7 Habits….what stayed with me

July 23rd, 2012

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, died last week at 79 from complications of bike accident.

The 7 Habits: With notes by me still inside

I’ve been a “low performer” in the reading of business books but I read the 7 Habits some 20+ years ago and a number of Covey’s points have really stayed with me.  I’d like to share a few that really stand out:

  • In Habit 1, Be Proactive, he wrote about the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.  I took away from this that you can’t fret every item in your Circle of Concern.  Especially if your Circle of Concern is huge, compared to what you could influence in your Circle of Influence.  This proved very useful with bright, junior team members who worried about other departments, overall strategy etc. when what we could really control was what was in our Circle of Influence.
  • In Habit 3, Put First Things First, I was very struck by his sorting of your day in the office by Urgent/Non Urgent and Important/Not Important.  About how much time could be sucked up by Urgency overall…..including Urgent things which really weren’t that important.
    • Covey’s book came out in 1989 before we were all swamped by email, smartphones etc.
    • I ask myself if I’m as good today at focusing on Important/Not Urgent matters.
    • In my copy of 7 Habits, there’s notations by me making the point about getting organized on a weekly basis.  And I’m sure I was thinking about organizing against Important but not Urgent matters.  We’re all going to get the Urgent stuff done.  Note to self – am I organizing on a weekly basis on what’s important?
  • Under Paradigms of Interdependence, I continue to be struck by the notion of the Emotional Bank Account.  That by doing little kindnesses, you build a reserve that you can draw on when things go awry.  That deposits into the bank account when helping or caring for others pay big dividends over the long run.
    • Habit Four, Think Win/Win, goes hand in glove with this.
    • And Habit 5, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.  To this day, I try to take a breath and apologize when I cut someone else off in my enthusiasm to “say something”.  I hope I have put a few credits in the Emotional Bank Account along the way.

I know that Covey went on to write more books, sell time management tools via Franklin Covey, and influence management thinking further.  But I’d say that these above lessons (and more) have stood the test of time for me and are worth some further contemplation as I manage my business and engage with friends and family.

How about you?  Were there lessons that stayed with you?  Or did I interest you in picking up The Seven Habits?

I’m in a promotional whirlwind….

April 6th, 2012

As a (former) macroeconomist, I am taking great interest in the economic upturn or mini-economic upturn.  I’ve followed the whole topic of whether we’d see a double dip recession or not.  Would we see inflation pick up – many naysayers continue to say inflation is around the corner….

But, I’m here to say that there is no inflation looming based on how many promotional offers I’ve received in the last 6 weeks.  They include:

  1. Our nice local Indian restaurant. They sent a coupon for a FREE Indian buffet.  As a marketing “know-it-all”, my view was that FREE didn’t engage the customer enough and devalued the offering.  However, I have to say that the restaurant was JAMMED each time I went.  Oh, that’s right, they sent me two coupons, both of which I used.  And when I drive by at night, they are jumping.  Coupons for nightly specials were also sent.
  2. Sur La Table.  I received the lovely $10 gift from them which I thought was most generous given my level of spending.  However, there may have been a slight breakdown with their marketing database.  I loved the present, but the store near me just closed and won’t reopen until July.  Hmm.
  3. Lands’ End. $15 off my next $75.  A decent offer.  Likely to get used.
  4. YSL card.  Our local museum has a splendid show on Yves Saint Laurent and they bundled in a discount card for local merchants who wanted to participate.  So far, have loved my glass of champagne and the discount at the book store.  I’m getting close to paying for the YSL ticket.  (But would I have had the glass of champagne at lunch without the promo?)
  5. And many other cards. The public radio card, the Firestone card, the Garbanzo restaurant card and many merchants who are very sad when I turn down their card.  Not to mention numerous golf-related cards that I could be using.
  6. Plus email deals every day. Clearly if you don’t buy what you need on promotion, then you are a bad shopper.

I recently quoted a client a price at full rates for a small job.  Oh no.  Probably should have given him an offer and a membership card.

Inflation anytime soon?  I don’t think so.

How to be “road kill” in the bundling game

April 4th, 2012

Bundling products together adds value for customers.

But what if you are the standalone product like a AAA membership?

I think one of the big car insurers is bundling in an Emergency Roadside Service feature into their offering as a retention tool.  Allstate?

And now Firestone wants me in their “Extra Mile Club”.  (Does my car have that many problems that I’m “special” to Firestone?)

Apparently, I now have Emergency Roadside Service as part of being in the Extra Mile Club.

Just what do I do when AAA comes around to be renewed?

AAA – road kill in the bundling game?


And beware, Grease Monkey.   Apparently Firestone wants to eat your lunch too with a hot coupon for an oil change….but more on couponing in my next post.

So good in so many ways!

February 14th, 2012

You may recollect that I renewed my Denver Post subscription in the fall.  See my ten reasons for continuing the subscription at:


After all, I could just get all my news from social media…..

Now the Denver Post has delighted me with their new Digital Replica Edition.  So good in so many ways:

  1. Perfect on a snowy morning:

    The physical Post so close, yet so far on a snowy morning

  2. Has every article, ad, and column.  It’s the paper!

    Looks nice - press any article and it expands to be read

  3. Allows you to share conveniently.  Because I’ve got to be tweeting, FaceBooking and (sometimes) sending old-fashioned emails.
  4. Great price.  I think it’s about $1 a month on top of my subscription.  A very fair price, but $1 more than they have been getting from me with the current iPad version.
  5. Eliminates me frowning and growling when the paper is late.

Congrats to the Denver Post!

(But do try to get the physical paper here earlier…..or you know where this is going…..no longer any physical Wall Street Journal showing up here!)

Super Bowl ad recap: The good, the bad and the “maybes”

February 8th, 2012

Where else can you spend $3.5 million in 30 seconds?  Besides the Super Bowl.

And that doesn’t include production costs for exotic stunts, big celebrities, cool locations and dogs.


My consideration of Super Bowl ads revealed some biases on my part.  I acknowledge the merits of brand building but I feel that “product benefits” should be reasonably front and center and this influences my picks. This may be just sour grapes on my part that I’ve never marketed a brand with the leeway to just build that brand on a standalone basis.   My ad budget always had to accomplish ten things at the same time.

I don’t know all the product categories intimately (i.e. beer) and have not been as tuned into vampires or Ferris Buehler as others.  (I did not know who M.I.A. was, but I do now.)

So, here goes:

The Good:

  1. The Yellow Camaro ad where the college kid’s parents DID not get him the car (getting the little fridge instead).  Conveys the total joy that a sports car represents.  Memorable.
  2. Jerry Seinfeld and the cool Acura sports car that he wants to be the first to own.  Cost a fortune but I think they got the value on the screen.
  3. The MetLife financial planning ad showing that financial planning is for everyone and you don’t need to be a genius.  Charming array of cartoon characters.  Not one pundit I read pointed to this ad so I’m obviously way off base here.
  4. M&Ms….that got people talking.  Good for them.  Top 5 commercial, without any Internet preview, I believe.
  5. “Wego”, the rescue dog, fetching Bud Lites.  Closes with the message, “Help Rescue Dogs”.  Very memorable, very fun.

The Bad:

  1. A few advertisers wasted their money, including Bridgestone with the two sports ads where the balls were made of tire rubber, Dannon’s Oikos (I’ve watched it a number of times and still it puzzles me), and Audi, I think, even though vampires are big.  The Audi commercial was so cool and then it’s about headlights.  I think that’s a mismatch, in my mind.
  2. I won’t deny that sex sells, but I can’t get that GoDaddy.co situation at all – somewhat the same problem as vampires and headlights.  Domains and sex – I don’t see the link.  (On the other hand, I liked the Teleflora ad which targeted men and told them that things are simple.  Get flowers. Good things could happen.)
  3. The Hyundai ad with the boss having a heart attack.  That’s not funny.  (But I’m disappointed that the Hyundai cheetah ad didn’t get more play with pundits or viewers.  I thought that was funny on target for benefits.)

The Maybes:

  1. Clint Eastwood’s Chrysler ad.  You have to be made of money to air that ad – the ad was 2 minutes long – the math makes me shudder.
    1. Is Chrysler made of money?  It’s controversial and prompted lots of dialogue….but does that sell cars?
    2. TIVO statistics did not find the Chrysler commercial in the Top 10. Here’s where people were on SuperBowl Sunday:  the top five included the two Doritos ads, the royalty Pepsi ad, the VW ad……and the M&Ms ad.
    3. It’s a fun national “holiday”, I’m not sure that “dark & moody” works.  Save it for the Academy Awards.
    4. And I haven’t even touched the whole topic of which political orientation that ad “seemed” to support.
  2. So, of course, I’m not sure about the Chevy Silverado Apocalypse ad.  It was dark.  And these are manly guys who have survived thermonuclear warfare and now are having a Twinkie?  I’m not sure if the co-promotions worked.
  3. David B and his new underwear.  Who looked at the underwear when you could stare at him and his amazing tattoos?   And did anyone think about H&M when they looked at the ad?  Did you realize that the undies represented an innovation in the category?  Did that matter?
  4. Bud Lite Platinum:  I don’t know the beer category but I don’t see how you add the word “Platinum” to “Lite”.  Really?

I enjoyed everyone’s real time comments as I posted on Bright Beacon Partners’ FaceBook page and tweeted at BrightTopics.

Anyone out getting a new car, new undies, or a six pack?

That Super Bowl Ad Magic?

February 3rd, 2012

At $3.5 million per 30 second spot, we had better see some Super Bowl advertising magic. So, expect a close game between the Patriots and the Giants….and some Bright Beacon blog posts on our views on the best and worst of SuperBowl ads. Follow us at BrightTopics on Twitter or on FaceBook.

Beware tone deafness…..

February 3rd, 2012

The Komen folks have demonstrated once again that you can create your own public relations disaster by not considering all the angles.  Hearing all the viewpoints.  Considering all the reactions.

They have the right to go in whatever direction that suits their charter with whatever partners fit them best, just like any small or large business, not-for-profit, government agency or other.

You may have to pursue a radical or potentially controversial change in course through a series of steps and stages….

Now this will go down as one of the worst public relations disasters ever.

In our social media world, the penalties are enormous for missteps.

Truly epic brand damage.


I’m being trampled…..

February 3rd, 2012

….in the content players’ desire not to send spam.

When I email an article to a friend (how old-fashioned is that?), then I’ve got to read and replicate the characters, numbers and letters in the little box to validate that I’m just one person sending an email.

Is it me…..or is the combination of characters, numbers and letters getting harder and harder to read?

I don’t know if it’s cutting down on spam but it’s certainly challenging me.

Is there another way?

The new USPS model – like garbage pick-up?

January 23rd, 2012

Why do we get mail once a day, except Sunday and holidays?

Our garbage isn’t picked up every day?

Would it be a terrible thing if the paper bills (if you still get any) came in once a week?  Do you really pay them every day as they come in?  And haven’t you just been procrastinating in moving more bills to electronic methods?

But you say….what about the weekly magazine?  Answer:  iPad, Kindle.  Magazines belong there.  Was just reading my Fortune on the iPad.  Excellent!

And if you want service more days a week, then pay for it as a premium service? Platinum for every day, gold for every other day, silver for twice a week.  Once a week delivery is complementary.

Or perhaps junk mail companies would be willing to pay for certain highly desired customers to receive service more than weekly?


But let’s be data-based in our comments.  Here’s a week’s worth of mail held by the USPS:

A week's mail

Contents were:

Total pieces:  53

  • Bills or statements – Sixteen (that’s too many – must move more electronic, but none due in the one week timeframe)
  • Magazines – Four
  • Junk mail – Twenty-three (none time sensitive that I could see and nearly 45% of the mail)
  • Late arriving Christmas cards – Four  (and thank you very much)
  • The neighbor’s mail – Two

Items requiring same day action:  Zero!

Does this really merit the hands-on attention of personal delivery each and every day?


And further, you can’t actually leave any real mail in your mail box since that’s subject to identity theft.  Or is that an urban legend?  I think not since I just read an article advising people to have a post office box in which to receive their tax statements as these are subject to identity theft on the inbound side.

Should we all go back to mail boxes at the post office?  Is that an option?  With delivery once a week for what you haven’t collected?

Companies, not-for-profits, government institutions etc. who don’t undertake radical change risk catastrophic failure.

Free mail delivery once a week.


Applaud getting customer feedback – pick your shots!

January 20th, 2012

Macy’s emailed me to participate in a customer survey after I bought socks.  Sorry, I am not that vested in that situation to go through a survey.

But, I did find the sales person helpful.

And I appreciated the coupon that you guys sent me.

So, I guess I have given feedback.