Hank

It was just the idea of it, he thought.
The reality… piles of nothing.
Like the man that was swallowed up by the sinkhole in his bedroom.
He never stood a chance.
“What happened to Hank?”
“The earth ate him.”
The idea though… the idea was novel.
He believed he was a god-damn genius.
And he spoke the words to her like he was singing bible hymns.
She said, “Not tonight, Mr Sensitivity.
Sure, you’ve been dancin’ all your life
but you ain’t ever gonna dance with me.”
He grew old and bitter.
He poured liquor on his wounds so they would not heal.
He became a stray.
“What happened to Hank?”
“The earth ate him.”
But even dogs have things they can dream about.
And the earth will spit him out.

 

The Fall

You’re hiding in leaves
underneath trees
fall is the season you liked

just like the sun
around you we spun
running in circles after the light

we’ve met before
we’ve danced on the shores
you’ve knocked on my door after goodnight

I have so much to say to you
but none of these words will do
I’ll string them along
a sentence
a song
then say goodbye

A Pink Flamingo was Dancing

A few weeks ago, I awoke around 7am and found my daughter Amelia (2 1/2 years old) sleeping on my legs. My wife and I were tired enough not to hear her as she crept into our room. When we asked Amelia why she came to sleep with Mom and Dad, she responded, “A Pink Flamingo”. She then proceeded to tell us all about the Pink Flamingo and the story was quite creative.

The story as told by Amelia begins as she wakes in the middle of the night. My best guess is the time is around 2am. So, little Amelia wakes up and hears a noise. The noise as she describes it can be best written out as “MMMHMMHM”. It’s a bit of a hum. The noise is coming from her closet. Then from out of her closet, appears the Pink Flamingo. The Pink Flamingo walks to her bed and jumps to the end of it and according to Amelia it’s very nice. She looks on as the Pink Flamingo begins to dance.

Amelia demonstrates the dance that the Pink Flamingo performs. It’s sort of a Beyonce-esque, “Put a Ring on it” number. As the flamingo is dancing, it attempts to hold Amelia’s hand. She of course doesn’t like this and describes the situation as “strange” and “weird”. The flamingo continues it’s dance, then jumps off her bed and retreats to another bedroom. This is when Amelia decides to come to my room and sleep on my legs. She describes everything that took place as, “it was really weird dada”.

I love Amelia’s creativity. Like most children, she approaches art without fear. Her music is always atonal and her stories are elaborate worlds of fantasy. As adults we build up all these barriers of things, most of which come from what we would like other people to think about us. Our images of ourselves are always through other eyes. Amelia sees things through her own eyes. My sweet little girl, completely creative enough to come up with such a wonderful story, keen enough to know it’s incredibly weird and fearless enough to always be herself.

The Importance of a Unified Marketing Message

When it comes to developing a Marketing and Advertising campaign, it’s easy to do too much, too often. It’s something we’ve witnessed businesses do quite frequently as we make our way through our inboxes sifting through email blasts. Businesses are excited to sell their product and driven to create more demand from the consumer. They launch full-scale multi-level campaigns that integrate diverse messaging that targets extremely small percentages of their customer base or by blanketing all customers. In other words they spam your inbox with many messages. In the end it’s an attempt to be everything to everyone and that’s virtually impossible. By doing this, a business may gain or lose customers. However, at its worst it may cause a multiple personality disorder and they may lose their true identity all together. The voices from the campaigns compete and confuse.

Let’s say your business sells fruits and vegetables, and let’s suggest that 75% of all your business is in apples. Although you are known for your apples, you only possess a portion of the industry. Thus apples account for 75% of your business but your customers don’t purchase 100% of their apples from you. Let’s say you also sell grapes which account for 1% of your business as well as peaches, carrots, corn and 21 other products that equally account for small percentages of sales. Here lies the problem. Often times more than not, a business markets to the product lines that are struggling, rather than what they are good at, what they are known for and more importantly what they are actually profiting from. It’s in our nature to want to fix things.

So you develop a campaign around carrots. This includes print advertising, email blasts, websites, electronic advertising and pay-per click search ads. The message is clear, “we are the place to buy carrots”. This may work in gathering some new carrot customers but meanwhile you may be alienating your existing customers. I mean after all, they want to hear about apples. However you’re incredibly smart, you start targeting your carrot marketing to your carrot customers. This creates another issue as you’re now spending your time, resources and ad dollars promoting something that is only 1% of your sales.

My example may be far too simple but demonstrates why a business really needs to create a “Unified Marketing Message”. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Walmart? Well, besides the people shopping in sweat pants and braziers outside of their shirts. The answer is “Low Prices”. Walmart knows this is what they are good at and everything they do is focused upon sending this message. Given, Walmart probably has a small percentage of customers that feel they are high quality (believe me, they’re out there). It would be a mistake for Walmart to advertise the quality message to this small percentage as their customers expect value and it would be in competition to their “Low Price” message. Another great example is Geico. They have a very diverse feel to their marketing from the Gecko to the Cavemen but they have one unified message and that is saving money.

How do you create a unified marketing message? To begin you really need to discover what you are good at and why you are good at it. What is the thing that sets you apart from your competition? If it isn’t quality, than perhaps price? If it isn’t price, than perhaps it’s customer service? Is it a specific product? Find out whatever it may be and focus your marketing on it. It’s not particularly terrible to market items that are not your top sellers, but know when this may be working against you. Have the courage to drop a product that may not be delivering. Do you have the resources available to remain a top contender in the product line you are great at while marketing in other product lines? Examine your business and listen to your customers, they will tell you exactly why they shop with you.

 

Olympic Logos Revisted

Now that the London Olympic games are over and while I am still on a logo kick, I wanted to take a look at some of the Olympic logos from the present back to the 80’s. In particular I have to state that the London Olympic logo is down-right hideous. Don’t get me wrong I love the colors pink and yellow, and I also like random strange shapes but much like pickle-juice and milk, some things do not belong together. I understand not wanting to display the stereotypical famous monument or building, or a man running/hurdling but the idea that they hired a professional agency to produce something that could have been produced by my toddler is preposterous. It’s also disappointing because my toddler could use the money.

I can only imagine the design and art critics casting the logo as pure genius. These same people purchase the big solid blue painted canvases with the all too hip titles like, “Portrait of a man dying from a broken heart”. It’s simply a canvas painted blue, 1 solid color and you’ve just spent $100k on it! However to my point about the logo… it’s simply some shapes thrown in Microsoft Paint, 2 colors and you’ve just spent $100k on it!

I promise no more ranting, i’ll let you judge for yourself.

Manufacturers Put Unneeded Parts Into Electronics

I was born and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am a middle-child. I refuse to believe I have any sort of complex about it. I have a younger sister named Shadie and an older brother named Joseph. My brother Joe and I are 15 months apart. Which means my parents were incredibly busy doing damage control. Growing up, my brother and I did some ridiculous things. We painted the neighbor’s pig blue. We motor-oiled a stray cat. Don’t worry both were thoroughly cleaned by the adults. Once we even spray-painted the back of our own house. Our mom couldn’t be too upset because we graffitied the words “I Love Mom” in giant letters. We almost burned down the house on many different occasions. We were typical crazy boys, we had broken bones, got into loads of fights, caused insurmountable damage and somewhere in all of it we were shaping our lives and becoming the men we are today.

I always followed Joe’s lead. My parents famously tell people the differences between mine and my brother’s personalities as we grew up. We often went on fishing and camping trips and they would say, “We always had one eye on Joe for fear he would run out and jump into the lake (again). James on the other hand, well… we just sat him down and placed a circle of rocks around him and he would simply play with rocks and never leave the circle.” So, I was clearly the town buffoon until I started following my brother’s influence.

Joe on the left with a devious smirk sits with me and my half-baked look

I’m not saying Joe was a bad kid, he was just extremely curious about things and electronics interested him the most. I must have been 5 years old as I watched him take apart a VCR to…umm… fix it. Which of course always begged the question, “Why fix something that isn’t broken?” But to my older brother, everything needed to be fixed. He took apart that VCR, cleaned the heads, put it back together and ended up with a handful of extra parts from the original dismemberment. It never worked the same again. That’s just the way things were back then, Joe would fix something that was previously unbroken and end up with extra parts. Nothing was out of reach of Joe’s repair shop. He dismantled televisions, radios, bicycles, computers, Nintendos, fans, telephones, toasters and the thing that hit home for me was the repair of my toys. He’d tear them all apart and put them back together and we’d cry and mourn the loss of them. The fact that he did all this at 6-10 years old was pretty darn impressive. Here I was playing with two rocks, sitting within a circle of rocks and my brother is rewiring televisions.

I don’t remember the first time Joe truly and finally fixed something but I do know he hasn’t slowed down since. Now within our family and friends, he is the guy you call when something is broken and really needs to be repaired. He can fix most things from computers to electrical wiring to smart-phones. I’d like to think all the practice growing up really gave him the edge. The creative allowance by our parents certainly contributed. I do know that he always had an aptitude for it. Joe enjoys fixing electrical and mechanical things and he’s damn good at it.

We all have our strong points, our talents, our influences and our passions. Surround  yourself with people that allow your talents to grow. If you’re a parent, don’t be too upset if you walk in the room to find your TV in shambles and your son or daughter with a screw-driver and a clever grin. I learned from my parents to be patient. I learned from my brother that every failure, every broken item is one step closer to success. I also learned that bones don’t bend that way, that paint and oil don’t wash off easily and that manufacturers put unneeded parts into electronics.

 

The Art of the Show Poster

Tonight as I ran for miles on the treadmill, the Eels came on my streaming radio. As Mark Oliver Everett, aka “E” filled my ears with quiet melodies of gloom, I could only think of a little pink bird sitting on a grocery cart filled with junk. Yeah, strange right? In fact it was an image on one of The Eels’ gig posters. A beautifully crafted,  screen printed poster. Although not the most original of ideas, I decided to put together a post of some of my favorite posters.

The Eels

Toulouse Lautrec: Moulin Rouge – La Goulue

Flight of the Conchords

Neko Case

Animal Collective

Jimi Hendrix Experience

Built To Spill

Bob Dylan

Bonnie “Prince” Billy

Miles Davis

Ramones

Andrew Bird

Mogwai

Broken Social Scene