Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

The Last Month

It’s been too long since getting some words down on pixel.

On the family side, we’ve continued to work to get my father in law back up to speed.  He is now home and working on restoring his cardiac health with doctors up in Cloquet.  In short, it’s been a scary experience that reminds of the precocious nature of life on Earth.  It comes and it goes.  Vonnegut called it clearly in Slaughterhouse 5, in a detached yet loving manner.  Life here is complex and all encompassing in the moment.  But it’s over in a short time – we only have a lifetime.

Teresa’s grandmother has recently had a heart attack as well, getting a stent the other day.  It was much milder than her father’s, but her health is still in question.  It is difficult not to reflect on your own actions and time while that of others is diminishing.  None of this is meant as a sad story of course, it’s merely a time to consider how to spend your time.

Juniper continues to grow and is cuter and cuter.  She smiles when she sees me and her mother, she is now rolling over on both sides–it won’t be long until she is sitting up and crawling around.  She is small, but strong in the legs, back and neck.  Her arms are not on par with the rest of her little being, but will catch up in due time.  She is also enrolled at daycare, which seems to be going without a hitch.  The daycare has only little girls, not by design.  Normally my role is to drop off, while Teresa picks up.  This last week I picked up at about 5pm and was accosted by 6 little girls, each one of them cute as button, giggling and asking questions about the baby.  Lots of fun there to be had for Juni.

Work wise, I started a new role at Mortenson Construction working for their Solar & Emerging Renewables Group.  This industry is completely outside of my background, but 100% what I want to do with my career.  Sustainability has always been very high up on my priority list and there isn’t a better place to have taken a role.  Everyone at the company has been extremely welcoming and helpful.  The process of learning about the industry and technology involved with the work has been extensive–with a huge list of things to do yet.  It has kept me busy.  Every day I wake up at 5am and read for an hour and a half on technology before getting Juni to daycare.  The process is long but learning new things has always been enjoyable for me, so it’s a labor of love.

In light of that, I may start posting more information on Solar technologies in my other accounts, or potentially here.  My work has always been off limits on this blog, but the idea of the technology itself is fair season.  The bottom line is that solar energy is a clean, economically sound way to provide power and I’m ECSTATIC about being in the industry, more to come.

Teresa has started school again, so our house is a mess while we balance day care, a new job for me, her returning to work and the hectic nature of family illness.  Blog posts postponed until now, however they will likely pick up again as we return to some semblance of normalcy.

One Week In Florida – With An Unexpected Ending

Every two years, Teresa’s family gets together and does a vacation somewhere fun.  Two years ago, it was North Carolina on the Outer Banks.  This year it was the Gulf Coast of Florida, in a town called Clearwater.  We spent the last seven days there hanging out and visiting the beach, looking for sea shells.

Growing up, my family did not do a lot of vacations.  If anything, we’d drive to Duluth or MPLS/St. Paul and visit family.  I did not get on a plane until I was about 22 years old actually.  In the last decade, I’ve travelled a lot more, but vacations are still somewhat new to me.

Hanging out with Teresa’s side of the family is always an adventure.  Her oldest sibling has three children under five, her second oldest sibling has four boys from five to fifteen.  She has two other brothers and now we have Juniper.  It’s a full house.  Every family handles a meal one day of the week and everyone works together to get everything done, though there isn’t a huge amount of work, it is vacation after all.

This year was hot due to the Florida coast heat, but still a lot of fun.  We went to the beach most days, or jumped in the smallish pool that was part of the rental, play cards and read books.  We also got out and played football and soccer (which essentially left me hobbling around for three days due to old age and lack of fitness.)

At the end of the trip, Ed wasn’t feeling very well. He got sick a few times and was having trouble focusing.  This was in the early morning and most of us were scheduled to fly out around noon.  At about 8:30am he asked for us to call 911 due to pain in his chest.  We got an ambulance there relatively quickly and he was taken to the hospital.  It turns out he was suffering from stent thrombosis and severe blockages of his main arteries in his heart.  It caused a myocardial infarction — a heart attack.  And it was a massive one according to the doctors.

Ed had another stent put in and was given a balloon treatment to keep his blood pressure up.  It was a VERY tense few days as we really didn’t know if he’d be able to sustain the impact of the attack.  Thank goodness he has since recovered and is doing a bit better.  He’s been taken out of intensive care and is now in the normal floor of the hospital.

This was all a week ago.  I started this post earlier and did not finish it until now as I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  Ed we are so happy to see you smiling and back on your feet!  There is still a lot to do to get him home and safe, but we are feeling very fortunate as of now.

The Big Switch – Taking On Change Within Organizations

Today we’re seeing organizations of all sizes at a crossroads.  A decision point, trying to understand which way the world is moving and make decisions that allow for them to continue to grow.

These organizations see the changes happening.  They know that their previous tactics are becoming less and less effective over the course of time.  They know that other organizations are attempting to become more fluid in their responses to market dynamics and they should too.  They know they need to change in order to continue their evolution as an organization.

Despite their positive intentions, they struggle to make change happen.  Advocates for change are often met with zero sum bottom line trade off decisions and struggle to sell forward looking initiatives that have no basis for return on investment as of today.  Well intentioned managers regretfully make hard choices that continue along the well beaten path of years past.

Sound familiar?  You’re not alone.

Organizations have been dealing with these decisions for all time, though today the importance of them is magnified due to the exponential nature of technology and information dissemination.  It is far easier to see how competition is maneuvering and target audiences are seeking out information in today’s day and age.

It is always easier for group decision making to revert to existing historical strategy and tactics.  It has been done before.  In all likelihood, it has worked.  It is comfortable.

Today more than ever, organizations need to lean into discomfort.  There are a multitude of reasons for this:

  1. The only way to improve is to change. That does not mean change for the sake of change.  It means augmenting success by updating tactics of strategies that are proven while testing new offerings.  An example would be integrating a call to action for existing marketing tools driving traffic to your site, with appropriate measurement devices in place.
  2. Success is iterative. It is a process and great companies are in their markets for the long term.  Taking the leap into a new communication medium or sales strategy may not prove out with huge returns initially, but as you learn to gradually dial in the aspects of the medium, success becomes more and more visible.  For instance, when a company first introduces an email database and marketing campaign, they may not have enough customers to actually reach; they must build their database by reaching out to existing customers and finding new ones.  They must also learn what’s effective through testing what types of content are interesting, optimal times to send, etc.  This is true of ALL new initiatives – but you have to get to “yes” before you begin the learning journey.
  3. History is filled with examples of organizations that failed to take action falling apart. Kodak.  Circuit City.  Blockbuster.  BlackBerry.  Sears.  These are fairly recent examples of organizations that simply didn’t adapt and ultimately paid the price as competition strategically took their customers or changed the industry such that they became irrelevant.  There are no guarantees in life or business.  Starting new initiatives will not cement your livelihood for future decades, but it will offer you the opportunity to learn and find new ways to better serve your customers.  Unfortunately, many organizations wait until they are actually behind competitors before trying to make meaningful change.
  4. Your customers are changing. The decision making processes customers use are changing with the technology available to them.   They may not be using all new social media to evaluate companies, but they are absolutely using a number of them.  It’s your job as a marketer to understand what they are most likely to be using and incorporate the most effective tools for your organization – be it a company blog, emails, trade shows, customer call surveys, in person meetings, or any other viable medium – to help them make decisions and achieve their goals.  You have to change with them.

The big switch isn’t the taking on one new initiative, or even five, next year.  The big switch is taking an active stance to embrace change by trying new things through a lens of customer advocacy.  It takes guts.  It takes transparency to admit when things didn’t work out as you’d hoped, learn from it and improve on the next go round.  It takes smarts to figure out what really does work and the know how to merchandise success to the rest of the company when you do break through.

The list of reasons to be progressive from a marketing perspective goes on and on.  At the end of the day, organizations that are willing to adapt and find new ways to continually add value for customers are going to win.  Organizations that choose to live in the past may do so as an artifact of their industry.


4th of July

I saw this in the Star Tribune digital paper and thought it was a beautiful picture of Big Ole, from my home town Alexandria.

big ole

We were home yesterday for the day, we left at 9am and got home at about 9pm.  This is a common occurrence for us as my parents hold an annual picnic for all the neighbors and some relatives.  It’s always a lot of fun and a little too much food.

Under normal circumstances I’ll catch up with my high school friends on the lakes as well–however this year Juniper is too small so we stayed away from that.  In the future we will partake in those celebrations.

This time of year really makes me reminiscent  of growing up and small towns–it’s perhaps my favorite holiday.  I’ll have to think on that a bit more, but as of now I can’t think of anything better than summer time and enjoying life with everyone important.  Happy 4th everyone.

Posterity and Writing

A few weeks ago someone sent me an email asking me to update a link.  The link was for a top blogs post I had made six years ago.

Six years.  That is a LONG time.  I’d forgotten about that post a long time ago, honestly.  When I go back and look at my writing that far back, it doesn’t necessarily fit my voice now.  Some of it seems a little foreign and definitely less informed.  In fact, the back story on this site really needs to be updated–I’m not in my 20’s any more and my life has changed so drastically that it should probably cover off on new stuff.  Maybe over the new year I’ll rewrite it.

The fact that you can reach back that far and pull up someone’s ideas and writing is powerful.  From a personal standpoint, I love being able to review what I’ve written on multiple ideas.  Curious about influence and Cialdini–search it. Want to read a review on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or maybe A Confederacy of Dunces?  All in the Book Reviews tag.  And more will be written, on family and life in general.  It’s a great way to catalog thoughts and happenings over time.  It’s a lot of fun to look back and to build a long term repository of thoughts, opinions, ideas and personal information.

But there’s also the chance that your writing of many years ago doesn’t necessarily reflect your stance now.  I don’t have specific examples of things written previously that don’t vibe with my current outlook, but believe there must be dozens of examples over time.  This is an important concept–it actually drives people to NOT say anything at all due to the potential that their view is used against them in some way.

It’s much easier to say nothing at all, or speak in platitudes that no one can disagree with, than actually being honest and stating your opinion.  Yet organizations and people suffer from a lack of willingness to communicate and learn.  Stating your opinion stirs the figurative pot that allows for growth long term–it’s wholly necessary if progress is at stake.

The ability to change your opinion based on interaction and input from others or additional data is what separates people as leaders–as does the propensity to not use people’s opinions or thoughts as ad hominem fodder re figurative discourse.

All this is to say that writing and putting forth your opinions, having a take, is value add and shouldn’t be shied away from.   It takes bravery to put your ideas and thoughts out in a public forum, especially one that is “forever”–but we do this every day when we ship a product, sell a service, launch a website or send an email to the CEO.  It’s all relative.  Put your best out there.

Sonos Hardware In House Research

A few weeks back a company reached out to me to do some research.  The reason they’d found me was that I’d been tweeting about Sonos and they could geographically tag where I was.  It happened to be proximal to their area.

I find ethnography and different market research very interesting and agreed immediately.  Being part of this kind of research shows me how other marketers go about their craft.  They also gave me a gift card for $100 for the exercise, which is a nice bonus.

The crew showed up at about 6pm took a few pictures of the Sonos equipment in my living room.  They asked a lot of questions about set ups and how we use the equipment.  They asked where we would potentially put new hardware as well.  Unfortunately for them I don’t necessarily plan to add more hardware–what we have now is fine and to be honest the hassle associated with Sonos has made me leery of adding more.  It’s the software, it bugs out and can’t access my music library.  This is very likely due to latency, but other wifi set ups I have like Chromecast very rarely have issues.  If Sonos was similarly reliable I’d consider adding more.

It took roughly one hour to answer their questions and show them where everything was located.  At the end of the interview, they revealed that they were actually a company that made accessories for Sonos equipment.  It made a lot of sense afterward because so many of the questions were geared toward where I’d put additional pieces or how I’d mount the hardware.  They actually had some suggestions about how I could mount things which hadn’t occurred to me and did sound like good ideas.

Many people are VERY hesitant to answer surveys or work with companies when they reach out to you, but my general finding is that it’s a positive experience.  If you’re a marketer, being part of these types of exercises can only help you in terms of experience with and understanding of qualitative interviewing.

First Father’s Day – and the 32nd

Woke up today thinking about Dad.  My father is 68 as of a few days back, truthfully I struggle to remember his age and have to ask near every year.  I wonder if he knows mine?!  :-)  It may be just a personality flaw, I do not remember dates, numbers and the like easily.  Some stuff sticks, others doesn’t.  Recalling what people say, and words of all sorts has always come easier.

Today is Father’s Day.  My first as a Dad and my 32nd as a son.  We are going to celebrate by going for a hike this morning at Murphy Hanrehan Park.  The best things in life involve family and tradition, IMO.  Today we start a new one.  It’s a beautiful day and hopefully we can beat the heat as Juniper shouldn’t be out too long.  It’s also tick season according to Teresa and the dogs haven’t gotten their Frontline yet, so we won’t be taking the pups.

I hope you and yours have a great Father’s Day–it looks to be a great one.

Project Work Continues

Still keeping very busy on weekends, this week reorganizing the garage.

First up was building a new work bench. The previous owners (probably the owners before the previous owners) took out old cabinetry from the kitchen and used it in the garage as shelving, which was clunky. I tore it all out last weekend and burned a good deal of the wood. It’s amazing how hard it is to demolish things like that. Part of it was an indoor/outdoor doghouse, and there was insulation and all kinds of wood, with roughly a hundred nails holding it together! It took a lot more time to rip apart than I’d expected.

This weekend I built a new work bench, check it out at about 80% completed:


I’m putting the finishing touches on this weekend with pegboard, an overhead light and organizing all my tools. Additionally I purchased a lot of shelving for other areas in the garage and will finalize everything in the next day or two. There’s a ton of saw dust and lots of work to do just to clean up, but overall there should be a LOT more room and it will be much easier to access everything.

After reflooring the upstairs with hardwood, the basement with engineered hardwood, rebuilding the garden, rebuilding the garage organization, and a few other small projects I think it’s time to call it good for the summer. We’ll pick up some more project work (shelving in the living area upstairs and potentially fireplace inserts) in the Fall.

Internet Trends 2015

My favorite annual report on digital trends has been out for a bit, but I’ve been so busy at work it’s been difficult for me to find time to review. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see it yourself.  There are so many things to cover off on, it’s nigh impossible to really thoroughly cover all the interesting points.  

Here’s a few things that jumped out:

  • Internet users currently at 39% globally, while mobile phone users are at 73% (5.2B) – growth is bound to slow as less developed nations take longer to assimilate; however addressing global internet is something many are interested in and will likely happen in the near future.  We will live in an era where everyone is connected and can communicate on a global scale at an extremely low cost.
  • The US and China are still dominant in terms of tech firms, however the sheer size of China gives them scale advantage for product usage.  Innovation wise, it seems the US is still driving and gobbling up share from a hardware standpoint.
  • Globalization continues to be driven by technology and data driven organizations will be at the forefront.  Countries like China and India have huge potential for growth, but also have other challenges, the markets are completely different but offer big targets for tech companies, even more so than traditional CPGs.
  • The majority of tech expansion has been seen in the consumer and business spaces, whereas other areas such as education and governance have been less of a focus, likely due to the ability to monetize offerings and get implemented at scale–I’d like to think adoption of tech will increase but to be honest am not certain; my wife is a teacher and I’ve worked in government and there’s a tremendous amount of inertia in both spaces.  Not necessarily stating that folks in these groups are adverse to change, but that the systems aren’t built to reward innovation–it will be interesting to see what changes actually do happen in the near future.
  • Actual usage of the internet continues to grow despite users decelerating.  As I’ve expected for some time, more and more content continues to find it’s way to the interactive space.  Broadcast television will continue to port over.  In time, everything will be available online.  How it’s monetized is the real question, as the legacy industries will NOT give up their long term revenue streams; but the less valuable offerings and bundles we see now with cable will be culled chaff.
  • Internet advertising has caught up to the amount of time spent on the medium, Print continues to underperform relative to spent dollars, Mobile is woefully underserved which is somewhat mind boggling when you consider that so much of Facebook’s business is Mobile and it continues to grow.  There’s still a ridiculous gap there and it shows that we are no where near the long term cap.
  • Ad times are shrinking.  This means marketers are getting smarter about getting ignored.  Would you rather have a clip that they jump over after 5 seconds, or get a message conveyed in that 5 seconds?  That said, the paid model around views with the option to skip the message is still a great format for all parties.
  • Big screen home televisions have been supplemented by ease of use with mobile devices.  No surprise there.  People watch larger televisions for long term content–not 5 second cat videos.
  • Software continues to solve old issues (some of them not really recognized by the users) and add value for enteprise.  Software As A Service will continue to be a staple of profits for companies in the future and the legacy upgrade process will likely go the way of the buffalo.  There’s a reason we are often 1-2 versions of software behind–future SAAS avoids this unnecessary issue.
  • Messaging continues to evolve through a multitude of Apps.  Messaging WILL BE THE FUTURE for communication; you could argue it’s the present.  Phone calls are not going away, but the ease of communication is sought after by multiple groups.  How does messaging get monetized is the real question, if it’s just part of data usage or if there’s another wrinkle such as advertising.  Messaging is more than text of course, it’s all kinds of contextual imagery, emoticons, pictures and more.   This space is already huge and I don’t see it slowing any time soon.
  • Wearables have a toe in the water, but a company like Apple will optimize them and others will follow suit.  I know many have predicted a flop there, but I think it’s going to be common to see people with digitized watches connected online getting notifications and geographical proximal information.
  • User Generated Content continues to explode with streaming from companies like Twitch – live streams are now available via phone and Marketing may see implications with thought leadership and exclusivity intertwined for followers.  Celebrity and non celebrity personas who command attention will be HUGE in the digital space, smaller scale content based on personality and follower connection are going to lead a new era of Marketing.
  • Content will generally be curated by the crowd; less and less “chosen” by larger media groups – this favors companies like Google not only because they own Youtube, but because they understand algorithmic curation for users.
  • Ownership of assets continues to be broken down bit by bit with companies optimizing the cost of assets through distribution usage over needs.  Purveyors of information leading to optimized asset usage are huge companies.  This isn’t highlighted a lot in the report, but rental services will continue to explode by lowering the overall cost for consumers while making it easier and faster to access.  Cars are the most obvious thing to note here, but there are other markets such as professional services where breaking down offerings into smaller increments adds value for consumers.
  • Usage of drones continues to soar, something I haven’t spent a lot of time reviewing.  I will likely dig into this in more detail at a later date.
  • Services roles continue to grow while goods producing jobs decline; I’ve continued to look at this trend and try to come to understanding around implications for the future.  Automation of work will continue and the long term viability of work for uneducated remains in question.  It’s a long term going concern economically.
  • Urbanization of the populace continues it’s strong growth.  Knowledge workers versus farm hands, etc.  A great deal of this has to do with the ongoing improvement in transportation infrastructure and digitalization of information.  As automation of roles continues, the need for remote work is driven down.  The flip side of this coin is that telecommute is ever more popular, yet large MSAs continue to grow comparative to rural areas.
  • Marriage timing delaying and household sizes lowering.  Expected ages go up as well.  Is this an effect of longer term thinking or higher education levels lowering population proliferation?
  • People expect technology and connectivity at work and at home, Millenials have high expectations of employers in terms of flexibility.  The legacy idea of companies dictating employment times are going away with technological advancement.
  • Knowledge workers increasingly using online platforms as a way to garner freelance work.  I have a good friend utilizing this type of work and she seems to love it.  The big talking point most folks tauted was that people change their job 7 times in their lives.  The new age is an army of freelancers taking on project work, providing flexibility in work/life balance and lowering overall costs of work for the companies that employ them.  Regulation and policies are somewhat outdated for these types of workers, it will continue to evolve.  Mastering the output and process is a big ask of the company — but big rewards follow in operational efficiency.

Favorite EPs All Time

I haven’t written about music in some time and was thinking about EPs yesterday.  Here’s a quick run down of my favorite EPs of all time.

It should be noted that I don’t usually buy EPs that are derivative of a greater work.  Often bands will make an EP out of one or two songs on an LP and then add some B sides and two unique songs.  I do own some EPs like this but find it hard to rationalize the purchase–not due to cost, but the time it takes to listen to it and cull through redundancy.  The EPs on this list are unique offerings in that the music stands alone and isn’t included on larger projects for the most part.

arcade epTallest Man on Earth:  Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird [More of the same excellent song writing and acoustic guitar from Kristian Matsson--The Dreamer stands out here as a song strummed, however at the only live show I've seen with him he finished it by playing it on piano as his encore closer.  Fantastic.]

Arcade Fire:  Arcade Fire [Their debut showcases all of the excellence about to come in a growing form.  Screeching vocals and darker music--a rendition of "No Cars Go" quickly shows the contrast between the polish they developed for Neon Bible and this early style.  Arcade Fire is one of the best bands we've seen in the last two decades and this does not fall short of that accolade.]

Aesop Rock:  Daylight [A grimy follow up to the Labor Days LP which includes the most famous single, as well as a follow up "Night Light" playing on the same verbiage diametrically opposed to the positivity of the original.  Includes a great instrumental song and other gems of his earlier style, see Nickel Plated Pockets.]

Bon Iver:  Bloodbank [A brief escape from "For Emma" and the then coming self titled work of 2011--Blood Bank mixes earlier lyrical stylings with more stylized vocals that preluded "Bon Iver" - it's darker and but everything works well.  If you like any of his other work, including Volcano Choir, this is a good pick up.]

Spoon & Bright Eyes:  HOME Split [The only artist to show up twice is Bright Eyes, but both are on splits.  It would be very interesting to see these groups put together a full album.  The whole album is fun and good rock and roll, but the last song - Let the Distance Bring Us Together Again showcases Britt's voice and a great piano accompaniment]

babylonMountain Goats:  Babylon Springs
[The only EP of Darnielle's I own currently, it's an excellent grouping of songs that are fun, introspective, concerning and use different musical stylings than you'd seen from him up to this point.  The entire work is fantastic, Alibi and Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise stand out.]

Bright Eyes & Neva Dinova:  One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels [The second Bright Eyes appearance, this time with Neva Dinova.  This split is mostly Neva Dinova.  It was originally intended as a complete split of songs, but in the last track you can hear Conor Oberst tell Jake Bellows to "sing it all," with good reason.  He sounds fantastic.  The lyrics and song structures on this offering transfixed me for some time.  It is not a happy EP, it follows a lot of the music that was coming from these bands at the time, but the song writing and overall mood are engrossing.]

NOFX:  The Decline [A punk masterwork, The Decline is an 18 minute song that spans the catalog of NOFX from a musical perspective, starting with the late 90's guitars and general political dissent.  It retroactively uses some of the stylings of albums like Heavy Petting Zoo and ends in a long form march along including an amazing trombone/guitar riff.  It's a journey and easily the most remarkable songs/works on this list--writing it alone is impressive.  It has been performed live, although I've only seen the ending (which is awesome!) melded in at the end of a show after Theme From a NOFX Album.  Bottom line, if you like guitars and the punk genre at all, this is a must own.]

Tokyo Police Club:  A Lesson In Crime [A fast paced rock and roll EP with short songs that hook you fast.  Some albums and artists keep you listening over and over, this is one of those offerings.  I bought this and Elephant Shell, their debut LP, at the same time and listened to both over and over and over.  Since that time it seems to me the EP is the better offering of the two, which unfortunately showcases a disturbing trend.  TPC is becoming more and more subdued as they develop their music, from the original offerings to Champ and to the new Forcefield.  For a taste, listen to "Citizens of Tomorrow."]

headshotsAtmosphere:  Headshots Se7en Series [This is cheating.  I actually purchased the reissue of the Headshots series released in 1999.  It's technically a conglomerate of separate EPs put out at one time--but it fits here still.  This is Slug's early work and it's audacious, funny and genuinely enjoyable hip hop.  There are so many songs that showcase his ability to write and rap uniquely by melding the realities of life with basic beats.  I still love Atmosphere, they will always be heroic in MPLS, but when people say Slug changed the game, I think it's because of the way he deviated from traditional writing to include blue collar lives and tell stories of growing up in Southside.  He's a fantastic writer, but also a fun and engaging MC--bound to be one of Minnesota's long term celebrities like Dylan, Prince and the Replacements.

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