Category Archives: Observations

Purple Carrots

Did you know that historically, the orange carrot was just one of many varieties available?  In fact, there was no single color of carrots – they came in several different hues: Orange, white, yellow, red.

And yes, even purple.

But then something changed.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Dutch growers developed the orange carrot that we know today by selective breeding to make it less bitter than the yellow variety.  It was then adopted as the Royal Vegetable in honor of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family.

Today, the orange carrot remains the most popular – and readily accessible variety in the United States.  However, they are not the only ones around.

And that, my friends, is where the agriculture lesson ends and the parallel begins.

In today’s marketing world, the orange carrot is what a majority of businesses gravitate toward.  It is the tried-and-true execution.  The television spot.  The print ad.  The radio spot.  These are the orange carrots.

And these are part of a healthy diet.  But that doesn’t mean they are the only choice.

The purple, white, yellow and red carrots offer a variety of alternatives to the traditional that is the orange carrot.  At times, they may be good on their own.  In other cases, it could be a mix of the varieties that offers the best nutritional value.

But it’s up to those of us who are charged with advising and guiding clients to make sure that they know these options are available.  We must take a leadership role in this regard, educate our clients, and when appropriate, include these different colors and flavors into the mix.

Something to stew on for a while.

The Power of Social Media is NOT What You May Think

For the past few years, and this year in particular, social media has been the darling of the marketing and advertising world. The promise of reaching the customer where they already are online, coupled with meteoric rises in traffic to sites such as Facebook and Twitter have made this realm an incredibly attractive realm for marketers and advertisers.

But the real power of social media does not lie in the tools themselves.  Nor does it lie in the fact that this activity is taking place online.

The internet is an inherently social medium.  Always has been, always will be.  Even in the early days of email, IRC, chat rooms, bulletin board systems and such, the internet provided the medium through which communication could take place online.  It continues to do so to this day.

The communication tools have changed, but the process has not.

So, what is the power of social media?

The power of social media lies in what it allows you to do.  For businesses, that could be how it helps to improve customer service.  Or, how it helps to drive sales, generate demand, or increase brand awareness.

Recently, a group of colleagues and I met for lunch.  During the course of the conversation, the question was asked, “What is the future of social media?”  An off-hand comment was made that “this” is the future of social media — the face-to-face conversation taking place around the table between six people.  In a way, that’s the truest  answer possible.  However, that’s not all.  Social media helps to enable that conversation.  It allows those around the table to stay connected beyond the 60-90 minutes of lunch conversation.  It allows the conversation to extend as long and as far as necessary, through a variety of communication channels.

It helps to remove the limitations of time and space from communication.

Social media in and of itself is a tool — a means to and end — much like a hammer, a car, or Adobe Photoshop.  The real magic happens when the tools are matched with a skilled operator with a specific purpose.  Just as you have a blueprint for the house in place before you start whacking away with a hammer, a good plan and solid strategy should be developed before any social media efforts are implemented.

Otherwise, you may just be driving around in circles.

Signs of Recovery

These days, everyone is looking for some sign of recovery, indications that we may have turned the corner, or other signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

They’re looking in all sorts of different places — the stock market, housing, advertising, crystal balls, you name it.

Sure, you could follow the latest Gallup Poll data, or an assortment of economic indicators as your guide.  Or, you could track trends in the stock market for signs of sustained growth.  Prices on commodities such as copper, nickel and aluminum have also been mentioned as a barometer for recession and recovery.

And for a lot of people, those work just fine.

But I take a simpler approach:  Signs of recovery can be judged by the business at local restaurants.  How busy are they?  How full (or empty) are their parking lots on a given evening.  And most importantly, are they hiring?

The hiring question could ultimately serve as the single-best gauge.  Working through the entire scenario:  A restaurant will start hiring, either for their front-of-house (service) staff or their back-of-house (kitchen) staff when their business has picked up to the point that they can no longer effectively serve their existing customers.  That is the sign that their business has increased, which means that either 1) existing customers are spending more or 2) their number of customers / volume has increased.  Either way, it’s a sign that the purse-strings have loosened at the individual level.

How is this different than other indicators?  Mainly, it’s a sign of spending at the individual, not institutional level.  Stock markets, housing, and financial markets, among others provide a view of institutional spending.  Home and vehicle sales, for example, are still controlled by the lending institutions, and spending, or a lack of, is at their discretion.

Conversely, restaurant spending is controlled at the individual level, and is a sign that money has once again returned to you and your neighbors, who are confident enough to spend more freely.

This would, no doubt, be classified as a qualitative sign, rather than the more qualitative indicators, and may very well be an oversimplification.  But it’s also a matter of common sense.

And sometimes, a little common sense goes a long ways.

Differences Between Managers and Leaders

File this one in ‘Today’s Random Thoughts’

There are those that use the terms Manager and Leader interchangeably, but there are dramatic differences.

A Manager is one who sees chaos around them, and tries to control it.  They try to quell the uprising, and maintain the status-quo.  They’re the ones who will do everything they can to make sure that the machine keeps running.

A Leader is one who looks at that same chaos and tries to harness it.  Instead of simply keeping the machine running, they encourage those around them to tear it apart and build something better. 

A Manager wants to keep control.

A Leader wants to give control to those who are ready for it.

The list could go on and on, but we’ll stop there for now.

The question is: Which are you?  Or, which do you want to be—a Manager or a Leader?