Archive for the marketing Category

The Knowledge Economy

Posted in marketing, personal with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2009 by barryshapiro

Recently, I was honored to attend the graduation ceremony of Alex Behr (B.S. Biology)  at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, one of America’s great citadels of higher learning. I have known the Behr family since way back in the mid-seventies and have attended the graduations of all 3 Behr children so to see young Alex stride to the podium to receive his diploma was a particularly poignant event for me. It was a joyous celebratory weekend in general but before I make my point I have to say one thing: if you are ever in Troy, New York make sure to stop at The Cookie Factory (www.cookiefactoryllc.com) on Congress Street. That’s where you’ll get an education in the fine art of eating fantastic baked goods from the Alberino family and a helpful, friendly staff. It was so good I totally over indulged! OK, that’s it for the plug.

As to the graduation itself, it was a beautiful day and the event was long and drawn out, as these things tend to be. RPI produces some of America’s brilliant scientists, engineers and mathematicians and many successful and innovative business people have come through the ranks, not the least of which were two of the the four who received honorary degrees that day: Kenneth Chenault (CEO of American Express), Dr. Robert Richardson (Nobel Prize in Physics), Samuel Josefowitz (class of ’42) entrepreneur, noted art collector and philandthropist) and the keynote speaker, Peter Schwartz (class of ’68) . Schwartz was notably long winded and redundant. The audience groaned audibly when, believing him to be at the end of his speech, he began to recite 20 predictions about the future. He could have limited it to two or three and we all would have appreciated the brevity as much as the insight.

However, that didn’t mean that Schwartz’s talk was without value. Schwartz is internationally known as a ‘futurist,’ strategist and author of books with titles such as “When Good Companies Do Bad Things” and “The Art of the Long View” which is about scenario planning. My impression is that Mr. Schwartz is one of those guys who is very impressed with his small contribution to the mess being made of the world. But when he speaks about future trends it probably pays to listen. If you don’t you might get run over by the bus he’s driving. As Schwartz went on and on and on I perked up at one point when he started to talk less about himself and more about the present and future of our global economy. I scribbled one remark down in my commencement booklet: “We live in a knowledge economy.” That phrase has stuck in my head ever since.

It seems to me that we have passed through the age of technology and the age of information right into the age of economic data. People are more obsessed with the hourly ups and downs of the stock market than they are with their jobs, their family or their driving skills. Many of these people don’t even have money in the market. They just want to know what the market is doing right now. And because most people don’t understand the first thing about economics, including apparently, most of the economists in the government, they just want to have a little info about something they can grasp-so they check the market reports. Ever notice how the evening news gives you the Dow Jones updates every evening? Up down – up down! The market reports are so minimal that it really matters not at all to anyone who is actually IN the market. People need to have small, simple packets of information – like quanta of information (see how scientific I have gotten?) – so they won’t feel stupid or left out of conversations at parties or around the office cooler. That little itty bit of info, however, can be a powerful tool or even a commodity if used correctly. Hence I observe we are in the Age of the Knowledge Economy where a little knowledge can pay big dividends.

This may not have been at all what Schwartz was talking about but I can’t recall because I was falling asleep or going to the bathroom through most of his speech. In fact I think I went to the bathroom twice while he spoke and each time was amazed to find upon my return that he was still speaking! But I digress…

Since communication today has been reduced to sound bites and cryptograms it seems that no one really has to know much of anything – they just need to be able to report on it or write about it. If you can Tweet on Twitter successfully than you can not only make a good living but you can be anointed an expert in just about anything. According to the NY Times, companies like Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue are hiring people just to Tweet and have created strategies to influence consumer choices and impressions based on new technology like Twitter and Facebook. This is scary stuff if you are a trained professional writer. Some kid from Laguna beach is taking your job away because she can type 140 words with her thumbs.

I believe that the concept of the ad agency is dead. It will take a while for them to totally die off but eventually that building on Madison Avenue that houses Y&R will be condos.  Those dinosaurs just cannot dance fast enough for life in the Age of the Knowledge Economy. And those wacky Internet marketers, the ones that send you all that crap that winds up in your spam box, they will eventually die off as well as we get better and better at filtering out the garbage. Since everyone will be sending out their own garbage there won’t be time for reading anyone elses.

But there is hope and it comes in the presence of young people like Alex Behr. Here’s a good, honest, smart and decent future scientist. When I asked him what he was going to do now that he had his “Get Out of Jail” card he caught me totally off guard when he told me he was taking a year off and walking the Appalacian Trail. Just him and some other kid with backpacks and sensible shoes. I am really proud of him. Someday he’s going to be working in a lab somewhere finding a cure for cancer or the common cold but for now he’s putting his youth to good work and getting an experience that will be with him the rest of his life – and I believe for the better. Let’s all wish him and his traveling buddy a safe and purposeful journey. Come back, share your knowledge with us and take on the world. The world in the Age of the Knowledge Economy!

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Tee Time

Posted in directing, marketing, personal on May 6, 2009 by barryshapiro

It’s 10:55 PM and this is the first time in a couple of months that I am not either working or utterly exhausted at this point in the evening. I’ve always been a night person, even as a young kid I could never fall asleep until morning. I remember laying in my bed after my mother had sent me to my room just lying there staring into the dark and letting my imagination run wild. Sometimes I’d read but one of the folks would see the light on and make me put my book away and “go to sleep!” Sleep did not come, at least not until everyone in the house had been down for the count for hours. In the winter months, when it was cold in my room (mine was above the garage and apparently not well insulated) I’d sneak into the bathroom with a book, crawl up on the floor next to the heat vent and read until I passed out. That’s where they’d find me in the morning. My parents thought I was weird. I believe this was all a natural response to my bio-rhythms. I was also lactose intolerant but no one figured that out until I was in my 50’s.

Needless to say I am also not a morning person and I don’t do well with people first thing in the AM. I need at least an hour to fully wake and coffee really helps. Since I’ve given up caffeine it now takes me a tad longer. Many of my relationships with women have ended by a remark I didn’t even know I made upon arising and finding a “bright-eyed, bushy tailed” young thing lying next to me wanting to be sweet and cuddly and talkative. For me that’s “shutthefuckup time.”

I guess that’s one reason I always stunk at golf. All my buddies wanted to get up at the crack of dawn to get a favorable early tee time. I wanted to sleep in, have brunch and get in a late round. Besides the rates usually go down after 12.

I live with a woman who thinks that the appropriate time to go to sleep is somewhere between  8:30 and 9:30 PM. She does stay up for parties and events but most evenings she’s in dreamland well before 10, leaving me to Facebook, blogging, Rachael Maddow and old movies. I don’t read that much any more at night cause my eyes get tired fast, especially after a day in front of a computer monitor. I try to draw but I have to say it’s hard to get my head wrapped around a project unless I can really absorb myself for 4 or 5 hours. Lately that has been impossible. That’s why tonight is great. I’m at the computer, my eyes don’t feel like they are bugging out of their sockets and I have some real energy. Just not much to say!

I will say that I just completed the 2009 radio campaign for the New York Shipping Association and I think we did a great job of bringing the plight of the New York-New Jersey ports into perspective. Great job by voices Alan Pratt, the lovely and charming Carolee Goodgold and the hysterical Brad Zimmerman. I love how Brad always tells me how great his career is. I kind of discovered him when he was a waiter at Chat ‘n Chew in New York’s Flatiron District. He was a very funny waiter for a lot of years. I put him in 2 or 3 commercials (one for Rush Limbaugh) and then his career took off doing stand up. His routine is all about being a 50 year old waiter. Catch him on You Tube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc2IIxQxB6E.

I’ve worked with alot of comedians over the years. Going back to my beginnings in the ad biz I remember doing a spot with Morty Gunty when I was a PA. If you know who Morty Gunty was then you are Jewish, from New York and at least 50 years old. I was on a shoot with Gabe (Welcome Back Kotter) Kaplan. He wasn’t funny. In fact he was one of the biggest assholes I ever encountered in the business. I’ve been on the set with Stiller and Meara, Jay Leno, Gilbert Gottfried (has to be one of my favorite afternoons ever – what a freak!), John Ratzenberger (though I doubt he considers himself a comedian) Pat Cooper and my all time favorite, Henny Youngman.

Here’s a story about Henny Youngman I’ve told a million times but worth telling again. I just hope it translates to the printed word (try reading it with a New York Jewish accent – it might help). The scenario was this: I was a Production Manager for the Normandy Film Group back in the mid-80’s and we were shooting a big package for New York Telephone (aka ATT, aka NYNEX, aka Verizon). This was before the breakup of Ma Bell into the Baby Bells and this job was a plum for my boss, Norman Cohen. He wanted everything to be perfect, especially for the several minor celebrities employed (does any one remember Alison Steele the Nightbird? She was in the spot too.) And the agency, which was Y&R, also wanted A+ treatment for these people, especially Henny Youngman, the King of the One-Liners. I was told to call Henny’s agent in LA and find out what Henny’s wishes would be – special food, drink, whatever. I spoke to an older gentleman with a think LA Jewish accent who told me that Henny would be happy with whatever we fed him, he just liked to have a little black coffee, especially since he was coming directly from the airport to the set.

I relayed the info to my employer and his clients who got pissed off and told me to cal back and find out what Henny really wanted in his dressing room and on the set – they didn’t want any complaints. I called back the guy in LA and he told me the same thing: black coffee. I pressed him and after pondering the situation he said simply “a bagel and cream cheese would be nice!” I went back to the producers with  the request and again they were pissed off, certain I had done something wrong and was not getting the correct info. Finally Norman called himself and got the same info. So I was told to fix up a special dressing room for Henny, arrange a limo from the airport and have the best bagel and cream cheese spread this side of the Carnegie Deli in his dressing room.

Now here’s where it got interesting. We were shooting on location that day at Sarah Lawrence College (by the way, one of the young actresses on the set was a then totally unknown Courtney Cox – I hit on her of course cause she was really cute but she was leaving for a big audition in LA that week so I didn’t ask her out  – she had just done the Springsteen video). Henny’s scene was to be shot in a dressing room at the school’s auditorium. On the location scout, and I have witnesses to this story, we were all pretty stoned but I managed to find a small library room near the location that had stone walls, red velvet curtains over beautiful stained glass windows, a beautiful leather couch and 2 great wing chairs. On the morning of the shoot we set up a banquet table with 2 giant silver serving bowls which I piled high with dozens of assorted warm bagels I had brought in from Ess-a-Bagel in the city, silver platters of lox, Nova, white fish salad, chopped liver, a pickled garden salad, potato salad, pastrami, corned beef, 3 kinds of creamed cheese, lox spread, a gigantic urn of fresh hot coffee, an urn of decaf, and urn of hot water and a selection of imported teas. We had all sorts of pickles and condiments too. In the center of the table was a beautiful floral arrangement and for good measure I had the NY Times, Wall Street Journal and daily Variety on the table near the sofa. It looked like a banquet for King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table if King Arthur had been an Eastern European Jew. We all anxiously awaited Henny’s arrival.

Finally I saw the limo pull up and ran to meet him. Out stepped a very tall, very disheveled old guy carrying a worn out violin case. He had dyed hair, a crumpled old black suit with red pinstripes which he must have slept in (several times) and a white shirt and red tie with food stains all over. He graciously shook my hand and introduced himself as Henny Youngman, King of the One-Liners and gave me his business card. “Here, have a picture of my pride and joy!” he exclaimed and sure enough on the back of the business card was a photo of Joy dish soap and Pride furniture polish. I knew then it was going to be an interesting afternoon. After all the big shots came over to meet Henny and take a few snaps I was asked to escort Henny to his dressing room where he’s have to wait for a few hours while we finished up the last scene.

We walked over to the building where the dressing room had been staged. I told him we had a special room just for him and anything he wished I would arrange for him (I was hoping he didn’t ask for a girl but soon realized those days were long gone). I opened the big wooden double door and led him in to the room. the sun was coming through the beautiful stained glass windows, the flowers smelled great and the food looked scrumptious. Henny took one look around, turned to me and asked “Who died?” turned around and walked out. He never went back into the room. When I asked him where he was going he said he wouldn’t stay in that room alone, it gave him the creeps and he spent the next hour with the crew at the craft service tale having a plain bagel with cream cheese and a black coffee.

He spent about an hour in makeup and about 20 minutes on the set and he was done. He popped back into the limo and headed back to the airport. I packed him an extra bagel for the trip. And that was Henny Youngman, the man who said “Take my wife… please!”

OK, off to bed now.

Twitter Is Pissing Me Off

Posted in marketing, personal with tags , , , , , , on May 5, 2009 by barryshapiro

I can’t take it anymore. Between Facebook, email, texting, work and this blog I have simply run out of time. Now it’s twitter. It has been suggested that I Tweet for True Healthy Products and though I love working for this terrific company I simply cannot spend one more minute losing my sanity and sleep just to Twitter my life away. My first attempts were not so brilliant and all I proceeded to do it have a bunch of people I don’t know send me emails telling me they are now following my Tweets. And all I can say to that is “Why?” there must be a better way for people to learn all about Protein Power Mix (I think you just did) without having to know that I went to the bathroom and had a successful bowel movement (I didn’t).

That said, I just found out Mercury is going to be in retrograde starting next week and I should make any big plans or business deals until the end of the month. Thank you Monte Farber at http://www.theenchantedworld.com/blog/content.php?Subpage_ID=2903. Seriously, I love Monte and his beloved spouse Amy Zerner like they were family but they now have me spooked to buy a plane ticket and I want to go to New York. What am I to do? If it weren’t for their little blog memos on Facebook I would have bought the ticket, taken the trip and ever realized that I had blown a life-altering financial deal if only I had stayed in Florida. Life was simpler PF (Pre-Facebook).

All this technology is making me spend money I don’t want to really spend. I now realize how behind the times I really am and I need an iphone. How can I live without one? I see a crowd of friends and I walk over to chat. They are all talking and texting and as soon as I whip out m 6 year old LG flip phone they look at me like I must be yesterday’s old shorts and start to drift away to text and tweet in peace. It’s so embarrassing. I struggle with Quicken too, although I do love that little cash register sound ever time I enter a transaction. I used to be able to balance my checkbook at the first of every month just using a pencil and calculator. Not only can I not now balance my checkbook but I don’t even try. It never works out. I can’t even find my checkbook. And I don’t know how to scan a document and I still have a fax. This is why I don’t have friends. I’m just so 4 days ago.

I am digitally challenged. I feel so inadequate at times. Like when I can’t get on a webinar cause I screwed up the PIN codes.  And oh, I hate textimg too. I know that makes me an outcast but it’s true. I see kids text one-handed faster than I can touch type and I wonder if we are developing a nation of arthritic thumbs.

Well, I have to go hydrate now. And watch a video about how to successfully twitter. Watch for me – I’ll be out there!

Marketing in the Midst of Disaster

Posted in marketing on March 12, 2009 by barryshapiro

The following is an article I wrote, but was not published, in the Pinnacle, a magazine published by Pathfinder Business Strategies LLC. I wrote it last October and I think they passed it over due to the political references. Never the less, I was just reading it over and though some things have changed – like the economy sucks even worse than it did – by alot – I think that much of what I wrote is still relevant. Points of view welcome.

How Do I Sell In A Down Economy?

By Barry Shapiro

The global economy is in the tank, the Stock Market has lost 40% of its value and unemployment is at a 20 year high. Credit is all but dried up and the banks don’t want to hear from you. One piece of good news is that gas prices are down but at $2.60 per gallon that’s hardly any consolation, especially if you’ve invested or work in the alternative energy fields. Yes, times are tough for everyone but certainly no one has it harder right now than you, the small business owner.

Yes, the small businessmen and women of America are in a real bind. All you have to do is listen to the current Presidential candidates talk about the plight of small business, the backbone of the American economy (this article was written just one week before the election) and refer to people like “Joe The Plumber” to know that it’s dog eat dog out there.

With money tight, people are not spending on luxuries and cutting back on essentials.  This is especially a tough time for businesses that depend on disposable income like restaurants, hotels and resorts. If you are a supplier to those industries your business may be suffering. I know of many established businesses that are feeling the squeeze. Even my favorite restaurant in New York City has closed due to a precipitous decrease in business. This is getting to be truly disturbing!

So what do you do? You have bills to pay and promises to keep. It’s time to take some aggressive action but what is the right thing to do when cash is tight? The last thing you want to do is cut back on production and lay people off. When the economy takes a downturn, there is often the tendency for business owners to cut down on the expense items that they deem most expendable, like advertising and marketing. But there is another way to look at this: it may be the right time to be aggressive in the marketplace. Just because there is a recession does not mean that people will stop buying altogether, they just reset their priorities and get very stingy. An aggressive approach to marketing your business may just be the thing that keeps you one step ahead of the competition in the new economy. But you have to be smart and keep a keen eye on your marketing budget while you do this. To use a well worn cliché: you need to be thinking outside of the box if you want to control the box.

Here are a few things to think about while pondering your next marketing moves:

1. Survey your customers  – Remember that old TV ad for United Airlines where the boss handed out tickets to the sales team and told them to go out and meet their customers in person because they had gotten  ‘out of touch’?  This may be an excellent time to reach out to your customers and make an assessment of your business and theirs. A personal survey of your client’s needs and concerns may be just the thing that creates a positive vibe. You will be able to learn what they are thinking about your products and services and be able to put that information to good use. You may find that just a little tweaking can boost sales. This does not have to be an expensive proposition but it can have a real impact on your ROI. You can do your survey with a simple postcard, a letter, by phone or through an email blast. But if you go the email route make sure your mail gets through and doesn’t get spammed. An email that does not get read is a waste of your time and time is money. I prefer the method of a short letter with a pre-paid return postcard inserted that has a few simple questions and enough space for a short comment. Those comments can turn into great testimonials. If you can afford an incentive, all the better – something like ‘please return this card and accept our free gift for your troubles.’ A small product sample works really well and allows for great cross promotion.

2. Explore new media venues – Look at your ad budget and see how you might get more bang for your buck. If you advertise on TV or radio, you might consider something like direct mail as a cheaper alternative or even consider adding outdoor to your marketing repertoire. There are a lot of good deals that can be made right now as large corporations cut back on their ad budgets so explore every possible avenue of communication at your disposal. I am a big fan of radio. It’s comparatively inexpensive and can be demographically targeted to suit your business needs. Also, I enjoy the recording process which may be why I am so partial to the medium but the fact is radio is effective for the right audience.

3. Write a great sales letter – A well written sales letter can be a very effective way to get your message across. Using a four or eight page spread can give you ample room to speak to your customers about the benefits of working with you or using your products. Pathfinder students may remember seeing large, brightly colored Mylar envelops in their mailboxes. It’s almost impossible to ignore them. But it’s the copy that makes the letter and there is an art to it. If you can afford to, I recommend searching out an experienced copywriter to work with you on a targeted, focused sales letter.  A sales letter can be geared to existing customers and to potentials as well. If you don’t have an extensive mailing list you can buy a targeted list pretty cheap from several reputable companies. Just make sure you are dealing with a company that has a track record when you shop for a list and try to get referrals from someone who has used them before. I say this from experience.

4. Empathize with your customers and let them know you’re all in it together – Misery loves company. Let your customers know that you are there for them. If you are in a position to help them you could create a customer for life. Here’s a scenario that illustrates my point: Let’s say you find that a customer is cutting back on his orders this month because of a slowdown in business. Look and see if he or she is in real trouble or is just stuck in the general malaise. If this looks like a temporary slump then try to work out some creative financing or other way to see that the client gets their goods. Not only are you building customer goodwill but there is no reason that you cannot turn that around to your advantage as a great piece of PR for your business.

Now I realize that you are not a bank and you cannot be expected to float all your customers just because things are tough but by judiciously helping a solid customer get through a slow sales period you could actually be building business for the long term. Think of every situation as a marketing opportunity.

5. Add the personal touch and stay positive – It is said that on a day of disastrous carnage at the Battle of Shiloh that Ulysses Grant stood in the pouring rain in front of his troops, his ever present cigar soggy and rain water dripping off the brim of his hat. There was no available shelter to stand in as the tents were filled with the wounded. At some point William Tecumseh Sherman walks up to him and says something to the effect of ‘Well, we had a bad day today General’ and Grant says just loud enough to be heard by the troops behind him, ‘Yup, Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.’  The point is that no one wants to hear how bad you’ve got it when it is looking bad all over. Having a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity, can inspire and promote positive results. When you interact with your customers make sure your outlook is always bright and reflect that in your advertising and marketing campaigns. This will not only affect your customers but your employees as well. And it can also have a very energizing effect on you. If you feel like things are going to get better, usually they will. Call it the power of positive thinking if you like but remember, in the words of Norman Vincent Peale: “You are what you think.” Here’s another great quote that sums up this attitudinal approach:

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”

                                                – Abraham Lincoln

Or to quote Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy!” And convey your optimism to your clientele. It can be infectious and they will certainly enjoy doing business with you more if your approach is upbeat.

6. Be Aggressive – While I’m on the topic of attitude, I recently read an article in the New Yorker about General David Petraeus and how he managed the “surge” in Iraq. I was particularly inspired by one phrase that I believe taps the best way to approach any business. To sum it up, what Patraeus said to his officers was ‘It’s time to stop thinking about what the enemy can do to us and let’s start thinking about what we can do to the enemy.’ I realize that analogies of war and business can be a little off-putting but in truth it is a little bit like a war out there for the small business person. It’s a war of survival! Look out there and see what the competition is doing and develop a marketing plan that goes right at them. Use comparison ads to put your products and services in the best possible light. If you see an opening, take it. Make bold moves. By the way, that’s exactly what some of the top Wall Street players are doing right now. They are zeroing in on the weaker businesses and going for the jugular. And they are using killer marketing strategies to place themselves at the front of the pack. The banks that are best positioned are not cutting back but taking aggressive marketing positions. Barclays, HSBC, Citibank and Wachovia, to name a few have launched big, expensive ad campaigns to show people that they are out there, strong and open for business, even at a time when their industry is in a perilous state. It’s clear that someone at those places has read Miyamoto Musahsi’s Book of Five Rings!

7. Make use of the Internet – If you are a Pathfinder client there is a good chance that you are someone struck by the entrepreneurial spirit and that is a good thing, especially in hard times because it means you are flexible. You are also probably someone who is Internet savvy. The best way to get your message out to a broad audience today is on the Net and the good news is that it’s economical. A solid SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy properly employed can get you way up on the Google and Yahoo pages and you can even name your price on things like placing your videos on TV or print ads in newspapers. But there are even more interesting ways to get your message out. I know companies that are putting their videos on sites like You Tube and generating interest. I cannot go into detail here but if you have not explored the power of the Web than you are way behind the curve. The Internet is all about marketing and now is the best time to take advantage of what’s out there.

8. Think Green – Green sells! More than ever before, the ecology is prominent in people’s thinking when they go to they are about to make a purchase. High gas and heating oil prices are pressing everyone to not only make smart choices but we are seeing a demand for green thinking from quarters where you’d never have expected it before. Consumers like to think that they are making good choices and they like the idea of environmentally conscious products. But what if you don’t sell a product? Well, even if you are a service organization you can go green and it’s a good idea to let everyone – consumers and vendors alike – know that you are concerned with the future of the earth and its inhabitants. It has never hurt a corporation, even an oil company, to market themselves as a concerned member of our society.

9. Think Local – Local cable operators are practically giving away air time. I just got an email from one of Brighthouse Network’s sales reps offering me local cable rates in Florida as low as $650 for one 30 second spot on Monday Night Football. That’s a no-brainer for certain companies who want to reach a wide but targeted regional audience. Deals are there to be made!

10. Make your product or service invaluable – Or at least seem that way! Look, I don’t know your business or your product line but I do know that when I am shopping for anything from a computer to a landscaper for my house there are certain things I am going to be looking for. I look for things like value, reliability, consistency, durability, service and I want honesty. I do my research and then just before I buy I ask myself the question, “Do I really need this?”

Look at your business, your products and services and see if you are offering up a high value product to your public. Then ask the question, “Do they really need this?”  If the answer is yes than the marketing challenges are lessened greatly. But if the answer is vague then you need to look at the whys and why nots. You may need to make some adjustments so that what you offer is just better. And you need to develop a marketing strategy that plays to your strengths. In an economic slow-down, everyone is looking to get the most for their money and to paraphrase the words of President Bush, “Fool me once, shame on me… fool me twice, you can’t fool me!”

While many firms and individuals are looking to just survive the next few years, there are many sharp, aggressive small business owners and entrepreneurs out there who are looking to flourish. A strong, focused marketing approach can be the difference between creating money and creating an ulcer. Take this time to step back and re-evaluate your business and your marketing plan. When you feel confident that you have the right plan, the right price points and the right team in place to execute it, I say go forth in confidence. The world will not end because of this financial crisis and there is no reason your business cannot thrive as well.

The Future of Marketing Now

Posted in marketing on February 1, 2009 by barryshapiro

The world of advertising and marketing is a perpetual state of chaos. You can get dizzy from all the spinning. Does anyone really know where the trends are leading us? People write books about it but if you’ve ever read those books you’d quickly realize that they are 90% bullshit (the legendary Faith Popcorn comes to mind). Technology changes faster than a blink and with technology, the media minds shift so that the only thing you can be sure of is that you just can’t be sure of anything.

Today Google is the top dog. Tomorrow? Who the hell knows? TV and print, while maybe not dead, are going through such cyclonic changes that nothing is as it seems it was only a year ago. Can you believe that Newsweek may be going out of business? Holy cow!

The Internet has changed everything of course. It has effected TV and print media mostly. Viewing and reading habits are forever changed. Ironically, the one type of media  that hasn’t been affected much is good old fashioned radio. Radio may be old technology but it has a steady, captive audience – mostly riding around in cars.

The trend that has become obvious to me is that today the database is everything. With a large, accurate demographic specific database you can get your message out to whoever you need to get it to – faster, cheaper and more directly than just about any other way available today. Just look what Obama was able to do by mastering the Internet.  Database marketing is right now where the future is going.

 The thing is, very few people are really on to the power of database marketing. It’s not sexy. It’s been the balliwick of a lot of entrepreneurs, multi-level scammers and a few direct marketing pioneers. But most small to mid-sized businesses haven’t caught on yet because they don’t really understand it. And I imagine there is some fear of anti-spamming laws that would keep people from exploring the benefits of this method of outreach. Let me tell you though, database marketing  is going to replace most forms of direct response advertising in the not too distant future.

There are smart small businesses out there collecting massive amounts of customer data and using it to reach millions of people who they would not ordinarily be able to reach due to cost and scale. Experts who specialize in SEO strategies designed to strategically increase database size are going to be making a killing.

Want to make your business grow? Want to have a business? This is the way to go. More later.

B

Shell Game

Posted in marketing, personal with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2008 by barryshapiro

Over the last couple of weeks i have given more thought to my body and my life on earth than I have in many years. The death of my father, the health issues I personally am facing, the news of a tragic death in Texas this week and the insanity surrounding the political and economic climate in America and the entire world for that matter have given me pause to reevaluate my feelings and positions.

While standing at the side of my father’s body in the emergency room about 4 hours after his passing I looked carefully for any indication that this was my father on the gurney. I held his hand, I looked under the gauze pads that covered his eyes (to keep them from drying out), I looked under the sheet that covered him, I touched his forehead but I could not see anything that in any way resembled my father. What I was left with was his shell. He had apparently left that shell and was no longer around. At that moment I felt no sadness, no repulsion or any real emotion at all. I just felt that he was gone. I’d miss him in my own way but I would not miss that shell.

Reflecting on it all, I have come to realize, experientially, that when we arrive here on this planet for what we define as a lifetime, we are given a shell to use and that’s all it is. We then go about changing, abusing, pampering, reshaping or just living in that shell while we are alive. It’s one pretty tough shell but it does take a battering. The shell breaks down and deteriorates and eventually can give out. But the shell is not us. The shell is the shell. Our value judgements about the shells we use have nothing to do with our use of the shell. These judgements (she’s got a nice ass, he’s a ugly so and so, that kid has ugly freckles, etc.) have no reality and only have meaning by the agreement of society – but serve no actual purpose. We believe we are our shells and we attach our egos to them. Only when we have a moment of clarity brought about by something like meditation, drugs, an out of body or near death experience or extreme suffering do we realize experientially that we are not the shell. It is why the ancient ascetics practiced suffering – so they could get out of their shells.

We get the shell we get and all the shells are perfect when we get them. Now one might ask about seemingly imperfect shells – like what about someone born with Down’s Syndrome? I understand now that we do things to our shells that either distort them or fuck them up totally. They are still perfect shells but somewhere along the line we damaged our shell. I know that seems unfair – after all, what did a kid with Down’s Syndrome ever do to his or her own shell if they were born that way? I don’t know. All I know is that somewhere in the life process their shells were damaged and this is what they have now. It’s not fair but it is the truth as I see it.

In some ways, this is very freeing and allows me to see all shells, even the ones that seem flawed, as perfect just the way they are – and are not. I realize that this sounds like a lot of airy-fairy BS or like a talk at a self help meeting but I really had this exprience and I can now intellectually speak about it from a different perspective.

Sunday I will have to go to a funeral and say goodbye to someone I have never met who died in a tragic accident. No need to discuss the gory details. It’s enough to say that it was a tragic accident and this person should have had the opportunity to have more life. But it was his time to give that shell up. I know what’s next – the age old question of what happens after life on earth is over: heaven or hell, limbo, reincarnation as a kitty cat or Catherine the Great. I don’t know and no body else does either so I don’t think the question is really worth discussing. It is a question that has caused a lot of pain in suffering over centuries and since no one has ever come back with a definitive answer then let’s just drop it and concenrate on this life in this shell.

Now, it wasn’t just my father’s passing that led me to all this talk of shells. His dealth was a catalyst in a series of events that have been on-going for me for several months. One of the reoccurring issues is my own health. I have extremely high blod pressure and no matter what approach I have taken I cannot seem to keep it at a safe level. I have tried diets and exercise, medication, herbal and ‘natural’ remedies, accupuncture, yoga, controlled breathing exercises and you name it. Still, my dyastolic pressure rate hovers around 104 and has averaged about 95 over the last 5 months. (By the way, the only diet that has ever affected my pressure positively was the Atkins Diet but it was just too much to sustain after about a year of eating a high fat, low carb diet.) My last reading was 158/104 and if you know what those numbers mean you will understand my concern. And that is while I am taking 2 medications and bicycling an average of 40 miles a week.  Hypertension usually has no immediate symptoms and you can drop dead at any moment without knwing you even had a problem.

In the midst of all this concern over my pressure I picked up a new client, True Healthy Products (www.truehealthyproducts.com) which specializes in all natural, organic vitamins and supplements and I have been learning an awful lot about what we are putting into our shells. I was already fairly knowledgeable about supplements and diets but lately the information I have been absorbing has had a mind blowing affect. For example, I have learned the difference between whole food vitamins and fractionated or synthetic vitamins. If you take vitamins and don’t know the difference I suggest you find out and stop wasting money by ingesting things that your body really doesn’t use.

Additionally, I have suffered all my life from allergies. I was told from the time I was a boy that I was allergic to grass and pollen. The solution then was to stay inside. That didn’t work so I learned to put up with it.  My first inkling that my allergies may have been food related and not grass or pollen related came when I did Atkins. Aside from my pressure going down one of the benefits I found was that I know longer was sneezing in the morning. Well, recenly, while working with THP, I had the privilidge of meeting a world reknown allergist, Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby. Dr. Keith is British but I didn’t hold that against him. He’s a terribly funny guy who has a totally different way of looking at disease than the normal medical practicioner.

Dr. Scott-Mumby, who was the inventor of The Doctor’s Chocolate (a dark chocolate candy that allows people to loose weight and reduce stress) has written a book called Diet Wise. He gave me a copy which I began reading about a week before dad died and it has really been another eye opener. I have stopped consuming all dairy products and my life is completely different because of it. I hate not having ice cream but I think I can live without it if it means sleeping through the night and waking up able to breathe normally without pills.

So, between Dr. Scott-Mumby’s book, my adventures in dieting, my battle with hypertension and my experience with Big Al’s cold, rubbery body I began to see my body in a different way – as a vessel or a shell rather than as being me. It has made me think of all the time I had wasted because my shell wasn’t cooperating with my mind. My mind (my mind in a clear state and not it’s more often jumbled, ego-driven messy state) is a better representation of who I really am. If I allow my body to get in the way of my mind than I am denying myself a life of possibilities and fulfillment. It’s like getting into your car and it won’t start so you decide that you’ll just stay home instead of go to the party, rather than call a cab and have fun.

How often had I not done something useful because I was tired or had a headache? How often had I said I could not do something cause my shell wouldn’t like it or be up to the task? 3 weekends ago I did something that my shell definitely did not want to do but my mind was able to overcome. I jumped out of an airplane. It was scary as hell and exillerating. My shell was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. My mind said – “just do it!” Thank you Nike.

Nothing I’ve witten here could be misconstrued for ground-breaking health news or particularly original thinking. I am only relating an experience, my own moment of clarity. But this clarity for me has opened up a whole new world of possibility and made me look more closely at my motivations and the things that keep me stuck. It has even given me some insight to our current national financial crisis and political situation. There are alot of people out there in pain and they don’t know why. It makes them do stupid things, bad things. It’s what my favorite therapist, Dr. Ram Giri Braun (http://www.becomingwhole.com/), refers to as the “Pain Body” and most of us seem to be stuck in that pain body. The pain body is a mental state but it manifests in a physical state. I just cannot go into it here but you can read more about that in the works of Byron Katie, one of Braun’s mentors. Katie’s work is very positive and worth delving into.  http://www.thework.com/index.asp.

Most of us are stuck one way or another. A big part of that is thinking that we are the shell. I can clearly see that now in a way I could not before, even having read all the right books and done the right classes and workshops. I just had to experience it for myself. I’m not the shell. I am something more. For the rest of my time I hope to be able to keep that in mind.

“If you ain’t eatin’ Wham, you ain’t eatin’ ham!”

Posted in marketing, personal with tags , , , , on August 18, 2008 by barryshapiro

“The purpose of (advertising), as far as I can see, is to prove to the masses that a deodorant can bring happiness, a mouthwash guarantee success and a laxative attract romance.”
-Kirk Douglas as George Phipps in
A Letter To Three Wives

As far as I can see, the purpose of television is to sell advertising and now more so than ever. If there ever was a pretense of entertaining or educating the masses it is long, long gone. The purpose of advertising is pretty much as George Phipps put back in 1949. Use this product and have a better life. Don’t use it and run the risk of having a crumby life complete with foot odor, miserable children who will never eat anything again, embarrassingly dingy clothes and to top it all off you’ll never have sex again ever.

I say this as someone who has worked in advertising for almost 35 years and continues to do so.  The difference for me is that, in the past, I would work on any project that came my way and was attached to a paycheck. Now I have the luxury of working for products that I honestly believe have some merit. Otherwise, not much has changed.

The Olympics have devolved into a made for TV event. It’s all about the advertising. How much Michael Phelps can we watch? Apparently plenty, as long as he is wedged in between ads for legal pharmaceuticals (don’t do evil steroids – do Viagra!) and movies about imaginary blood sports featuring hard core prisoners with Gatling guns attached to monster cars.

Advertising is ubitquitous in society whether we’re in New York or Bejing. Last week I went to the movies and had to watch 20 minutes of trailers for new films, as well as ads for Coke and promos for upcoming TV shows. Then I had to sit through Step Brothers. The entire experience was torture.

I love movies about advertising. I haven’t seen Mad Men because I don’t necessarily love TV shows about advertising (the exception being Bewitched, the home of McCann & Tate). One of my favorites is Mr. Mom, where Michael Keaton loses his job so his wife, Terri Garr, gets a job in advertising and lands the Schooner Tuna account. Schooner Tuna, the tuna with a heart. If you haven’t seen it I recommend it highly. You can make that a double feature with Nothing In Common with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. That one hits the advertising nail pretty much on the head as well. Conversely, avoid  Picture Perfect with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin (6 Degrees of) Bacon at all costs – the most ridiculous portrayal of the ad world ever put on screen.

Well, I have to go now and watch some TV. It’s almost time for PTI on ESPN.