Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The "I" in DIY Stands For Internet in My World

Like an ever growing percentage of the population, I buy almost nothing these days without first doing my online research. Our house is about nine years old which means we are beginning to see items that need repair or replacement.

A couple of months ago, the sump pump needed to be replaced. It was easy-peasy since I added a battery backup model a couple of years ago and that required a bit more know how than a simple pump installation. As a visual learner, I find online videos better than the manuals and instructions that come with most products. Two weeks ago, it was time to replace the garbage disposer. A couple of visits to DIY store web sites and I knew my options and the best offers. It's been a few years since I installed a disposer, so to be on the safe side, I checked out a couple of YouTube videos to be sure I didn't install the new product incorrectly.

The same week, the ice/water dispenser on the door of our refrigerator died. An online search revealed numerous suggestions but most advice centered on the master control board. The online price seemed good and the product arrived in 48 hours. It took about 20 minutes to replace. Unfortunately, it didn't solve the problem. I posted a help request on a couple of web sites looking for instructions on how to get into the dispenser front panel. Hope burns eternal that I can fix the fridge myself.

This past week it was time to tackle trenching and then burying a new sump discharge line. The past couple of winters the line has frozen and we've had a flooded backyard when the drain tile backed up. Either the original was somehow clogged or it was buried too shallow and froze.

A neighbor lent me his pickup truck with a trailer. The local equipment rental place had a sod cutter and a three foot trench digging machine. Having used sod cutters before, that part wasn't an issue but the trench digger was a very intimidating monster. However, I was determined not to let it get the best of me. The weird part is the trencher is made to be operated walking backwards. Each time I stared from my house to the edge of the pond beyond our backyard 140 feet away, I began to question why I took this job on instead of hiring a professional.

After a few minutes of coaxing the trencher beast I became comfortable, but was still cautious with the machine. It's a self propelled model so all I had to do was use the dual shifters with one hand to steer and use the other hand to grip the clutch control. At times, the machine got away from me and I had to call a neighbor over a couple of times to help me get the wheels out of the ditch I was digging. Two days of hard work went easier than they might had I not spent an hour or so investigating the project online, first.

The Internet has given me the courage to tackle projects that I might have once considered too challenging just a few years ago. Now, there's almost no DIY job I won't attempt as long as I remind myself that the Internet is my first stop.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Miller Lite Punch Can - Pours Better, Drinks Poor

Miller Beer has resorted to gimmicks to sell its Lite brand. Here's an excerpt from a corporate press release . . .

"Miller Lite is giving its cans a second tab for a smoother pour, and inviting beer drinkers to have fun opening it.

The Punch Top Can increases airflow, reducing glug resulting in an improved, smoother pour that highlights the great pilsner taste of Miller Lite. The second tab on the Punch Top Can can be opened with a wide array of objects such as a house key, golf tee or even a dollar bill, for those who are especially clever. Simply set the can on a solid surface, place your chosen opener against the edge of the can and use leverage to open the second tab.

'Miller Lite is giving beer lovers an even more enjoyable drinking experience with the breakthrough Punch Top Can,' said Amy Breeze, director of innovation and activation for Miller Lite. 'In our testing, consumers told us they prefer the Punch Top Can three-to-one over the standard beer can because it’s more like drinking from a pilsner glass. We’re proud of our product and think everyone will have a blast exploring different ways to open it.' . . ."

Oh, Amy, it should be embarrassing for you to attach your name to such bullshit. Your quotes are a perfect example of "puffery" and disingenuous blubbery used when a spokesperson has nothing relevant to say. Let me assure you, no one is having a blast exploring different ways to open a beer can unless they vigorously shake the can first. This release belongs in the PR Hall of Shame.

More than the world needed a remedy for the dreaded beer glug leading to a smooth pouring beer, it needed another reason to mock a watered down beer. You've given us one more reason to do the latter in bars and on home sofas everywhere. I'm not sure that's the "fun" to which you were alluding in your release.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty Is a Brand of the Highest Order

We have two TiVo machines in the house as a result of my wife's penchant for recording nearly every episode of every show on cable TV. No matter what I wanted to record it seemed the machine was already fully scheduled with her shows. Now, I have my own TiVo in the bedroom.

The truth is, most of my Season Passes are HBO shows. Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, the Newsroom dominate my list. There are some PBS specials and an odd episode or two of something but the most capacity on my recorder is taken by Duck Dynasty, the #1 reality show on American television. DD is now being syndicated all around the world.

In addition to enjoying the various personalities of the Robertson family and their interactions, I appreciate the wholesomeness, positive approach and family nature of the show. Each episode features different family members engaged in various situations whose stories are intertwined during the half hour. Ultimately, the show and the various predicaments are summed up by Willie, Duck Dynasty's CEO, while the extended family is shown gathered for dinner, which always begins with prayer. Willie does a voiceover that captures the common thread and uplifting value that ties all the stories together.

In spite of the strong moral messages and wholesome family depictions, in a sea of other nasty, negative reality shows, it's debatable whether this is good TV or not. But what impresses me most is the brilliant manner in which this family has taken a distinguished brand in a very narrow, niche market and expanded it. In addition to being the best known duck calls in all the hunting universe, through this show, DD has accomplished one of the most challenging and sophisticated brand expansions in history.

Think about it. Non-hunters everywhere, of all ages, are buying DD merchandise from cookbooks, autobiographies, DVDs and sunglasses to clothing, and a soon to be released Christmas album titled "Duck the Halls." This says nothing of the millions they are taking in from the television and appearance fees. All the while, The Robertson family maintains its squeaky clean image and boldly espouses its Christian faith.

Last night I attended the Porter County (IN) Fair and joined thousands of other fans who paid $25 to $100 a seat to hear Willie and Korie, his wife, speak extemporaneously about the family, their lives, business and faith. Throughout the fair, everywhere you walked, there were people wearing DD merchandise. The show has spawned four or five expressions associated with individual members of the family from Patriarch Phil's "Happy, happy happy" to Uncle Si's "Hey" and "That's what I'm talkin' about."

Relatively speaking, The growth and expansion of the DD brand is no less impressive or sophisticated in my eyes than what Apple has done with it's brand around personalized music. Apple didn't invent MP3 players but they did find a way to dominate the industry by showing people they could have precisely what music they wanted, when and where they wanted it. In doing so, they reinvented the way we buy music with iTunes and crossed into markets never before united in music.

DD has found ways to penetrate markets that have absolutely no connection to duck hunting or the passion the Robertson men have for killing things and it still won legions of fans. The popularity of the brand is found in the Robertson family behaviors, not merely the messaging, which is the real essence of a brand. I've worked with hundreds of brands including Disney, McDonald's, IBM, the March of Dimes, Wendy's, Taco Bell, American Express and even an arm of the Department of Defense and I stand in awe of what the Robertson's have built. I consider DD nothing short of brilliant brand strategy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Justice For Whom?

The call came from a junior defense lawyer (I think they're called associates) months ago that I was being named as a witness in a civil case in which I am not a party and would be required to give a deposition. Shortly there after I got a letter from the same person asking for a copy of every written and electronic piece of correspondence exchanged with the client over a two year period of time. Enclosed was a check for $20 for my trouble.

I shot back a nasty email to the lawyer informing her, that like her, my hourly rate was more than $20 would cover. Since I had no contractual obligation with the client to retain records as I do with some others, hadn't worked with the client in well over a year and had no interest in ever working with this client again, saving the files was just more clutter so I discard all the files long ago when I upgraded computers and downsized my office.

Not long after, I got a call from the plaintiff's attorney informing me they weren't even sure I would be selected as a witness and it would be months before depositions would be taken and I might not be included.

Can someone explain why I am being forced by the court to participate in this case between former business partners who had a falling out that didn't involve me and getting jack squat for my time and trouble? Screw the civic duty argument. I am now being forced to give up a day's pay, engage an attorney at my own expense and pay $100 out of pocket (the cost of gas, tolls and parking) so these lawyers and litigants can debate who gets to keep the millions of dollars they are squabbling over. All the while, everyone in the system from the judge to the stenographer gets paid except for me.

Ironically, that junior lawyer bills for every minute she spends on the case as well as the three minute cab ride she'll take to get to the deposition. Some people get nervous in situations like depositions. I can assure you I will be angry and not the least bit intimidated.

Well, the dumb-ass court system can force me to be there but it can't force me to be cooperative, have "clear" memory or function other than as a hostile witness to the entire process. If I do it right, I will successfully avoid having to return (again at my own expense) for the trial. Screw you, Lady Justice. Your scale is way off as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Without The Bottom, Where Would We Know The Top To Be?

If you've read any of my blog posts you know I do a lot of complaining. That's why I wanted to open this one by advising you that after some early critical comments, it will be a whole-hearted, feel good, post of praise.

After nearly 25 years of marriage it gets hard to come up with desirable gifts for my wife, especially since she has a longstanding reluctance about accepting gifts in general from anyone. Things we can do together, which we enjoy equally (that rules out any sporting event on her part), are always a safe bet. This is especially true about theater tickets.

With some reluctance due to the price in the reseller market, I acquired two tickets at more than four times face value to see Book of Mormon in Chicago. It was a rare date night for two empty-nesters. It was only after we were in our seats and I had a chance to read the program did I learn that the play was the work of the creators of South Park. This proved to be an unexpected bonus since my wife is a huge fan of the TV program. I've watched South Park a handful of times and it isn't my cup of tea.

While my wife thoroughly enjoyed Book of Mormon, I found it to be only mildly entertaining. It certainly didn't compare with many of the great Broadway shows I've attended. Because of the farcical premise of the play and exaggerated personalities of the characters, I couldn't identify with any of them. In most cases, I found the roles to be caricature like. The music seemed overly simple and formulaic. As an example, I can't recall a single tune from the show or the work of a single performer I thought stood out. That's pretty telling for what is billed as a musical. Sitting through Book of Mormon felt like just another South Park episode, that was about 30 minutes too long.

Here's where the praise begins . . .

In examining why I felt let down by Book of Mormon I realized that for me, the story, the music, the acting and the staging couldn't compare to a long list of shows I truly appreciated seeing.

If you haven't seen Wicked, you owe yourself the treat of seeing a truly brilliant book of music wrapped around a story of fantasy. Les Miserables may be the greatest staging, music and acting ever put on a stage where it is almost impossible not to identify with the characters. Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and even Joseph and the Amazing Dream Coat offer a level of audience appeal that is undeniably superior.

The key to each of the shows listed in the previous paragraph and dozens more that I have enjoyed is that I have seen each of them numerous times and never tire of the story or performances. Seeing Book of Mormon helped me appreciate all the more what separates an average high school musical from true Broadway worthy brilliance.

As an aside, it didn't surprise me to learn Book of Mormon will discontinue its Chicago appearance this fall, about a year into its run. Likewise, Wicked, which ran for about three years in Chicago and left for about a year is heading back to town. I will be in the audience and cheering loudly.

Walgreen's Hints At Dropping Cigarettes And Alcohol From It's Shelves

In a puzzling development, through what I intrepret as somewhat veiled messaging, Walgreen's has implied it might be the first major retail pharmacy chain to cease selling tobacco and alcohol products in an effort to keep up with the jockeying for position before the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) takes effect next year. Large health insurance companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield that never really had to talk directly to consumers except in vague, warm and fuzzy terms to maintain high name recognition during the employee benefit selection process are now faced with the threat of significant and yet undetermined competition. You can expect a fierce battle for share of mind and market.

Walgreen's, CVS, Walmart and other drug stores, (Yes, I still call them drug stores despite their preference to be known as pharmacies resulting from the unsavory connotations associated with the unsuccessful "war on drugs" in this country.) already in fierce competition, will only see their battles escalate as the health insurance war rages.

Walgreen's has been using variations of a clever tag line "At the corner of . . ." for some time and recently it began completing that line with  " . . Happy and Healthy." Apparently Walgreen's is trying to convince its customers it too is part of the health care landscape.

Like its prime competitors, Walgreen's has been partnering with medical care providers to expand limited "doc in a box" services. Millions of Americans get their flu shots and an assortment of other treatments by popping into their nearest pharmacy.

I caught the tail end of a promo for Walgreen's where the pharmacy/general merchandise/liquor store/food mini mart was identified as ". . . the health care partner of the Chicago Cubs." The wording might not be precise, and I apologize for that, but that was the gist of it. As I flipped to the next station, the weight of that statement began to sink in. I found it so absurd I tried to flip back to see if I was mistaken but the spot had ended.

Unless Walgreen's is committed to being the first retailer of its kind to walk away from a huge segment of its profits, it appears the company views branding as nothing more than labeling and messaging. Branding is first and foremost about behaviors. Not just the behaviors of customers but of the company.

If Walgreen's is successful in its stilted branding efforts, think of how the same techniques could bolster attendance at neighborhood places of worship. "Your Spiritual Health Partner" could begin offering a smoking lounge, a full service bar, questionable video rentals and maybe pole dancing if behaviors and messages didn't have to match up. That might be enough to get me going back to church.

Here's a tip, Walgreen's: If you want people to believe you are anyones health care or wellness partner stop selling cigarettes and alcohol. Of course, the chain isn't likely to do that. Failing that, here's another suggestion: Walgreen's could divide its stores into two sections - the "healthy" and the "happy" with all the "sin" products they now carry like booze, smokes, Fannie May chocolates and seasonal fireworks in the latter section. Or they could simply change their message to one that is authentic, relevant, consistent with their practices and product offerings and above all else, believable.

The essence of branding is being clear about what you are not, as much as what you are. Consider the courage it took back in the old days of "full service" gas stations for someone to say, "Let's just focus on oil changes." Jiffy Lube now sits in pretty clear market space and doesn't sell a drop of gasoline. Likewise, it's almost impossible to find a BP station that will sell you an oil change but you can buy all the "fuel" you need including fountain drinks, snack food and lottery tickets.

Giving up unhealthy product categories would separate any pharmacy company. This isn't as far fetched as it sounds. Someone is going to be first. It might as well be Walgreen's. Making a bold decision like this would certainly reinforce the company's claim that they are someones health care partner. It would demonstrate that Walgreen's isn't afraid to declare what behaviors its business supports and which ones it doesn't by remedying its contradictory offerings. It would also move Walgreen's into uncontested market space but I wouldn't count on the cigarette displays and alcohol aisle disappearing anytime soon. Walgreen's is only deluding itself by claiming to stand for something it doesn't. Most likely, Walgreen's will continue to operate at the corner of Profits and Brand Hypocrisy.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Arrow Electronics Launches Innovation Club

When was the last time you watched TV and saw a commercial that caught your attention, held it and made you want to know about the companies behind it? While watching the NCAA Final Four game between Wichita State and Louisville, I reached for my iPad to Google Arrow Electronics and which ad agency created the spot "Innovation Club - Five Years Out."

Kudos to Arrow Electronics and Ogilvy & Mather Chicago for producing the best spot I've seen in a very long time. Not only are the production values stellar, but the pacing is deliberately measured and subdued lending an air of confidence to what the main character is saying to the young couple he is greeting. I found myself leaning into the TV not only to hear him well but because I found him believable, likable and credible. The copy concept is outstanding in that it avoids what I view as an epidemic of chest beating or false modesty and in some cases, down right arrogance (see: a typographically-driven spot that ran for Northwestern Mutual in the same break). By pointing out that most of the characters assembled were innovators who are unfamiliar to the public a tone is set of humility and selflessness. It provoked both interest and curiosity on my part. Who invented the examples mentioned in the spot and so many other products and services that are part of the fabric of life and taken for granted by many of us?

I've said this before in previous posts on this blog - advertising must sell something. Being clever, humorous, provocative, or odd just to gain attention without a powerful sales proposition is rampant in the ad industry and why so little advertising is effective. Arrow is an industrial and commercial partner to hundreds of companies and doesn't sell anything to consumers but I was sold on knowing more about Arrow, had a highly favorable impression of the company based on this ad and I'll bet lots of investors will take a look at the company, too. Hats off to the Ogilvy people for creating a spot of which I believe their namesake would be proud. Congratulations to Arrow Electronics for having the courage to let the agency do its best work.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Subway Takes A Bigger Bite Out of Your Wallet

As a frequent Subway customer, in a manner of speaking, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since the restaurant chain launched its "Five Dollar Footlong" campaign. I have to admit grabbing a filling 12-inch sandwich for a fin brought me in once or twice a week.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I frequently treated myself to my favorite and more expensive steak and cheese version. No need to tell you, unlike Jared, the Subway spokesperson, my weight steadily went up on this "diet."

The current Subway ad campaign is promoting a $3 six-inch version. Never having been good at math, even I know that means a footlong equivalent is now $6. Continuing on the rocky road of my math skills, that translate into a 20% price increase.

The truth is, Subway has actually enacted an across the board price increase but continues to offer a couple of loss leaders to mask the impact. That steak and cheese sandwich I loved just isn't worth almost $9 to me.

From the outset, I wondered about the logic of building equity in a pricing strategy with a slogan like "Five Dollar Footlongs" only to abandon it when conditions changed. While Subway is still trying to drive home a value message by suggesting in its ads that a single flavor 6-inch product is "still only $3" I don't think the public will soon forget there was a choice of many sandwich varieties for $5.

It will be interesting to see how this new pricing will impact the chain's comparable sales, average check and sandwich units sold.

Admittedly, I haven't stopped in to a Subway in the weeks since the pricing change and I doubt there's a direct correlation between that and my new lunchtime favorite, McDonald's Hot & Spicy Chicken sandwiches. At my local "Mickey D's" you get two of these gems, fries and a drink for under $5. Subway better hope its other customers aren't as reluctant to break the $5 barrier as I am.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hey, AT&T, Less Would Be More!

I detest the AT&T spots with actor Beck Bennett. He’s the guy who’s sitting with kids doing primary research, asking simple questions like, “What’s better, fast or slow?” 

We get the point, AT&T. You claim to have faster service. I find the kids in these commercials to be so annoying and the basic premise so tired that I literally change channels each time one of them comes on. Additionally, the kids are so overly rehearsed that they lack any credibility. The whole point of putting kids in commercials is so the audience can "ooh and aah" over their simple utterances, cute faces and charming personalities. No such conditions exist in these ads.

I find the little girl who prattles on about "more of less" to be particularly annoying. She's followed closely in my mind by the girl in another spot who raises her hand to get the man's permission to speak and he mistakenly "high fives" her. She breaks character, mumbles to him that she was trying to speak and then looks off stage to the film crew or director or her agent, or whomever. 

These ads remind me of the Wendy's ads that ran a generation ago featuring the actress Clara Peller who exclaimed, "Where's the beef?" The campaign got a lot of publicity, gained a lot of awareness for the Wendy's brand that until that point was spotty at best in some parts of the country. Late night TV and even the President of the United States did parodies of the tag line. No question about it, the ads had America talking. However, after you asked, "Where's the beef?" you needed to ask "Where's the Wendy's?"

The Wendy's restaurant locations, speed of service, pricing and limited menu offerings and hours of operation were so poor that customers weren't returning in droves as had been hoped. In fact, as someone who worked on the Wendy's account a decade later, I saw firsthand that sales didn't justify the ad dollars that were spent on the campaign. Despite all the publicity that was generated, both McDonald's or Burger King (then #1 and #2 in the fast food category as it was called in those days) continued to see steady sales growth. Wendy's on the other hand never made progress in its market position.

Back to AT&T . . . I find this campaign so insipid that it has changed my view of the AT&T brand from one of a polished major player in the industry to one that has ridden it's one trick pony into the ground.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Print News May Be Dying But I Love My Magazines

The rapid decline in newspaper subscriptions has been of particular interest to me over the past few years. Like so many others, I get most of my news from the Internet, some from TV and considerably less from radio. Yet, I still subscribe to the Chicago Tribune (although I live in NW Indiana), a town newspaper called the Chesterton Tribune (mostly because the subject matter is so corny and the editing so sloppy that it gives me endless stream of content for a humor filled workshop I do around the country) and another regional daily newspaper that I rely on for relevant local news. Although I have cancelled other newspaper subscriptions in the past couple of years due to redundancy, it should be clear that I am not part of the mass exodus from newspapers. In fact, I still very much enjoy the feel of printed reading material in my hands, which brings me to the point of this blog post.

There are five magazines I consider vital to my existence: Wired, Fast Company, Esquire, The Economist, and Vanity Fair. Occasionally, I throw a couple of home repair mags and specialty books like Architectural Digest and Design into the mix because design and home decorating fascinate me. I also enjoy each issue of Chicago Magazine for its feature and investigative articles. I consider myself a news and sports junkie but I have no use for sports or pop culture magazines.

This got me to wondering . . . do others have magazines that you just can't live without?


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nick Saban and Alabama Solicit Child Athletes

Yet another reason I will never be a Saban or Alabama fan. Nick Saban, the Head Football Coach at Alabama offered a scholarship to a 14 year-old, eighth grader so as to not be outdone by LSU who offered the same player a scholarship when he was still in elementary school. Coach Saban had a chance to set a powerful example for all those coaches who emulate him, but instead he stuck to his familiar script of football above all else and "You can never let an opportunity to win, no matter how far removed, get away." The Crimson Tide is so deep in its own muck, the institution's leadership lacks either the courage or the character to express embarrassment about this, let alone, rein in an out of control coach. National championships lose their relevance when education and common sense are relegated to recruiting afterthoughts while the higher purposes of the University and those who pursue them are made to look accessories to a vulgar act.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Life Happens Despite a Bad Social Media Effort

Just watched a video that was in my FaceBook news feed from a site called Life Happens. It's an ad for life insurance and not nearly as well done or moving as the cover image suggests. I feel ambushed on my own FB page. In fact, it is particularly poorly produced. I'll know better than to ever open a "Suggested" page again. And guess what? Surprise! It didn't sell me on buying insurance. Once again, some sucker was sold on the idea they HAD to have a FB presence without a clue about how to use social media. But people connected with the effort will circulate comments about how "sweet and touching" it is (not) and share numbers on viewership to convince everyone they have a hit. No one will mention the lack of sales but down the road some junior executive will present this tripe as their claim to fame.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hey, Angie's List, Are You Listening?

It only takes one bad customer experience to lose my business.

I signed up this morning for Angie's List, the highly touted referral network. My wife has been after me for over a year to have a skin condition on my ankle looked at by a doctor. I detest doctors so I have avoided scheduling an appointment. Today, I decided it was time since I now have another minor skin issue on my face that has been around for a few months and doesn't seem to want to go away. After searching the Internet rating services I found that there are few dermatologists in the area and they pop up on all the free rating services. Unfortunately, in reading the reviews, I learned that the docs that are most conveniently located to me don't get particularly good reviews, have inconsistent reviews or too few reviewers for me to form an opinion. Enter Angie's List. Sign up was quick and easy. They even let me pay by PayPal.

After reviewing the top 10 or so doctors listed (they matched what I found on other lists) I called the most highly rated (all A's) on Angie's List, a Dr. Rochik Desai who is within a twenty mile radius of where I live. The call didn't go as hoped.

The phone rang a few times and sounded like it transferred to an answering service. The woman answering the phone asked me immediately if I could hold. Four minutes and forty-eight seconds later I was transferred to an extension where it rang about a half dozen times and I got a curt message that I had reached the voice mail box for extension 110.

In my message, I explained that I had called with the intention of making an appointment but since the process didn't go so well, I decided to find another doctor. I did not leave my name or number.

My next step was to log on to Angie's List customer service where I clicked the button to cancel my membership. I was immediately connected by live chat to Charles D. and he asked how he could help me. After explaining the situation to him and giving him a couple of attempts to respond, where he tried to convince me I should leave the doctor a review and consider a second try with another doctor, he courteously and promptly agreed to cancel my membership and refund my $25.

So, Dr. Desai, we won't be doing business with one another. And Angie's List, I'm sorry but the first time I tried to rely on you, the experience was less than satisfying. The good news is, Charles assures me if I ever reconsider, I can log on and renew my membership. Won't be happening this week. The lesson for all involved, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

As an aside, I couldn't end this rant without expounding on my view of the medical profession, which I think rivals the airline business for all it cares about customer service and satisfaction. Unlike others who fear going to the doctor because they're afraid something painful will happen to them or they prefer not to know what might be wrong with them, I have nothing but contempt for doctors because their profession is filed with pirates and truly insincere hacks. If there's a good doctor out there, I haven't met them. I'll live with my minor skin conditions which is better than going to a doctor that makes my skin crawl.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Chicago Bears: A Brand Not Just Team In Distress

The Chicago Bears are a team in disarray but their on field issues are the least of their problems. I have become disinterested in the team and I don't think I'm alone. This is not just the temporary frustration of a disappointed fair weather fan. True, I will always favor my beloved city which is why I can root for both the Cubs and the White Sox. I still respect the tradition that the Bears organization represents but I no longer identify with anyone associated with the team.

An expression I've used for decades in my consulting practice is: I see me! The essence of any brand is how the target audience identifies with an entity, product or service. In sports, identifying is done with individuals. While fans can say they are loyal to a team, they inevitably name people associated with the team with whom they connect.

In the case of the Bears, fans often mention Halas, Ditka, Peyton, Sayers, Butkus, McMahon, etc. In addition to greats from the past, fans of any team will identify with current names as well. This is the Bears' problem. There isn't a single person associated with the Bears with whom I care to identify.

In recent years the character and culture of the Bears was altered. Coach Lovie Smith was recognized as aloof and arrogant which distanced him from the fans. He appeared less than tolerant, if not, at times, dismissive toward the media. Interestingly, many of his players display these same characteristics. Jay Cutler and Brian Urlacher, the offensive and defensive leaders do little to disguise their indifference toward fans and disdain for the media. The front office and the Halas family have been represented by a  series of uninspiring personalities. The Bears have lost all personality.

It's time to bring in a John Gruden type coach who attracts other expressive personalities if the Bears truly want to restore the luster their brand has lost. But every time a strong personality has risen within the organization (there were many from the 1985 team) ownership moves in another direction, almost as if to say "No one can become the face of the franchise." As much as I dislike him, what has Ray Lewis' personality meant to the Ravens? What would their respective teams be without the personalities of the Manning brothers? The Green Bay Packers have always been led by bigger than life characters.

Whatever they choose to do going forward, I will be watching the Bears, not necessarily on game day or as a fan but rather as a student of brands. It will be interesting following to what degree the value of the Bears advances or declines.