team.  Their bodies were never found.

            For Coon Rapids Fire Captain Ken Boelter, the bent and weathered Halligan is a portal-like object.  Touch it, and it transports one into souls of the men who once carried it.

            “They would have carried this in that day,” said Boelter.

            The ceremonies at Coon Rapids High School will allow citizens to see and touch the Halligan tool and the World Trade Center’s I-beam. Boelter hopes they link people to the past in ways that forever shape the future. 

            “This is just a way to remember and a way to remember particularly the 343 New York City firefighters that died that day.” 

 Here is the schedule of events:

 1 p.m.             Event starts, public viewing of I-beam and Halligan tool at Coon Rapids High School.

 2:00                Posting of color by honor guard

2:07                Flyover by 934th Air Wing

2:08                Speakers including: Anoka Co. Sheriff James Stuart, Sec. of State Mark Ritchie, Oklahoma City bombing survivor Clark Peterson, World Trade Center  family survivor Eric Aamoth, Fire Chief John Piper.

2:48                Dedication of I-beam

2:55                Bagpipes, CRHS Band & Choir

3:45                I-beam procession to Fire Station #1

Are We Serving Our Customers’ (Viewers’) Mindset?

3 Sep

            The Associated Press alert that chimed on my newsroom computer a few years ago was short and direct.  “Bulletin: Jeane Kirkpatrick has died.”

            I leapt from my desk and shouted across the room to my 5 p.m. newscast producers, “Folks, we have to add an important story. Jeane Kirkpatrick is dead!”

            The silence was deafening.

            Then came the puzzled, if not predictable reply shouted back.

            “Who’s Jeane Kirkpatrick?”

            One of our senior investigative reporters sitting just a desk away burst out laughing and then buried his head in his hands in disgust at what he just heard.  How can anyone in the news business, the very scribes of contemporary history, not know of the first woman U.S. ambassador to the United Nations?

            I walked over to his desk and said, “Dude, we gotta cut her some slack, she wasn’t born yet when Reagan made her a diplomatic rock star.” 

Mindset List Creators Tom McBride and Ron Nief

           That little newsroom narrative serves as a wonderful introduction to one of my favorite rites of fall, Beloit College’s Mindset List.  Before school starts each September, Beloit Professor Tom McBride along with the college’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief trot out a list of social and experiential realities that have shaped the lives of incoming college freshmen.  The list is meant to give educators insights into the mindset of their students so there can be more productive classroom learning and dialogue.  The list is not only instructive for college professors, it’s also useful for businesses, advertisers, marketing executives, and yes, even news organizations.

          Among the most useful insights from this year’s mindset list of our future customers are these:

      1.  There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.

      9.  “Don’t touch that dial!” …what dial?

     12.  Amazon has never been just a river in South America.

     30.  Dial-up is soooooo last century.

     37.  Music has always been available via free downloads.

     63.  They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.

            The takeaways?  They’re connected, mobile, and consume on their schedule, not the schedule we make for them.

            Those very insights mirror portions of my own research on viewers of Fox 9 News in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In a survey of 1116 viewers, 42 percent indicate they use the internet to access Fox 9 News content at least three to five days a week.  Twenty-two percent visit Fox 9 online every day.   Even more significant, 40 percent of Fox 9’s online audience indicates they access the station’s news content through a mobile device. 

Viewers Accessing Fox 9 Through Mobile Devices

            The implications for news organizations and businesses alike could not be more clear.  Our customers are changing and so are their mindsets.  This year’s entering class of 2015 is symbolic of the new generation of emerging consumers. They no longer shop exclusively at stores with shelves and they will not wait until 9 p.m. to watch the latest news—especially from a traditional TV set.  Those of us in legacy industries trying to reach our customers through traditional platforms and channels are in peril of becoming irrelevant in our own mindset.

            Yes, today’s next generation of consumers may not know who Jeane Kirkpatrick was, but they know how to find out on their smartphones.  The question is, will be there to tell them?

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