“If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”

George S. Patton, General U. S. Army

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Mark Twain

"The ancestor of every action is thought."

Emerson

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought."

Buddha

"When you are not told what to do you begin to think what to do."

Roger Cohen, Op-Ed Columnist New York Times

"No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking."

Voltaire

"Never be afraid to sit awhile and think."

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

"You and I are not what we eat; we are what we think."

Walter Anderson, The Confidence Course

"Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?"

Winnie the Pooh

"Time to think matters ─ at least if we’re interested in getting the answers right."

Stephen L. Carter

"Thinking is always out of order, interrupts all ordinary activities and is interrupted by them."

Hannah Arendt, Life of the Mind

"Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

John F. Kennedy

"The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds."

Will Durant

"Thinking is like living and dying. Each of us must do it for himself."

Josiah Royce

"Some people get lost in thought because it's such unfamiliar territory."

G. Behn

"The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking."

Albert Einstein

"Pursuing our thoughts in silent contemplation takes an investment in time that few can spare."

Stephen L. Carter

"A moment’s thinking is an hour in words."

Thomas Hood

"Sometimes I think and other times I am."

Paul, Variete: Cantiques spirituels 192

"To think is to differ."

Darrow

"To think is to live."

Cicero

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

William Jones

"What we think, we become."

Buddha

"Our job is not to make up anybody’s mind, but to open minds and to make the agony of the decision-making so intense you can escape only by thinking."

Anonymous

"The person who thinks before he speaks is silent most of the time."

Anonymous

"Think ─ and you will be very lonely."

Anonymous

"Thought is action in rehearsal."

Anonymous

"We live in a world that leaves very little time to contemplate."

Anonymous

"Don’t worry too much about what people think because they seldom do."

Anonymous

"Invest a few moments in thinking. It will pay good interest."

Anonymous

"One cannot think crooked and walk straight."

Anonymous

"Think Differently + Do Things Differently = Better Results"

Anonymous

July 30, 2017

The Wright Stuff

Tags: Business, Promotion, Media,

If renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright were alive today, he’d be posting selfies 24/7 standing in front of his buildings. Yet at the age of 88, in a 1957 television interview with Mike Wallace, the master of self-promotion declared “I have never sought publicity of any kind. I have yielded to it.” Whatever you say, Frank.

If you have a chance to visit New York City between now and October 1, treat yourself to an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art called, Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive. It includes some 450 of his works made from the 1890s through the 1950s and it’s just amazing how current, even futuristic, his designs look in the present day.

Probably one of Wright’s best known designs is New York’s sparkling white Guggenheim Museum (which I didn’t know was originally painted beige after Wright considered, but ultimately rejected, hues of orange, pink, and his favorite color, Cherokee red). Equally as famous is Fallingwater, a vacation home built from 1936 -1939 over a waterfall in southwest Pennsylvania for the family of Pittsburgh department store owner, Edgar J. Kaufmann.

But there is so much more: synagogues, churches, schools, country clubs, personal residences, (mile-high) skyscrapers, and planned communities – 767 buildings in all – as well as Wright furniture, tableware, and textile designs.

“The World’s Greatest Architect” was no slouch when it came to marketing, either, and there is a media section in the exhibition that features what looks like ancient archival TV footage.

But in the 1950s, television was the virtual reality of its day. Wright mastered the new medium and, much to the chagrin of his horrified professional peers, famously appeared as a Mystery Guest on the B-list celebrity gameshow, What’s My Line?  (panelists wore masks and asked leading questions trying to identify the guest).

When the show aired, Wright looked every bit of his 89 years and the moderator had to repeat questions as he was having a hard time hearing. But it wasn’t long before the panel figured out that the guest was self-employed, worked with his hands, had some experience with the law (more like run-ins), provided a service for both men who women, and might be a designer or architect “like Frank Lloyd Wright...” (As the words World Famous Architect flashed on the screen).

A year earlier, Wright appeared on the TV show The Mike Wallace Interview, coughing and clearing his throat while the future 60 Minutes commentator puffed away on his cigarettes.

The host’s intro line was: “I’m Mike Wallace; the cigarette is Philip Morris” (the show sponsor).

Wright obviously hadn’t hired a media coach to help him appear more likeable to the unwashed masses.

WALLACE: What do you think of the average man in the United States, who has little use for your ideas in architecture, in politics, in religion?

WRIGHT: Are you speaking of the common man?

WALLACE: The average man, the common man. I think you have sometimes called him part of the mobocracy – part of the mob.

WRIGHT: And I believe what you call the common man is what I call the common man, a man who believes in nothing he can’t see, and he can’t see anything he can’t put his hand on...He’s a block to progress.

Well, 62 years later, the mobocracy was out in force to admire the vision and accomplishments of one of the greatest architects – and showmen -- of the 20th Century.

Wright may not have thought much of us, but somehow we had the common sense to recognize a genius when we saw one.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Frank Lloyd Wright   Museum of Modern Art   Mike Wallace   What’s My Line? Guggenheim Museum   Fallingwater

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

June 26, 2017

Steal Like An Artist

Tags: General, Design,

You never know what you’ll find in a stack of fifty cent paperbacks at a Flea Market. One title that caught my eye was Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. The author makes the case that nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. And unfortunately we live in an age of limitless everything.

I’m pretty sure Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, wasn’t thinking about buying The Washington Post and Whole Foods when he launched Amazon.com in 1994. He started by selling books online. He started with something, not everything.

I was drawn to Kleon’s provocative and intriguing title because I work with artists every day and personally like to frequent museums, galleries, historic homes and trendy retailers to absorb creative inspiration.

Kleon believes creativity is for everyone, no matter what your line of work or play. Once you’re attuned to it, there are thousands of random ideas floating out there waiting to be harnessed. Which influences we internalize and when we choose to call them up is where the magic begins.

That’s what Kleon means by “stealing.” Taking bits and pieces of creative influences and making them your own.

You are a mashup of anything you let into your life. Anyone can be creative if they surround themselves with the right influences, play nice and work hard.

And you don’t need to have endless resources at your disposal to get started opening that bakery, planting that garden or writing that song. Singer/songwriter Jack White said it best:

Telling yourself you have all the time
in the world, all the money in the world,
all the colors in the palette, anything
you want -- that just kills creativity.

As I was writing this, here was my horoscope for the day:

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). The tools used to be creative will be a focus, but don't be fooled: The tools do not create. Creativity is in the head and heart. Fancy, expensive tools can actually work against the art.

Better to have a few bucks and an opening line.

When it comes to any creative endeavor, Kleon concedes that “narrowing the options is one of the hardest things to do; self-editing is one of the most difficult forms of self-discipline.”

The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom.

His book is a quick, fun read with great graphics, but if you’re a headline scanner, I’ll just go ahead and tell you the10 Things Nobody Told You (until now) About Being Creative:

1. Steal like an artist.
2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
3. Write the book you want to read.
4. Use your hands.
5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.
7. Geography is no longer our master.
8. Be nice (the world is a small town).
9. Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done).
10. Creativity is subtraction.

Definitely worth 50 cents.

Alvare Associates  Anita Alvare

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative   Austin Kleon   Creativity  Jeff Bezos   Amazon.com   Jack White

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

May 15, 2017

Train Your Eye on Millennial Pink

Tags: Business, Branding, Design,

I’m thinking I’ve been in this business too long. When discussing design and branding, I remember a time when the mantra of every male client was, “Any color but pink!” Now it seems that both men and women alike are saying, “Any color, as long as it’s ‘millennial pink!’” At least that’s the word coming out of last month’s Milan Design Week. So it must be so.

Start looking around and you’ll begin to notice this muted shade of color — described as somewhere between beige and blush — appearing in furniture design, commercial office interiors, bathrooms, houseware products, cosmetics, toys and fashion.

This over-the-top island sofa from Spanish furniture brand Sancal is a perfect example of how millennial pink is making the design world unhinged.

As one who once painted their kitchen walls Pepto-Bismol pink (great complement to anything black), I may not qualify as an arbiter of good taste, but I do think I know a passing fad when I see one (i.e., women’s “cold shoulder” blouses).

But this is no Pepto-Bismol pink or Barbie Dream House pink. One confused reviewer described it as “sort of a grapefruit shade of apricotty salmon.”

Make no mistake about it: it’s pink, and the design community is breathless.

An early adopter piece in New York Magazine had millennial author Veronique Hylan describing millennial pink as “a non-color that doesn’t commit, whose semi-ugliness is proof of its sophistication.”

(I’m sold...)

She questioned her attraction to the color by asking:

“Do I like this because I like this or because I’m buying back my own re-packaged childhood in the form of blush-toned lip gloss and stickers? Because the Pantone industrial complex is direct-marketing to my generation?

Fortunately, in the end, the author had the good sense to question if she was overthinking things a bit...

And what’s the male “take” on this indescribable (don’t call it a pastel) color?

When it comes to men’s fashions, Esquire Magazine deemed millennial pink “an emblem of an age both ostensibly post-gender and at the same time, obsessed with gender politics, a palette of ‘wokeness’ and a soft-hued sign of the times.”

(I will save you the trouble of looking up the word “wokeness.” I did it for us. It means a measurable state of awareness about what’s happening in the world.)

I think it’s fair to say that on balance, pink shirts and ties are OK with most men; pink motorcycles and island sofas are not. Other than that, I don’t think men think-pink while daydreaming (I could be wrong).

Sadly, while you’ve been reading this blog, millennial pink has started inching its way over-and-out.  Once the hoi polloi — you and me — latch on to a trend, it’s so over.

Perhaps a good time for olive drab to start making a comeback...?

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Millennial Pink   Milan Design Week  Sancal   New York Magazine   Esquire Magazine

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

April 05, 2017

Fearless Girl Stands Firm

Tags: General,

For the past few weeks I’ve kept a newspaper clipping on my desk about “Fearless Girl.” She’s the statue commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to “celebrate the power of women in leadership and the potential of the next generation of women leaders.” When I look at her I can’t help but think of the “fearful girl” who started her own business 36 years ago. Me.

Designed as a temporary installation in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8th), the statue was scheduled to be removed April 2 but the overwhelming public response caught City Hall’s attention.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week the decision to extend the Fearless Girl’s stay in Bowling Green Park, across from Wall Street’s “Charging Bull.” She’ll remain there until the next International Women’s Day, on March 8, 2018.

The Mayor called the statue a symbol of “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.”

When I started my business in 1981, there was no Fearless Girl statue to inspire me and only a handful of women, fearless or otherwise, to look up to as role models. There wasn’t even a Charging Bull to defiantly stare down (the sculpture was installed in 1989 to symbolize American resilience after the 1987 stock market crash).

But in 2017 we have The Girl vs. The Bull. A David vs. Goliath pairing (and we know who won that contest...).

And I'm guessing it was that, the idea of always being in a contest with men and power, an endless take-no-prisoners-competition, that gave me pause every time I looked at that little girl.

I was at my sister’s house recently helping her to sort through furniture, papers, photos, and “stuff” as she was preparing to downsize and move from her big family home. Looking at all those beautiful things and memories – many headed for the consignment shop and trash – I blurted out, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live our lives backwards. If we could see how things played out.”

...If we knew in advance which of the “stuff” that consumed our days, thoughts and financial resources would one day end up on the trash heap.

...If we could know with certainty which battles were worth fighting for...and those that weren’t.

...If we could calculate the true cost for remaining on the fast track, walking away from a challenge, succeeding at any price.

Fearless Girl, be fearful.

Charging Bull, slow down.

The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle (isn't it always).

Fear drove me to succeed, to do well by the people who were counting on me. It still does. When channeled correctly, it can serve to build inner strength, not diminish it.

Fear is my reminder that I don’t have all the answers all the time and that I might have to rely on others (even men/bulls...).

I’ve noticed in my long career that “the pros” are always nervous, “fearful” in a good way. That’s because they don’t want to disappoint, they care deeply about the quality of their deliverable, whatever that might be.

In our fast paced, technology-fueled business environment, charging full-speed-ahead is expected, even demanded. But this bull-in-a-china-shop approach is the reason we are seeing so much bad decision-making...so many clueless leaders...so many knee-jerk reactions to social media trends. The pace is exhausting. The outcome, disappointing.

So Fearless Girl, thanks for standing guard and inspiring business women everywhere. You are a fetching symbol that’s easy to understand and tempting to embrace. I hope your girlish fearlessness helps you to “stand up to power and find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.” You’ll need to be strong as you mature and face life’s Big Questions and Challenges.

Just know that sometimes it’s OK be fearful (but never OK to be afraid).

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Fearless Girl   State Street Global Advisors   Charging Bull   International Women’s Day

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 14, 2017

What Bonsai Trees Can Teach Us About Endurance

Tags: Business, General,

If well cared for, a bonsai tree will live 50 to 100 years longer than its creator’s lifespan. Yet the average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company dropped from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today, according to Richard Foster, a lecturer at the Yale School of Management. Just imagine what a Bonsai Master in the C-Suite could do to change that dynamic.

Ivan Watters, curator of the Chicago Botanic Garden bonsai collection, remarked that this ancient Asian art of creating miniature trees “requires a high degree of commitment, time-wise. Bonsai are like pets or small children and require a lot of attention and care. They also teach the development of patience, because you have to think in the long term, how will they look in 10, 15, 20 years?”

(Translation: Think and act strategically.)

John Yoshio Naka, an American horticulturist, teacher, author and master bonsai cultivator once advised, “Listen to the tree...it tells you where it wants to go!”

(Translation: Be open to another way.)

And then there’s this pithy wisdom from an old Japanese proverb:

When a bonsai stops growing, you know it’s dead.

(Translation: You’re no longer in business.)

Every year my husband and I would take our son to The Philadelphia Flower Show and he always made a beeline to the bonsai exhibit. We visited there again this week where I took this photo of a 59 year old bonsai next to its fledgling counterpart on the left.

But I knew better than to walk out with another (pricey) bonsai tree.

The name “bonsai” literally means “plant in a tray.” We’ve got plenty of empty, beautiful ceramic trays at home but the trees planted in them didn’t survive (we affectionately referred to our son’s collection as “everbrowns”).

So why do these symbols of harmony, peace, order of thoughts, balance, and all that is good in nature, so often atrophy long before their time?

For the same reasons that once-vibrant businesses, careers and dreams do.

Insufficient training.

Lack of patience, commitment and careful observation.

Loss of appetite for risk or adventure.

Waning creativity and passion.

Limited resources.

A non-nurturing environment.

Which brings us back full-circle to the Richard Foster Yale study. On average, a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) company is now being replaced every two weeks, and Foster estimates that 75 percent of the S&P 500 firms will be replaced by new firms by 2027. Just 10 short years away.

Might be time to onboard Mr. Miyagi of Karate Kid fame. He taught his bonsai-tending protégé Daniel san a-thing-or-two about mastering the vision thing:

"Close your eyes, concentrate. Think only tree..."

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Bonsai Tree   The Philadelphia Flower Show  Ivan Watters Chicago Botanic Garden  John Yoshio Naka   Richard Foster    Yale School of Management  Karate Kid   Mr. Miyagi

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

February 14, 2017

Lessons from the McDonald’s Story

Tags: Business, Promotion, Branding,

If you’re a fan of Struggling-Sweaty-Salesmen-Make-Good movies, or curious about people who can recognize and capitalize on unique opportunities, you won’t want to miss The Founder. It stars Michael Keaton in a biographical drama about Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame that will have you cheering and jeering for two entertaining hours.

The Founder was the title Kroc had printed under his name on his business cards.

Those two words spiked the blood pressure of original McDonald’s restaurant founders – brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald – who spent most of the movie seething on the other end of a telephone line as their franchise partner Ray badgered them with relentless innovation ideas. They continually resisted in defense of quality and integrity.

These two nice guys hesitated and finished last with only a few million bucks in their pockets (as opposed to Kroc’s $500 million wad).

It will break your heart to see the brothers’ revolutionary restaurant concept hijacked by a Type “A” personality who is continually on the hunt for new ideas, processes, and business models. Ambition and vision win the day, but there are casualties along the way. And a lot of lessons learned.

Here are some of my takeaways:

Follow your instincts. If something you see or hear stops you in your tracks and appears to be something you’ve never seen or heard before, pay attention. In Kroc’s case, it was his first visit to the McDonald’s restaurant operation in San Bernadino, California. Fast service. Family atmosphere. Delicious burgers. No plates or utensils, just paper bags and wraps.

Guard your intellectual property. Much as I loved the McDonald brothers, they gave away the store. They freely shared all their secrets, innovations, branding and growth strategies with Kroc and he took the burger and ran.

Hire hungry people. Kroc’s first investors were his country club friends. They were basically parking their money and didn’t really care about the consistency of the brand. He moved on to hardworking door-to-door salesmen, church and synagogue groups, service club members...and their wives...and built a franchise system of strong, well-trained, invested managers who made more money for their families than they ever dreamed possible.

Protect your brand. Your company name should stand for something. Kroc revered the “McDonald’s” name. To him, it embodied everything that was good and right about America. He built his brand around that vision and his franchisees and customers bought into it. He delivered on the promise.

Never stop innovating: Powdered milkshakes to save on freezer energy costs. Limited menu selections to ensure consistent quality. Unique processes to speed up service. Hiring instincts and training at odds with convention. Kroc was a visionary. An entrepreneur with little patience for the status quo.

Know what business you’re really in: It took a lawyer to enlighten Kroc that he was in the real estate business, not food service. Own the land that the restaurants sit on and start raking in the cash from day one. He did just that and it fueled the financing he needed to grow the business globally.

Get it in writing: When Kroc finally renegotiated his deal with the McDonald brothers, giving him full control, instead of signing a contract awarding them their demand of 1% of annual profits, he convinced the exhausted siblings to “shake on it.” They did and never received another penny (royalties estimated at $100 million/year).

Persevere. Your day is coming. But only if you hang in, keep your eyes open, accept advice, and aren’t afraid to take risks or fail.

Play fair. The McDonald brothers did and they lost financially but they never compromised their integrity.

Sometimes when you lose, you win.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
McDonald’s   Ray Kroc   Richard and Maurice McDonald

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

January 10, 2017

A Year of More with Less

Tags: General,

This is the photo that took my breath away as I was reading my daily newspaper a few days before Christmas. It shows a FedEx warehouse filled with packages that still needed to get where they had to go in time for the holiday. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How about one: Gross.

My visceral reaction to this photo had me thinking about stuff. Too much stuff to be specific. And how my life (your life?) is cluttered with things to use and wear and flaunt, but mostly to store, fund, maintain and complain about.

How fortunate am I?

During my Christmas staycation, I treated myself to one movie a day. After seeing this photo I found myself questioning how I could downsize my Big Life which led me to that day’s film selection: Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.

Here’s what I learned from watching:

• Achieving the American Dream has come to mean acquiring material things.

• It is possible to live in a very tiny one room home and love it.

• We spend way too much of our valuable time “on the hunt” for things.

• Giving away things is actually quite liberating.

• Constantly improving technology makes us constantly dissatisfied...bring on the next new thing!

• There is a growing movement known as Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge that asks you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months (includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes!).

• You won’t find happiness by consuming more.

• It’s not about getting rid of your stuff; it’s about taking control of your life.

• Love people. Use things.

But most of all I learned:

• You will never see the word minimalist in my obituary.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t aspire to live more simply. 

The fact that a picture of excess affected me so means that I am aware there’s a problem and supposedly that is where this quest for having more with less begins.

When I was telling friends (who endured manic international shopping trips with me) about Project 333, one responded, “You first...!”

I think I’ll back burner the fashion challenge for a while but I am already planning how to maximize my New Year by minimizing my surroundings (a more spare work space), commitments (“no” is an answer), and possessions (how many black sweaters can one own?).

At a minimum, this should leave me more time and focus for family, friends, business colleagues, strangers, experiences and the lost art of thinking about stuff, not just acquiring it.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Minimalism  New Year  Project 333

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

December 13, 2016

The Beloved, Real, Christmas Tree

Tags: Promotion, Digital Communications,

I’m betting you’ve never heard of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board (CTPB). They’re a national promotion and research organization funded by assessments on the sale of cut Christmas trees from North American Christmas Tree Growers. Their message to you slackers who are putting up artificial trees as we speak is this: It's Christmas. Keep it real.

The thought of plopping down an artificial tree with lights and ornaments intact is tempting (if unsatisfying). And many people (52%) think they’re doing the environment a favor by reusing the same ornament hanger year-after-year and not cutting down trees.

But according to the CTPB, they would be wrong.

For every Christmas tree that is cut down, growers plant 1-3 trees in their place.

And that stunning artificial tree of yours? It will remain stunning for quite a while, decorating a landfill for some 1000 years.

But live trees, with their ability to conjure up the happiest of memories with their pungent smell and dripping sap, are constantly working on our behalf, cleaning the air around us while displaying cherished ornaments and dazzling lights.

And when the holiday is over, instead of packing up an artificial tree in a plastic sack headed for the basement, we can put our cut trees out on the curb to be picked up and transformed into mulch for spring gardens.

Live trees don’t come with a 1000-Year Warranty but they are 100% recyclable.

Many of the aging Baby Boomers are answering the siren call of the artificial tree. The kids are gone. The been-there-done-that ennui is setting in. And their lower backs are giving out.

But there’s still hope for live cut Christmas trees.

Millennials.

The CTPC’s “keep it real” message is targeted directly at this younger, less jaded audience, appealing to their love of all-things-natural: The beloved, real, Christmas tree...The smell, the touch, the authenticity and joy that simply cannot be manufactured.”

A “25 days of keeping it real” social media campaign features a consumer website that uses an Advent Calendar concept to reveal something new and different every day — home delivery links, personal “choose and cut” videos, humorous memes, a Free Trees for Life Sweepstakes, an Authentic Christmas Instagram Challenge, cookie recipes, celebrity event announcements, and socially-conscious messaging.

And while you’re out holiday shopping, there’s a chance you could run into “treevangelists” wearing specially designed real tree rigs (with watering cups) on their heads, who are spreading the word about the environmental benefits of real trees while building the Christmas spirit and taking “zillions” of selfies.

My real Christmas tree will go up on December 15th. The same date it goes up every year.

And just like every year before it, it will be a backbreaking, time-consuming, tedious chore that will reward me with a joy that simply can’t be manufactured.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Christmas Trees, The Christmas Tree Promotion Board

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 16, 2016

Ad-vantage Trump

Tags: Promotion, Media,

I know, I know. You’re sick to death of hearing about this election (even if somehow you can’t stop yourself from reading every post-mortem headline that pops up on your screen). But I thought you might be interested in knowing what influenced the outcome according to Ad Age, the industry Bible, in a piece entitled, How Did Hillary Clinton Screw This Up? For Starters, Her Advertising Was All Wrong.

Not to put too fine a point on it...

According to author Simon Dumenco, word on the street was that Trump was using free PR rather than advertising to get his message across, but by the end of the campaign, he literally emptied the treasury for ads that “cunningly, strategically outperformed tone-deaf Team Clinton.”

Clinton’s most expensive and seemingly successful ad, entitled Role Models, had Trump throwing out not-for-prime-time one-liners while wide-eyed and uncomprehending children sat watching him on TV.

Tagline: Our children are watching. What example will we set for them?

Dumenco wrote in a September ad review that since Donald Trump announced his presidency (June 16, 2015) “...he's said hundreds of outrageous things... and we're all used to it by now. We're inoculated to it. Spending money to try to crank up the outrage machine over Outrageous Donald is probably not going to move the needle at this point.”

But in Domenco’s view, the ongoing theme that “Trump is a big jerk” permeated all the ads approved by Clinton and her allies. He contrasted this to the Trump campaign’s “dead-simple, exceedingly traditional ads related to Big Issues.”

Example:

In Hillary Clinton's America, the middle class gets crushed, spending goes up, taxes go up, hundreds-of-thousands of jobs disappear. It's more of the same, but worse. In Donald Trump's America, working families get tax relief, millions of new jobs created, wages go up, small businesses thrive. The American dream, achievable. Change that makes America great again.

“The way I saw it,” said Dumenco, “Trump the candidate may have been erratic, but Trump the advertiser was all about highly effective (for its target audience) message discipline -- whereas Clinton's message discipline was basically, Trump is awful. And I'm your only hope...”

His parting shot had to do with Clinton’s now infamous “basket of deplorables” assessment of Trump followers.

“Hillary Clinton not only misread white, working-class America,” summarized Dumenco, “she misread American pop culture, how many real Americans think and talk, and why many real Americans embrace antiheroes.”

The International Association of Political Consultants — which includes pollsters, ad creators and campaign strategists — had the unfortunate luck of scheduling their annual convention for the Friday after the election.

Actually, the date was preplanned to be “a celebration of big data and strategic wizardry for a multibillion-dollar industry that has spent nearly a century packaging political candidates,” according to The New York Times.

Instead, it was described as “a therapy session for a business in psychological free fall.”

Just how bad are things for political consultants these days?

Chris Anderson, a Democratic pollster who predicted victory for his candidate, said during a group (therapy?) session: “We’re going to continue to learn from Donald Trump how to effectively message, because he can do it really well.”

Message delivered.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Donald Trump   Hillary Clinton   Political Advertising   International Association of Political Consultants

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 27, 2016

Wild Guess: You’re President of the United States

Tags: Promotion, General,

It might seem like the road to the White House is an unending Halloween fright show, but in 1956 First Lady Mamie Eisenhower couldn’t have imagined how creepy things would get. She was the first resident to decorate the State Dining Room for a Halloween luncheon she hosted that year for the wives of White House staff members (is it possible the entire WH staff was male? Scary).

Since that time, each administration has put their own personal touches on the Halloween festivities, with private affairs making way for public spectacles spilling out onto the White House lawn.

John and Caroline Kennedy were the first children of a President to trick-or-treat at private White House parties. I imagine their bags were stuffed to overflowing.

The Nixon administration was apparently very social. They were the first to host star-studded public Halloween events, with family members in costume welcoming children from human services organizations, schools and hospitals.

The 600 children attending the “Bush 41” party on the South Lawn in 1989 got more than candy to chew on when George H. W. Bush told them about the ghost of a former President (Abraham Lincoln) often seen roaming freely about the White House rooms.

(My favorite Lincoln ghost story involves British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, climbing out of the White House bathtub stark naked, smoking a cigar, stopped in his (wet) tracks by the ghost of Lincoln sitting calmly by the fireplace in his old bedroom.)

The Clintons may yet again host a White House Halloween blow-out. In 1993 the Power Couple, with Bill at the helm, dressed as James and Dolly Madison at a party in the East Room of the White House where friends (the Trumps?) and family also celebrated Hillary’s October 26th birthday.

Somehow I don’t see the Clinton’s included on next year’s Halloween party guest list should Donald Trump pull out a win on November 8th, but no matter. The party will be HUGE, really HUGE, with or without them.

But if you don’t believe the polls or can’t wait until November 8th for the final outcome of this interminable campaign, you might be interested in a totally random, unscientific study.

Since Richard Nixon first ran for President in 1968, the candidate whose Halloween mask sells the most is “far more likely to win the election.”

According to Savers/Value Village, a for-profit, global thrift retailer currently stocked with a massive selection of Halloween costumes and decor, Trump masks (76%) are outselling Clinton masks (69%) by 7 percentage points.

And while that may be bad news for the Clinton campaign, it’s fabulous news for costume sellers. This year, the duel between a billionaire businessman and the first woman ever to run for President has the candidates’ masks flying off the shelves, selling at twice the rate of other Halloween merchandise.

If you have an ounce of energy left, you might want to hurry and make your mask selection before Monday. The outcome of this election may depend on it.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

White House Halloween Parties   Hillary Clinton  Donald Trump   Nixon Adminsitration  Mamie Eisenhower  George H. W. Bush  John Kennedy  Caroline Kennedy  Savers/Value Village

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 10, 2016

Taglines: The Good. The Bad. The Many.

Tags: Promotion, Branding,

I might love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener (then everyone would be in love with me.). But if I were a tagline, I’d prefer to be a Marine (The Few, The Proud.). What’s not to like about this simple, powerful statement? Well apparently, the Marines themselves are having second thoughts about it. Later this year they plan to introduce a new ad campaign and are considering incorporating a different tagline. Time to Think different (Apple).

According to Marine Corp recruiting spokesman Lt. Col. John Caldwell, the current slogan “does a great job distinguishing ourselves from the other branches and making us prestigious to recruits, but it doesn’t say anything about what we do or why we exist.”

In other words, Where’s the beef? (Wendy’s)

The Lieutenant Colonel promised that the new slogan’s focus will be on “everything we do as a fight – a fight that we intend to win.”

This “fight” will be based on three concepts:

Fighting self-doubt to become a Marine.

Fighting the nation’s battles.

Fighting for what’s right in our communities.

It will differentiate the Marines from all the other armed services and underscore “the elite — almost spiritual — standards the nation has for Marines,” said Caldwell.

Think big (IMAX).

According to J. Walter Thompson (Time is the new currency), one of the nation’s largest ad agencies and the creative group behind the current tag and the new campaign roll-out, this popular slogan has been in use since 1977 although not exclusively.

Other recruiting slogans over the past 40 years have included, If Everybody Could Get In The Marines, It Wouldn’t Be The Marines, and We’re Looking for a Few Good Men (a great line in its day, ladies).

Their competition is out there with Army Strong, America’s Navy and Aim High (Air Force).

So it’s obvious the Marines win the prize for turning a memorable phrase.

I doubt they will Think small (Volkswagen) when it comes to crafting their new slogan but it will be almost impossible for them to top what they have now.

But then again, Impossible is nothing (Addidas) to the United States Marines.

Oorah!

 

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Marines  J. Walter Thompson  Army  Navy  Air Force.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 14, 2016

News That’s Fit to Post and Pry

Tags: Business, Digital Communications, Media,

The Newspaper Association of America is taking off the white gloves. They just announced a name change to the News Media Alliance. You know where this one’s going... The elephant in the room is the word “newspaper,” now considered “meaningless” for many of the group’s illustrious members, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Dow Jones. These news sources now have more online “viewers” than newsprint “readers.”

My accountant once told me, “The numbers don’t lie. They tell your business story.”

Newspaper publishing has increasingly become a tale of woe and Pew Research Center has the numbers to prove it:

• Weekday circulation in 2015 fell 7%; Sunday circulation fell 4% (the greatest declines since 2010)

• 2015 advertising revenue fell 8%; its greatest drop since 2009

• The newspaper workforce has shrunk by about 20,000 positions, or 39%, in the last 20 years

• In 2014 there were 126 fewer daily papers than in 2004

Expect more of same when the 2016 stats are tallied.

But if you’re still reading a newspaper (as I am), you already know all this intuitively. Less in-depth coverage. More wire stories. The quick read format of a USAToday (once dubbed “McPaper” by its rivals when it launched in 1982, its editor would go on to rightfully boast "We invented the web page.").

We live in a digital age.

Love the perks (get-it-now speed and resources) but starting to worry about the potential.

You may have noticed that digital billboards are virtually everywhere. And speaking of the numbers telling the story, the spending on what’s known as “out-of-home advertising” has risen for 24 consecutive quarters according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

It’s all about the optics. And the potential.

Digitized billboards can do it all, and then some: change a screen’s image every 30 seconds; show videos and stream live events; display social media.

But you might be surprised to learn that some companies are starting to mount cameras to billboards to collect data about you when you innocently walk or drive by.

According to The New York Times, “Clear Channel’s Radar program...tracks the travel patterns of people passing by its billboards. The program uses mobile device data and other information to determine if people later visit a store or search their smartphones for the product.”

Come again?

Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate these “spying billboards,” saying “a person’s cellphone should not become a James Bond-like personal tracking device for a corporation to gather information about consumers.”

Clear Channel’s position: “The data is anonymous and aggregated – we’re not looking at individuals.”

Maybe not.

Yet. 

But be ready for your close-up.

It’s getting dirty out there and it has nothing to do with newsprint.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140


News Media Alliance   Newspapers   Pew Research Center   Digitized Billboards
Clear Channel’s Radar Program   Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
Senator Chuck Shumer

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

August 29, 2016

HoJo’s Last Stand

Tags: Business, Promotion, Branding,

“Howard Johnson’s, Host of the Highways!” That was my cringe-worthy phone greeting when I worked as a teenage hostess at the company’s Valley Forge restaurant on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. All is forgiven now that I heard HoJo’s will be closing its Bangor, Maine restaurant on September 7th, leaving only one standing in Lake George, NY. 

Howard Deering Johnson, the chain’s namesake and founder, was the brains behind the first modern restaurant franchise, the first turnpike restaurant in the U. S., and the pioneer of the convenience food concept of processing and portioning food at off-site kitchens and shipping it to restaurants for prepping and cooking.

By 1975, the company had more than1000 company-owned and franchised outlets in the United States and some 500 motor lodges in North America.

Not a bad legacy for a once struggling 27-year old who in 1925 was saddled with his late father’s business debts and a $500 loan he used to take over a “patent medicine store” with a soda fountain and newsstand in Quincy, Massachusetts.

The man was a survivor and a marketing genius, with one finger always in the air, testing the winds of change and consumer tastes.

His soda fountain originally sold three flavors of ice cream – vanilla, chocolate and strawberry – but he understood the American consumer’s birthright for “more and better” and began cranking out his own natural ice cream with double the butterfat in the store’s basement. The customer lines soon circled the block.

The ice cream menu would eventually include 28 different flavors.

Johnson expanded the business by selling ice cream at the beach and other traffic heavy areas around town, and converted his store into a restaurant adding hamburgers and hot dogs to the menu.

But the stock market crash of 1929 put the skids on his plan to open a second restaurant.

So that’s when he came up with the brilliant idea for franchising, basically selling the “Howard Johnson” name to another businessman for a fee, and having him agree to purchase all his food and supplies from the company.

Howard Johnson also saw opportunity in the Interstate Highway system. Americans loved to travel the open road and HoJo’s was going to feed them along the way. In the 1960’s, Howard Johnson restaurants could be found from coast-to-coast and by 1965, their sales exceeded the combined revenues of McDonald’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

(By the time I worked at the Valley Forge Turnpike restaurant, we absolutely dreaded the invasion of touring “bus groups.”  One cannot begin to describe the state of the restrooms after the masses departed. My boss asked me once -- just once -- to clean the trashed Ladies Room when I was working in the restaurant gift shop. I reminded him that my job description didn’t include janitorial services, especially since he was paying me 5 cents an hour below the minimum wage...)

But back to our more illustrious founder:  Howard Johnson instinctively knew how to differentiate his restaurants, and eventually his motor lodges -- from the iconic architecture by 20th century modernist Rufus Nims, who designed the orange roofs, cupolas and weather vanes that became part of the American landscape, to the restaurant’s Simple Simon and the Pieman logo created in the 1930’s by the artist John Alcott.

So how is it that we’re left with only one Howard Johnson’s restaurant some 90 years later?

The usual suspects: New competition. Numerous owners. A brand in desperate need of a refresh (and probably cleaner restrooms).


Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140


Howard Deering Johnson   Howard Johnson’s   HoJo’s  Simple Simon and the Pieman   Rufus Nims   John Alcott.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

July 18, 2016

The Not-So-Endless Summer

Tags: Business, Promotion,

You’d be hard pressed to find an uglier collection of shoes anywhere in the world assembled on one table (Chanel no less...). But alas, these are the “must-haves” that nobody would have, and now their shelf life has expired. Retailers started moving their tired summer merchandise towards the exits over the July 4th weekend to make way for the full-priced fall collections. Target already has their Back-to-School displays stocked and loaded. Unnerving visual reminders that summer is really already over, like it or not.

I don’t know why we’re not allowed to ease into the summer season anymore, but we’re not.

Try finding a bathing suit worth buying in late June.

Places like Cabela’s (one-cent shipping) and Dick’s Sporting Goods (Football Headquarters) are essentially giving away outdoor gear, apparel, camping and fishing equipment.

And Bed Bath & Beyond is poised and ready for your college student to start outfitting their dorm room.

Schools from the lower grades through college begin classes before Labor Day — once the official end of summer that always made me sad and anxious, knowing how long it would be until the season came again.

Last week I was taking an early morning walk on a private school track, feeling sorry for the hundreds of kids I watched being led outside for their camp and summer enrichment programs.

Do they ever get to sleep in late, stay home, daydream, hang-out without purpose? One week after school ends they’re back on the 7:00 a.m. bus for a full day of planned activities. I know some kids love their camp experience, but still...

So unlike my unsupervised, unplanned, undisciplined summers when the day began whenever I managed to roll out of bed and every waking hour was spent outdoors riding bikes, walking to the pool, hanging with my equally aimless siblings and neighborhood friends, when boredom was an option.

We didn’t have the Internet then, or cell phones, and the thought of going to a store with my mother and interrupting my non-routine was asking way too much.

Now that I think of it, we were blissfully oblivious to all the marketing hype (that I would one day make my life’s work). We hardly knew what day it was and were in no hurry to fill our school bags with new supplies or think beyond the moment. That’s what made summers so special, so endless.

Now, it seems, the retail world defines our seasons for us, creating a sense of urgency that has us stocking up for each occasion before we’re ready; picking through the remnants when they signal it’s time to move on (before we’re ready); hardly noticing they’ve devalued what they convinced us to value just a few weeks and catalogs ago.

Helpless to resist, we breathlessly buy into it.

(Is that Halloween candy I see...?).

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Summer   Retail Sales   Chanel Shoes   Cabela’s   Dick’s Sporting Goods  Target
Bed Bath & Beyond

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

June 22, 2016

Finding Time to Wonder

Tags: General,

I recently flew north to see my niece Cait receive her degree in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, the place where “fun goes to die.” I might not have been so excited about the trip had I known I’d be sliding off my chair from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at an outdoor graduation ceremony held under a blazing 95 degree sun...or that they would read aloud the name of every single graduate...all 1500 of them. I was beginning to think that UChicago was the place where I was going to die.

In between gulping down bottles of water and trying to kick-up a breeze with my University-supplied paper fan, I actually learned quite a lot at the ceremony.

I learned that the translation for alma mater is “nourishing mother” (not “send money”).

I was reminded that people in academia have titles that would never fit on a standard size business card.

Our keynote speaker, David Nirenberg, for example, is the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, the Departments of History and Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College; Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences. In his spare time he writes books focusing on relations between religions.

As a medieval authority, Nirenberg explained the medieval roots of a modern university, drawing our attention to the Gothic buildings around the courtyards that surrounded us and the cloisters entered through pointed arches.

I learned that the traditional graduation robes, all our degrees (Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate), honors (cum laude) and diplomas (parchment) evoke ancient symbolism. Yet ironically, universities are one of the most future-oriented institutions in the world, “...devoted to looking beyond the horizons of the known, and to preparing their students for lifetimes to come.”

What all of us already knew was that this prep time doesn’t come cheap. These graduates (their parents and the federal government) shelled out over a quarter-of-a-million dollars to get a seat at this ceremony where they were rewarded with Nirenberg’s observations about “time,” or more specifically, “a time of mind,” something that is particular to the life of a student, but hard to hold on to as adults with families, careers and financial responsibilities.

Nirenberg told us something most of us knew or experienced: “Time at a great university is different from other types of time in the world...in the extraordinary freedom it gives its inhabitants to shape it as it will: when to sleep, eat, study, love, play...a freedom of choice in matters that we probably did not have before and will not have again.”

We learned that the ancient Romans called this time for contemplation otium, a gift of university time, “a unique zone of exemption...where students can dedicate years to reach insights which require a degree of exemption from short-term time horizons of the everyday world.”

Nirenberg challenged the students to “take this ability to choose your ‘time of mind’ into the world” (where I fear it won’t be long before they discover that they are exempted from time to think but still expected to crank it out).

He argued that “time of mind” is a prerequisite for all great discovery which he defined as “rendering the familiar strange, provoking you to wonder.”

Finally, he offered a riddle of sorts worth sharing and contemplating:

“What is familiar is what we are used to, and what we are used to is the most difficult to know...the greater discovery lies in becoming aware of our most basic assumptions so that we can question them and make them strange.”

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

University of Chicago   David Nirenberg   A time of mind

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

May 26, 2016

Mother Nature Would Approve

Tags: General, Design,

I still remember looking at the impossible color combinations on the tropical fish at the Baltimore Aquarium and thinking to myself, “You just can’t improve on Mother Nature.” But that was before I saw the insanely colorful displays at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Philadelphia last night. Leave it to the Chinese to finally crack the code.

LED lights are the source of the un-natural color lantern displays that decorate Franklin Square near our city’s Chinatown. The show originated in China but is currently touring a handful of U.S. cities and Philadelphia was lucky enough to snag it for a 7-week run (ends June 12).

It’s one of those things you almost have to see to believe but the Festival features 28 over-the-top lantern displays, from this fiery 200-foot dragon, to exquisite lotus flowers, a panda playground, floral arches and a breathtaking four-story pagoda.

The smaller lanterns were shipped directly from the mainland but the larger exhibits were actually handmade on-site.

All of the displays are illuminated from within against a jet black night sky that gives the Festival an other-worldly setting and feel.

Lantern Festivals are a 2,000 year old Chinese tradition that started with the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD - 220 AD) about the same time Buddhism was being introduced in China. They are celebrated on the night of the first full moon of the Chinese lunar year to symbolize the coming of spring.

According to custom, families would join in the fun by lighting up their own beautifully decorated lanterns and take them on a moonlight stroll while watching fireworks, guessing riddles pasted on passing lanterns, and munching on rice glue balls.

Make that glutinous rice glue balls (featuring “fragrance, sweetness, freshness, smoothness and glutinosity”) combining pure white soft sugar, black sesames and high quality lard stuffing (and would you believe this was a dessert ...?)

Not to digress...but these rice glue balls eventually made their way to the New Year’s Day breakfast table where they were consumed with best wishes all around for happiness, reunion and good luck.

Many Chinese living overseas would actually eat a bowl of rice glue balls to release their homesickness (I think I’ll stick to looking at family photos). By1997, these glutinous beauties were named one of the “Famous Snacks in China.”

Glue balls aside, Confucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

The lesson here is to surround yourself with beauty, so it’s impossible not to see it.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140


Chinese Lantern Festival LED Lights Lanterns

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

May 10, 2016

A Cracker Jack Idea?

Tags: Business, Promotion, Digital Communications, Branding, Design,

Remember eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks at the ballpark? Finding a free prize inside? Blowing into the half-filled cardboard box to make obnoxious noises? Well forget all that. Today the guy sitting next to you is allergic to peanuts. The free prize is a video game card. And the waxed box is now a flimsy bag. Oh, and Cracker Jack just updated its iconic logo. Let’s hope they haven’t added kale to the ingredients.

Truth be told, the paper Cracker Jack prizes of late have been on the chintzy side. But now the brand "embraces a modernized, young-at-heart attitude," and the parent company, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay, is ending their 125-year tradition of including a toy prize inside and replacing it with stickers containing digital codes. 

All you need to get in on the action is a smartphone.

Fans of the caramel-coated popcorn and peanut combo (concocted by a German immigrant named F. W. Rueckheim in 1872) will have to first download an app and then scan the sticker to play one of four "baseball-themed experiences."

The company is hoping you’ll forget about the toys and play its new digital games: Dot Dash, Dance Cam, Baseball Star, and Get Carded.

According to Haston Lewis, senior director of marketing at Frito-Lay, "The new Prize Inside allows families to enjoy their favorite baseball moments through a new one-of-a-kind mobile experience, leveraging digital technology to bring the iconic Prize Inside to life."

I prefer the toy myself.

Preferably one made by an artist named Carey Cloud, the genius who created, produced and delivered over 700 million toys for the Cracker Jack Company from 1938 to 1965.

Described as “a man who made Santa Claus look like a piker,” Cloud was offered the dream job of making toys for Cracker Jack and always had fond memories of the very first one he designed: a bobble head tin animal.

In one particular year, Cloud figured he manufactured 45 million toys for the company. He estimated that if each child played with their prize for only 10 minutes, he had provided nearly 7.5 million hours of play in just 12 months (Question: Do kids even play anymore?).

Because he was always “thinking toys,” everything around him served as inspiration. He had two U.S. plants pumping out the gems after Cracker Jack stopped buying its toys from Japan.

During the Second World War, when metal was scarce, Cloud — ever the creative problem-solver — made do with metal scraps from the lids of Ball Brothers glass jars. These scraps were quickly converted into goofy coins and daffy dollars. Some one hundred million of them went directly into the snack boxes. No rationing necessary.

The only toy Cloud could remember being recalled was a metal sea captain who had the bad luck to resemble Joseph Stalin, the Russian dictator.

Legend has it that a salesman sampled a handful of the caramel snack in 1890 and cried out, “That sure was a Cracker Jack...!” (21st century translation: a surefire winner).

I can’t say the same about the sticker with the digital code but everyone and everything must “change-or-die,” and the Prize Inside apparently got the message.

From paper coupons redeemable for premiums...to sharp metal toys perfect for choking on...to plastic molds with break-off parts...and cardboard pinball games with plastic covers...to disappointing paper inserts...

It’s time to take me out to the smartphone.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Cracker Jack  Prize Inside   Carey Cloud   Digital Codes

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

April 18, 2016

Make Way for Traveling Suitcases

Tags: Business, Digital Communications,

Just when we started getting used to the idea of flying drones dropping packages on our front doorstep, word has it that robots -- described as “suitcases driving at 4 mph” -- might actually be ringing our doorbells first. And unlike their hovering, buzzing competition, these delivery vehicles will even possess some welcome “social” skills.

I have no doubt the day is coming when customers will be able to place an order online and wait (impatiently) only minutes to hear the reassuring sound of a thud outside.

In 2014, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first predicted on 60 Minutes that “octocopters” would be delivering light-weight packages within 4-5 years, some skeptics called him out for his brilliant publicity stunt.

Brilliant and prescient...

Today we all know about “drones” and may have bought or received one of the million sold over the 2015 holiday season.

But the logistics and e-commerce companies are waiting (impatiently) for a simpler autonomous delivery solution that may actually eclipse the drone phenomenon.

The San Francisco Chronical recently reported on “a suitcase-size, battery-powered, driverless machine on wheels that can glide along on sidewalks using sensors to avoid collisions” (the tech equivalent of saying “excuse me...”). 

For the past nine months, a startup company named Dispatch has been developing such a self-driving robot cleverly called “Carry.” The plan is to provide its bot services to retailers and on-demand delivery operations.

Carry has been tested on busy college campuses in California where it interacted with pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and clueless cell-phone users as it slowly (2-4.5 mph) but methodically made its way on sidewalks to deliver up to 100 pounds of product.

When it reaches its destination, Carry is designed to interact with a customer via a smartphone app that will show the robot approaching on a map on their phone.

OK, so it won’t literally ring their doorbell, but a ping on the customer's cell phone will alert them that Carry has arrived and provide them with a code to unlock the “suitcase” holding their delivery.

But here’s the best part: once this technology goes mainstream, I will no longer have to stop at a UPS Store to return 90 percent of the clothes I order online (on average, 30 percent of online fashion orders get sent back). The bot will wait patiently as I try on my disappointing purchases and quickly repackage them for the return trip in Carry’s spacious trunk.

Bon voyage, Carry! (Try bringing something that fits next time...!).

Described as “R2D2-like drones,” these earthlings are not nearly as flashy as their Fly Boy counterparts. 

But drones can land on your head.

With the delivery bot, you can Keep Calm and Carry On.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

 Octocopters   Drones  Driverless Machines Carry Dispatch

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 31, 2016

Try Something Foolish Today

Tags: Business, General,

When I tell people I started my business on April Fools’ Day, the reaction is always a slight smirk, followed by the question, “You’re kidding, right?” But I’m in very good company. The world’s largest information technology company — Apple — was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne on April 1, 1976. It takes a fool-with-attitude to choose that date and seriously expect to make a go of it.

Last I heard the Apple gamble turned out pretty well. And so, fortunately, did mine. Today our company is celebrating 35 years in business and we have the battle scars, accounts, friendships and confidence to prove it.

Just to put things in perspective, here’s a visual on what 35 years looks like:

Beyoncé

Serena Williams

Brittany Spears

Justin Timberlake

Josh Groban

All born in 1981. All incredibly accomplished. All with unique and often challenging career paths of their own. It’s pretty amazing to think we’ve been building our business since the day these future superstars first opened their billion dollar eyes.

Starting a business is hard but it was a “killer” year in ’81 in more ways than one.

On March 30th,while celebrating with co-workers at one of my many going-away parties, the fun came to a screeching halt when we heard that there had been an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

On May 13, Pope John Paul II was wounded in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City, shot four times by Bulgarian assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca.

And on October 6, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists during a military parade.

Add to that my grave suspicions that the mailman was purposely withholding my mail since I never seemed to get any checks and you get a sense of the bleak undercurrent.

But there were unicorns and rainbows to be found elsewhere that year:

The first flight of the space shuttle Columbia.

The introduction of artificial sweetener (Nutrasweet).

The first IBM PC (we were using the latest and greatest IBM Selectric Typewriters).

The nomination of Judge Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman on the Supreme Court.

The movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.

And then there was the Royal Wedding. I (manually) turned on my TV in the middle of the night to see Lady Diana Spencer marry Charles, The Prince of Wales. I have to admit that I was just a tad jealous, sitting there alone in a cotton bathrobe eating yogurt, watching the new Princess being whisked away in a glass carriage.

Little did we know how that Fairy Tale would end....

And that’s the point, isn’t it? We never know how things are going to turn out when we take risks, whether it’s marrying the future King of England or putting our talents and dreams to the test with a new venture.

I still believe you get out of things what you put into them and attitude is 90 percent of the play. Failure, disappointment and disillusionment will undoubtedly cross your path but that’s when fools-with-attitude are foolish enough to think they can keep going.

And they do.

Some for 35 years or more.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

April Fools’ Day

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 21, 2016

The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard

Tags: Business, General,

I found myself staring at this exhibit wall at the recent Philadelphia Flower Show, not so much for its familiar message but more for the painstaking beauty of each of its letters. It’s sad to think that many of the children growing up today will never be able to read the U.S. Constitution in its original form because in case you haven’t heard, cursive writing is on life support. Time to write (in longhand) to your Congressman.

Thanks to the computer keyboard, my handwriting today is nothing to write home about. But that wasn’t always the case. (Way) back when I attended Catholic grade school, good penmanship was second in importance only to religious studies.

We were taught the Palmer Method style of writing developed in the late 1800s (and continued in use up until the 1980s). Arthur Palmer introduced his method in the book, Palmer’s Guide to Business Writing, a textbook that sold over a million copies in 1912 alone.

Writing cursive with rhythmic motions, we learned at an early age to develop our hand muscles to create upper and lowercase letters that were both uniform and beautiful. Once you got the hang of it, you could write with the speed of a typewriter and supposedly, educators gave the method credit for “increasing discipline and character... and reforming delinquents.”

I have two vivid memories connected to this penmanship style.

Not to brag or anything, but...I was one of the very few in my class to be awarded a special Palmer Method writing pen in recognition of my perfected exercises. It was blue “space age plastic” designed with circular curves for a tighter grip. I loved that pen.

And sadly, I remember using it in my writing class the day the principal announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

Many years later, as a woman in business, let’s just say I took more than my share of meeting notes in longhand. And as a writer, I always jot down interview notes by hand and later type out (readable) transcriptions to reinforce what I heard.

What I didn’t know scientifically, but certainly knew intuitively, was that by handwriting information, I was retaining more information and actually forming ideas in the process. Research has shown that printing letters and writing in cursive activates parts of the brain that are dormant when keyboarding or just looking at visual images.

There is apparently a unique relationship between the hand and the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. With cursive writing, the brain learns to integrate sensation, movement control and thinking. In a way you are firing on all cylinders which results in better test scores, increased comprehension and more original ideas.

Mandated Common Core Standards no longer require elementary students to learn cursive writing which is often dismissed as an “ancient skill.” So you have kids today who can’t read homework assignments written by a teacher in cursive, can’t sign their name, and can’t read any of the notes you left them reminding them to take out the trash...or else!

In a way it seems as if they are slowly losing their sight. Imagine never being able to read a love letter or poem. Never pouring over random scribbles in a personal journal. Staring blindly at an invitation or old manuscript written in calligraphy.

David Ogilvy, renowned as the Father of Advertising, said, “People who think well, write well.” And given what we now know about the benefits of cursive writing, it would also seem that people who write well, think well.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Cursive writing Palmer Method Longhand

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

February 08, 2016

Getting Over Barbie

Tags: Business, General, Design,

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! I’m referring here to Barbie dolls, not The Godfather family. For me, Barbie is the wound that never heals. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to have her when we were growing up because our mother thought she was...well...too voluptuous for young girls. Now comes word that Mattel is coming out with a new line of Fashionista Collection Barbie’s – 33 dolls in all! – and my mother is no longer here to guide my moral choices. What to do...?

I’m always struck by how passionate and opinionated people are when the subject is Barbie. The “Original” doll is probably the most politically incorrect toy ever designed. (That’s the one I coveted because we didn’t know what politically incorrect was back then).

We just knew a stunner when we saw one and we wanted to be and look just like Barbie. To us (the future generation of feminists), Barbie was what I would call an “aspirational” role model.

Ken aside, this was a woman who had it all.

The tip-toes that never rested. The waist that never expanded. The bust that never ceased to amaze.

She was athletic (aerobics instructor, football coach, cheerleader, scuba diver, Olympic gymnast).

She served in three branches of the armed forces.

When Barbie wasn’t fighting fires and arresting criminals (even as a Canadian Mountie), she was circling the globe as an Ambassador of World Peace, running for President (and winning)...while simultaneously serving as Chancellor of Germany. (Hillary may want to consider lifting Barbie’s campaign slogan: Go Vote! Go Run! Go Lead! Go Girl!)

On a slow day, Barbie was styling pets, working the cash register at the candy counter, and driving in the NASCAR circuit.

Need I remind you that she looked absolutely fabulous while doing all of the above?

But while my peers were busy outfitting their Barbie’s in strapless bathing suits, elegant cocktail dresses, designer suits and body-hugging active wear, I was relegated to buttoning another baggy blouse on my life-size Patti Playpal doll.

Dreary.

And now my dream doll is back with a vengeance.

According to Mattel, the 21st century Barbie will come in three new body types (tall, curvy and petite), seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles! (Is this a retailers’ inventory nightmare, or what?).

The Collection will be officially introduced February 13 at the New York Toy Fair and rolled out to retailers starting in the spring. (If you’re desperate, you can buy one now at shop.Mattel.com).

"We have to let girls know it doesn't matter what shape you come in, that anything is possible," said Tania Missad, director of consumer insights for the doll line.

But make no mistake, the dramatic changes to the doll have as much to do with the bottom line as they do with evolving sensibilities. Worldwide Barbie sales fell 4% in the third quarter of 2015. And the company's stock price was down nearly 43% from its 2013 peak. Lego has toppled Barbie from her stiletto perch to become the current most popular toy brand.

And speaking of stilettoes...

Perhaps the most shocking feature of the new Barbie dolls will be their flat feet. The better to fit into their (comfortable, unflattering) flat shoes.

This gives me pause. (Maybe I am over Barbie...).

Flat shoes and a plus-size wardrobe?

They might as well change her name to Patti Playpal.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Fashionista Collection Barbie’s   Barbie Dolls  Ken Dolls  Patti Playpal

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

January 26, 2016

The Price of Paradise

Tags: Business, General,

A few years back I remember watching a TV interview where a laid-back West Coast guy was asked to comment on what it felt like to have just lost his home in a California mudslide. His unforgettable response was, “That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.” I was thinking of that remark this weekend as my right arm was ready to fall off from shoveling snow at the East Coast paradise I call home.

For starters, why does a sane person choose to live in a place that’s known for snow storms, mudslides or earthquakes?

Simple answer: Because it’s “home.”

Home is where you were born and raised.

It could be where you ended up after college.

Where you landed following a career move.

And most probably, where the love(s) of your life reside with you, or nearby.

It’s why you put up with inclement weather, Acts of God, isolation, the teeming masses, exorbitant cost-of-living, and sometimes separation from everyone and everything you once knew.

When I travel for business or pleasure, I always find myself thinking, “There are so many places to live in the world.” So why do I live HERE? (Consult above).

Where we “come from” can influence and define our personality, preferences, lifestyle, and prejudices (good and bad).

One would think that the ultimate paradise could be found in Hawaii. But one would be dead wrong.

In list-after-list, Hawaii is rated as the Worst Place to Live in America.

For starters, maybe it’s because the cost to live in that paradise would make even Adam and Eve beg for a transfer:

Average home price: $868,317

Monthly energy bill: $530.15

Doctor’s visit: $125.67

Adjusted for taxes and the cost-of-living, workers in Hawaii get the equivalent value of just 55 cents for every dollar they make. (The Continental U.S. is looking better every day...).

Which begs the question, where’s the best place to earn a living?

MoneyRates.com says it’s Texas (are you still with me, paradise-seekers?). In its 2015 Top States Study, Texas moved up from its 2nd place ranking to trade places with Washington.

Average wages in Texas are only slightly above the national average, but the cost-of-living in the state is below average, and there’s no state income tax.

ThrillList.com used this rather broad, subjective criteria to come up with its state rankings:

“We thought it was time to use the perfectly American cliché “go big or go home” and rank the states based on everything. More specifically, their contributions to America, so think inventions, food/drink, somewhat productive famous people, unique physical beauty, etc.

Coming in dead last was Florida (even with all that sunshine...).

First place went to (wait for it...):

Michigan (and it’s not just because my son lives there.)

Yes, Detroit is coming back but the thrill seekers were thrilled with the state as a whole.

Did you know that Michigan has more coastline than any state other than Alaska?

Or that its’ Upper Peninsula, remote and uniquely beautiful, almost feels like "a secret 51st state" (where they inexplicably love British meat pies)?

In the end, paradise is really a state of mind.

It’s where you’re happy.

Even if that means shoveling snow now and again.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Paradise   Best Places to Live     Best Places to Earn a Living

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

December 22, 2015

Wrapping Up Another Year

Tags: General,

May all your friends and family arrive home safely and on time.

May all your holiday feasts be free of everything but good taste.

And may your favorite present be the presence of one another during this very special time of year.

With thanks and best wishes for a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 24, 2015

Savor the Moment

Tags:

The first Thanksgiving may have been held in Plymouth Colony in November, 1621, but it wasn’t until after the battle of Gettysburg, at the suggestion of a very persistent Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, that President Lincoln issued a proclamation designating a national day of thanksgiving.  It’s a distinctly American holiday, right up there with the 4th of July, when families and friends alike gather under one roof to actually sit down together to enjoy a meal and relax in each other’s company.

With each passing Thanksgiving, I am reminded of how one year can make such a huge difference.

Chairs are shuffled, added, taken away.

Duties are reassigned.

Vegan and gluten-free selections are added to the traditional feast

The cherubs at the “kid’s table” are suddenly wielding carving knives.

If we gave everyone at our Thanksgiving get-together five minutes to recount their life in the past year, I’m pretty sure we would all be rendered speechless.

Not to mention more empathetic, inspired, proud, and forgiving.

A lot can happen in 12-months.

The worst involves loss – people, dreams, security, purpose.

The best, measureable gain – people, dreams, security, purpose.

I think it’s true of all of us that there are certain things we feel we could never endure or survive. But we can, and amazingly do, and sometimes the outcome of that test is measureable gain.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to stay in the moment.

Instead of rushing off to the mall (for the Black Friday specials that started three weeks ago on a Monday), we might just want to be where we are, with the people we’re with.

I know a lot of people who start decorating their homes for Christmas during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The thought of it makes me hyperventilate.

I am trying mightily to keep the nouveau riche, gluttonous Santa Claus at bay — if only for one long weekend — before dragging out the Christmas decorations (didn’t I just put the porch furniture away…?) and trying to think of presents to buy for people who really don’t need another thing.

Thank God for Thanksgiving.

The pause that refreshes.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 04, 2015

Color Me Disengaged

Tags: Business, General,

As a kid I used to spend hours meticulously coloring the embossed flower patterns on white paper napkins. No one could use them after that, of course, but it was something to do to pass the time (at a time when everything seemed to move more slowly). In case you haven’t heard, this simple pleasure of mindless coloring has taken the publishing world by storm.  Stressed out adults are now opting for beautifully illustrated coloring books to (literally) unplug from their increasingly complicated adult lives.

Friday afternoons were my favorite class period in grade school. That was arts and crafts time and I couldn’t wait to whip out my cigar box filled with everything a great artist needed to create “art.”

This would have been the week we started fashioning our pine cone turkeys. We used pipe cleaners and color construction paper, and cut and folded a paper fan tail into eight sections so that we could use all eight colors in our Crayola box.

Our creative energies nearly depleted, we finally stuffed the paper tail into the grooves of the pine cone, drowned it in Elmer’s glue, threw on some beads, glitter and feathers for good measure, and voila! The Thanksgiving Day centerpiece was ready to go home.

Art class was always the fastest hour of the week because, without knowing it, we were experiencing an induced meditative state that made us forget — if only for a moment — the grind of competitive spelling bees and flash card math drills.

As adults, we have quite a few more challenges (and people) on our minds, and a lot less time to think about them all.

That could explain why “we” (don’t look at me) have taken to coloring, a childhood activity that is the hottest category in the “Peter Pan Market,” right up there with Adult Summer Camps and Pre-schools…

Robin Neifield, CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., an interactive agency that focuses on online marketing and advertising best practices, wrote, “As marketers, we note big trends and look for any insights that help us better understand consumer behavior and patterns. The appeal of this coloring trend to at least some significant segments of the adult audience appears to be its simplicity and purported stress relieving properties.”

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Russell Brand, the outspoken English comedian and actor, who doesn’t understand why adults want to live in “childish stupors” and considers the coloring fad as “the final portent of the impending apocalypse.”

“The best-selling books in the world are no longer bibles, Qurans or interesting scientific introspective on the workings of anatomy and the universe,” he all but screams.” They’re coloring books!” (he screams).

Yup.

Social commentators point to the lingering recession, unemployment, illness, lack of play time as a child, and the all-consuming nature of technology, as just a few of the reasons for this cultural shift.

Coloring can be a harmless, creative, therapeutic way of regressing into happier times to avoid the overwhelming present.

But it won’t last forever (coloring or the present).

Like all trends, this unfathomable phenomenon will soon go mainstream and fade, replaced with yet another (unfathomable) shooting star.

I’ll admit that every time I see an embossed white paper napkin, I want to throw some color on it.

But the urge passes.

I’ve moved on.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 20, 2015

Don’t Just Sit There

Tags: Business, General,

If you're sitting in your office chair reading this, you're not long for this world. Not to mention your chair. The experts have weighed in and either the chair has to go or you will. When and how is still to be determined. But trust me, it’s just a matter of time.

When I first started working in an office, I was warned about getting “secretary’s spread.” There really is no dignified way to describe it but here goes:

A widening of the posterior and hips due to infrequent activity, caused by sitting down for a long period of time.

Technically, I was immune to it because I couldn’t really type. Even still, I was always checking for early signs of “pseudo-secretary’s spread.”

Curiously, the men we worked for never seemed to get the dreaded deformity, even though they seemed to sit around as much as we did (maybe all those golf outings made the difference…?).

But once Casual Friday’s came around and the guys traded their fitted suits for chinos and golf shirts, we discovered (to our dismay) that “secretary’s spread” was an equal-opportunity offender.

Back in the 90s, I met a retired airline CEO who still worked from his custom built standing desk. He never sat down during the day except for meetings. Coincidentally, he had the slim, wiry build of a man half his age.

Fast forward to the early part of this century: I was walking through the bullpen of a hotel client in New York when I noticed one of the managers sitting on a big blue rolling ball while typing on her computer.

Fortunately she was too busy concentrating on keeping her balance to notice the rest of us rolling our eyes and snickering behind her back. But now that I think of it, she, too, had a very lean, fit physique.

Decades later, everybody (but secretaries) is sitting in front of computers for hours-on-end — day and night — for work, play and TV series binging.

It’s getting ugly out there in more ways than one and the health and fitness risks are now affecting children as well as working adults.

In a recent New York Times Sunday Review piece, author Pamela Paul minced no words when she warned that “sitting has gone from something responsible and orderly to something borderline unseemly. Sitting makes you slump, sitting makes you fat, sitting makes you lazy.”

She cited “urgent studies” from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to proclaim sitting “nothing short of deadly.”

And this just in: Researchers at the American Cancer Society are now saying that women who sit for six hours or more each day have a 10 percent greater risk of getting invasive breast cancer than women who stay seated for three hours or less.

Too late.

Or is it?

Now that we know what we (wish we didn’t) know, maybe we can try to turn the tide a bit by starting to check out the endless variety of stand up desks, treadmill desks and sit-to-stand computer carts that are out there.

Cheaper still, we could all trade our rolling desk chairs for a colorful stability ball (like the one I Iaughed at) or a chair with a swinging footrest.

I agree it all sounds a bit frenetic — especially if you work in an open space — being surrounded by all those buff, hyperactive co-workers (lecturing you on why you shouldn’t be sitting).

I’ll let you sort it all out for yourselves with some advice from the late English singer, Amy Winehouse:

“Life's short. Anything could happen, and it usually does, so there is no point in sitting around thinking about all the ifs, ands and buts.”

Especially the buts…

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
 

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 29, 2015

A Pilgrim’s Tale

Tags: Promotion, General,

This is the quality of picture you get when the Pope breezes by on a Sunday afternoon and you’re sandwiched between 800,000-plus people. It doesn’t help that I’m short in stature, with short arms to match. But who needs a picture when you have an indelible memory.

My hometown, Philadelphia, was hosting The World Meeting of Families last week, an international conference designed to explore the critical role the family plays in society.

Pope Francis was planning to cap off the activities by spending the weekend in the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection). His anticipated presence put into motion the largest security operation in U.S. history. (If you’re partial to men and women in uniform, you would have been in heaven).

The dire warnings were so persistent about street closures, towed cars, public transportation restrictions, and the prospect of walking for miles, that the theme for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could have been, “Stay Home” (and many did).

Fortunately, the City quickly changed its theme song to “I’ll Be There!”

In the midst of all this mayhem, our agency was promoting a book launch and a Meet the Filmmakers evening at two locations in the heart of the historic district of Philadelphia, competing for media and conference participants who were overloaded with offers.

Fortunately, we attracted full houses and were ready to move on to The Main Event.

The Pope.

Can I tell you how good it is to have friends in high places?

We were fortunate to “borrow” a friend’s 15th floor condo (with balcony) across the street from the Festival of Families Celebration on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, site of the Saturday night Papal Concert and the Sunday outdoor Mass.

Our “front row center” expectations, however, were reduced to “back stage“ sightings, given the depth of the staging and the treetops obscuring our view.

But we did see the Pope and his Popemobile glide into a holding tent Saturday night and we could hear the music drifting across the Parkway from the likes of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Aretha Franklin and Andrea Bocelli. We weren’t complaining…

But come Sunday, I knew I had to leave my perch and join the masses for the Mass.

I didn’t bother with a ticket but (being low to the ground) was able to work my way through security and near the street to catch a glimpse of the Pope riding down the Parkway (screams alerting us to his impending arrival).

I then made my move to the front of a fence directly opposite one of the 40 Jumbotrons broadcasting the Mass live.

Give-or-take the cry of a baby here-and-there, once the open-air Mass started, you could hear a pin drop.

The moving service was conducted in multiple languages (Pope Francis delivered his simple, yet powerful homily in Spanish), with no translation needed for the other-worldly musical selections from The Philadelphia Orchestra and the 240-voice Papal Mass Choir.

But perhaps the most stunning, unforgettable site at the Mass was the parade of over 1,000 priests – escorted by umbrella-toting companions (but no rain in site) – who paraded down the Parkway giving Communion to hundreds-of-thousands of people, in just 15 minutes. Wow.

Walking back to the condo, I passed on buying Pope Soap-on-a-Rope and having a selfie taken with a cardboard cut-out of the Pontiff (who incidentally is not a big fan of our “throw away culture”).

Fifteen stories up, I watched the sun go down as the crowds and busses dispersed, the clean-up crew began their thankless task, and the colorful lights on the face of the hi-rise across the way slowly spelled out the one word that said it all: Amore.


Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

The World Meeting of Families  Pope Francis  Festival of Families Celebration The City of Brotherly Love

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 08, 2015

How I Ended Up Talking to Myself

Tags: Business, General,

I walk to manage my stress, clear my head, and keep in shape. But a recent three-mile walk threatened to undo years of physical and mental gymnastics when somewhere along my route, I lost my cell phone. Ergo, I ceased to exist.

I knew I was dependent on my cell phone but I never knew how much.

When I came home from that fateful Sunday morning walk, I decided to work in the garden before going inside for coffee.

But once inside, I realized my phone wasn’t in my pocket.

Instant panic.

I ran back out to the garden. Retraced my steps. Called my number incessantly from my husband’s phone, hoping to hear it ring.

Silence.

Panic turned into desperation.

I re-walked my three-mile trek (this time feeling a stroke coming on).

With each passing mile I was thinking blacker thoughts: “My contacts…my pictures…my passwords…will I have to change my phone number…?”

Back home with no phone, fearing ALL was lost, I called AT&T to “suspend” my phone and headed straight for their store to buy a new one (lest my business empire crumble and my friends and family forget I exist, come Monday morning).

After sitting in the store for four-plus hours waiting to be served (fuming along with other phonoholics), here’s what I learned:

• I hate myself for being so dependent on my phone.

• Always bring something printed on paper to read when you go to replace your lost phone. All those emails and social sites you were going to check out while you waited were on your phone.

• You can’t kill time calling friends or family because you don’t have a phone.

• Hours later, when they finally do wait on you and start asking you for passwords to set up your new phone, you can’t respond because the passwords you can’t remember are in the phone you don’t have.

• You are officially flagged as a Hacker by Apple after your 15th attempt to log in the password information:

- Your first car (Make or model? Make and model?)

- Where your parents met (City? College? At the house of the friend who introduced them?)

- Your first concert (“I’m telling you it was The Beatles! Section P(aul), Row R(ingo). What perfectly sane person wouldn’t remember that?”)

• You must resist the urge to do bodily harm to the AT&T sales rep when he finally gives up and says you will have to go IN PERSON to an Apple Store and make an appointment with a “Genius” (unlike yourself) to reset your passwords to get your phone fully connected.

That did it.

I went home with my half-connected, overpriced phone (and the mini-iPad they talked me into buying), found my password cheat sheet (and yes, The Beatles were my first concert!), plugged them in and suddenly had contact with the outside world.

I then spent the rest of the week contending with aftershocks:

Pairing my new phone to the car’s Bluetooth (even Stephen Hawking would have called the dealership for help…).

Syncing things up to Verizon Wi-Fi (always fun).

Changing the settings on all my other “devices” (ensuring 24/7 dependency wherever I am, whatever device I’m with).

It took me five days to get my blood pressure down and my devices up.

Fortunately, I was headed to the beach for a much-needed vacation.

Only one job left to do: water the garden.

And that’s when I saw it.

My lost phone.

Face down in the mud.

Gleaming in the fading sunlight.

Wet from the hose.

Dead as a doornail.

I need that vacation.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140


Cell Phones Lost Phone  AT&T Apple Store Passwords Bluetooth

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

May 14, 2015

Best. Friend. Ever.

Tags: Business, General,

So here I am with my friend and business colleague, Elva Clements, at a client Symposium in Florida on Friday the 13th in February. We had just spent a few hours in the Hotel Spa and stopped for a cocktail and photo at the bar before going back to our rooms to change clothes (for a cocktail party).  And then, on April 18th, Elva died of pancreatic cancer. Just like that.

When you lose someone suddenly – especially someone you’ve loved, respected and worked with for 35 years – its human nature to want to make some sense of it.

Even if you can’t.

But since I don’t do ‘pathetic’ particularly well (and Elva had zero tolerance for whiners), it’s high time I exchange my funk for a recollection of the many wonderful reasons why I loved having “my office wife” at my side and in my life.

Elva lived the farthest away and was always the first person in the office. Coffee on. Dishwasher emptied. Plants watered. Computer fired up. All you had to do was say, “Good morning.”

We didn’t call her “The Machine” for nothing. Here was a world-class publicist who leveraged every gift she was given. She lived to (over)serve her clients and cranked out fabulous work that gave truth to her mother’s favorite expression: If you’ve got a job to do, give it to a busy person.

“Here’s the bad news…” Whatever it was, Elva always delivered the bad news first, immediately followed by one or two thoughtful solutions. All I had to say was, “Sounds good to me.”

‘No Drama Breaks’ welcome…Like all of us, Elva experienced illness, loss, disappointment, stress. In between those times, she was grateful for, and conscious of what she called, “No Drama Breaks.” She packed them with experiences and friends.

A car named Elva…Who knew there was a sports racing car called ‘Elva’ (elle va meaning she goes)?  She could take on all comers with her knowledge of the obscure and meaningless.

Pee-wee Herman?  Elva loved him. (No judging). She even went to New York to see his Broadway Show (with her Pee-wee-loving family, no less). She was attracted to people, things, talent, and events that others often dismissed out-of-hand.

The Real Housewives meet Pope Francis. It’s an understatement to say that Elva’s interests were eclectic. Her tolerance for low-brow TV shows: epic. Her views about politics, world events and religion: informed and passionate.

Let’s get together! Elva made friends everywhere she went. She remained close to her grade school buddies, high-school and college chums. She partied with the girls in the ‘hood, converted business colleagues to cherished friends, and sent ‘thank you’ notes for everything.

So what if there’s 20-inches of snow outside. We’re talking about an old-fashioned girl here, influenced by a father who exemplified “The Greatest Generation.” You took it for granted that Elva would show up and deliver. Excuses? Finger pointing? Snow days? Never.

Not into stuff. To my great dismay, it was hard to get Elva excited about bling and adornments. I was always suggesting ways to fashionably tie her scarf or load up her arms with bangle bracelets. No sale. She preferred simple. Unfussy. One more proof that opposites attract…

A heart that just grew bigger. Family was everything to Elva and she was devoted to her parents, brothers, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and the loves of her life: husband Bob, daughters Maria and Carrie, and son Patrick. Not to mention all those friends from all those eras and places.

Having said all that, is it any wonder we miss her so much...?

 

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 25, 2015

Verify but Trust (Your Judgement)

Tags: Business, General,

The Russian proverb, “trust but verify,” became a signature phrase for President Ronald Reagan when he was dealing with — you guessed it — the Russians. I thought of that line when I read a recent news account about an arranged marriage in India where the bride wanted proof that her husband-to-be wasn’t illiterate. She asked him a simple enough question before exchanging vows: What is 15 plus 6? The grinning groom answered 17. Wedding over.

While I feel sorry for the groom, I think it was best they called the whole thing off before he started wreaking havoc on the family finances.

But kudos to the bride for acting on her instincts. I’m sure she was excited about her wedding day and the 36-hour blow-out party to follow, but that relationship was destined to go down for the count, if you get my drift.

Makes you wonder…

Was there really a time when arranged marriages actually worked out? No questions asked.

When someone’s word alone was their bond? Forget about the Google Search.

When a firm handshake was the next best thing to a promise? No hand sanitizer required.

(When 15 plus 6 was 17…?)

Today’s commitments are becoming more and more data driven. It’s all about the analytics.

We need the stats.

The sales revenues.

The profit and loss statement.

The credit rating.

The cost of doing business.

Engagement studies.

My accountant always told me: The numbers don’t lie.

He also said they tell a story (dry as that tale might be).

Unless you’re cooking the books, the number story is very quantifiable, verifiable. Cut and dried.

But decisions made by the numbers alone aren’t always foolproof.

Fortunately, there is that other human emotion that plays into decision-making.

Trust. The belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective.

That’s what made the Indian bride’s instincts kick in. It was a feeling (in her case, mistrust) that something wasn’t quite right. So she (literally) put her suspicions to the test.

Trust is a beautiful thing and is at its best when cultivated over time. A history of trust makes a compelling narrative.

But there will always be times when you need to go with the gut, make the call. The analytics are often only part of the story and your instincts are required to complete the picture and close the deal.

It has been said that the only way to make someone trustworthy is to trust him or her.

And that requires, first, trusting your own judgement.

 

Trust  Analytics  Judgement

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 10, 2015

Think of Prospects as Friends

Tags: Business, General,

Some 30 years ago I set up a luncheon meeting with an office assistant at a theatre that presented touring Broadway shows. I was after her cast party bookings for a new restaurant I was promoting. She came down with the flu on the appointed day but couldn’t find my phone number to call and cancel. Not to worry: we’re talking show biz here. The lunch must go on. And so it did, the beginning of an exciting business partnership, but more importantly, a beautiful friendship that endured until the day she died.

When you sit across the table from someone you’re meeting for the first time, especially in a business setting, it never occurs to you that one day you’ll be a permanent fixture at their annual Christmas parties or the caretaker of their mother’s African Violets.

But it could happen.

When I first met Patricia (“Don’t call me Patty…”), her office was in the theatre coat closet.

So much for glamor.

But she was passionately in love with her job. And who wouldn’t be?

Opening nights.

Marquee name actors.

Dressing rooms with stars on the doors and big round light bulbs on the mirrors.

She convinced her boss at the time to let our agency submit a marketing plan for the theatre. He read it and promptly tossed it in a drawer.

But when Patricia’s new boss came on board (“Call me Mr. Moore…”), he obviously had a better eye for talent. He liked our ideas and soon hired us to promote their subscription series.

It was a “gig,” as they say, that would last 23 magical years.

If I didn’t need to work for a living, I would have hired on for free; it almost seemed a crime to charge for that much fun.

But fun it was with too many pre-show dinners and breathless brainstorming meetings to count.

Not to mention the intimate press conferences with film stars, Broadway legends, international ballet dancers, side-splitting comedians and musical artists from across the generations.

This was a world where “every seat is a good seat,” every show a “tour de force,” and every success another excuse for a glass of wine.

Not surprisingly, our friendship deepened over the years and it was only a matter of time before Patricia exchanged the coat closet for the corner office as the theatre’s General Manager.

During intermissions (or Act II if the show was a bomb), we would retreat to the boss’ office and talk about everything and anything.

Patricia saw me through dating, marriage, parenthood, house hunting, business growth and the loss of a sister and both parents.

I saw Patricia through marriage, parenthood, house hunting, promotions and the loss of a sister and both parents.

And then cancer.

For 15, long, brave years, Patricia fought the good fight until she finally conceded “it was OK” to slip away on March 1st.

In his eulogy, her husband spoke of her “finding her space in the bigger picture of life on earth” by always remaining positive, uncomplaining, and by graciously giving her time and attention to anyone she encountered.

This amazing woman walked 2.3 miles to work every day, and continued this practice even when the end destination was chemotherapy treatments.

By her husband’s calculations, that translated into some 37,000 miles on foot. A feat as incomprehensible as her ability to overcome one set back after another, and her determination to have an even more beautiful garden come next summer.

She envied my hair.

I envied her grace.

And I’m so grateful she misplaced my phone number those many years ago.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

February 03, 2015

3 Reasons Why I Don’t Care If I’m Liked

Tags: Business, Promotion, Digital Communications,

A newspaper editor friend was telling me that, these days, “the bosses” are judging the value of a journalist’s reporting by the number of “Likes” tabulated for each published piece. Careers rise and fall with the analytics and it would seem that the Pulitzer Prize is no longer a guarantee you’ll be tapped for a new assignment (or remain on the payroll). Likeability is the new coin of the realm. This point-and-click value system drives me crazy. Here are “3 Reasons Why I Don’t Care If I’m Liked.”

#1 I Want to Be Loved. Why Settle?

There’s no icon for this emotional reaction but if there were, it would be red in color with bold face type and click to my direct phone line or business deposit account.

It would mean that something I did, said, or shared created a reaction, satisfied a need, begged a response, closed a sale. Or to be more specific: prompted a call-to-action.

Content that compels -- that personally connects -- makes the reader or viewer stop and think….about doing something (other than clicking a jaunty “thumbs up”). Like doing what you hoped they would in the first place: making a phone call…sending a personal email...setting up a meeting…starting a relationship…buying what you’re selling. Quality Leads -- not Quantity Likes -- usually translate into revenue. Lots to Love about that…

#2 Click Baiting is Like Speed Dating. No Commitment in Sight.

Why do you suppose that 90% of the highest-read online content is in the form of a list?

10 Boot Styles that Will Drive Him Wild.

5 Foods Guaranteed to Stop Your Heart.

4 Cities Where Your Pocket is Most Likely to be Picked.

“Listicles” are a quick read and generate beaucoup clicks, which in turn generate an insane number of Likes (and apparently guarantee job security for their author).

Clever headlines are the secret ingredient for pulling readers in, as are unique visuals, including colorful infographics. Consumers tell all their Friends about theses postings immediately (Like/Tweet/Share). Interestingly enough, they do the same with long form content that contains a snappy headline and brilliant first paragraph.

But don’t get too full of yourself, content creators. On average, online readers are spending a total of 15 seconds scanning your thoughtful pieces. (And you thought they were drawn to your story, in sync with your opinions, excited about your new product offering…).

Is it any wonder they never contacted you or took the relationship to the next step? A big part of your audience won’t “stick” to your content long enough to get it. Not too much to Like about that…

#3 You’ve Read This Far. My Work Here Is Done.

So how can you keep your audiences hanging in ‘till THE END? The most valuable online audiences are the ones that keep coming back for more. And they keep coming back because they like what you have to say (but don’t necessarily always “Like” it) and view your content in its entirety (or close to it).

There are all kinds of analytics now that will tell you who is opening your stuff and what they do with it before moving on. But Facebook Likes and Twitter Retweets are only part of the story.

Relationships (interaction + time) still matter most when it comes to building a successful brand. And being a trusted, consistent source, with quality information -- respectful of people’s time, intelligence, and interests -- is still the best way I know to create loyal, committed, engaged, paying customers.

Like it or not…

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

January 20, 2015

Gambling with Ideas

Tags: Promotion, Media,

You may well know from experience that there is a razor thin line between a BIG idea and a dumb one. In the world of promotion, there are equal examples of both to illustrate the point. So what to make of the furniture store promotion that offered customers a full refund on their purchases if the Ohio State football team won the Sugar Bowl and advanced to the championship game, beating their opponent by a specific point spread. The numbers tell the full story: 42-35; 42-20; 22; $1.5 million.

Morris Furniture Company, headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, ran a promotion at 15 of their retail outlets in Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati and Florence, Kentucky, offering refunds to customers who purchased at least $1,999 in furniture, mattresses and accessories from December 17th to January 1. But here’s the catch: Ohio State’s team had to advance to the National College Football Playoff championship and beat their opponent by at least seven points.

Suffice it to say that the Buckeyes didn’t disappoint…the furniture store customers.

They beat #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (42-35) and crushed #2 Oregon in the national championship (42-20), winning by a whopping 22 points.

That brings us to the $1.5 million refund the furniture store with the BIG idea had to pay out to some 500 giddy customers.

I originally heard about this promotion on the radio, featured as one of The Dumbest Ideas of the Week. The announcer was quick to note that Morris Furniture Company’s marketing manager was “unavailable for comment…” (knowing laughter all around).

Could anybody (in this "new economy") be dumb enough to risk their livelihood and reputation without a Plan B? I had to check it out for myself.

Let’s start with the upbeat quotes by a Morris Home Furnishings “representative” (what happened to the marketing guy?):

“We had a 20% sales increase during that period.”

“We launched the promotion the week before Christmas which is typically the slowest week of the year.”

“This promotion definitely made us stand out during that time and encouraged customers to shop during a time when they are normally not shopping for furniture.”

Sounds like a pretty sound strategy and outcome:

• Increased sales

• Steady traffic during a slow period

• Enhanced differentiation and brand awareness

Not to mention national media exposure from the likes of ABC News, USA Today, and FOX Sports.

But what about that $1.5 million in payouts…?

Not-so-dumb Morris Home Furnishings hired a third-party company (Dallas-based SCA Promotions) to underwrite the promotion and refund money for a percentage of the sales.

“The best feature about a conditional rebate promotion,” said Bill Riley, the Account Executive at SCA Promotions who managed the furniture store’s program, “is the ability for it to catch fire and capture attention, anticipation, and generate thousands…or sometimes even millions of impressions in a crowded marketplace.”

And the bottom line marketing spend for that kind of excitement and exposure?

Priceless.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Morris Home Furnishings   SCA Promotions

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

January 06, 2015

Do We Care?

Tags: Business, General,

A while back I was complaining to a business colleague about how difficult it is just to get through a daily newspaper when every day we’re expected to sift through a dumpster load of information at work and home (forget about pleasure reading…).  He calmly said that he reads the first two paragraphs of every news story followed by the question, “Do I care?” If he “cares,” he continues reading. If he doesn’t, he’s on to the next headline. Hmmm…?  Could it really be that easy to place a value on how you spend your time? I think he’s on to something in more ways than one.

The local time is now 2015…and counting.

Holiday vacation is over. Time to get serious about work, school, and routine.

But many of us are doing things a little differently because we’ve made some New Year’s resolutions and are trying to put them into play.

Like trying to manage our time better. Almost everyone struggles with this one. So how do we get it under control and off “the list?”

It’s really a question of having a plan.

Personal development expert Larry Winget wryly noted that “Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan.”

So how about a fool-proof, doable plan for acquiring more meaningful time, building better relationships, and achieving more personal success using the same 24 hours (1440 minutes) a day that you had last year?

May I suggest a three-word plan for doing just that? It’s really more of a question than a plan but equally as strategic.

With each task, each encounter, each decision, first ask yourself, Do I care?

If you don’t care about what you’re spending your time doing, or who you’re spending it with, then you probably should be doing something else, with someone else, or by yourself.

…If you’re suffering through another social event with people you hardly know, wishing you could be spending that time with family, friends or customers, then why are you there?

…If you’re complaining about having to go to another volunteer Board or committee meeting, then why did you make the commitment in the first place?

…If you’re going back to the same prospects who obviously have no intention of buying from you, why don’t you face facts and take the harder route finding better prospects worth cultivating?

…If you can’t get home in time for dinner night-after-night, but are never late for a meeting, what does that say about your priorities?

…If you’re unhappy with the way you look in your clothes but hate giving up sweets, carbs, and wine, then why don't you start exercising?

…If you keep your opinions to yourself so as not to offend, then why are you surprised when nothing ever changes?

...If you procrastinate in front of the TV or burn hours checking out social networks, why are you so amazed that nothing ever gets done on time?

If you’re doing the same things and getting the same results, it’s because you really don’t care (enough) to move on, out, up, or in front.

Not caring wastes time. A lot of it.

Starting today, figure out who and what you (really) care about, commit to the time and attention required, and I think you’ll be very pleased with how the story ends.

Headline: Happy New Year!

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Larry Winget

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

December 09, 2014

Who’s Your (Current) Hero?

Tags: Business, General,

Last week a friend sent me a news story about a CEO we knew who was arrested for growing marijuana plants in the front of his house. (I know. Not too smart.). Then there are all the disturbing allegations by accusers who claim comedian Bill Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them. To quote the Bonnie Tyler song, Holding Out for a Hero, “Where have all the good men gone…?”

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”

“He could trace his demise to that humid August day when he and his wife Eve mindlessly planted marijuana seedlings next to the pink flamingos…”

A hero is “a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

(Interestingly, in North America, “a hero” can also be a submarine sandwich. A curious disconnect if there ever was one).

A few years ago I attended a leadership seminar and the speaker started his session by asking us to turn to the person beside us and, without hesitation, blurt out the name of our hero.

Not as easy as it sounds…

I have to say I shocked myself at how long it took me to think of someone. And I wasn’t alone in that.

Maybe we were all trying too hard to impress the guy next to us with the brilliance of our choice. It took everybody a good long minute to mentally scan the list of usual suspects:

Presidents.

Statesmen.

Religious figures.

Human rights advocates.

Celebrities.

Authors.

Artists.

Soldiers.

Athletes.

Inventors.

Adventurers.

Business leaders.

It may have been that all of us were looking in all the wrong places.

The Chinese consistently name their parents as their heroes. No one in our group even mentioned their mother or father but I bet when they reflected on it later, some wished they had.

For most of us, our heroes are larger-than-life people that we’ll probably never meet.

Like Bill Gates, who was named “The World’s Most Admired Living Person” in a poll conducted by YouGov and published earlier this year in the Economic Times, India’s leading business newspaper.

It’s heartening, and fitting, that a brilliant American business magnate, computer programmer, inventor, investor and philanthropist was recognized for his incredible contributions to our present and future world. A true hero by any definition.

U.S. voters in the international survey chose Pope Francis as their most admired person, one of the newest and most intriguing personalities on the world stage; Barack Obama held the number two spot.

Heroes may be typically a male, but what about today’s “It Girl,” Kim Kardashian?

(I’ll stick with my submarine sandwich, thanks…).

Kim certainly has her following but she was never even mentioned in the “World’s Most Admired People” list.

Gravitas and actual talent trumped celebrity, earning heroines Queen Elizabeth (#17), Angelina Jolie (#19), Oprah Winfrey (#20) and Hillary Clinton (#27) spots on the Top 30 World List.

The problem with being a hero is that you are idealized by your worshippers…they see you as perfect, better than reality.

Maybe that’s why our Super Heroes maintain a longer shelf life than us mere mortals. They’re not real. They’re ideal.

Humans are too real. And as we well know, not always ideal.

Most of our idols come and go, depending on our age, life experience, interests (and tolerance for stupid behavior).

Just remember, it works both ways.

All of us, at some time, in some way, are somebody’s hero.

Promise you won’t be offended if they forget to mention your name in a pop Hero Quiz.


Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Holding Out for a Hero   “World’s Most Admired People”   Image by Pichi & Avo

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 21, 2014

An Atty-tude of Gratty-tude

Tags: Business, General,

I'm from Philadelphia. We have a slight accent and a major atty-tude. But it really doesn't take all that much to make our spirits soar. If one of our sports teams wins something (anything), we’re dragging ourselves up the Art Museum stairs on our knees. Gratitude comes easily for us. It’s a wonderful thing to behold, to feel, to acknowledge. We all pay it lip service (literally) on Thanksgiving Day, but we really ought to think more about making a steady diet of it year ‘round.

Greater minds than mine have been studying the idea of regularly “giving thanks” (a.k.a. gratitude or appreciation) to see if this emotional response contributes to a more meaningful life.

It does.

People who “live gratefully” on average give 20% more of their time and money to causes they feel are worthwhile.

The good news is that for every 10 years we live, we tend to become 5% more grateful for things, experiences and people.

Gratitude is good for our health. Being thankful for what we have reduces our chances of getting stress-related illnesses by 10% and lowers our blood pressure by 12%.

And if this is getting too “touchy-feely" for you, you’ll appreciate knowing that you could increase your income by almost 7% if you said “thank you” and “wow” just a little bit more each day.

Seven is a lucky number for grateful people. They’ll live that many years longer than their crusty, complaining peers (more prizes for us at the Bingo table!).

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—in collaboration with the University of California, Davis— is spending $5.6 million over 3-years to expand the scientific database of gratitude.

The goal of the study is to compile enough information to understand gratitude’s impact on overall quality of life in the hope of engaging the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in a civil society.

While we’re waiting for the results, we can run out to Target and spend $5.60 on a Gratitude Journal and start jotting down the things that make us grateful on a daily basis.

I know a lot of people who have started this practice and they highly recommend it. To get the hang of it, start small.

Example:

The water in my shower was hot.

There were three strawberries left in the refrigerator to put in my yogurt.

The police car hiding under the bridge (that I passed at warp speed on the expressway) did not come after me.

My son sent me a text that had four words in it.

On a day like Thanksgiving, our entries would probably be a bit less mundane.

Example:

All of the kids arrived home safely.

I’m so lucky to have my family with me to share this special day.

I miss those who won’t be with us this year, but am grateful for the happy memories that will be with me always.

The Eagles beat Dallas (or perhaps: The Eagles gave it their best shot…).

My friend Marie consciously starts out every note that she writes with the words, “Thank you.” Thank you for … your time…your counsel…your insight…your concern…your thoughtfulness….your friendship.

She’s one of the happiest people I know.

I’d like to end this blog with an atty-tude of gratty-tude for the chance to share my random thoughts week-after week with all my loyal readers.

Now start filling that journal with gratitude for every day.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

The Greater Good Science Center  Here’s My Chance

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 04, 2014

You Don’t Always Have to Plant the Seed

Tags: Business, General,

If you’re not into gardening, you probably don’t know that this is a picture of a pumpkin vine choking my hydrangea bush. They’re annoyingly invasive. I always thought these vines grew along the ground but the one that mysteriously appeared in my yard this summer took over my entire side garden, climbing the hedges and draping itself across all my other plants like it owned the place. A real in-your-face, look-at-me interloper. Sort of like inspiration. It’s right in front of you all the time, trying mightily to get your attention.

For the record, I never planted the pumpkin seeds that grew into a wild traveling vine with edible flower blooms that eventually spawned six pumpkins, two of which were enormous and morphed from green to bright orange with thick gnarled stems.

I just reaped the rewards.

Like (free) Halloween pumpkins and fresh ingredients for muffins and soup.

And who knew that the early yellow flowers could be tossed in a salad or sautéed in olive oil, stuffed with ricotta cheese mixed with garlic, salt and some finely chopped chives and parsley?

I’m glad I was paying attention.

It’s liberating to know that you don’t always have to be the originator of every good idea or experience.

You just have to take notice -- and act upon -- the curious things going on all around you.

The late Steve Jobs observed that, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.”

I’ve heard that the Genius Bar set-up in the Apple Stores -- a hi-tech Help Desk for customers -- was originally inspired by the interaction at a hotel bar.

Apple Genius as Bartender.

Help Desk as comfortable public setting where weary customers can unload all of their problems to someone who has heard it all before.

Brilliant.

According to Gartner research vice president Van Baker, the Genius Bar is a major part of the value proposition for Apple Retail.

Their most valuable offering being the thing that differentiates them the most -- support.

Ideas that work always look easy. Instantly obvious.

Poet James Russell Lowell pointed out that, “Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.”

Like fried pumpkin flowers…

Or a bar that serves up advice, but not liquor…

You need an appointment to talk to an Apple Genius.

But you’re free to roam-at-will when it comes to exploring the universe.

It’s all there for the picking.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Business, Inspiration, Apple Store

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 21, 2014

Plain, Old Common Sense Leadership

Tags: General,

Harry Truman’s mother-in-law could never quite see the attraction. She’d tell anyone within earshot that her daughter’s husband would never amount to anything (a conviction she shared quite often while living upstairs in the family quarters of the White House). When she died in her White House bedroom in 1952, the 33rd President of the United States wrote in his diary, “She was a grand lady.” No. He was a grand gentleman.

I recently visited the Truman home in Independence, Missouri and was struck by the simplicity of the man and the impact of his leadership.

The most quoted President in American history, Harry Truman was an Everyman in every way.

He paid his dues and was “all in” when it came to family, friends and country.

“In reading the lives of great men I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first.”

Truman has been referred to as “a most uncommon common man.” Even today historians revere his “common sense,” his plain way of speaking.

"I never gave anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thougt it was hell."

He hailed from an idyllic Midwestern town, and was raised on old fashioned Midwestern values: honesty, courage and perseverance.

When duty called, Harry Truman always answered.

“The reward of suffering is experience.”

His father asked him to forego college because he had lost the family savings in risky investments.

He had to leave a job in the city because he was summoned to work on his mother’s 600-acre family farm.

He served his country as an Army officer during World War I, and later as a public servant and U.S. Senator.

He became the 33rd President of the United States following Franklin Roosevelt’s sudden death, only 82 days after he had been sworn in as Vice President.

His respect and love of duty even extended to his love life.

Above-and-beyond the call of duty was his agreeing to move into his beloved wife Bess’ family home, lorded over by the previously mentioned mother-in-law ("Anything you say, dear…”).

And like most men and women destined for greatness, Harry Truman knew failure and disappointment.

“If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Not attending college was a huge disappointment for him (by the age of 14, he had already read every book in the Independence Public Library).

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

He lost his men’s clothing store and investment portfolio during the depression.

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.”

And not everyone was “Wild about Harry.”

In June 1945, when he was first elected president, his approval rating was 87%. When he left office in February 1952, he held the dubious distinction of having the lowest rating of any U.S. President since Gallup started keeping score: 22%.

“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”

Even in death, Truman was overshadowed by a larger-than-life Texan. He died December 26, 1972. Less than a month later so did Lyndon Johnson (guess who grabbed all the headlines?)

“Conceit is God’s gift to little men.”

But Harry Truman did what leaders do. He made the big decisions, not all of them popular.

…He ended WWII.

…Authorized the use of the atomic bomb to end the war in the Pacific.

…Established the CIA.

…Desegregated the armed forces.

…Committed US forces to the Korean War.

…Fired the most popular man in America (Gen. Douglas MacArthur) for openly criticizing his policies.

“The buck stops here!”

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Harry Truman, Truman's Visitor Center,  

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 30, 2014

Impress Customers with Your Awesomeness

Tags: Business, Promotion, Branding,

Shippensburg in central Pennsylvania (ranked 27th in Norman Crampton’s book, The 100 Best Small Towns in America), is well known for its State University, but this rural community is also home to Volvo Construction Equipment’s North American Hub. And nothing about their operation in this small town is small.  These guys think big, make big, deliver big. I’d say they “rock,” but they really “roll.”

Most car companies, and by extension their commercial fleets, are usually named after their founders. But not Volvo. The Swedish automaker went with the Latin word volvere, which means “to roll.” Given the weather conditions in Scandinavia, the choice seems brilliant. Customers would be attracted to a car that could perform in freezing temperatures and tackle unpredictable snow and uneven roads.

Build a car that rolls and they will come.

But the manufacturer took it one step further. They conjugated the verb volvere in the first person only. Hence Volvo, meaning, I roll. A brand with personality. Makes you smile.

I was fortunate to see the Construction Equipment operation up-close-and personal at a day-long event Volvo hosted for members of the National Demolition Association. These demolition contractors use specialized monster equipment to take down structures like office buildings and hotels, towers and bridges, manufacturing plants and stadiums, to make way for something new and better.

This was an important audience for Volvo. And they knew exactly what to do to ensure the day was memorable for the customers and prospects in attendance.

Bring in the Big Guns.
We started our day at Volvo’s brand new North American Customer Center, where some 6,000 customers, operators and dealers are expected to pass through annually. We were warmly greeted by the Director of Product Marketing and Communications who welcomed our group and then turned the program over to the President and CEO of Volvo’s Construction Equipment North American operation.  His presentation was short, informal and informative. He made us feel like we were his sole priority for the day.

Showcase your products in a unique way.
When we moved to the outdoor bleacher section in the construction yard, we had a unique vantage point to inspect Volvo’s yellow and black line of mind blowing equipment. But the product didn’t just sit there idly. The (knowledgeable) Volvo MC summoned each piece, one at a time, so it could slowly roll into view while the operator demonstrated the innovative product features. It reminded me of a beauty pageant, where each “contestant” sashays up to the audience for closer inspection. It even had a “talent competition” of sorts. Watch me expand…extend…roll…grab…lift. Wow…!

Impart Insider Knowledge.
Is there anything more fun than seeing how things are made? Customers love it and nothing illustrates that better than a plant tour led by a knowledgeable guide. Volvo spent $40 million on the expansion of its manufacturing facility. The plant looked so pristine I wanted to bolt the tour and go home and clean out all of my closets and drawers. Efficient doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was a showcase for automation, innovation, excellence.

Brand (Up the Wazzu).
We knew who we were with. We were wearing Volvo lanyards...meandering in the Volvo Museum, offices and plant...watching a demonstration of Volvo’s telematics system (don’t even think about stealing a Volvo excavator…they will find you)...passing Volvo signage and promotional banners at every turn. We shopped in their Brand Store and left with a complimentary Volvo/National Demolition Association custom coffee mug.

I wonder what brand guests will think of first when they’re ready to buy demolition equipment…?

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

National Demolition Association, Volvo Construction Equipment North America, Shippensburg, PA

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 17, 2014

Barrels of Fun with Craft Brewers

Tags: Business, Promotion,

I went to my first Beer Festival two weeks ago. What a blast. The House Rules were pretty simple: $45 bought you 4-hours and a 4 oz. plastic tasting mug that you could fill (and re-fill) with golden samples of regional and national craft beers offered by more than 40 brewers. The place was packed: 1400 satisfied, ready-to-party customers. The weather conditions tailor made for the product offering: 92 degrees, 100 percent humidity. Thank God I’m not a beer drinker.

The first annual Historic Odessa Brewfest took advantage of its pastoral setting (surrounded by an enclave of 18th and 19th century homes) to tap into the craft beer phenomenon. They even had a re-enactor demonstrate the colonial brewing process, in keeping with their historic surroundings. Yet archeological evidence dates brewing way back, to 7,000 B.C. if you can believe it.

Beer is a good business to be in these days (If you’ve got the time. We’ve got the beer.). It’s the third most popular drink in the world, after water and tea, and there are now more than 3,000 craft breweries in the United States, according to the Brewers Association.

Given those stats, there’s a high probability you already know somebody who left the corporate world to pursue the dream of becoming a craft brewer. It’s the hot new career. (Speaking of which, in the spring of 2015, Paul Smith’s College, a private, four-year college located in upstate New York, will be offering a minor in “craft beer studies.”)

If you live in a city, or traveled to one over the summer, chances are you stumbled across a Pop-Up Beer Garden or Brewpub (If you saw it in a commercial, we don’t have it) featuring exotic specialties and a laidback atmosphere.

Craft brewers are all about quality and innovation. They are fiercely independent and dedicated to interpreting historic brewing styles with a unique 21st century twist (I’m only here for the beer).

They connect with their customers in a personal, distinctive way and tend to be very philanthropic: sponsoring events, volunteering in the community, growing their businesses one free sample at a time.

These small brewers seem like very nice, happy people, but then again, they’re sampling their product multiple times a day under the guise of “quality control” (you’d be nice and happy, too).

Maybe that’s one reason they aren’t too concerned about their GIANT competitors who really aren’t their competitors, per se. Just last week Anheuser-Busch InBev (The King of Beers), the world’s No. 1 beer-maker, let it slip that they are talking to their banker about buying competitor SABMiller (The Champagne of Beers), the No. 2 industry player. Combined, these two companies currently control a third of the beer market.

Craft brewers don’t think in terms of billions. But one thing they do have in common with Big Beer is their creative marketing.

Their logo designs are fantastic, reminiscent of the old record album cover art from the 60’s: edgy, vibrant, whimsical.

And they are starting to get the hang of creating good tag lines (ex: The Beer so Good it’s Bad). But they still have a long way to go to compete with:

The beer that made Milwaukee famous.

Tastes great. Less filling.

It’s Miller time.

When you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all.

You never forget your first girl.

For all you do, this Bud’s for you.

I’m thinking it’s not a coincidence that there are 24 hours in a day and 24 cans in a case.

And that’s why I’m sticking with wine. Only 12 bottles per case.

Historic Odessa Foundation, Brewfest, Paul Smith’s College, Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 02, 2014

Living Large

Tags: Business, General,

In my line of work you get to meet a lot of interesting people. I’ve been kissed by a Prince (twice). Taught golf by a touring pro. Gone deep sea fishing with a Hall of Fame baseball player.  Confided my biggest fear to the first man who walked on the moon. Worked countless rooms promoting Hollywood stars and Broadway legends. And then just two weeks ago, I met Susie and her mom, Chrissy. I think I’ve peaked.

I’ve come to find that interesting people all have one thing in common: character (and many are true “characters”).

It’s not always about the titles, awards, or accomplishments, although that does tend to heighten the glow and attract the crowd.

It has more to do with their resilience. The literal spring in their step and positive attitude that keeps them spiraling forward in spite of loss, disappointment, changing circumstances and seemingly insurmountable odds.

My first encounter with Susie and Chrissy was by phone, and let’s just say they had me at “hello.”

I was interviewing them for a video we were making about individuals with disabilities who were living purposeful, busy lives, staying fit, going to work, learning new skills, volunteering in the community, visiting cultural sites, hanging out with friends.

Susie is living that life, thanks to her family’s can-due diligence that led them to Penn-Mar Human Services and a model program there that has Susie, and three other young adults with disabilities, showing what it means to confront every day with wonder, persistence and appreciation.

Susie, 23, was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. Typically it’s associated with physical growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and characteristic facial features.

In another time, not so long ago, people like Susie would have had little, if any, engagement with the world outside of their immediate families.

But I found Susie to be very “worldly:” charming, gregarious, supremely confident and amazingly accomplished.

Her charismatic mom has a lot to do with it.

A nurse by profession, Chrissy put her career on hold for 20 years to care for her family, and was only too happy and proud to recount Susie’s amazing journey.

Sacrifice along the road to success is another hallmark of interesting people. They tend to take the long view.

When these two incredible ladies finally told their story on camera, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

It was obvious they navigated the winding road hand-in-hand. They finish each other's sentences. Set-up stories for each other like a seasoned comedy act. Dress in matching colors. And absolutely adore each other’s company.

That’s another thing about interesting people. They make you want to be, and linger, in their magical orbit.

I was curious to know how Chrissy and her daughter managed to overcome the many obstacles, false starts, personal disappointments, and heartaches that confront so many families in similar circumstances.

Chrissy's response was simple. Profound really.

She said she always addresses a challenge by asking the person on the other end, “How can I help you make this work?”

Collaboration, civility, and no doubt compromise.

Just imagine if everyone came to the table with that approach?

If every world leader said that and actually meant it? 

If every unhappy customer encountered that attitude?

If every team project started with that generous offer?

Life is filled with all kinds of interesting people.

But the ones who are heroic, inspiring and wise are the most interesting people of all.

 

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Penn-Mar Human Services,  Down Syndrome

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

August 16, 2014

You Decide The Decisive Moment

Tags: Digital Communications, General,

"Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever." So said famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, also known as the father of photojournalism. Walking on a deserted beach last week, early in the morning, I saw The Moment! in this scene. Where did everyone go, I wondered? Are they back at the house enjoying a cup of coffee, or did the whole clan walk into the ocean together, never to be seen again?

I love photos that tell a story. Even if that story is the one I make up in my head.

What’s interesting about this image is how the multi-million dollar beachfront homes look like bit players next to the Dime Store chairs.

The shadow on the beach behind them serves as a natural backdrop to punctuate their bright colors and patterns.

And the dunes just beyond draw the eye to the fortress-like homes standing guard at the top of the hill, dwarfed by the huge expanse of blue sky.

Not a bad day’s work for a mindless walk on the beach.

Time for an Ode to the Cell Phone Camera.

So light. So omnipresent. So idiot-proof!

Why would you ever drag along a (real) camera when you can just whip out a tiny phone from your bathing suit and catch The Moment!  And you have to admit the quality is simply amazing.

"Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson pointed out. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said.

Creativity is like that. You know it when you see or feel it. And the cell phone camera allows you to respond to that intuition immediately and more often.

Do you ever find yourself using the expression, “That’s a picture!” when you see something that captures your imagination?

Well now you can make it happen.

The name Cartier-Bresson will be forever linked to the phrase, “the decisive moment” (the English title of his U. S. edition of printed images). But the expression actually originated from the writings of the 17th century Cardinal de Retz who said, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment” (e.g., Yes, I’ll marry youI’m buying a motorcycle no matter what you sayLightning strikesGame over...You need a face liftTime to bloomI quit…).

When it comes to photography, “the decisive moment” becomes apparent when you train your eye to (really) see what “life itself offers you.” It comes to you. Not the other way around.

With cell phone cameras, you can become an active observer of everyday life. Your creative eye can be conditioned to capture the strange, the rare, the beautiful, the absurd (and think of all the images you’ll have to share on your social sites…).

Had I decided to walk past the unusual scene above and taken the shot on my way back home, the lighting would have been different, the chairs might have been occupied by stragglers recovering from an all-nighter, and the beach may have given up its eerie calm to a bocce ball tournament played by old guys with leathery skin, sporting speedos and gold chains.

Now do you see what I mean about “the decisive moment?" It only lasts an instant.

Capture it before it’s too late.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
The Decisive Moment, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Cell Phone Cameras

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

August 05, 2014

Refrigerated Keys and Other Cool Memory Joggers

Tags: Business, General,

Did you know…hold it, I forget what I was going to tell you… Oh right: Did you know that your brain power starts to dim from as early as age 45 (not 60 as previously thought)? You’re thinking this phenomenon is a byproduct of middle age, right? Well actually, according to a recent survey by a British healthcare provider, middle age doesn’t even begin now until you’re 53. Looks like even the Gen X “latchkey kids” (born 1965-80) are starting to search around for where they left their keys.

With six living generations in America at this very moment, it’s safe to say you’ve got a lot of company when it comes to forgetting things and plenty of folks at-the-ready to help you retrieve lost memories, decades, objects or names (not to mention Google Search).

Mornings can be especially hectic when you’re trying to leave for work and get kids off to daycare or school. So years ago I started putting my car keys in the refrigerator with the packed lunches so I wouldn’t forget to take them with us. No keys, no exit.

You think you’ll remember everything you have to do to accomplish everything you have to accomplish, but you can’t. We can’t. It’s getting beyond us.

But that doesn’t mean we have to give up without a fight.

I used to pride myself on my awesome memory. I could tell you what I was wearing on the day I met you and describe your outfit in detail, to boot. I famously conjured up visuals and stories on-demand to the amazement of all (including myself).

Then something happened.

Make that a lot of things happened.

The FAX machine (OK, it’s coming through…)

Overnight mail (that was…fast).

E-mail (I’ll get right on it…!).

And that’s when my amazing memory and focus started to short-circuit.

Author John Irving said, “Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you – and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”

I try daily to get on better terms with this monster. To fight clever with clever.

So no more slips of paper for me, filled with TO DO’s and reminders (easily lost or illegible). I have a Notes app for that, a voice recorder, and reminder chimes on my iPhone.

My latest trick is something I learned from a physician who told me that they are trained to do things as they think of them. Given the nature of their profession -- constant stress, appointments, interruptions, crisis events (sound familiar?) – Doctors can’t afford to say “I’ll do that later.” Later never comes.  It’s now or never. (Try it, it really works).

My 21 year old son flips out when he’s talking to me about something, someone, or somewhere he’s going and I immediately Google It or put it in my Notes/Calendar (when a Millennial thinks you’re using too much technology, you know it’s time for an intervention).

But I want my memory on notice that I have “options.”

So bring on the name tags, apps, word associations, alarms, voice recorders, visual cues, chilled keys and young friends and associates with brains that are shaken, not stirred.

I just hope I don’t forget where I left my phone…

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

July 22, 2014

All Circuits Are Down (Thankfully)

Tags: Business, Branding, General,

While reading a review of a small, quiet new film called Ida, I stumbled across an intriguing quote from the Polish writer and director, Pawel Pawlikowski. He said, “I find myself escaping more and more in life, away from noise and fake energy and from too much information.” Too bad Pawel won’t be checking out this blog. I totally get where he’s coming from.

Noise (everywhere). Fake energy (so much to do). Too much information (where do I begin?). I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t have a conversation with someone about the frantic nature of their work or personal life, given all of the above. Small wonder so many people are looking for the escape hatch.

I’m a promoter by trade. Much as I hate to admit it, my line of business is a big part of the problem. We get paid to make a lot of noise for our clients, to talk louder than the competition (if dog whistles would do the trick, we’d use them). You have to fight noise with noise, whatever pitch necessary.

(Apparently there’s no noise ordinance on the books when it comes to marketing).

And what about “fake energy?” That one really bothers me. It sounds inefficient. Pointless. But I know I’m guilty of creating that, too. So much to do this week. Can’t say “no.” Let’s double our efforts. Send it out within the hour. Call the whole list. Take the meeting. Volunteer to serve on that committee. Join them for dinner after our plane lands. Why waste your time when I can do it so much faster?

(My grandmother always said it’s not good to be “too capable”).

And Pawel and I aren’t the only ones who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that is waiting for us every hour of the day to be read, seen, heard, repurposed, regurgitated, and annotated.

And then there’s this:

We were born to create. To share our own voice, our opinions. So I’m writing a blog and Pawel’s writing a screenplay (and so is everyone else). We’ve all turned into “content creators.” Our livelihoods and reputations depend on it so we toil away, creating content that can be read, seen, heard, repurposed, regurgitated, and annotated.

Whatever happened to all things in moderation? Easier said, than done, right?

I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment after combing through daily newspapers, weekly news magazines, and monthly business publications. You could physically dispose of them when you were finished. It was like putting a line through a task on a TO DO list.

But today the information cycle never ends, so there’s nothing to discard. The hits just keep on coming (and coming…).

If you’ve been to a movie theatre lately, I don’t have to tell you anything about “noise.” After 20 minutes of Previews (and stealth commercials), the Planet of the Apes is looking like a distinct possibility going forward.

Mayhem seems to be the order of the day. Fake energy, the fuel that propels us (to where, I wonder?).

So thanks to Pawel for reminding us that we all need to escape to that Who-What-Where place of refuge that provides the clarity and (real) energy we need to rejoin the human (rat) race.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Business, Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski, Content Marketing

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

July 09, 2014

Picture the Scene…Differently

Tags: Business, General,

My mother liked to tell the story of how I pitched a fit when she moved my crib from one side of the nursery to another. There was no rest (for anyone) until she moved it back to its original spot. I always thought that explained why I was so adverse to change, why it (secretly) terrified me. And why I’ve spent most of my adult life putting difficult change in my path every chance I get. My new nightmare is about not changing.

Business leader Jack Welch said, “Change before you have to.”

It sounds like a threat. But it’s really more of a promise.

All of us at one time or another have to make decisions in our personal lives or business that involve a departure from the status quo. And sometimes it’s not because we want to, but because we’ve reached the point where we literally have to.

It’s one thing to change your hair style or bedroom wall color.

Quite another to change your career, your opinion, your skills, your approach, your habits, your dreams (because the “old” ways, relationships and kneejerk responses aren’t working anymore).

Many moons ago I left a cushy job at a major corporation to start my own agency because “I wanted to feel butterflies in my stomach again.” (What I got instead was an ulcer but I never regretted going from cushy to gutsy).

I was glad I put a plan in motion…before I got too comfortable, too lazy…before I lost my confidence or passion…before I listened to too many other (negative) opinions to the contrary…before I was dazzled by a shiny new thing over there…before someone beat me to the punch…before it was too late.

I don’t like the idea of being ambushed, being forced to do something when I’m not quite ready to get on board. If something makes me uncomfortable because I haven’t done it before or because it’s inevitable or challenging, I’ve found it’s a sign I need to pay close attention, get my thoughts and actions in order.

Of late I have become enamored with the idea of making “incremental” changes.

It’s a more thoughtful process, less painful. Not a win-lose, pass-fail, one-and-done kind of thing. It’s so doable it actually makes it harder to come up with excuses for why you can’t accomplish your objective. And like compounded interest, it adds up over time.

Incremental change is still about growth, but it’s a deliberate, voluntary growth, well thought-out, tied to a goal, measured against a deadline.

The late Steve (Think Different) Jobs, founder of Apple, had “great respect for incremental improvement.” But he preferred “more revolutionary changes…because they're harder. They're much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you've completely failed.”

Incremental change. Revolutionary change. Either one is bound to make a difference (it’s more of a “style” preference).

But ultimately, you need to get the-change-you-want-to-see started.

So mail the letter.

Make the call.

Organize the mess.

Get on the plane.

Keep the promise.

Take the walk.

Alter your point-of-view.

Change the rules.

Say “yes.”

Say “no.”

Ask for the date.

Flip the switch.

Push the crib to the center of the room.

“Change before you have to.”

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Business, Change

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

June 24, 2014

Swan Song for Unpaid Summer Interns

Tags: Business,

If you were looking to break into the film industry, would you accept an unpaid internship working on the set of a future Oscar-nominated movie? You’d be required to take lunch orders, make travel plans, answer phones, put out the garbage, get paperwork and checks signed, deliver petty cash, and pick up purchase orders. And you might get to mingle with the Stars now and again. Talk about a dream-come-true worth suing for…

Consider the (cautionary) tale of Eric Glatt. At 40, Eric was not your typical intern plus he had an M.B.A. and had previously worked on Wall Street for a multinational insurance company. But he was more than ready to change careers and follow his bliss to the film industry. As luck would have it, he found and accepted an unpaid internship position with Fox Searchlight Pictures on the production of Black Swan.

The intern market is currently booming, given the shaky economy and the difficulty college graduates are having finding entry level positions.

Annually, there are more than 1 million American students trying to get their careers started with internships and nearly 25 percent of them do it for no pay and no course credits.

But back to Eric. He worked his tail off in the studio’s accounting department doing the work of a low-level employee, but without the paycheck. That’s what they used to call “paying your dues.”

Today they just call it “unfair.”

So when Eric wasn’t busy fetching coffee and making photo copies, he took a few moments to ruminate about his daily tasks.

”I weighed my options for quite some time,” Eric said. “I remember reading an article saying that unpaid internships were a lawsuit waiting to happen. I realized after a while, I’m that lawsuit.”

And much to the dismay of his bosses at Fox Searchlight, sue them he did. And won.

Last June, a federal judge ruled that the company violated both federal and New York State minimum wage laws by not paying interns who were essentially regular employees.

Lawsuits against employers by unpaid interns are gaining ground.

Just two weeks ago, a former intern for the Los Angeles Clippers sued the Sterling Family Trust for two (long) months of unpaid work in the fan relations department (as if the infamous team owner Donald Sterling doesn’t have enough problems). The intern claims he was clocking 40 to 50 hours per week in his “dream job.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).”

Here’s the test to determine if you have an office full of illegal (unpaid) interns:

1. The internship must be similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;
2. It must be for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees;
4. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern (really?);
5. The intern is not entitled to a job at the end of the internship;
6. The intern understands that he or she is not entitled to wages (until or unless he or she files a lawsuit and wins).

I have one word of advice for unpaid interns who feel taken advantage of by their employers.

Quit.

Wouldn't that be easier than going through all the trouble of filing a lawsuit (just sayin’)?

By the way, Eric Glatt is now a law student at Georgetown and runs the Interns ≠ Free Labor Twitter account.

Stay tuned.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Black Swan, Business, Fair Labor Standards Act, Unpaid Internships, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Eric Glatt

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

June 10, 2014

Innovate or Die

Tags: Business, Branding,

I wish I could take credit for this title, but I can’t. I borrowed it from a presentation I attended last week by Innovation expert, Susan Cullen, President of Quantum Learning Solutions. She had some terrific things to say about breathing new life into your business (“Innovation is oxygen”), and some surprising things to boot. Like Rule #1: Never ask your customers what you should do.

Automobile inventor Henry Ford said, “If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse.”

Apple computer guru Steve Jobs said, “You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.”

That’s not to say your customers don’t have good insights to contribute; it’s just that they are focused on their immediate needs. It’s up to Innovators to give them something they don’t even know they need yet.

Cullen also tripped us up on an audience participation exercise (which I usually hate) that ended with a “why didn’t I think of that” moment.

She asked us to stand up, turn to our table partner, and give them a good once-over glance. Then we had to turn our backs on them, quickly change three things about ourselves, and then turn back ‘round again to see what changes we noticed about each other.

I took off my jacket and bracelet and pushed my hair behind my ears.

My table partner Pepper took off her jacket, buttoned her top blouse button, and put her hair behind her ears.

When Cullen asked us to turn around again and change three more things, there were groans all around (we were running out of things to take off and really, it was only 8:30 in the morning…).

Fortunately, she was just kidding. But she did ask, by a show of hands, how many people in the room created change by taking something away.

The majority did.

That’s when she brought it to our attention that most people interpret the directive to “change something” as the need to “lose” something, to take something away.

Cullen suggested adding something instead. She “changed” her appearance by picking up a water bottle, glass, and piece of paper.

Point made: Change (Innovation) = Growth, not loss.

Cullen cited a McKinsey & Company survey that showed 70 percent of senior executives named Innovation as one of the top three drivers of growth for their organization in the next 3-5 years.

But yet…

Sixty-five percent of those same execs are disillusioned in their ability to stimulate Innovation.

That’s because they’re not clued in to Innovation Rule #2: Equip everyone in your organization with creative tools.

Innovation has to be an on-going practice. Your “team” wants to be asked for ideas, but they also need to know that their ideas will be heard and acted upon.

That will require (1) developing a process to select and define the purpose of the change you want and (2) creating the environment where you can take ideas, pull out the very best, and apply them to the Innovative process.

(President Woodrow Wilson noted, “I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.”).

Which leads us to Rule #3: Leaders are key.

Organizations need to give leaders and managers the skills they need to develop Innovation teams. Teams that think, challenge, and think it through again.

Paraphrasing Gen. George S. Patton, “If everyone is in agreement with an idea, someone isn’t thinking.”

So keep your jacket on, stay observant, and add some of your own ideas to the change you want to see.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Susan Cullen, Quantum Learning Solutions, Innovation, The Main Line Chamber of Commerce Make More, Save More Series

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

May 27, 2014

You Look…Interesting…

Tags: Business,

Years ago when I was doing marketing work for a DuPont division, a professional woman would never enter the building without wearing a pair of stockings. It just wasn’t done. But as one law firm CEO explained to me, the whole dress code thing went South during the dot.com boom/bust. All those confident, rich, brilliant tech entrepreneurs dressed like they just rolled out of bed (the better to signal how confident, rich and brilliant they were) and all of their business associates followed “suit.” On this post-Memorial Day work week, you might want to look around your office to fully appreciate how low down South can really be.

There are times when I’ve walked into a company and I couldn’t tell the maintenance man from the CEO. Clothes just don’t convey status anymore. I guess that’s OK (if you’re a Communist). But I look at clothes differently.

I see them as a sign of respect.

A personal brand.

A professional wrapper that hints of the capability inside.

Edith Head, the famous Hollywood costume designer, said, “You can be anything you want in life if you dress for it.”

Dress is very aspirational. That’s why it’s so depressing to see “street” fashion creep into the workplace.

A lot of it is decidedly downward bound.

The unspoken rule used to be: dress like your customers. Well, a lot of your customers today are wearing flip flops, torn jeans, and shirts open-down-to-there (and that’s just the men!).

Actually, I had great hopes for men’s fashion when fictional ad man, Don Draper, walked on the scene in the TV hit, Mad Men. Not only did he look impossibly handsome but he looked in charge, in control (even though he was anything but). His clothes became shorthand for the man he wanted you to see, to listen to, to dine with, to do business with.

I was recently at a women’s leadership conference where the (female) speaker suggested that women channel Don Draper when they are making a presentation. Stand tall, shoulders back, arms apart, dressed to kill (I added the last point…).

I could relate hundreds of incidents where I’ve been on the receiving end of more attention, better service, a special favor, an upgraded hotel room, more wine, a corner table, extra samples, discounts, and most importantly, business contracts, because of the way I presented myself.

“Dress” -- and everything that implies -- had a great deal to do with it.

Summer is a particularly dicey time when it comes to casual dress codes at the office, especially for women.

Men offend by looking sloppy, ready to clean-out the garage. But for women, it’s too easy to push the limit with sundresses, sandals, halter tops, bare midriffs (the new craze) and short skirts.

In this “dress down” business world we live in, it doesn’t hurt to differentiate yourself with a polished, professional appearance.

You don’t want to overdress if you know your customer’s going to be wearing a golf shirt and khakis. But do dress to give the impression that your encounter with them is an important one.

So, fuss a little.

In a piece for Forbes.com, writer, Scott Reeves suggested you keep in mind three basic points when buying dress-for-success clothes for the office:

1. Presentation counts.
2. Casual shouldn’t mean slovenly.
3. Dress as you want to be seen:
Serious, professional, upward-bound and ready to meet customers.

In other words:

Clothes make the man.

Style makes the woman.

Appropriate wins the day.


Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Dress for Success, Business

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

May 14, 2014

When “Good Enough” Isn’t

Tags: Business, Promotion, Design,

One of my photographers posted this comparison shot on LinkedIn last week with the comment, “This hits the nail on the head.” He’s frustrated because his competition these days is anyone with a cell phone or digital camera (that would be everyone). Not to mention the trend toward using Stock photography. The same stuff you see coming-and-going on every billboard, greeting card, ad and website. For him, it’s starting to get a bit ugly out there.

A friendly competitor once told me his biggest fear was that one day, “good enough would be good enough.”

I sense a lot of that attitude now. We’re all so busy doing more with less that sometimes, “good enough” just has to do.

But I’m never comfortable with it.

The recession took a lot of the fun out of dreaming big, taking risks, trying new things. It made everyone just a little more careful, a little more hesitant to think too far, for too long. The day ahead had enough challenges of its own.

I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in over the past six years where the client or prospect started the discussion with, “We need X,Y,Z…but we don’t have any money.”

(I think they were hoping I would see it as a challenge).

(I didn’t).

Just imagine what one could do on the job with unlimited time, dollars, hands-on-deck, and creative license.

What if your boss/client said: Here’s the assignment, do what you think best, select and assemble your A-team, take the time you need, and money’s no object.

Given that latitude and support, you’d end up with the equivalent of the visual masterpiece, Life of Pi.

And well you should.

But what happens when the boss describes a Life of Pi project vision, but is unable to provide the budget, resources and production time frame you need to hire the best talent, scout the best locations, and invest in the highest quality visual effects.

Well, that’s when you end up with Pi and the Finicky Alley Cat.

And in the end, nobody’s happy about it.

There’s a great poster out there from a company called Despair, Inc. It features the Leaning Tower of Pisa with the caption, Mediocrity: It takes a lot less time and most people won’t notice the difference until it’s too late.

Oh, we notice alright.

But sometimes, in every type of work, we have to “settle,” pick our battles, and move on.

(“I can live with the scruffy cat with attitude if you can…”).

I think it’s fair to say that most people start a project -- a goal -- with the best possible intent and expectations.

They want the finished product to live up to the “client brief.”

("“What is well done is done forever,” said Henry David Thoreau).

I empathize with my photographer because he has something of beauty to offer, not the least of which is a unique talent and perspective. We all have that in some capacity so it’s hard to accept mediocrity, compromise, and budget shortfalls, when you just know things could be done so much better.

So what to do?

Try doing less. But do those few things First Class (or why waste your time at all).

If you have to settle because of limited resources, settle for impactful.

If you have to choose, choose wisely.

Don’t settle for a cat when you need a tiger.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Photography, Life of Pi

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

May 06, 2014

Are You Talking to Me?

Tags: Media,

If you haven’t heard, there’s a movement afoot to ban the word “bossy” as a descriptor for girls who show leadership skills. It made me think of my (Cuban) father. He used to say he never had any desire to marry a Cuban woman because they were too “bossy” (he had two sisters…and a mother). So he married an Irish lass and was blessed with four “bossy” daughters.

As slick, star-studded public service campaigns go, “Ban Bossy” gets my attention.

It’s the brainchild of Facebook COO and “Lean In” author, Sheryl Sandberg and the intent is to help girls and women feel more confident about taking on leadership roles without worrying about a backlash.

Like being called “bossy.”

Apparently Sandberg is still smarting from that adjective being applied to her by a teacher when she was in the ninth grade (long memory). And now she has the celebrity (and finances) to do something about it.

“This is a word that is symbolic of systemic discouragement of girls to lead. We are not talking about getting rid of a word, even though we want to get rid of a word,” she said. “We’re talking about getting rid of the negative messages that hold our daughters back.”

So to start the “Ban Bossy” ball rolling, Sandberg put a posse together of influential female leaders and friends like Beyoncé (“I’m not bossy. I am the boss!”), Jane Lynch, Condoleezza Rice, Diane von Furstenberg, Jennifer Garner, and Anna Maria Chavez (Girl Scouts USA CEO and campaign partner). She even recruited some menfolk to join in the fun, including NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, and U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

Here’s the rationale:

• The confidence gap starts early: Between elementary school and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys.

• Bossy holds girls back: They are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem “bossy.”

• Girls get less airtime in class: They are called on less and interrupted more.

The campaign publicity coverage has been a publicist’s dream: a Parade magazine cover story, Sandberg appearances on network morning and talk shows, features on TV news magazines and in every major national print outlet you can think of, and a groundswell of comments on the blogosphere (not all of them positive).

There are celebrity endorsement YouTube videos and the website highlights discouraging stats (women make up just 19% of US Congress, 5% of Fortune 1000 CEOs, 17% of corporate Boards). There are also leadership tips for parents and teachers, and a special section where you can “Take the Pledge” to ban the word “bossy” from the English language (at least when it’s used to describe young girls or women).

You’ve probably guessed by now that the theme song for this campaign isn’t “I am woman, hear me roar…”

So what’s going on here?

I’m wondering if the participants in this well-intentioned initiative are wishing they had held some pre-launch Focus Groups. I can’t believe they did given the mixed reaction from women and the media.

I went to an all-girls high school and college that were literally incubators for tomorrow’s “bossy” women (also known as leaders).

I can’t imagine us needing or wanting the “thought police” running interference for us then, let alone now.

So girls, next time someone calls you “bossy,” respond with a stare that can melt paint off a wall and then get back to organizing the heck out of whatever project you were working on before you were so rudely interrupted.

Deeds. Not words.

 

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Ban Bossy, Sheryl Sandberg, LeanIn, bossy, Media Relations

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

April 28, 2014

Will That Be All?

Tags: Business,

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I do not like this person. I must get to know him better.” That quote came up in a presentation I attended about generational differences and expectations in the workplace, especially as it relates to Boomers vs. Millennials. Considering that in just 6 short years, Millennials will make up 50 percent of the global workforce, we need to pay attention to these future leaders who currently stay at a job for an average of 1.7 years, yet see themselves as very loyal employees. My takeaway: they want it all. But as Boomers know so well, you can’t always get what you want.

I know and love a lot of Millennials (born 1978-2000). Heck, I gave birth to one. That’s why I understand where they’re coming from.

We spoiled them.

They grew up not failing. Everyone won a trophy (refer to my blog: http://www.alvare.com/blog/page/dust-to-dust-collectors).

We hung on to their every word. Told them how special, how entitled they were.

We sheltered them from unpleasantness, tried to solve all their problems.

We made them the center of our lives.

And now theses brats are saying, “You raised us, now work with us!”

Lauren Stiller Rikleen, President of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership (and Executive-in-Residence at the Boston College Center for Work & Family in the Carroll School of Management), shared her extensive research and offered solutions for developing tomorrow’s leaders while strengthening today’s workplace at The Forum of Executive Women 2014 Leadership Symposium in Philadelphia.

Acknowledging the existence of “negative themes” about Millennials from Boomers, she level set the discussion with a recap of the world events that influenced the lives of each “cohort.”

Boomers (born 1946-64) experienced the Cold War, civil rights, Vietnam, women’s rights, first moon landing, assassinations, The Beatles, Woodstock.

Millennials lived through the Oklahoma City bombings, Columbine, the Iraq/Afghan Wars, 9/11, Clinton-Lewisnsky, Harry Potter, and the technology revolution.

Rickleen’s research described the general perception of Boomers as optimists, idealists, and activists (who traded activism for materialism once they walked through the office door).

Millennials were perceived as realistic, optimistic, and pragmatic.

We all know how tech savvy they are (P. S. They would like us to stop using them as our personal IT assistants).

They are very family centered. We love them and they love us back and value our advice.

And while most of them aren’t married, 99 percent want a work-life balance.

Health and wellness matter a great deal to them; the frantic lives of the Boomers are a real turn-off.

And they value meaning over money.

Two-thirds of them would change jobs if it would allow them more personal time, and three-quarters would take more time over more money, given the choice.

You’ve probably already noticed that 41 percent of them prefer electronic vs. face-to-face or phone communications.

They place a high value on flexibility and transparency and hate hierarchies of any kind.

But most of all, Millennials want to be heard. Respect by deference isn’t on their radar.

So here are a few suggestions Rikleen had for bosses to keep the peace, grow their organizations, and attract and retain good, young talent:

• Try “reverse mentoring.” Leverage Millennials’ technology strengths.

• Create a transparent culture where goals and expectations are clear and give a lot of feedback along the way.

• Because they are so competitive and team oriented, offer Millennials challenging assignments and training opportunities.

• Get onboard with their desires for flexible hours, telecommuting, and family-friendly policies.

But on a personal note: Please don’t give these guys any more trophies. Enough already!

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Generational Differences, Boomers , Millennials, Lauren Stiller Rikleen, Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, Boston College Center for Work & Family in the Carroll School of Management, The Forum of Executive Women 2014 Leadership Symposium Philadelphia

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

April 22, 2014

We Have the Right to Change Our Minds

Tags: Business,

Whenever I see a cereal commercial on TV closing with a breathless reminder to visit their website for more exciting details, my thoughts are these: (1) who has the time to check out cereal websites and (2) what more could you possibly need to know about Cheerios? Well, last week, a lot of people took a minute to go online to review General Mills’ “updated” Privacy Policy after The New York Times reported new legal terms that seemed to prevent consumers from suing the company for anything. The blogosphere literally choked on its Cheerios.

You know the term: litigious. As in, Americans are a very litigious group of people.

We tend to sue first; take responsibility for our actions later (if ever).

But there are times when someone – or for this discussion, some corporation -- deserves to be sued.

Trouble is, they have a lot of money and you don’t.

But at least you could always have your day in court (and possibly be blessed with a Jury that’s just aching to “stick it to the man”).

Big Tobacco knows what that’s all about.

And now Big Food is getting wise to it and they’re starting to fight back.

Last week General Mills changed their Privacy Policy to put consumers on alert that they give up their right to sue the company if they have received anything from them that could be construed as a “benefit” (that includes buying their product, downloading coupons, entering sweepstakes, even liking them on Facebook).

Their new Legal Terms required all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding (forced?) arbitration instead of through court trials, jury trials, or class action suits.

Or you could always send the company an email to complain. Actually, they’d prefer if you just did that.

Well consumers did more than just email the company after reading the new terms.

They created a firestorm on social media that caused one of the world’s largest food companies to say the equivalent of “never mind.”

But not before General Mills sent out a blog to note that their terms and intentions “were widely misread.”

That lots of other companies have similar terms “common in all sorts of consumer contracts.”

That the idea of not being able to sue them because you purchased their product or liked one of their Facebook pages “was either a mischaracterization – or just very misunderstood.”

“Not that any of that matters now…”

(And…).

Oh right, “and on behalf of our company and our brands, we would like to apologize.”

I think they should have been counseled to send out a blog with just three words:

1) Sorry

2) Bad

3) Idea

Advertising Age reported that “the uproar threatened General Mills’ well established digital communities” and that the postings on their branded Facebook pages were filled with outrage about legal rights.

(I wonder how many people might consider suing for “pain and suffering” now that the litigation embargo has been lifted…?).

Well, General Mills was right about one thing: lots of other companies are now using fine print to stop consumers from taking them to court.

A group called Public Citizen (“the people’s voice in the nation’s capitol”) has posted a “Forced Arbitration Rogues Gallery” online (www.citizen.org/forced-arbitration-rogues-gallery), that includes a “Who’s Who” of top selling brands (even nursing homes and builders, if you can believe it) that “block consumers from holding them accountable in court.”

Consumer groups say the arbitration deck is stacked against the little guy but corporations argue that many of the suits they have to defend are beyond frivolous.

Too bad common sense doesn’t play a role in any of this.

Glass shards in your cereal box: sue.

No berries in your Cap’n Crunch Berries cereal: relax.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Business, Privacy Policy, General Mills, Public Citizen, Social Media, The New York Times, Advertising Age

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

April 15, 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Tags: Promotion,

I resisted the urge to write about the IRS today. Instead, I wanted to distract you with something that would make your teeth literally fall out of your head at the mere mention of its name. Something so saccharine, so gooey, so bad for you that, up until now, it could only make its’ presence known once a year. I speak of PEEPS.

If you’ve been to a Dunkin’ Donuts lately, you know (because you’ve already bought and eaten one) that they are selling a flower-shaped donut with a marshmallow PEEP on top. It’s a combination that one critic warned “will change your chromosomes!”

Do we care?

PEEPS have been around since 1953 so I’ve practically been raised on them (along with meat, dairy, and white bread).

These adorable little chicks are made by a company called Just Born Quality Confections and were given birth in, of all places, Bethlehem (PA).

According to Stan Frankenthaler (Frankenstein?), Dunkin’ Brands’ Executive Chef and Vice President of Production Innovation, “PEEPS are synonymous with fun and happiness and we are excited to combine two American favorites…that will sweeten any spring or Easter celebration.”

These holiday themed beauties are available with strawberry icing and green drizzle, or, perhaps you’d prefer the green icing with strawberry drizzle.

If you were wondering why the bird PEEPS were chosen over the bunny PEEPS, it has to do with structural integrity (lest you think this was a hastily arranged marriage).

I don’t know the calorie count for this over-the-top combo but I can tell you that PEEPS on their own are practically diet snacks: 0 grams of fat and only 32 calories in each PEEP.

Dunkin’ Donuts has included a “restaurant locator” on their website so you can easily find these treats in your neighborhood. But since they’re only selling them “through the Easter season,” I suggest you get a move on.

But wait.

We all think of PEEPS as a once-a-year binge food. But come May, Dunkin’ Donuts has announced that they will start selling bite-sized PEEPS minis in three flavors: Strawberry Crème, Chocolate Crème and Sour Watermelon.

Could this be a case of too much of a good thing?

There’s more: the Yankee Candle Company has decided it’s not enough to just eat PEEPS. We need to smell them, too.

They are currently “celebrating the PEEP” by infusing a pale yellow candle with its sweet (sickening) marshmallow scent. You can inhale this toxic blend for $27.99 throughout April.

(I think I need a moment).

This might not be a good time to let you know that you can make your own homemade PEEPS that are not quite as sweet and chewy as the commercial versions.

After testing 75 dozen, The Los Angeles Times’ Test Kitchen Director finally created a recipe for freshly made PEEPS that were soft in texture, light and fluffy.

She described that as “almost delicate.”

All you need is sugar, water, gelatin, corn syrup and flavoring.

You just spread freshly made marshmallow on a baking sheet. Let it stand a bit to harden. Cut out your favorite holiday shapes and dip them in colored sugar for decoration.

Depending on your dietary preference, you can also go online and get recipes for PEEP sushi (PEEPshi), "PEEPza, or marshmallow PEEP Ambrosia Salad.

I just mailed my son at college his Easter “box” filled with candy.

Five yellow PEEPS took center stage. Right next to the battery-powered toothbrush and travel size toothpaste.

Some bad habits, unfortunately, are passed along from generation-to-generation.

Happy Easter!

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
PEEPS, Dunkin’ Donuts, Yankee Candle, Product Innovation, Business

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

April 08, 2014

Working Class Americans

Tags: Business,

Employment website Glassdoor released a survey last week that reported only 1 in 4 employees took 100% of their eligible vacation time last year. What possesses a person to choose work over touring the great capitals of Europe or reorganizing their closets? But when is a vacation not a vacation? One in 10 employees used vacation time to look for another job. And don’t get me started on those pathetic people who work during vacation. That would be most of us.

You gotta love the Italians. They know how to live. Their citizens win the prize for most paid annual vacation days: Forty-two in all. And you know they’re using every one of them and then some. (La Dolce Vita is more than just a movie title.)

France and Germany are not far behind; 37 and 35 paid days off respectively. But considering how beautiful both countries are, you really do need the time to explore them…

Then there’s us, the U.S. We average a paltry 13 paid vacation days annually and maybe more disheartening, almost 22 percent of workers don’t get any paid vacation or time off at all.

We are the only highly developed nation that doesn’t require employers to offer paid vacation time.

Even so, we continue to leave valuable paid time on the table.

Why is that?

Because we’re going for bragging rights.

Everyone knows that no one works harder than Americans and we prove it year-after-year by working ourselves to death.

But we’re also scared (tough as we may be). Especially now.

We’re afraid we’ll book that trip to Disney World and come back broke only to see the dreaded corrugated carton on our desk with all of our award trophies peeking out from the top.

“Fear of being replaced” and “too much work” top the main reasons Americans are using two fewer paid vacation days than last year.

The Travel Industry Association (TIA) claims that an inability to take a break can lead to “stress, burnout and a greater likelihood of feeling betrayed and angry when things don’t go well at work” (I think they have another motivation for their deep concern but it does ring true).

I’m a big Stephen Covey fan. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,
Covey makes a compelling case for the need to “sharpen the saw” - to take time away from work, exercise, read, meditate – “to balance and renew your resources and create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. “

For the past 20 years I have been taking off most Mondays, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a four-day work week is the ideal. Having three personal days in a row seems to strike the right chord.

I’m also fortunate to be able to take home-and-away vacations throughout the year.

I, for one, don’t leave a crumb on the table.

The only bad habit I have left to conquer is checking and responding to emails while on hiatus.

I’m in good company.

Sixty one percent of us admit working “some” while on vacation.

Twenty-five percent report being contacted by a (jealous?) colleague while trying to get away from it all.

Worse yet, 20 percent say their (clueless?) bosses contact them on vacation. Not nice.

Every time I leave for vacation I say to my co-workers, “Don’t call me unless someone dies.”

But I don’t mean it, and they know it.

But at least give me credit for taking my earned time off.

Anita Alvare (bio) /Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Glassdoor Business Paid Vacation Time

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

April 01, 2014

12,045 Days Later I Know Things

Tags: Business,

Thirty-three years ago today, I started my marketing business on April Fool’s Day. I remember confidently pulling my red Mustang convertible into my new office complex and promptly running into a concrete parking block in front of me. Bad omen. That first year on my own was brutal. But I lived to tell the tale and I thought this would be a good day to share some of my hard earned wisdom. Think of it as my Anniversary gift to you.

I have never regretted the decision to go rogue.

I like knowing that I built something from the ground up and have had the opportunity to create a business culture in sync with my values, passions, and work ethic.

And starting my own business taught me the secret to success of any kind: Hard Work (sorry, that’s it).

In this 33 year journey, I’ve met the most wonderful, creative, intelligent, inspiring, awesome people. Many have become cherished friends and trusted advisors.

And my encounters with them and the experiences along the way have made me smarter by the day (all 12, 045 of them!).

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

• Let people get to know you gradually. A little mystery makes you so much more interesting.

• The one (bad) habit you can never change in a person is chronic lateness.

• Humility is far more intriguing than power.

• Be nice. You get more makeup samples, choice hotel rooms and better pricing when you are.

• Be aware that there are people who wake up every morning with only one agenda: to make everyone’s day miserable.

• Nothing says confidence like a firm handshake.

• You can tell a lot about people by the way they handle snow days.

• When your flight is cancelled, don’t freak out on the staff person who is re-issuing your ticket. They have the power to seat you in the back row, outside the restrooms (been there, done that).

• People make a lot of promises they don’t keep; just be sure to keep yours.

• Be generous with your compliments; it can change someone’s day.

• People who finish your sentences (like me) are annoying.

• When you’re feeling down, dress up.

• If you want people to enjoy your company, ask them about themselves.

• The expression, “I’m doing the best I can” has a whiney quality to it. Use it sparingly.

• You can always find the money.

• Making fast work of things is usually very inefficient in the long run.

• Selfishness is an unattractive trait in adults. Leave it to the kids.

• To end each work day on a high, mentally tick off the things that went right that day.

• If you want to differentiate your business, try customer service. It’s shockingly rare.

• Bad times will pass. Really.

• Never quit. Just hang on a little bit longer or change the specs.

• Everything’s negotiable.

And most importantly, you don’t really need any friends, family, dedicated co-workers, loyal customers, big breaks, loans, second chances, cash flow, extended deadlines, Divine intervention, thriving economies or professional advisors to be successful in business.

April Fool’s…!

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Business Advice, Marketing, Enterpreneurs

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 25, 2014

Baby, It’s Time for a Trade

Tags: Promotion,

Apparently some people just don’t have a sense of humor. Like the new CEO at E-Trade (the financial services company’s seventh chief executive since 2007) who thinks it’s time to get serious when it comes to the company’s marketing. In other words, no more talking baby spots. But you can’t fire this baby. He quit.

The whole idea behind the talking baby campaign was to make online trading look easy. When the first ad premiered in 2008 during the Super Bowl, online investing wasn’t as common as it is today but E-Trade (successfully) made us think that if a baby could do it, so could we.

"It served its purpose when it first launched,” said branding expert Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York office of branding firm Landor Associates. "But now online trading is so common the baby has lost its mission."

And the ad agency that created the memorable spots (Grey) has lost its contract.

You knew something was up when E-Trade passed on advertising in this year’s Super Bowl. It practically owned that game.

But E-Trade couldn’t just let the baby go quietly into the good night. Not this baby.

This is the man/child who monitored his investment portfolio from his crib.

He traveled First Class on the Red Eye with his bachelor party pal, Mike.

Helped his tailor Enzo create a “stunner portfolio” on his way to retiring in Tuscany.

Whipped out a smart phone to finish a trade when his mother took away his crib tablet.

Had a friend Bobby who speed dated in a hospital nursery.

Played golf with a 60-year old friend, Frank (“Read the rules, shankapotomus!”)

And was accused of two-timing his baby girlfriend with “milkaholic Lindsey.”

In an ad shown during the opening game of the NCAA March Madness Tournament last week, the precocious toddler made his final appearance.

And it was a singing cat named Beanie that finally got the best of him, interrupting the baby's announcement that he was funding his retirement account through E-Trade.

Finally showing the immaturity of his years, the baby pitched a hissy fit at being upstaged, smashed his cellphone and declared: "I'm done. I'm out of here. Diane, pull the car around!"

The identity of this adorable advertising icon is not known.

Actually the names of all three E-Trade babies aren’t known.

Legend has it the baby was a 9-month old boy filmed in front of a green screen. He could see his mother directly ahead of him on a monitor so his attention was fully focused.

They used a five-year old actor for the facial animation (digitally inserted for the deadpan mouth movement), and a 30-year old actor provided the baritone voice.

Not everyone loved the idea of a talking baby giving investment advice. As one critic noted, “We prefer to get our advice from people who are potty-trained.”

E-Trade CEO Paul Idzik agrees.

He’s on record saying that the company “was taking the wrong approach to marketing and should be more scientific in measuring how its messages resonate with clients.”

"The baby was a wonderful iconic expression of what we were," new chief marketing officer Liza Landsman told Reuters. "But we want something that better reflects our present and where we are going."

Good luck with that.

The company’s new agency (Ogilvy & Mather) is planning to replace their TV ads with a marketing campaign delivered through online channels (Yahoo Finance), search engines (Google and Bing), and social networks (Facebook).

Times are changing, baby.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

E-Trade, E-Trade Baby, TV Advertising, Online Marketing, Social Networking, Search Engines

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 18, 2014

Caught in the Ubernet Web

Tags: Digital Communications,

What did you do before the letters “www” meant something to you? (And don’t say, “I had a life.”).  When I learned that the World Wide Web was celebrating its 25th birthday last week, I was surprised that it had only  been around for 25 years. It seems like we’ve never lived without it. But we did. When we had a life.

People often confuse the Internet with the World Wide Web as though it’s one and the same.

It’s not.

The Internet – “a network of networks” – goes all the way back to pre-historic times (1969) when a UCLA student programmer sent a message from his computer to one at neighboring Stanford.

The World Wide Web was created 20 years later by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who first proposed an “information management” system that eventually became the conceptual and architectural structure for the Web.

For an invention that can seem soulless at times, the inventor himself by all accounts is a very generous human being.

On Christmas Day, 1990, he released the code for his system to the world - for free - giving ordinary folks like you and me the ability to access all manner of information and interact over the Internet.

This Oxford-educated brain-i-ac has a sense of humor, too. On his official bio he has a list of “Before You Email Me” advice. It includes this gem:

If you need someone to find something for you about some arbitrary subject (travel agents, or parakeets or whatever), don't ask me, but try the Virtual Library for example, or your favorite search engine.

(Who exactly thinks to email the creator of the Web…?).

What’s fascinating is that no one owns the Web/Net.

So if no one’s in control, who decides where it’s headed?

The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project recently conducted a survey entitled, “Digital Life in 2025,” which looked at the future of the Internet, the Web, and other digital activities.

In its summary, it suggested that “the Internet will become ‘like electricity’ - less visible, yet more deeply embedded in people’s lives for good and ill.”

Some interesting/sobering predictions of note:

Joe Touch, director at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute: “The Internet will shift from the place we find cat videos to a background capability that will be a seamless part of how we live our everyday lives. We won’t think about ‘going online’ or ‘looking on the Internet’ for something - we’ll just be online, and just look.”

Judith Donath, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society: “We’ll have a picture of how someone has spent their time, the depth of their commitment to their hobbies, causes, friends, and family. This will change how we think about people, how we establish trust, how we negotiate change, failure, and success.”

Aron Roberts, software developer at the University of California-Berkeley: “We may well see wearable devices and/or home and workplace sensors that can help us make ongoing lifestyle changes and provide early detection for disease risks, not just disease.”

David Hughes, an Internet pioneer, who from 1972 worked in individual to/from digital telecommunications: “All 7-plus billion humans on this planet will sooner or later be ‘connected’ to each other and fixed destinations, via the Uber(not Inter)net.”

Llewellyn Kriel, CEO and editor in chief of TopEditor International Media Services: “Everything - every thing - will be available online with price tags attached. Cyber-terrorism will become commonplace. Privacy and confidentiality of any and all personal will become a thing of the past. Online ‘diseases’ - mental, physical, social, addictions (psycho-cyber drugs) - will affect families and communities and spread willy-nilly across borders.”

And perhaps the biggest takeaway from the study: The world will have universal access to all human knowledge.

I used to know a lot about a little. It’s looking like I may soon know a little about a lot.

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Information Technology, Internet, World Wide Web, The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, Digital Life

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 11, 2014

Bloomin’ Creative

Tags: Design,

Where do your creative ideas come from? Have you had any lately? If not, maybe it’s because you’re too busy staring at that computer screen. Last week I left all that behind and treated myself to the intoxicating sights and scents of the Philadelphia Flower Show. After just a few hours there, it felt like my brain was literally exploding.

Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

I’ve depended on the flower show for my spring fix for the last 25 years. After nearly 60 inches of snow this winter, it was not a question of if  I would go but rather, how fast could I get there.

Philadelphia hosts the world’s oldest indoor flower show, dating back to 1829.

That’s the year the organizers introduced the public to the Christmas Poinsettia and the Fall Chrysanthemum.

The theme of this year’s Flower Show was ARTiculture: the combination of art and horticulture celebrating everyone from Michelangelo to Monet, Picasso to Pollock, and da Vinci to Dali.

Show designers collaborated with some of the nation’s greatest art museums to interpret great paintings. In the process, they created a10-acre living canvas of exquisite landscapes, gardens and floral arrangements.

Lest you think the show is just for little old ladies in comfortable shoes, think again.

The place was teeming with families taking advantage of the children’s programs.

A room full of butterflies and an aerial dance troop falling from the ceiling kept things hopping.

There were continuous live demonstration areas and you passed perfectly normal adults walking around with flower headpieces (known as “fascinators”) that they created themselves in a workshop that also included terrarium building.

I doubt the visitors in 1829 were saddling up to the bar in between smelling the roses but in the last few years the show has featured cocktails and food choices apart from the overpriced soft pretzels and hot dogs.

One of the show’s sponsors, Subaru, was giving discounts on car purchases and the Marketplace filled with vendors in the back end of the convention hall seemed to take up more space than the flower exhibits.

In other words, there was something for everyone. Good marketing.

I didn’t really walk away with any gardening ideas from this year’s exhibits.

But I was inspired by the spectacle all around me.

The floral interpretations were so bizarre that you had to look at them in a different way. This wasn’t about gardening. It was about creativity, unexpected connections and dazzling color.

But as we all know, creativity is very subjective.

One exhibit featured what could only be described as your (dead) winter garden. A landscape of dried-out beige stalks surrounding a beige bowl with a blue ceramic center.

It escapes me which classic piece of art this display was interpreting but my husband kept passing it and saying, “If I only had a match…”

If only. But the designer definitely got our attention and isn’t that what creativity is about?

Ideas – good and bad – come to us from many different places. Not all of them are usable but it’s important to keep sifting through them.

Many of them arrive via technology (much as I prefer to draw from nature).

Every week I receive hundreds of emails from photographers and designers trying to acquaint me with their work. I open every email. Every day.

You learn so much just by studying images.

It makes me more aware of trends in photography and design.

I notice color pairings I never considered before.

I’m exposed to subject matter and concepts that inspire my client work or solve a design problem.

But most of all, I’m intimidated and inspired by all the creativity that’s out there.

Surround yourself with beauty. And watch the ideas grow.


Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140
Marketing, Creativity, Inspiration, Design, Philadelphia Flower Show

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

March 04, 2014

The Future Belongs to the Fast

Tags: Digital Communications,

I’m pretty fast on my feet. I think fast, walk fast, talk fast, and sometimes even eat fast. I have a (bad) reputation for finishing people’s sentences for them, and 20 minutes into a movie, I have the plot line pretty much wrapped up. But after listening to the machine-gun delivery and predictions about the workplace-of-the-future by Jim Carroll - Author, Global Futurist, Trends and Innovation Expert - I’m afraid I may need to pick up the tempo a bit. 

When someone starts their presentation by saying, “No one understands what’s going on anymore,” you know you’re in for a wild ride.

At the AmeriQuest Symposium in Florida, Carroll told the invited audience what all of us already know and feel: change is happening faster than ever before.

For example:

Sixty-five percent of today’s pre-school age children will work in jobs and careers that don’t yet exist.

Your social standing with your peers will depend upon the cell technology you are carrying around (let’s talk shallow).

Half of what students are learning in college is obsolete before they graduate (time to write that worthless tuition check).

Digital camera manufacturers have 3-6 months to sell their “new” products before they become obsolete (click!).

And by the way, success for your business will have nothing to do with legacy, history or size but will be defined by your ability to change. Fast.

The future belongs to those who are fast.

Carroll predicted that smart phones are about to become credit cards in our wallets.

Many science fiction movie and TV scenarios that we’ve seen or are watching now will become reality.

To illustrate this point, Carroll showed a cartoon of George Jetson video conferencing (Skyping) with Mr. Spacely, his boss at Spacely Sprockets.

The animated sitcom, The Jetson’s, was set in the year 2062 “in a futuristic utopia.” It premiered back in “the olden days” (1962) of television. And believe it or not, it was the first program ever broadcast in color by ABC-TV.

Carroll’s breathless delivery focused on what world-class innovators will be doing that others won’t to keep pace with this runaway train known as “the future.”

1) They will put speed of change in perspective.

If your cell phone is older than three months, you’d better run (not walk) to the nearest phone store for an upgrade.

2) They won’t be afraid of thinking boldly.

The rules of automotive design, manufacturing and distribution will be re-written, new forms of business partnerships will be created.

3) They will align their businesses to Silicon Valley velocity.

Say “hello” to a world where facial recognition technology will anticipate your every need, where everything, everywhere is connected.

4) They will check their speed.

In the next five years there will be more changes in the retail sector than in the last 100 years.

5) They will ride generational acceleration.

Half of the global generation is under 25 (!). They are coming into industry “wired, connected, change oriented.”

I can’t speak for anyone else, but while Carroll was talking, the thought bubble coming out of my head was of a shack on a beach in Cuba. I’m not sure if I am (1) able and (2) willing to race through what’s left of my life at the pace he describes.

And after years of listening to futurists’ predictions at professional conferences, I’ve come to find that they are usually right.

So with that in mind, here’s Carroll’s advice for getting warmed up for the inevitable:

Think BIG.

Start SMALL.

Scale FAST.

‘Gotta go…


Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

Business, Innovation, Marketing, Management, Strategy, Technology, Workplace of the Future, Author Jim Carroll, Trends, Futurist, Technology, Future, Smart Phones, World Class Innovators

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

February 25, 2014

Lone Survivor Speaks Out

Tags: General,

Does anyone know a man who once spent 10 hours under water (and twice fell asleep there), and in the heat of battle broke his back in a 40-foot dead drop, bit off half his tongue, and continued to put up a fight and climb higher and higher into the mountains for cover, even after his body was literally shredded in a gunfight and everyone in his unit was killed? I do now.

Last week I was in the presence of a hero. My client, AmeriQuest, hosted a Symposium in Florida for their customers and partners and invited a former U.S. Navy SEAL to tell his improbable story.

His name is Marcus Luttrell, and if he sounds familiar to you it's because actor Mark Wahlberg is currently portraying him in the movie, "Lone Survivor."

It is a grisly, heart-stopping film about a 2005 military surveillance and reconnaissance operation in Afghanistan that went terribly wrong. Everyone involved in Operation Red Wings was killed except for Marcus Luttrell, "the biggest, heaviest, and slowest of them all."

Hospital Corpsman First Class Marcus Luttrell claims he was "born to be a gunfighter." It's an admission that literally takes your breath away but then so does his story of survival and redemption.

An identical twin raised in Texas, he and his brother began training to be Navy SEALs at the tender age of 14. That's when they "crossed the line" and endured grueling training that would eventually earn them a coveted spot on a SEALs team, and for Marcus, set in motion his incredible life story.

If you don't believe war is hell, think again.

During his service in Afghanistan, Luttrell encountered unspeakable evil, unexplainable kindness, and unbearable loss.

After his four-man Navy SEAL team was discovered by local goatherds on the slopes of a mountain, they were forced to move to a less desirable observation location. Two hours later they were ambushed by Ahmad Shah's men, the terrorist leader they were ordered to dispatch and interrogate.

I can't really do justice to the story Luttrell told or the way he described having "death all around you, comrades destroyed in front of your eyes."

Nor can I deliver it in the same rapid fire cadence that pushed his story forward until he stopped suddenly as if he could see before him what he was describing.

But at his hour of certain death, alone, surrounded by the enemy, he found himself eyeball-to-eyeball with a man holding a rifle who he was sure was Taliban. But then he heard these words:

"OK, OK."

"American."

"Shampoo."

"Hydrate."

In that split second he made the choice to stand down and that was the instinctive emotional intelligence that saved two people's lives on a day when many lives were lost.

His Angel of Deliverance was a local villager who took his battered body down the mountain and with the help of his neighbors, "doctored" and cared for him. (The two men would meet up again years later and neither could explain why they didn't kill or abandon the other).

The villagers called him Dr. Marcus, a courtesy he didn't discourage (he didn't have the heart to tell them he was a sniper).

The Taliban eventually managed to find him, tortured him, and left him for dead when the villagers rescued him from their mutual enemy, moving him from cave-to-cave until he could be pulled to safety by a U.S. helicopter unit. He recalls with amazement that they were willing to sacrifice their entire village to keep him alive.

Here’s what Marcus Luttrell learned from his near-death experience that he wants us all to know:

Life is short; it can be snatched away quickly.

Keep getting back up, even if it's only one small step at a time.

When you accept that you are going to die, you'll be surprised how much you want to do in the time you have here.

Time is the most valuable thing you have; don't waste a minute doing anything you don't enjoy.

People can surprise you with their inherent goodness.

Faith, family and stubbornness can literally keep you alive.

Don't be late for anything, unless you're dead.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

February 18, 2014

White Out

Tags: Business,

Are we done yet? I know I am. This month, there has been snow on the ground in 49 of our 50 states, seriously affecting our ability to conduct business, not to mention live a civilized existence. Most of the executive decisions I made over the past few weeks had little to do with business and everything to do with boots (should I wear rubber, suede or leather today?). Now begins the challenge of digging out of this mess.

To say that snow is the enemy of productivity is an understatement. And you don’t realize how important a routine is to the rhythm of life until catastrophic weather events come on the scene.

It makes you aware of how fragile things really are. So much for having control over our hair, let alone the universe.

The only consolation during these past few weeks has been that almost everybody is in the same boat.

In our regional area alone, an estimated 600,000 people were out of power. Some for six days or more.

Last Friday the Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed when 100 cars suddenly pinballed out of control on an ice slicked highway (speed restrictions lifted only hours earlier).

Even Campbell Soup’s was in the soup. You’d think their product would be flying off the shelves but bad weather closed several of their plants and hindered deliveries to stores.

The airline industry was literally grounded. Cancelled flights cost them $200 million in lost revenue.

In fact, in less than two months some 75,000 U.S. flights have been cancelled this year due to weather issues. It’s the worst blow to the airline industry since the entire U. S. airspace was shut down for the four days following the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Over 5 million passengers have been affected by the canceled flights; 42.8 million by the flight delays. Talk about a customer service nightmare.

And count your blessings if you weren’t counting on Valentine’s Day to make your sales goals.

The “bouquet bust” due to the storm’s impact is expected to shave at least 15% off the $2 billion dollars that was expected to be spent on flowers during the holiday.

Actress Mae West famously said, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”

Snow has a way of doing that to you.

A 22-year-old Connecticut man was arrested for entering a neighbor’s home and punching two teens in the face for knocking over his snowman.

The charge was assault and battery but maybe it should have been arrested development.

And Al Roker, the weatherman for theToday Show, got into it with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for keeping schools open in a storm that dropped nearly a foot of snow on the city.

His weapon of choice: Twitter.

The Mayor defended the decision by saying that more snow fell in the city than had been predicted by the National Weather Service.

Al went nuts.

How dare @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCSchools throw NWS under the school bus,” he wrote. “Forecast was on time and on the money.”

(Al takes home $1.5 million annually. He’s never wrong).

Apparently he knows quite a lot about politics, too, per this follow-up tweet:

“I knew this am @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCSchools would close schools. Talk about a bad prediction. Long range DiBlasio forecast: 1 term.”

Never mind that he spelled Hizzoner’s name wrong. Al is currently busy apologizing to the Mayor on all social circuits (while shoveling the pile of snow left outside his NYC home…).

As I write this blog it is snowing outside (again).

Far greater minds than mine have observed that “snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.”

I plan to do that. Tomorrow I head south to Florida for a welcomed business trip.

Wish me luck getting out of Philadelphia.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

February 11, 2014

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Tags: Promotion,

I feel sorry for photographers these days. Inexpensive “stock” photography is all the rage now, especially when budgets are an issue (which is almost always).  I love the stock concept images that give truth to the adage, “One picture is worth a thousand words.” But I am not sold on the stock photos of people. Everyone looks so fake, so perfect. But Seattle-based Getty Images is apparently trying to do something about that. Starting with its photo files of working women and families.

When it comes to using people shots in your marketing, I highly recommend that you create your own image bank. Your employees, customers and members don’t look like perfectly groomed plastic stock people.

But custom photography can be expensive and I need to continually sell my clients on the value of the investment as it relates to building an authentic brand.

And photography today is definitely trending authentic.

The good news/bad news is that now everyone is a photographer. Digital cameras and cell phones are at-the-ready and companies are getting more comfortable using amateur shots and inexpensive stock-images-for-hire.

But the trouble with stock is that everyone is using the same stereotypical stuff. Especially when it comes to the people shots.

Enter Sheryl Sandberg, a Facebook executive and author of “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” who advocates for women achieving leadership roles.

She announced yesterday that her nonprofit organization, LeanIn.org, has formed a partnership with Getty Images, a stock photo agency with an archive of 150 million still images and illustrations. Together they will be offering a special collection of images that they feel “represent women and families in more empowering ways.”

This is a first for Getty: jointly creating a collection with a nonprofit that will pocket 10% from the licensing revenue.

So will that be the demise of the perfect people pictures?

It’s a start.

In the new collection, gone will be the perky blonde executive woman in the power suit with the leather briefcase and sensible heels (feeding a baby in a high chair).

In her place will be the working woman sporting a tattoo sleeve working comfortably at home with a baby on her lap and a laptop on her desk.

Older women will be shown participating in meetings with young millennials (imagine that…).

Women in the workforce will be portrayed with updated hairstyles, casual clothes and the latest digital devices in hand. (No stylist needed).

Young girls will be shown working on computers, not playing with dolls.

And men will figure more prominently in parenting roles, especially as it relates to father/daughter interactions.

“When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Ms. Sandberg said in an interview.

I like the “can’t be what you can’t see” quote.

But I worry that this new collection will begin to look as unauthentic as the current crop of stock images if it gets too extreme.

There will be plenty of shots available of women lifting weights, painting houses, performing surgery and driving trucks.

And the dads will be changing diapers, setting the table and braiding their daughter’s hair.

(I’m personally holding out for the shot of the man taking the meeting notes. Talk about a breakthrough…).

Visuals are immensely powerful and aspirational.

That’s why image-based communication is taking precedence over the written word: Pinterest, Instagram, and cell phone cameras rule.

We all need models to model the lives we want to live, the people we want to be.

I’m a huge fan of that.

But I think I’ll pass on the tattoo sleeve look for now.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

February 04, 2014

It’s a Numbers Game

Tags: Branding,

Note to self: Find someone who can introduce you to the marketing chief at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and/or start charging more for your logo designs. Everything I read or hear about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, has a dollar sign attached to it. The cost of hosting the Games and local infrastructure projects are coming in at some $50 billion and I just learned that the London 2012 Olympic logo (unveiled in 2007), cost $800,000 to create. In 2007! Clearly I am not charging enough for my work.

I’m not saying that the agency that designed the 2014 logo didn’t earn their money. (In fact they were probably saying daily, “Why did we want this assignment?”).

I love the idea of collaboration but there are limits.  It seems the Interbrand Agency that designed the logo had to run their concepts by the Organizing Committee, the host country’s political echelon, and the International Olympic Committee.

When the Sochi logo was unveiled back in December 2009, it was touted as “a grand collaboration fashioned by an expert council made up of high profile marketing specialists, famous athletes, and representatives of large multi-national companies, working both in Russia and abroad.”

(Remind me never to complain again about having to run my logo concepts past the “branding team”).

It really is a wonder that a logo exists at all. The agency that produced it deserves a Gold Medal for keeping those pasted smiles on their faces since 2009.

And now everyone in the world is weighing in with an opinion.

Logo designs are very, very subjective. It’s like walking in a mine field when you start presenting concepts.

Your audience is usually predisposed to certain colors, typeface weights (who knew) and design styles (simple vs. ornate).

And almost always you hear someone say, “That logo/color/mark/type reminds me of “XYZ Company…”

So what makes the Sochi logo distinctive, if in fact it is (I’m sure you already have an opinion).

For starters, it's the first Olympic logo to include a web address and the first to lack drawn elements.

It also features “unassuming” lower case letters.

The mirroring of the words “Sochi” and “2014” in the design is intended to reflect “that Sochi is a meeting point between sea and mountains.”

Throughout the Games, you will also be seeing a “second part” to the logo which is a pattern of blue and white snow crystals that can be used with the official mark (according to strict brand standards).

And of course the logo incorporates the Olympic rings, first designed by a Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, in 1912.

The Sochi logo has been described as “a 21st century brand for a digital generation.”

Simple.

Adaptable to both small and large applications.

Works well in all media.

The logo visualization process started with a traditional floral design in the destination letters. The designers were inspired by Russian painted wood ornamentation featuring vivid colors and intricate flower patterns on a black background (think nesting dolls and decorative wood boxes).

Then they started working in native animal life, nautical symbols, and snow-capped mountain references to Sochi’s Black Sea resort landscape. Finally, they included the more obvious Olympic torch in the same colors as the Olympic rings.

Ten revisions later, the Organizing Committee settled on a “more future-oriented logo.”

We’ve come a long way (in every way) from the first Olympic Games held in Greece in 776 BC.

Back then, competitors were free born male Greek citizens, never accused of murder or sacrilege.

And the women spectators sat in their appointed places, dutifully watching the chariot races (but forbidden from checking out the nude contests between men).

One hundred bulls were slaughtered as a sacrifice to Zeus, poems were written and statues carved of the victors. But sadly, no event branding.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

January 28, 2014

This DieHard Needs Charging

Tags: Branding,

My father always did his Christmas shopping on December 24th. But he shopped at only one store: Sears. Just the thought of it struck fear and loathing in the heart of my mother who prepared herself for kitchen gadgets and shall we say “questionable” gold jewelry. But as a kid I loved Sears, so it saddens me to see this great American brand closing its flagship store in downtown Chicago, one of hundreds of Sears’ stores that have been shuttered in only the past few years. I feel a death coming on.

Maybe it’s the death of retail stores altogether. The whole experience of walking into a store, touching things, trying on clothes, asking for help. All that in-person engagement is so 20th Century.

Now we can conveniently order things online 24/7 and immediately send them back (at considerable expense and inconvenience) when they don’t meet our expectations.

Gee, what fun.

The Internet, social networking and mobile devices have “fundamentally and permanently changed” the way people shop, according to Edward S. Lampert, the hedge fund manager (uh-oh) who is Sears’ majority owner and chief executive.

Quite a lot has changed since Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck incorporated the mail order catalog business in 1893.

By 2005, with Lampert at the helm, the Kmart discount chain (another lackluster, depressing brand) had purchased Sears for $12 billion and renamed the entity Sears Holdings. Lampert claims that Sears and Kmart were the first retailers to pioneer an Integrated Retail strategy that included their Shop Your Way loyalty program and buy online/pick-up in the store programs.

But it may be too little too late. Sears’ core retail business is in a deep dive.

And last week, on the heels of the store closing announcement, Sears had to defend itself against the devastating in-store photos posted by Brian Sozzi, chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors, depicting the company’s New York and New Jersey Sears locations (reminder: your customers, employees and critics are now carrying cell phone cameras).

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/18-depressing-photos-show-why-213650870.html

He described shopping in the Sears stores as “a flea market experience.”

“It’s just badness throughout, “he said of the walk-thru. “Every store has something fundamentally wrong with it.”

Sears cried foul, with its Vice President of Communications arguing (via Twitter) that select photos aren’t representative of the company’s nearly 2,000 stores.

But as we know, people read less today and rely more on images to shape their opinions and knowledge base. The damage was done.

In hindsight, Sears spread itself a bit too thin over the years. The catalog company that became the powerhouse retailer started aligning itself with other brand capabilities as far back as the 1930s. You know all the names: Allstate Insurance Company, Dean Witter, Coldwell Banker, Prodigy, the Discover Credit Card.

These non-retail businesses bled the bottom line and led to a string of divestitures in the 1990s. How many times has this same story/different brands been the death knell for once proud companies?

Whatever the outcome, I will always have fond memories of Sears.

Our family revered (and bought) Kenmore appliances, DieHard batteries, and Craftsman tools.

And when the Sears Catalog arrived at our house, my sister and I would go through its hundreds of wafer thin pages, carefully selecting and cutting out furniture, rugs and models that we would paste on the inside of the box lids we used to create an open  split level neighborhood.

Frustrated Designing Divas, we’d spend hours on end trying to out-do each other, “furnishing” our homes and creating the glamorous families that lived there. Not surprisingly my sister grew up to become an interior designer (but with much-improved taste).

If you want to "Come see the softer side of Sears," you’d better hurry.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

January 14, 2014

“I am not a…”

Tags: Media,

By now you’re probably all sick to death of hearing about "Bridgegate" (or is it "Bridgehazi?"). But I wanted to chime in from a crisis media point-of-view just to ensure that none of you make the same mistake at your next nearly two-hour press conference. Rule One: Never say what you’re not when the cameras are rolling (as in, ”I am not a bully.”).

If you’ve been too busy playing the slots in Atlantic City to hear about the furor last week in the Garden State, here’s a recap:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used a one-hour and 48 minute press conference last Thursday to issue a public apology for the stupidity of his two aides who apparently got a little carried away with the power of their office and decreed that lanes be closed and traffic disrupted on the George Washington Bridge leading from Fort Lee, New Jersey to New York City.

(Tweet: Ann Coulter (@anncoulter): This is the longest press conference since Mark Sanford announced he was in love!).

This sinister plot was the best they could come up with to punish the evil Mayor of Fort Lee who said he couldn’t identify Christie in a police lineup if his life depended on it (or was it Christie who said that about the Mayor who didn’t endorse him?).

Upon learning about the conspiracy, Christie fired his top staffer with the innocent Irish name, Bridget Anne Kelly, who allegedly put the wheels in motion (or not) with the chilling command: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." (A phrase for the ages, or at least a tee shirt).

(Tweet: Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler): "I've terminated Bridget's employment" presumably because her first name is a constant, painful reminder of the scandal.).

Replying to the email with the equivalent of “message received” was Port Authority Official David Wildstein who is currently lawyered up and pleading the Fifth. He got fired too but I’m sure he’ll be singing an operetta shortly, with Christie in the starring role.

From my professional point-of-view, I think Christie held his own during the press conference, even though it would have been better if the news had been broken originally by his office. He took on all comers and seemed genuinely embarrassed, remorseful and committed to righting the wrong.

But then he tripped up, which is easy to do when you’re talking off-the-cuff for hours.

(Tweet: Molly Ball (@mollyesque): As a reporter, I love Chris Christie. Unlike every other politician, he keeps saying different things the longer he talks.).

Christie flunked Damage Control 101 by echoing the “I am not a crook” Nixon line that dogged the former President throughout his political career.

It would be like me saying: “I am not a control freak.”

Or Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell saying: “I am not a witch.”

Or Toronto Mayor Robert Ford saying: “I am not an addict of crack cocaine.”

Later amended to: “I’m not an alcoholic.”

Further clarified with: “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably, in one of my drunken stupors.’’

You get the point.

But there are exceptions to this rule, of course. 

Like when basketballer Charles Barkley said: “I am not a role model.”

Or when humorist Will Rogers said, "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat."

Remember to tell them who you (really) are. Not what you’re not (really).

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

January 07, 2014

Can We (Not) Talk

Tags: Digital Communications,

MI6 agent James Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan) made his first on-screen cellphone call in the 1997 movie, Tomorrow Never Dies. I need to get a hold of that phone. The handset outfitted by the wacky Q Branch contained fictional extras such as a fingerprint scanner and remote control for 007’s BMW. But it’s the stun gun feature that interests me most. Why? Because the FCC is considering lifting a decades-old ban on cellphone use on airplanes. If that should happen, I pity the chatterbox sitting next to me.

Two things quickly come to mind:

1) Is there anything more boring than listening to someone else’s phone conversation?

2) If you can’t find peace at 35,000 feet, where do you suggest one goes?

I’ve forgotten a lot of things over the years, but one thing I remember vividly is the first time I saw someone using a cellphone. I was sitting in the back of a cab in D. C. when a young woman in a power suit walked across the street talking on a phone with an aerial and no wall plug in sight.

What the heck…?

It was the coolest thing I had ever seen and little did I know that someday I, too, would wear a power suit and walk and talk and trip and slam on the brakes with my own portable phone in hand.

I liken the use of cellphones to an (acceptable) addiction with no cure.

Have we really reached the point where life is what happens when your cellphone is charging?

Today it’s hard to imagine not having this albatross at-the-ready. But it wasn’t that long ago that we all lived happily without it.

The first mobile telephone call was made on April 3, 1973 by Martin Cooper, a former Motorola inventor, who is known as "the father of the cellphone.”

When Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, made his first call on March 10, 1876, his first words to his assistant, Thomas Watson, were “Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you."

Lovely.

Mr. Cooper wasn’t nearly as charming when he made his first call from Sixth Avenue in New York. 

He rang up the boss of a rival manufacturer who was left speechless when he realized someone else beat him to the development of a portable, hand–held device.

Cooper would later recall, "There was silence at the other end of the line. I suspect he was grinding his teeth." (And I suspect that was the last time there was any silence on the other end of a mobile phone).

The phone Cooper used weighed about two pounds and it had a “brick-like battery” that took 10 hours to charge (for 30 minutes of conversation). The LED display could dial up any one of 30 phone numbers.

Hilarious, right?

Not so funny was the cost of the first cellphone offered commercially in 1984: $3,995.

Talk then was anything but cheap.

But today is seems as if talk is too cheap.

It’s also ubiquitous (327,577,529 mobile phones in play in the US alone). And phone chatter has become rude, intrusive, and possibly soon, an in-flight annoyance.

For the life of me I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to be unreachable on an airplane. It’s such a rare treat.

Fifty-nine percent of American voters agree with me (30% haven’t heard I may be packing a James Bond phone).

The Association of Flight Attendants is apoplectic about the proposed ruling. If you think they all look crazed now and ready for retirement, just wait.

So Pray for Peace.

If only in-flight.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

December 19, 2013

A Life Story

Tags: General,

The New York Times is reporting that E-book sales have been flat or in decline for most of 2013. They’re actually down 3 percent from August of 2012. Could it be that hard cover books and independent book stores might be making a dramatic comeback during the final breathless shopping days until Christmas? I hope so. But if you’re looking for a fascinating read for the price of a newspaper, try reading one-and-done biographies with no chance of a sequel: the daily obituaries.

Admit it. You read obituaries, too. I’ve been hooked on them for years but more so lately.

Maybe it’s because I know so many people I read about. Not all of them personally, of course, but you start seeing whole generations passing away, their entire life stories compressed into mere paragraphs.

The late Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, recommended that we take stock of our lives by imagining our own funerals (isn’t this a fun holiday blog?).

According to him, it’s all about “deposits” and “withdrawals.” The more you put into life, the more you get out of it.

And consequently, more people will show up at your funeral saying nice things about you (beloved…cherished…scratch golfer…).

Some people’s life circumstances, talents, and choices change the course of history. For better or worse.

While others live quiet lives that will never merit a headline, maybe not even a posting.

But everyone, in the end, leaves behind the story of their life (just remember, no edits allowed at “press time”).

Years ago I cut out and saved the ultimate obituary.

The deceased was Giorgio Carbone, 73, a flower merchant turned prince-for-life from Seborga, a medieval town near the Italian Riviera (his 300 followers declared it a sovereign state).

But here’s the best part: he was known to his subjects as “His Tremendousness.”

Obviously he made more than a few “deposits” in his lifetime.

The trappings of his principality included a constitution, a national anthem, and an official motto: Sub umbra sede (“Sit in the shade”).

It would be hard to top that one.

And here’s an intriguing one. One that got me thinking about how any one event/decision/action/relationship in our own lives can affect the lives of so many others (Think It’s a Wonderful Life).

Joseph P. “Reds” McAfee, 91 died of a heart attack on December 4th.

You’ve probably never heard of him (I hadn’t) but he played in one of the most famous upsets in college football history.

His big moment came when he was a freshman playing for underdog Holy Cross College against the Number One ranked college football team, Boston College.

On November 28, 1942, Mr. McAfee set the stage for a stunning upset with his 55-yard punt return. Psyched, Holy Cross went on to defeat Boston 55-12.

But here’s the thing. His stellar play, and that of his teammates, left the Boston College players and their fans in total shock. They weren’t prepared to lose.

And they didn’t feel much like partying either.

So they cancelled a planned victory celebration that night at the Cocoanut Grove, Boston’s premier nightclub at the time during the post-Prohibition 1930s and 40s.

That evening the former speakeasy burned to the ground. The fire claimed 492 lives.

Saving lives became part of McAfee’s life story.

Side note: My friend’s twin boys used to call me “Wonder Woman.”  I have no idea why but it occurs to me now that I need to find a way to weave that descriptor into my life story.

Quod me fugere (“Watch me fly”).

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I’ll start thinking again in the New Year…

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

December 10, 2013

Who’s Brainy Now?

Tags: Promotion,

When you’re writing a regular blog, you’re always looking for interesting ideas and stories you can share with your readers. Tell them something they don’t know. Add to their knowledge of something they do know. Or put something out there that is irresistibly intriguing. Like the headline I saw last week that announced, Men using just half a brain. Where does one begin…?

My grandfather, a very successful businessman, always told me I thought like a man.

I took that to mean I was analytical, decisive, goal oriented, and tended to see the humor in things.

Just like him.

I didn’t realize it meant half of my brain cells weren’t firing.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found striking differences in how men's and women's brains are wired.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released their study’s findings (which included some 1,000 young people aged eight to 22) to show that the women’s brains were wired to better integrate emotion and reason, while the men’s brains had stronger links between coordinated action and perception.

Male brains appeared to be wired front to back, to parts within a hemisphere, but there are few connections bridging the two hemispheres.

In females, the pathways criss-crossed between left and right, with more powerful communications links between hemispheres.

Meaning what, exactly?

Well, it means that at any given moment, a woman is likely to be using her whole brain while a man is using only half of his, according to Ruben Gur, a neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors. (I just report the news…).

Generally speaking, these differences might explain why men, in general, tend to be better at learning and performing a single task (they used the examples of cycling or navigating) while women are more equipped for multitasking (I don’t know any man who would argue with that).

And because the female connections link the left hemisphere (associated with logical thinking) with the right (linked with intuition – “thinking without thinking”), this might explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks.

When it comes to marketing your products and services, you’d do well to recognize that all men (and women) are not created equal. There are definite gender differences.

Think of it as a head game.

Several studies have shown that men and women see things differently because their brains' visual centers work differently.

Women are better at distinguishing colors (men can’t even pronounce “mauve”).

Men are more sensitive to fine detail and rapidly moving stimuli.

Women tend to score better in memory tests (such as remembering words, faces, and special occasions), and in social cognition tests (that measure empathy and “emotional intelligence”).

Men tend to outperform women involving spatial tasks and motor skills, such as map reading (to this day I can’t read a map and I don’t know North from South).

All you have to do is watch beer commercials to know how different the sexes really are. Maybe that’s why they’re my favorite ads. They are so foreign.

And so funny.

Yet ad company Leo Burnett Worldwide says that one survey found 79 percent of men don’t even recognize themselves in advertisements today.  They feel they are made out to be absolutely clueless (half-brained?).

Maybe advertisers do that to cozy up to a female audience. Women, after all, are the most powerful brand ambassadors out there.

They account for 85% of all consumer purchases.

They try new things based on a friends’ suggestion (80%).

And they will encourage their own friends to try new products (74%).

It’s nice to know women are finally appreciated for their (100%) brain power.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

December 03, 2013

Revisionist History

Tags: General,

A friend of mine recounted a story of taking her 12-year old niece Haley to dinner to celebrate her sister Sophia's 8th birthday.  Haley mentioned that some celebrity was born the same day as she was.  Not to be outdone, Sophia announced that she shared the same birthday as the 19th president of the United States. Impressed, her aunt said, "Really? Who was the 19th president of the United States?"  Without missing a beat Sophia replied, "John Wilkes Booth!" Funny, right? Maybe not…

My son goes  to a small college in Kansas so when I visit him we’re always looking for interesting places to explore in that part of the country. Last fall we traveled an hour away to tour the boyhood home and Presidential Library of Dwight D. Eisenhower in Abilene.

He was a West Point grad, Supreme Allied Commander in the European Theater during World War II, and 34th President of the United States. I’m sure you can imagine how fascinating the memorabilia and exhibits were.

What a legacy.

My son was certainly fascinated with all “the stuff” but at one point paused in front of a photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt and said, “Who’s that dude?”

My stunned response to my private-prep-school-educated-college-student-son was: “I want my money back!”

What are they teaching in our schools these days? (Or is it, what aren’t they teaching…?).

While catching up on old newspapers over the holidays, I came across a story about a Philadelphia radio personality named Rhonda Fink-Whitman who produced a 15-minute film entitled, “The Mandate Video.”

The video is an advocacy piece designed to garner support for mandatory education about the Holocaust in Pennsylvania schools (five states already require it). But why make it mandatory?

It seems Fink-Whitman wants her money back, too.

It all started with a bracelet she bought on a summer vacation that was inscribed with an inspirational Winston Churchill quotation. When she showed it off to her children’s college-age friends, they had the same “who’s that dude?” response.

That galvanized Fink-Whitman to pick up a video camera and see what other college students knew (or didn’t know) about major historical events and figures. She visited Temple, Drexel and Penn State Universities, and the University of Pennsylvania. Trying not to embarrass anyone, she asked our future leaders random, basic questions.

Q. What was the Holocaust?

A. “The Holocaust, um, I’m on the spot now,” said a Temple student.

A. “I have no idea,” responded a Penn State student.

Q. How long ago was the Holocaust?

A. “Was that like 1800,” answered a University of Pennsylvania student. “I want to say 300 years ago.”

Eisenhower?

Never heard of him.

Adolf Hitler?

The leader of Amsterdam.

If you’ve ever seen any of Jay Leno’s late night Jaywalking sketches where he conducts “man on the street” interviews with regular folks, you probably aren’t shocked.

A sampling of some of the lowlights:

Q. Can you name one of the 10 Commandments?

A. Freedom of speech.

Q. What can you tell me about the Gettysburg Address?

A. Well I don’t know the exact address…

Finish this statement: Four score and seven years ago our fathers…

A. Who art in heaven…

Q. Who wrote the autobiography of Malcolm X?

A.  I don’t know.

Q. What president was named “Tricky Dick?”

A. Bill Clinton.

Q. What is the required age for the President of the United States?

A. Over 18…

And my personal favorite:

Q. Who was the French Emperor who has a pastry named after him?

A. Crème Brulee.

By the way, the 19th President of the United States was Rutherford B. Hayes.

But you knew that…

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 26, 2013

What’s Not to Like

Tags: General,

Our local business publication runs a CEO Profile feature that always asks the question, “What is the one word that best describes you?”  The C-level answers tend to be perfunctory: leader, focused, driven, passionate, curious. The usual suspects. In thinking about my own response to that question, I have to say the one word that comes to mind for me is grateful.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and fall is by far my favorite season. There is something very moody about autumn, especially when you live on the East Coast. It’s a good time to think deep thoughts. Appreciate what you have. Light a fire. Bake some pumpkin bread.

We can thank the Pilgrims for having the good sense to create a holiday that, unlike Christmas, requires only four basic ingredients: food, family, friends and football.

I’m grateful that I don’t have to cook the Thanksgiving dinner. That honor goes to my big sister Rodie who is much more qualified than I for this important annual ritual (I bring the can’t-lose-dessert).

But when you think about the original Thanksgiving menu, my sister is actually getting off pretty easy. She can comfortably work her magic inside a modern kitchen, not standing outside over a boiling cauldron and roasting pit in frigid New England.

The first Thanksgiving spread supposedly included seethed (boiled) lobster, cod and turkey; roasted goose, duck, and venison with mustard sauce; fricassee of Coney (Island?); stewed pumpkin; fruit and Holland cheese; topped off with dessert (brought by one of the lazy settlers), featuring Indian corn meal pudding with dried whortleberries and savory pudding of Hominy (a food made from kernels of corn which are soaked in an alkali solution of either lime or lye. An acquired taste for sure…).

There was no Calorie Control Council back then to spoil the Pilgrim’s belt-busting get together. Today we have to put up with relentless media stories warning us that the average American could consume as many as 4,500 calories at this holiday meal (which brings to mind the definition of an optimist: a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day).

I’m very grateful that I get to take the entire Thanksgiving week off from work.  I do it every year. No big plans. No travel. Just a week to be with family and friends and celebrate my son’s birthday (he was conveniently born while I was on vacation).

When I return from this hiatus, I will be even more grateful that the people I work with will make me feel like I wasn’t missed a bit (everything’s under control, boss), that my clients will have taken some time off as well (it can wait ‘till next week), and that you, my readers, graciously spent a moment to check out my blog.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 19, 2013

It’s Crunch Time

Tags: Promotion,

Chocolate lovers be warned. Lay’s® just introduced their Wavy Original Potato Chips Dipped in Milk Chocolate. This “brand extension” will add 240 calories to your intake if you have the discipline to only eat from their mini single-serving bag. The real trouble starts when you buy the 5-oz. (800 calorie) bags that are now available only at Target.  “Betcha can’t eat just one.”

I am no teenager but I still break out every time I eat chocolate. My dermatologist says it’s not possible, but trust me, it’s true.

So I have to pick my spots (pun intended?) before I give into the temptation that is chocolate. More often than not, it’s so worth it but chocolate and  potato chips give me pause.

In 1963, the advertising agency Young & Rubicam developed the “Betcha can’t eat just one” advertising campaign slogan for Lay’s Potato Chips. Bert Lahr (“The Cowardly Lion” in The Wizard of Oz ) was the commercial spokesperson.

It was a brilliant campaign because as everyone knows who loves and eats potato chips, you cannot eat just one. It’s impossible. (Let’s hear it for market research).

This phenomenon has a name designed to make you feel even more disgusted with yourself: hedonic hyperphagia. The scientific term for overeating for pleasure rather than hunger.

But hey, it’s not just you. Even the rats can’t resist chips. In laboratory studies, the pitiful rodents scurried right past the chow pellets and bolted for the chips.

Wait until they get a load of the chocolate dipped “dessert chips…”

In the weeks leading up to Lay’s new product introduction, the ABC news crew was given sample bags for an informal taste test (good PR move) and I loved this review:

“It’s like a chocolate pretzel, but worse for you, and therefore more delicious.”

This great combo of “salty, sweet and crunchy” is intended for a limited shelf life. Or so they say.

The plan is for Target to carry the ($3.49) 5-ounce bags now through the holidays. A limited-time-only distribution strategy designed to get you hooked…or not.

Lay’s is known for thoughtful test marketing. Their affinity score (a measurement of how much consumers like a brand) is the highest in the $31 billion salty snack market.

“When you try something drastically different, you have to walk before you can run,” says Ram Krishnan, vice president of marketing at Frito-Lay, the parent company.

This is a company that is constantly innovating and improving its products. It is always “in trend” – for both the flavors they offer (sophisticated and complex like sweet and salty) and the celebrities they have chosen as their spokespersons.

I have to believe the wavy chocolate chips have a future.

And this should make you feel better.

Potato chips were invented in 1853 by a Native American named George Crum who at the time was the chef at a Saratoga Springs, New York resort.

Rumor has it that railroad and shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt pitched a fit because his French fries were too thick and soggy. The second batch George prepared was sent back to the kitchen as well.

Time to create the potato chip (no doubt mumbling obscenities under his breath).

George sliced the potatoes wafer thin (in protest), fried them to a crisp, and piled on the salt (“he expected the customer to choke and spit them out.”).

But Vanderbilt couldn’t eat just one (in fact he ordered more) and “Saratoga Chips” were immediately added to the menu.

And here’s the best part.

The creator of the potato chip lived to the ripe old age of 92.

Indulge.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 12, 2013

Top This

Tags: Digital Communications,

60 Minutes did a great piece this past weekend about the developer of the world’s best-selling camera, GoPro. If you’ve never heard of this wearable video camera, it’s probably because you aren’t into surfing, skydiving, auto racing, snowboarding, mountain climbing, exploring outer space, flying like a bird, or teaching your son how to ride a bike. That’s the kind of action its clip-on-anywhere lens can capture.  And it’s wreaking havoc on the traditional camera market.

Twelve years ago, an entrepreneur with a failed start-up behind him decided to take a breather to contemplate his next move. He packed up and traveled around the world perfecting his surfing moves.

In between wipeouts from Australia to Indonesia, he attempted to film his surfing adventures by strapping a 35mm camera to the palm of his hand with a rubber band. 

I think you know where this is going…

The rubber band was soon replaced by a belt that attached the camera to the body. Before long he had built a wearable video camera prototype that became a waterproof film version able to capture the action up close and personal.

The inventor’s first customers were surfers lining up outside his van/corporate office/warehouse parked along the California coast.

From these humble beginnings, Nick Woodman created GoPro, a company offering wearable and gear mounted camera systems that let amateurs shoot like the pros, “capturing stunning photos and video of their life’s most meaningful experiences.”

GoPro positions itself as the world’s leading activity image capture company. Nice.

It’s a marketer’s dream that keeps on giving (back to the company). Customers are constantly feeding them with creative content, sending them footage of their own personal adventures that are often featured on GoPro social sites and company promotions.

To Woodman they represent “a first person view that is one of hundreds…thousands of perspectives” inspiring the company to make the world’s most versatile camera even more versatile.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

And they don’t have to very often (yet it’s not unusual for mini-drones to be flying overhead in the GoPro office as their creative brain trust noodles future camera applications).

GoPro is a video revolution that has made an adventurous, enterprising, eccentric young man a 38 year old billionaire (worth $1.3) who is ranked at #386 on the Forbes list of 400 Richest Americans.

"It gets people off the couch and out into the world doing stuff, so it's a noble cause in addition to growing our business," said Woodman.

And what started as an inexpensive camera for sports enthusiasts has made a giant leap into the commercial market, which is another reason why the company’s sales keep doubling year-after-year.

Major film studios and professional production companies are using GoPro cameras to redefine action filmmaking (if it breaks during the crash scene, it doesn’t matter. It’s cheap to replace). 

TV news crews (including 60 Minutes) are adding headed-your-way drama to their coverage.

And businesses are turning education on its head with mind blowing visual demonstrations that make the learning experience fun and unforgettable.

Keep your eye on this ball/camera.

Meaningful experiences are coming to a computer/smart phone/TV/theatre near you.

Just imagine the many ways you could use GoPro film content to spice up your website, social networks, trade show booths, training programs and presentations.

It’s an awesome way to outsmart the competition, tell your story, and capture and share customer experiences.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

November 05, 2013

It’s How You Say It

Tags: Media,

In the PR world, we always had this handy tool called “Talking Points” that helped our clients stay on message when giving an interview to a print journalist or appearing on radio and TV. The general public, people outside “the business,” were blissfully unaware that the interviewee was mentally referencing a one-pager that had been meticulously crafted. But it was really just a guide, a backgrounder to help with interview prep. Today, Talking Points are written to be memorized and delivered verbatim. Have you noticed that everyone seems to be saying the same thing, using the same words and phrases, on all of the Sunday morning news programs?

It has been a stressful few weeks for HealthCare.gov, the $400 million federal health insurance website.  Imagine being Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

I can’t even begin to grasp the Talking Points she has been asked to regurgitate to try to get the healthcare discussion back on track.

Actually politics, and particularly election campaigns, have given Talking Points a bad name. No one – and I mean no one in the political arena – answers a question anymore. They just find a way to segue into their next Talking Point.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger could have taught a Master Class on the subject (“Does anyone here have any questions for my answers?”).

Inadvertently, comedian Jon Stewart gave a hilarious tutorial on how Talking Points (phrases and key words) make their way into all the news coverage and talk shows. His segment called The Spinning Beachball of Healthcare opened with clips showing all manner of government spokespersons using the word “glitch” to describe the rollout of the new healthcare website. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7InS-xW1LCI

That was no coincidence, folks.

The word glitch was carefully chosen. It makes the problem sound small. Something that’s easy to resolve. No worries. (As opposed to say the word, disaster).

But in spite of all the theatrics and gamesmanship, Talking Points (which date all the way back to the early 1900s by the way) remain an excellent tool for framing a debate, and for standardizing and prioritizing issues.

But I can’t help but wonder if it might be a good time to make this tactic seem more genuine. There’s a lot of robotic rhetoric out there that just isn’t resonating.

In my first real job, I promoted fiber glass insulation (we all have to start somewhere…).

I had a boss who was an uber salesman who lived on the road demonstrating the benefits of the product to building contractors. To convince them that fiber glass wasn’t all that irritable to the touch, he would actually pull off a piece from a roll and eat it.

Needless to say, it got everyone’s attention (if I can eat it you can install it) and made him something of a folk hero in the construction community.

My point is, he wasn’t just spouting empty platitudes.

He was making his point in a very dramatic, authentic, credible way.

So maybe we need to consider Munching Points.

What if Congress and the American people had seen Secretary Sebelius take a healthy chunk out of HealthCare.gov’s software and in a show of great disgust, proceed to spit it out all over her Talking Points (“I’m so done with those fools in IT…!”).

I think it would have left us with the distinct impression that things were about to change for the better.

Finally, “healthcare for all” (except for those fools in IT).

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 28, 2013

Don’t Lick the Walls

Tags: General,

When my father would leave home in the morning for work he would often say, “I’m off to the salt mines.” I had no idea what that meant but I remember thinking it didn’t sound like much fun.  Well, two weeks ago I actually went to a salt mine in Kansas and I’m pleased to report that it was as cool (literally 68 degrees) and creepy as you can imagine. Too bad I missed their Halloween Party last weekend…

The connection between work and salt dates way back to the Roman Empire. The word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium, an allowance that was paid to soldiers for buying salt. People used to actually fight over this valued commodity; it was extremely expensive. But now we just pass it around the table or sprinkle it on the icy driveway without giving it a thought.

Over time the word came to mean 'fixed periodic payment for work done,' and that’s how we got the English term “salary.”

Since 99% of you probably have never been – nor will ever go – to a salt mine, I thought I’d share the highlights, or should I say, low lights, of my visit.

Strataca, a.k.a the Kansas Underground Museum, is built within one of the world’s largest deposits of rock salt.

Right off, they gave us the shaft.

In keeping with miner’s tradition, we took a 6-ton hoist down over 650 feet beneath the Earth’s surface in complete darkness. (The ride back up was a bit better. A child in sneakers kept jumping up-and-down nervously which made his shoes glow-in-the-dark. No one asked him to stop).

The elevator door opened to what could only be described as the largest Man Cave you have ever seen. All that was missing was the Big Screen TV and the snacks. It was vast – 300,000 square feet of mined out area – with a grey-white somber hue.

We had our hard hats on and rescue breathers over our shoulders (just in case…) and were given explicit instructions not to lick the walls. I was not even mildly tempted but evidently the same people who lick icy poles in the winter get a thrill out of tasting salt mine walls (but they only lick the jagged rocks once…).

The walls of this intriguing space “act as ancient scrolls of the earth, revealing secrets of the strata formed by the Permian Sea some 275 million years ago.” Over 500,000 ton of rock salt is removed each year (by only 12 miners), primarily used to de-ice roads across the mid-west and eastern US (they love it when the call comes in from Chicago).

Mike Rowe, host of the cable show Dirty Jobs, joined the miners a few years back to film them detonating a packed wall of explosives and demolishing a massive salt wall into small, minuscule blocks.

Hollywood loves salt mines, too. With its 68 degree constant temperature, relative humidity, and not a live critter in sight, they use this cavernous space to store their original camera negatives, television show masters, costumes and props.

Medical and business records, oil and gas charts, and God knows what from the U. S. Government, are stored underground as well. In fact, it would be the perfect place to sit out a World War or environmental disaster.

But first you have to get to Kansas.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 22, 2013

Nice Doing Business With You

Tags: Business, General,

When was the last time you made poached pears for your customer? Never, right? Well it’s time. Or at least it’s time to think of some creative ways to get close to your customers, thank them for the business they send your way, and have them see a side of you that differs from (but enhances) the business professional they have come to know. Remember the old adage: people do business with people they like.

Years ago I used to float freely throughout my customers’ offices.

Dropping off a package here and there.

Saying hello to the guy in the office next door.

Passing by a Vice President who waved me into his office and just happened to remember he had a project or two that would be perfect for me.

But things are very different now. Corporate offices are in lockdown. You need an appointment (and a visitor’s badge) just to enter a building.  My roaming days (and casual new business approach) are over.

And remember when you thanked customers for their business by taking them out to expensive restaurants and sending them gift baskets that needed a crane to set them down on their desks?

Forget that.

There are so many business ethics rules today about accepting gifts and restaurant meals that it becomes too risky unless you know the individual office policies.

I was thinking about all of the above last week when I signed up for a free cooking lesson given by my neighborhood Italian BYOB restaurant, Fiorino. The owner and brilliant chef, Franco Faggi, is a very civic minded guy and offers FREE cooking classes several times a year to a lucky group of 12 who can fit into his tiny kitchen.

Everyone in the group turned out to be a customer. We all loved his restaurant and couldn’t wait to see how he created those magical dishes. Ages ranged from a sophomore in college to retirees.

We were in the kitchen working together, patiently taking our turn to stir and taste test, breathing in the fabulous aromas, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  We finally sat down to lunch to enjoy the spoils at 12:45.

In that short time, we grew to know and like each other.

We were sharing an experience that would become a fond memory, and better yet, something we could revisit every time we made one of Franco’s recipes at home.

A thought occurred to me: I should do this with my customers. It’s so much fun and we’re actually learning something that’s useful.

But what if your customer doesn’t like to cook?

How about bowling? It’s a great equalizer. When I get ready to roll a strike, the ball usually lands behind me with a thud. But that’s OK. Huge laughs from all around. But I don’t care. It’s sickening fun (especially when your customer does it too).

Or maybe invite a customer to see a celebrity in person. I once took a customer to hear John Cleese of Monty Python fame speak about leadership. Talk about strange and mesmerizing…

Once we were promoting the opening of a new restaurant for a client so I invited an out-of-state client to be my guest for the evening. She never saw anything like it before and it was a great way to show her another side of our capabilities.

What are you doing with a customer that another customer might appreciate seeing?

I happen to live and work in the Birthplace of our Nation so I will often take out-of-state clients to see historic landmarks like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (where’s the Rocky statue?) when they’re in town.

What’s fun and interesting about your home turf?

But what if your customer isn’t allowed to go on outings or accept gifts?

I love taking photos and will often give a client a framed picture of their child or spouse that I took while at a business or social gathering. They absolutely treasure it.

So what unique ideas can you share to help us all take better care of our customers?

Speaking of sharing, here’s Franco’s recipe for Poached Pears. Enjoy!

Poached Pears (Pere cotte al vino rosso)

Recipe courtesy of Franco Faggi, Fiorino Restaurant, Philadelphia PA

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Inactive Prep Time: 2+ hours

Cook Time: 20/30 Minutes

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

▪ (6) Bosc pears
▪ 1-1/2 cups red wine
▪ 1-1/2 cups water
▪ (5) Whole cloves
▪ (2) Cinnamon sticks
▪ ¾ Cup sugar
▪ (1) Lemon (peel only)
▪ (1) Small bay leaf

For plating:

▪ Vanilla ice cream
▪ Confectioner’s sugar
▪ Fresh mint leaves

Directions:

Wash the pears, place in a pot (standing up); add wine, water, cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon peel and sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer until cooked.

Remove pears from the pot and simmer the liquid by half to a sauce consistency; cool.

Plate the (whole) pears with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the side, spoon the sauce over the pear; drizzle some sauce over the ice cream, sprinkle with confectioner sugar and decorate with mint leaves.

Photo Courtesy of Julie Camburn

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 15, 2013

On The Road Again

Tags: Business,

I hope the day never comes when I have to work out of my home. I felt that way 32 years ago when I really couldn’t afford to rent office space (but did) and my feelings haven’t changed. I need creative people around me. Not wash to throw in the dryer. So I find it interesting that just recently two female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies called employees back into the workplace with the goal of having “all hands on deck.” I’m with you, ladies.

There’s no question that telecommuting has its advantages.

No rush hour traffic.

Fewer interruptions when you’re trying to write or think.

A more casual, stress-free work environment.

The ability to throw wash in the dryer when the timer goes off…

But personally, I thrive on the stress, the interruptions, the interaction and the pace of a work environment. And as an employer, I’ve seen the difference first hand of work that is completed at home versus the office.

I can tell the difference.

Apparently so can CEOs Marissa Mayer from Yahoo! and Meg Whitman from Hewlett-Packard.

Last February, the head of Yahoo! HR sent out a memo to employees (YAHOO! PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION — DO NOT FORWARD) which was promptly forwarded to the media and dissected by the blogosphere.

It read, in part, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. “

In other words, starting in June, come in or go home (for good).

The employees were not happy.

“It’s outrageous and a morale killer,” fumed one telecommuter.

Last week Hewlett-Packard suggested rather than mandated that employees return to the Mothership.

In a way the company is revisiting That 70s Show  when HP practiced something known as “management by walking around” (with the must-have acronym MBWA).

This ground breaking MBWA initiative required that high-powered executives and group directors physically walk around the office and talk to employees directly to get the pulse of the organization and hand out kudos as warranted. (Genius).

But it wasn’t long before the executives walked back around to their window offices and the employees were left pretty much adrift in the office pool.

Staggering real estate costs were the catalyst for HP’s Let’s Send Them All Home Movement which many companies are discovering is a tough perk to relinquish.

Experts weighing in on the issue contend that the argument really comes down to productivity versus collaboration.

I’m a visual thinker.

I see things finished before I actually start them.

I need to look at my TO DO list (also known as my brain) before I can comfortably start my day.

I need to look good to feel good to work efficiently and professionally.

I need to “see” things from other people’s perspective to bring life to my own ideas.

I can’t do any of the above at home alone in jeans and flip flops. Sorry, but it makes me feel and act like a slob and there are just too many distractions, real or imagined, sapping my concentration and making the day feel like a colossal waste. (I also can’t fix any of my computer problems; I need an IT staff nearby).

I do sympathize with the working Moms who will now have to figure out all those child care issues (been-there-don’t-know-how-I-did-that).

But there is something very rational about keeping ones work life and personal life separate.

Both deserve 100% commitment. But each in their own time, in their own place.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

October 09, 2013

Forget the Urn

Tags: Branding,

I just got around to watching the documentary, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s, and besides being a guilty pleasure, it was a fabulous tutorial on what makes a great brand. I wanted to say that quickly before all the men bolted out of the room (come back!). It’s about an iconic department store with fascinating stories, devoted customers, and loyal/dedicated/knowledgeable/creative employees with an eye for talent and a sixth sense for knowing what customers want even before they know they want it.

Bergdorf Goodman is a store without equal. It houses “the aspirational dreams of people all over the world” and attracts some 160,000 visitors each month.

But like most businesses, it had humble beginnings. In 1899, in a New York Garment District Shop, young apprentice Edwin Goodman had the good fortune to meet the talented tailor Herman Bergdorf.

Goodman perfected his tailoring skills at the feet of the Master, and the two discovered they really enjoyed working together. Five years later, the business began to prosper and the boss decided to sell it to his (very lucky/very savvy) 28 year old apprentice before setting sail for life in Paris.

Now at the helm, Goodman put into play several game changing moves that would define the Bergdorf Goodman store we know today.

He filled his shop with off-the-rack selections (better known as Ready-to-Wear) as opposed to couture clothing. Tea cups dropped all over town but customers continued to beat a path to his door.

With success, Goodman picked up stakes in 1928 and moved his store “uptown” to the richest street in the world – Fifth Avenue, between 57th and 58th.  There he built a Beaux-Arts style store on the former site of the first (of 10) Cornelius Vanderbilt mansions. 

The store became a lab for new designers, “a place to be chosen.” It demanded exclusive lines from its chosen ones, and jump started many of their careers. Everybody got rich in the process.

In the 60s, there was Halston, a simple hat designer who became a Super Star dressing Jackie Kennedy (and sadly, designed the suit and hat she wore on November 22, 1963).

Today, there’s Ready-to-Wear legend Michael Kors, discovered by Bergdorf’s creative director as she passed by his shop window and immediately recognized raw talent.

Known for attracting “the most discerning clientele in the world,” Bergdorf’s delivers a personal brand of service that has earned some of its personal shoppers between $400,000 -500,000 in annual commissioned take-home pay (now the men are paying attention…).

Not too tough to do when your customers are…

…John Lennon and Yoko Ono buying 70 fur coats brought to their New York apartment late one Christmas Eve (…give minks a chance…)..

…First Ladies (Kennedy/Obama) stopping by for their Inauguration gowns.

…Elizabeth Taylor ordering 200 pairs of custom made white mink ear muffs to give as presents.

Yet Bergdorf’s prides itself on being accessible to everyone.

Its famous window displays are a must–see destination. Privileged New Yorkers gawk alongside tourists and wide-eyed children.

Point of fact, Bergdorf’s redefined window displays by creating fantasies behind glass. They are a much anticipated theatrical experience assembled in the dead of night by seriously creative, wacky people working behind shrouded windows. Vignettes so over-the-top they are “perceived as hallucinations” (and not just by New Yorkers).

And in keeping with its trendy heritage, Bergdorf Goodman’s has its own magazine, website, blog, and daily shoe app (“the most important shoe salon in the world”).

Creativity, influence, exclusivity and obsessed customers. A brand that has it all.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 30, 2013

Dust to Dust (Collectors)

Tags: General,

There was a great essay in The New York Times last week entitled, "Losing is Good for You." Author Ashley Merryman was venting about the annoying practice that has taken over school athletic programs where "everybody gets a trophy," whether they earned it or not. She laments the "Trophy Industrial Complex" running our children's lives. Come to think of it, ubiquitous awards in every category have diminished the value of worthy accomplishments and the excitement of being singled out for distinction.

Winston Churchill, who knew a few things about playing to win, said “Awards are effective as a motivational device only if they are kept scarce. A distinction is something which everybody does not possess. If all have it, it is of less value."

Deep down, you know if your kids have actually earned the awards they receive and apparently so do they. By age 4 or 5 they can begin to discern who in the group is a Superstar and who can't figure out which way to throw the ball.

Thing is, once kids get good at something, they can't wait to test their prowess against the competition. But that excitement soon diminishes if they start noticing that everybody wins (something).

Studies abound that show if children aren’t (fairly) recognized for their hard work, sacrifice and achievement, they may eventually give up.

And how about those marginal players who are sashaying on stage to pick up their Plaques, Letters, and Trophies?

They aren’t well served. Turns out many become ill prepared to handle life’s challenges when the real world rears its ugly head. Not used to failure, cheating starts to look like a good alternative and they long for the days when good enough was good enough. Prize winning, even.

So awards risk being counterproductive.

Yet it’s human nature to want to win.

I'm no athlete but I'm very competitive. It surfaces in work and play. Like when I reduced my then 4-year old to tears by beating him at Checkers (a hollow victory I admit, but I still won, fair and square).

We all seek recognition for something we’re good at.

Recognition gives us social status, bragging rights, an extra line or two on our resumes or LinkedIn profile.

It motivates us to strive even higher.  Especially when we’ve earned it.

But this awards thing is getting out of hand.

Yet everybody continues to give them out: governments, the arts, culture, sports, media, film, non-profits, for-profits.

On the one hand you have the prestigious awards for honor, valor, courage, life for country.

The United States has nearly 160 military decorations (of which more than 60 are currently in use).

In the Revolutionary War under General Washington’s command, the Badge of Military Merit, the original Purple Heart, was awarded only three times.

Since that time, over 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been bestowed.

Taking it to the other extreme is Hollywood with its never-ending, self-congratulatory Award Shows and honors. Both here and abroad.

Reminds me of the hysterical dream scene in the movie, ”Living in Oblivion,” a film about filmmaking,  where an actor was standing at the podium giving out an award “for the Best Picture made by a human.”

When my old boss used to be approached about promoting yet another "employee of the month" or "top salesman" award, he used to mumble under his breath, "your incentive is you get to keep your job."

Fortunately I kept mine and many years later, the award I covet the most in my business life is New Business.

That tells me everything I need to know about how my team and I are doing. It validates our worth and acknowledges the hard work that went before and is yet to come.

A “thank you” now and again is nice, too. 

But I don’t need that engraved.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 23, 2013

The Skies are Friendly…Again

Tags: Branding,

United Airlines is bringing back its “Fly the Friendly Skies” tagline, created in 1965 by Leo Burnett/Chicago when “Mad Men” roamed the earth. The key buzz phrase for the campaign will be “flyer friendly” (try saying that five times after a few drinks…), as in legroom friendly, online friendly, shut-eye friendly, etc.

Tim Winship, publisher of FrequentFlier.com, referred to the campaign as “so last century.” But many other travel industry experts think it’s a stroke of genius to update a well-known campaign that evokes the Golden Age of Air Travel when airlines differentiated themselves with service and amenities.

Gordon Bowen, chairman-chief creative officer at United’s agency McGarry Bowen, acknowledged that it wouldn’t be enough to just resurrect the old tagline.

“We had to reinvent it,” he said. “Today’s air travelers require more, so we redefined the tagline through the lens of what customers nowadays are expecting.”

That would be basics like more legroom, non-stop flights and better on-time performance; digital features like global Wifi and more power-charging outlets; and enhanced comfort with premium-cabin flatbed seats on select international flights and expanded economy-plus seating.

Not to mention a better trained, friendlier staff.

But there are risks associated with all of this flyer friendly fluff.

You need to deliver on the promise. Or be doomed to repeat the past.

The once-proud and friendly United took a nose dive into bankruptcy in 2002 (then the second largest airline) and eventually merged with Continental Airlines in 2010 to become the world’s largest carrier in terms of passenger traffic.

Big headaches followed and as recently as last year the Department of Transportation tapped United with the dubious distinction of being the airline with the most passenger complaints (thanks a lot DOT).

Blame it on the merger, the bugs in the computer reservation system, the lousy on-time performance record, the executive suite revolving door, or the sheer scope and size of the operation. All of it added up to one miserable customer experience, with traffic down for 11 of the past 12 months.

Time to get friendlier.

United is now gearing up to sponsor the United States Olympic Team in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. So it’s Go for the Gold Time and they feel confident this new campaign will be a Perfect 30.

Make that $30 million for an advertising campaign in the fourth quarter of 2013, and another $30 million next year to leverage its Olympic sponsorship (the carriers largest spend “in decades.”)

The campaign launched this past Sunday. You may have seen their “Orchestra” ad on one of the NFL games, the PGA tour championship, 60 Minutes or the Emmys. It was supported by a flight of newspaper and magazine ads.

The TV ad featured the London Symphony Orchestra spread out in Coach (with lots of legroom for their instruments) playing the carriers longtime signature brand music, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Actor Matt Damon does the voiceover and the pilots and stewardess shown in the clip are actual United employees.

If you like what you see and hear of the reinvented brand, you, too, may want to pack up your tuba and give United a second chance.

September 17, 2013

No Time to be Speechless

Tags: Media,

Another day, another headline about a violent crime against innocent people.  You think it can’t get any worse. And then it does. Yesterday’s shooting inside the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington is already in the Record Books: The deadliest mass shooting in the U. S. since Sandy Hook Elementary School. The worst shooting at a military installation since Fort Hood. In the days and months ahead, there will be many questions, revelations, accusations and second guessing. But I have no doubt that the Navy has a Crisis Communications Plan in place to deal with the media and more importantly, the court of public opinion.

It’s a critical moment for the Navy Crisis Public Relations Team and I don’t envy them one minute of it. The media frenzy surrounding this incident is already fast and furious, and if the basic rules of Crisis Communications are not followed, it could also be lengthy and debilitating.

How did someone circumvent high security at a military facility? What mental health issues could have prevented the shooter from getting a security clearance in the first place? Weren’t there warning signs that the shooter was “troubled,” “angry,” “depressed?” Could something have been done, something said, to prevent this tragedy?

Every crisis begs answers and accountability.

And there is always loss. It could be lives, reputations, property, money, security, innocence. Few are immune to its wrath when it strikes where you live.

The first order of business in a crisis situation is speaking with One Voice and identifying a leader to do so. It demands someone who can control the situation by telling what they know, and if necessary, taking responsibility for an omission and/or apologizing to those who are affected. And over the course of the crisis, it’s imperative to offer a reasonable plan of action to change or “right” the situation going forward.

Today’s socially connected world demands all of the above, as quickly as possible, as often as necessary, from someone perceived to be trustworthy and forthright.

The buzz word in communications today is “transparency” (it used to be called “truth”). The lawyers will tell you to choose your words carefully (especially if there is a need to issue an apology) and that’s their job. But there are countless examples of carefully worded statements that say nothing and only make things worse.

“No comment” is often the most damaging statement of all.

You never want to be in a situation where you learn something from the press that you didn’t know yourself.

Damage control begins and ends with a written Crisis Communications Plan for responding to real-time issues. Depending on the situation, it should identify the leader(s), outline the process, and eventually communicate clear, consistent messages that address the concerns of the appropriate constituents: families, employees, stockholders, customers, donors, whomever.

It needs to anticipate the 24-hour news cycle and should be designed to (1) contain the length of time the crisis is covered and (2) restore the situation to normalcy as quickly as possible.

Engagement is key (more now than ever). Social networks are the ideal platform for reporting crisis developments in real time and for quickly responding to concerns, rumor and innuendo.

Silence is never golden and will only serve to tarnish credibility while heightening and extending the negative media coverage.

It will be interesting to see the roles leadership, truth and empathy play as this tragic story unfolds.

September 09, 2013

Go Figure

Tags: Branding,

Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of the monster creative organization, Saatchi & Saatchi, describes the goal of marketing as the creation of “loyalty beyond reason.” Think about that for a minute.  Loyal, invested customers who will wear your clothes, drive your cars, eat at your restaurants, attend your shows, contribute to your causes, buy your products and services and then recommend them to anyone who crosses their path and never, ever think of moving over to the competition. That’s a fan. And perhaps the truest fan of all is the sports fan.

The National Football League (NFL) has been called an “entertainment addiction.” It’s America’s favorite professional sports league, made up of 32 teams with a staggering average worth of $1.17 billion each.

But even that’s not enough to feed the beast.

Now we have Fantasy Football where 3 million football fanatics are building their own imaginary teams each week. They pick certain players in a league to score points based on the actual performance of those players on that particular day. Got it?

And then they tweet about it.

The NFL feeds off this fan frenzy. Studies show the more loyal the fans, the higher the revenues.

I’m a (long-suffering) Philadelphia Eagles fan. As a female, I now represent over 44 percent of the NFL’s fan base. They know I want to wear the team colors but the “pink-it-and-shrink-it” apparel of yesteryear won’t do.

I now need Victoria’s Secret loungewear. Clothes that are fitted. Celebrity spokeswomen to show me how to wear my NFL gear. Pop-up shops in malls for my shopping convenience where I can try things on (with mirrors so I can check my back side just to be sure…).

The NFL is listening to me. They want to earn my loyalty.

Strong brand bonds do best when there’s an identified enemy/competitor. For Eagles fans it’s the Dallas Cowboys (the team they say has the most loyal fan base).

We hate them.

That’s why we pelted their coach and players with snowballs back in 1989, a free-for-all that became known as “the greatest one-sided snowball fight in NFL history.”

Admit it: All of us on some level pick sides/teams/products/neighborhoods/schools because they easily identify who we are, where we stand. If our choices are on the “winning side” (Super Bowl-bound, fashionable, elite, best-in-class), it boosts our self-esteem and makes us feel better about ourselves.

It could be Mac vs. PC.

Hertz vs. Avis.

Coke vs. Pepsi.

Eagles vs. Dallas.

Us vs. them.

Best advice: Be who you are -- the best you can be -- and make your customers want only you (not them).

The Philadelphia Eagles’ first regular season game was played in 1933 against the New York Giants (another team we love to hate). We lost: 56-0.

Our first winning season was 10 years later.

We’ve been to the Super Bowl twice.

Once in 1981 against the Oakland Raiders. We lost: 27-10.

Then back again in 2005 against the New England Patriots. We lost: 32-24.

This year we have a new coach and quarterback insecurity.

Currently there are 40,000 people on the waiting list for Eagles’ season tickets.

“Loyalty beyond reason.”

P.S. Last night the Eagles played the Washington Redskins.  We WON: 32-27

 

Photo obtained from http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/gallery?id=4427008

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

September 03, 2013

Drowning In Deceit

Tags: Promotion,

I had 28 cousins on my father’s side and every Sunday we would go over to our grandparent’s house and run wild. I loved everything about those visits except the taste of their tap water. Actually the smell and taste. We affectionately referred to it as “Philadelphia” water. But that was long before the availability of bottled water, now an $11 billion dollar industry that has a distinctive bad odor of its own when it comes to its marketing tactics.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), Americans consume more bottled water than milk and beer.

We’re guzzling over 9 billion gallons of water a year from 35 billion plastic bottles. The equivalent of 30 gallons, or 111 bottles per bloated citizen.

We buy bottled water because it’s convenient, but more importantly, because we think it’s healthy and clean. At least that what the marketers want you to think.

Face it, we all read less and rely more on quick visual impressions to make our buying decisions. The marketers know that which is why they brand their bottled water products with images of waterfalls, natural springs and snowcapped mountains.

They spice up their copy with words like “pristine,” “pure,” “untouched,” “smart,” “environmentally conscious (bottles).”

They show us beautiful, shapely celebrities (with fat endorsement contracts) who owe it all to their love of bottled water.

We see famous athletes drinking water in slow motion, spilling it all over themselves to accentuate the contours of their muscular hard bodies.

Suckers that we are, we buy the stuff by the case.

But the scent of Philadelphia water lingers in the air. And lately the industry has been taking a beating for its questionable marketing tactics.

Becausewater.com, an organization committed to “ensuring the posterity of water by providing access to sustainable solutions through a trusted marketplace supported by community initiative,” has come out of the bottle swinging:

“Bottled water is the biggest scam of the century,” they proclaim.

Let’s start with the cost, shall we?

$1000 a year on bottled water. That’s what you spend on average. And I’m sure you don’t want to know that each bottle only contains about $.04 worth of water. (Now I’m really mad).

And you’ve probably heard the comparison to gasoline prices. The average cost of a gallon of gasoline is $3.70. A one-liter bottle of water costs approximately $2.50 which would make it about $10 a gallon if you were filling up your car with it (cheaper to wet your whistle directly from the gasoline pump).

Because 70% of bottled water never crosses over state lines (too heavy to ship), it’s exempt from FDA oversight. That’s why there are a lot of cases of “spring” water actually being filled from a public water source and filtered. Eau De Tap Water. (Eau I feel so stupid).

And to add insult to injury, recent studies have shown that bottled water (2000 times more expensive than tap water) is actually no safer than tap water. AND you’re getting hosed on the price.

But perhaps the biggest concern is about those overflowing landfills. It could take up to 1,000 years for the chemically-enabled plastic bottles to be able to biodegrade. And not all the bottles even make it that far. Lots of them are littered throughout our neighborhoods and clogging our waterways. It’s a huge environmental issue.

So in summary: Bottled water more often than not comes straight out of the tap. It’s obscenely expensive. And is creating a garbage dump for generations to come. 

How’d you like to have to spin that one every day?

August 27, 2013

Restyling a Tired Brand

Tags: Branding,

When I bought my Toyota Camry, I walked out of the Toyota-thon showroom with a giant purple plush dinosaur. Years later, every time I brought my Lexus in for service, I was handed a long stem pink rose after settling the (outrageous) bill. The branding cues were unmistakable. Now Ford is in the midst of upgrading its Lincoln brand, and the secret sauce includes the smell of jasmine, wine and cheese, ultra-premium design packages, and cushy showroom chairs. Goodbye retirees. Hello latte lovers.

Only 15 years ago, Lincoln held the top spot in the U.S. luxury market. But that was before American buyers turned to sportier luxury vehicles like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz. The European invasion did a lot to damage America’s love affair with American cars.

Companies offering good-better-best products have an incentive for selling their top-of-the line brands. In the auto industry, luxury vehicles bring in the big profits that fuel expansion and innovation. Small wonder Ford has been so committed to restoring the Lincoln. (You might recall that Ford was the only automaker that didn’t declare bankruptcy during the last recession which I’m not sure has actually ended).

So how does one go about revitalizing a tired brand?

First, you come up with a new name for the product. In this case one that reeks of luxury. Something like, “Black Label.” It’s not exactly original. American Express, Johnnie Walker and Ralph Lauren thought it had a nice ring, too.

Then you differentiate your product with amazing interior designs that make the European styles look like minimalism. Wish I could have been part of the creative team that came up with their three themes: Modern Heritage, Indulgence, and Center Stage.

I love how the branding process involves a lot of moving parts and I encourage you to check out the Lincoln website to see how they use design, imagery and provocative messaging to lure you into the luxury lifestyle you so richly deserve. Pretty neat. http://www.lincoln.com/blacklabel/introduction/?hptid=pro-2161c-bl

But now what to do about those dreadful Ford showrooms, teeming with customers munching on pigs-in-a blanket while they checked out the nifty Focus. Time for an overhaul.

And that’s where the jasmine comes in. Did you know that upscale hotels pump that scent into their lobbies so that you can breathe in the dollar bills (that you’ll be spending) from the moment you walk through the door? I didn’t know that either. Apparently it does the job and Ford went one step further by developing their own Lincoln showroom scent – “a blend of Earl Grey tea, jasmine, and orange flowers.”

Where do I sign?

Upscale food and beverages (which Lexus serves in abundance) soon replaced the showroom picnic fare and plush chairs took over.  The better to hold you erect while you write that $50,000 check for your sleek, new MKZ Lincoln sedan with the Indulgence interior.

One last thing: the sales force needed to be retrained to relate to a new, younger demographic (known as the “progressive luxury” buyer). Forget the Town Car set and their penchant for Steak Houses.  The sales team is now conversant with sophisticated people who appreciate arts, culture, gourmet restaurants, anything “now.”

Quite a ride for Ford. I hope it works.

Try connecting the dots to see how some of these strategies can help you find creative ways to revitalize your own tired brands.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

August 20, 2013

No Worries

Tags: General,

I feel sorry for you if you’re reading this blog. Unless of course you’re sitting on the beach somewhere, flipping mindlessly through your emails. August is a tough time to be staring at a desktop computer. “Out of Office” replies abound. The kids are headed back to college or have already started sports camp. Nobody’s home. Nobody cares. It’s my favorite month of the year to lower the bar.

My recent week at the shore (or the beach, depending on where you hail from) was totally uneventful. I brought canvas bags stuffed with magazines, books and newspapers. One bag was a leftover from the July 4th weekend stash that I never finished reading. Lots of good intentions, but alas, only 24-hours in a day.

I usually don’t have much time for TV. Full (shocking) disclosure: I live in a Cable-free home (but do have a Netflix queue). So when I travel for business or pleasure I tend to overdo the Cable blockbusters and will stay up way past lights out to watch movies.

Last week was “Mob Week” on AMC. With nothing but time on my hands, I literally overdosed on Bugsy, Scarface and The Godfather (I/II/III). I had enough encounters with violence and macho immaturity to last a lifetime. By the time Get Shorty pulled out the arsenal, I had to Get Out. Quickly.

Fortunately the beach was right outside my door. The “quiet” zone of pounding waves, chattering seagulls, and squealing children. The perfect place to think of nothing, to wonder about everything.

I walked the shoreline every day for at least an hour, once in lockstep with a school of porpoises (really!). It’s nice to smile at something that touches you unexpectedly. I pointed them out to a group of kids nearby who then immediately charged into the ocean to get a closer look (hope they aren’t sharks, the city girl thought for one heart-stopping moment…).

One late afternoon I climbed up to a Lifeguard stand, studying the graffiti and wondering what it must be like to be young, tan, gorgeous and able to look at the ocean all day long for wages.

It must be paradise.

In August.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

August 12, 2013

Six Seconds to Make Your Case

Tags: Promotion,

Driving is getting more hazardous by the minute. And in my case it isn’t just the incessant cell phone calls that are making me drift. It’s also my fascination with billboards and the need to critique every one along the way. Read. Comprehend. Edit. (Whoops!).

There are a lot of terrible billboards out there, as I’m sure you know. The biggest offenders are the cluttered ones: too much copy, multiple images (which means you can’t make out any of them), similar colors that render them unreadable. Too much (or too little) of what you need to get across an impactful, memorable message.

Then you have the billboards that are a bit too clever. So clever you have no idea what they’re selling. Considering that drivers only have a scant six seconds on average to read your message, I don’t recommend too clever.

The “greats” design by the numbers: six seconds, six words. Harder than you think.

Billboards are a secondary advertising medium, great for building brand awareness, supporting a campaign, giving directions, or promoting an upcoming “something.”

Believe it or not, the oldest known billboard was an ad posted in the Egyptian city of Thebes over 3,000 years ago (nubianslavesforhire.com).

But it was the invention of lithography in 1794, a novel etching technique invented by a struggling German actor and playwright that made it possible to produce large scale paper posters. Circuses eventually got into the act promoting their oddities, producing some of the most incredible Museum-quality poster art you’ll ever see.

But the first known bill or poster “rental”  what we know today as billboard space  wasn’t until 1867. And almost 100 hundred years and thousands of billboards later, Lady Bird Johnson got behind the Highway Beautification Act that limited the number and location of billboards across America (but also lined the highways with gorgeous wildflowers).

Billboards have kept up with the times – from paper, to plastic sheets, to electronic, and now digital. Flat is still the standard but more-and-more you see designs with moving parts, interactive features, and 3D appliques like the Chick-fil-A graffiti artist cows ("EAT MOR CHIKIN”)

And considering that the average American spends about 2.5 hours each day driving (nearly 18 hours per week), and is stuck in traffic almost 38 hours a year, billboards seem like a good place to allocate some of your marketing dollars if your customers are on the move.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

August 05, 2013

That’s What You Call A Super Market

Tags: Branding,

I love Trader Joe’s.

Maybe it’s because I hate food shopping. It’s so mechanical, takes forever to do. I get tired of picking, packing and paying, sometimes twice a week. I tried using coupons to liven things up a bit but that became another chore in itself.

But shopping at Trader Joe’s is different. It has a hippie vibe to it, not that I’m much of a hippie type. The people there are so nice, so genuine. And for whatever reason, you can get in-and-out of the store in minutes, not hours.

The first time I took my husband and son there to show it off, they walked down the aisles at 90 mph complaining that they didn’t recognize any of the brands (they waited outside while I shopped).

But that’s part of the adventure. Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell familiar brands. They sell “unconventional and interesting products.” You have to try things, ask for recommendations from other Trader Joe’s shoppers.

Their free samples taste so good on a Friday night when I’m on my way home from work, exhausted and starving. I usually buy what I eat. Sometimes they don’t taste as good at home, but hey, blame it on the cook (me).

The secret to their success – not counting the Hawaiian shirts they wear, the funky artwork promoting weekly specials, or the bells they ring when they open a new register or get you help – their secret is that they focus on what matters: great food + great prices = Value. And I would add “great people” to that brand promise.

So why am I acting like a paid shill for Trader Joe’s?

Two weeks ago my husband had triple bypass open heart surgery. He was in the hospital for five days and I was trying bravely to hold it all together. Naturally I had to squeeze in food shopping.

I stopped at Trader Joe’s for all the reasons mentioned above. The checker made the mistake of asking me how my week went. I told her. She sympathized with me, mentioned her grandfather’s heart surgery experience and for a few minutes it was like two old friends sharing war stories.

When she finished packing my bags, she walked away from the register. I grabbed hold of my cart and when I turned around she was standing there, handing me a plant with three red Gerber daisies.

“I hope next week is better for you,” she said.

It was.

I just love Trader Joe’s.

***************************************************************************************
Here’s an easy, seasonal Trader Joe’s recipe for Sparkling Berry Punch.

• 3/4 carton (about 6 cups) TJ's Orange Peach Mango Juice
• 2 bottles (about 6 cups) TJ's Sparkling Blueberry Juice
• 1 (1 lb) container TJ's Premium Extra Sweet Strawberries, rinsed and sliced
• 1 (11 oz) container fresh TJ's Organic Blueberries, rinsed
• 1 TJ's Orange, sliced into rounds

Add one part blueberry juice with one part orange peach mango juice to a large drink pitcher. Stir. Add sliced fruit and chill before serving.

Serves: 12
Cooking Time: 10 Minutes

July 29, 2013

Full Speed Ahead To Somewhere

Tags: Business,

Last week I was a guest on a radio show featuring female entrepreneurs. The hour-long conversation had me reliving those stress-filled days (and nights) when I first started my business. It reminded me that the nice part about being young is that you know everything and advice is something you politely tolerate and quickly discard.

My business plan was an orange wire-o journal filled with horoscopes (all predicting wild success), newspaper articles, scribbled ideas, a hit list of prospects, photos of people I aspired to be, and inspirational quotes to keep me pumped.

How hard could it be…?

My start-up financing was a loan from my father’s life insurance policy. I was on the Family Plan which meant I had to pay him back every cent, with interest.  Those funds faded fast, along with any notion that passion alone guaranteed income. And when I began writing proposals, I realized how difficult it was to cost out a project.

At the time I was a “sole proprietor” so putting a price on my services was very subjective. I was in essence putting a value on my own worth. Eventually the marketplace has a way of solving that problem for you but it took me a few years to get it just right.

Sigmund Freud said, “If youth knew; if age could.”

When asked by the interviewer what I would do differently 32 years after starting my business, I said I would have waited until I had a year’s salary banked.  She cut me off at the knees.

“Entrepreneurs don’t wait,” she said. “They just do it!”

She was right, of course.

Back then, I left a pension on the table because I couldn’t wait just six more months to become vested. My father begged me to stick it out. But I knew better. 

And why would I ever need a pension anyway…?

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

July 18, 2013

Excuse My English

Tags: Promotion,

I remember vividly being in a movie theatre back in the 1980s watching Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. The film itself wasn’t that memorable but the cursing was. Roughly every other word in the script was the F-word, but even more shocking (pathetic?) was how everyone laughed hysterically every time someone said it.  I wasn’t particularly amused.

Imagine my delight at the public discourse in 2013. Eddie’s looking pretty tame these days if you happen to be a frequent movie-goer, which I am. I’d have to say I’m numb at this point. No reaction really, other than resignation. But I still flinch when I hear profanities in a business meeting (often), while traveling on any mode of transportation (a given), and when reading or hearing about the latest celebrity rant or run-in (daily).

Now we have traditional brands like Jell-O with its ”F” is for fun Twitter campaign and Kmart showing us a broad demographic of folks delighted that they can Ship My Pants. (Don’t expect me to provide you with easy links to this stuff. You’re on your own). Kraft’s senior brand manager, Todd Hjermstad, defended the Jell-O campaign saying “Even historic brands have to communicate in a way that’s up-to-date and consistent with the marketplace today.” I can’t argue with that statement. And I get the whole shock value thing. It just doesn’t make me want to whip up a Jell-O parfait or buy my jeans (as if) at Kmart.

Ann Brenoff, a senior writer at The Huffington Post, addressing the new world order, put it this way: “The F-word went mainstream. It no longer lives in the narrow fringes of our culture. It is at the center of it.”

If you want to know “what’s next,” just check out the fringes.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

July 10, 2013

The Real World Awaits

Tags: Digital Communications,

U. S. News & World Report ranked Princeton University Number One in its 2013 edition of Best Colleges. It has 5,249 students and you can bet every one of them is smart. I mean really smart. Representing the Class of 2013 were seniors Aman Sinha (3.98 GPA), valedictorian, and Amelia Bensch-Schaus (3.9+ GPA), salutatorian.  Truly the smartest of the smart. And that’s saying something.

Sinha majored in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Bensch-Schaus was a classics major. She definitely drew the short straw because she had to write and deliver her graduation speech in Latin, bowing to a centuries-old Princeton tradition (presumably when Latin was spoken at home).

But here’s why I bring all this up. Neither Sinha nor Bensch-Schaus are on Facebook or Twitter. According to Bensch-Schaus, “It never seemed like meaningful communication to me.”

Yikes. Two of the smartest people in the universe are turning a blind eye to the world of social media. So how does it make the rest of us look? And will they have a change of heart when they move from personal studies to participating in the real (business) world?

Some “real world” facts to consider: 

Facebook** currently has 1.11 billion users with 150 billion friend connections.

665 million users are active on a daily basis.

Every day there are 4.5 billion Facebook likes and 350 million photo uploads.

The average time spent per Facebook visit is 20 minutes.

Sinha was ironically using that 20 minutes (and more) every day to work on his senior thesis focusing on the way large groups reach a consensus.

And how about this...

There are currently 554,750,000 active registered Twitter users.*

Tomorrow there will be 135,000 more…and the day after that…and the day after that.

There are 9,100 tweets every second.

58 million tweets per day.

1 billion tweets every 5 days. (And you thought your email box was full).

Bensch-Schaus named her kitten after the ancient Trojan prince Hector from the Iliad. She neglected to tweet about it and no one was the wiser.

I wonder what they think of blogging?

*Source: Twitter, Huffington Post, eMarketer

**Source: Craig Smith/DMR Digital Marketing Ramblings

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

June 25, 2013

Green is the New Blue

Tags: Design,

Before I go into a client meeting to present new branding concepts, I always predict that the men in the group will gravitate toward the concepts that feature the color blue. I’m almost always right. Like 99% of the time. I even had a garden product client who loved our designs ─ all in shades of green for obvious reasons ─ who asked if we could change everything to blue. Then of course there’s my male client who says, “Any color but pink…!” (He used to be a race car driver).

So I think it’s fair to say that most men prefer the color blue. And evidently, studies as far back as the 1920’s across multiple cultures have found that, overall, both men and women prefer blue to all other colors. But men choose it more often.  And the women who do prefer blue like their shade on the red end of the spectrum. That’s where this “girls wear pink” thing came from.

I was educated in Catholic schools and basically wore the same style navy blue jumper uniform (with a white Peter Pan collar blouse) for 12 years. Any wonder that blue isn’t one of my Top 5 color picks? I’m still in recovery.
Psychologists report that color impression can account for 60 – 70% of consumer reaction. That’s a good thing to know when you’re designing marketing materials, packaging or products targeted to a specific gender or socio-economic group. So while blue is the most popular color overall, don’t even think about introducing a blue food product. Dead-on-arrival (blueberries being the exception).

For some reason I always remember intuitively knowing that orange meant “inexpensive,”  “cheap.”  And sure enough, men and women both feel that way about it. Yet the Color of the Year for 2012 was Tangerine. So clearly, some shades of orange can be perceived as more upscale than others.

So what is the Hot New Color for 2013? Emerald:  A lively, lush, radiant green...sophisticated and luxurious...the color of beauty and new life.  I can live with that.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

June 18, 2013

Always Thinking

Tags: General,

The word “man” comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and means “one who thinks. “  The word “woman” was “originally wifman, literally translated as “wife man” or “female person” or ─ my personal favorite ─ “the wife of one who thinks.” That one may need an update…

But I digress…

Welcome to my blog! The digital sphere where I’ll be thinking out loud and curious to know what’s on your mind.  It sounds so quaint. Thinking.  A lost art. No time, no permission, no need, no appreciation for it. Just hit SEND and be done with it.

You might have noticed that our agency tag line is Think Marketing. We’re a creative business and we pride ourselves on doing a lot of thinking here. Think first, execute later. You’d be surprised how effective that can be.

I have a million thoughts/ideas/questions/stories rolling around in my head. The challenge with this Always Thinking blog will be to share only the stuff that I (and in time some guest bloggers) think will matter to you. If I’m selective and thoughtful, you may change your opinion, learn something you didn’t know, laugh out loud, or take issue with everything I say or do. It’s OK. As long as you feel your time here was well spent.

Visit often. And be sure to let me know what you’re thinking.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

June 18, 2013

I Need My (White) Space

Tags: Design,

A friend visiting my home a while back gestured over to an empty wall and said, “You need to fill that space with pictures.”  From her viewpoint, the space looked unfinished, uninspiring, sadly wasted. To me, the whitespace (that wasn’t white by the way) looked sophisticated and uncluttered. A welcome pause that moved the attention to other points of interest.

When I present creative concepts to a client using whitespace as a design element, the typical reaction is, “Can we put another image/paragraph/logo/coupon/QR code on that space?”  I can. But I often don’t want to and here’s why.

The more whitespace you have, the more the eye is drawn to what’s actually there. And the faster the viewer can get to it. Whitespace speeds things up, guiding the attention to your compelling photography, catchy headline or pithy pull quote. It makes someone more keen to read your message because (1) it’s easier to find, and (2) they know they don’t have to invest too much of their time. Whitespace removes the distractions and serves as a guide to what’s important: Your message. Your brand. Your call-to-action.

Here’s a riddle for you: When is whitespace not whitespace?

When it’s whitespace with color. Any color. Like my wall. The key word here is space, empty, negative space that frames content and draws attention to what really matters.

The next time you see a cluttered e-blast, a confusing webpage, a packed advertisement, or printed piece crammed with copy and tiny photographs, ten bucks says you’ll be editing out the non-essentials in your head. It’s amazing what doesn’t really need to be there.

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.

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