autopilot

According to the press release from American Airlines, their customers should see “no change in service” related to their bankruptcy filing today.

That’s a shame.

Might be a good time to start delivering better service so they don’t have to file for bankruptcy in the future.

Most airlines are living in customer service bankruptcy.

(From the archives: My favorite post about American Airlines – Eliminating the last olive)

the one about the music industry and record stores

Several years ago as a marketing consultant, I had a few independent record stores as clients. And I’ve had several other bigger music industry clients that I’ve done marketing projects for over the years. So it was with great interest when Adam Coronado contacted me for a piece he was writing for the San Antonio Current about the troubles of local record / music stores.

I enjoyed doing the interview. So much so, that I asked him if I could expand on his story by posting much of our interview here. (Lesson to bloggers: Never waste content.)

The following interview is from October 2011:

ADAM: From your vantage point, what is hurting the classic record store? For our purposes, when I say record store, I’m talking about a place that sells physical copies of music, not necessarily limited to vinyl. Is illegal downloading the major culprit?

CHRIS: While illegal downloads were the first taste of the drug and are still used, I think the main culprit is consumer apathy.

It’s like people who say they support local food movements and mourn the loss of local farms but, in a time/money pinch, will pick up a tomato at Wal-Mart that was grown thousands of miles away. People “say” they support the local music store or local bookstore because their conscience (and society) dictates they say that. And in their heart, they may really mean it. But given the chance to either leave the house and go down to the store or sit on their couch and click an icon, their true colors show though.

While the illegal download is still going strong, I think the true culprit is the recently departed Mr. Jobs and his 99-cent siren. I have never seen an entire industry so upended in such a short amount of time. While record companies were suing little old ladies for downloads, iTunes snuck in and took over. It completely changed the paradigm for the actual retailers of music.

The short answer to this question is that what is hurting the classic record store is that society and culture evolved. You can’t fight that. The basic consumption of all media has changed and it’s changing consumer behavior across the spectrum. Just over the past 20 years .. a single generation.. things like travel agents, bookstores, newspapers, film/photo processing, record stores, and hundreds of other areas have drastically changed. The future is arriving much faster than it used to. Adapt or die.

ADAM: Why is the record store still important? Why should we continue to support them? What should a record store that fires on all cylinders look like? In other words, what does one that won’t close offer? Is it a pipe dream to consider the idea of them never becoming extinct?

CHRIS: There will always be a remnant. There are still farriers to shoe horses. Even with GPS, people still appreciate a beautiful map. People like handwritten notes. They still actually make chariots.

Record stores should adapt from a “sell” mentality to a “curator and guide” mentality. I love the signs I’ve seen in several libraries that says something to the effect of “Google may give you a thousand results, but a librarian will give you the one you need”

That’s why a record store is still important and why the public needs to support them. iTunes Genius and Pandora may suggest items based on what you say you already like. But a personal curator of music can introduce new things outside of your comfort zone.

ADAM: Tell me what you think of (as in pros and cons):
-Cloud music services. For example: Spotify, Rhapsody and Grooveshark.
CHRIS: The pro with Spotify is Facebook. When music becomes social, it can spread. The con is also Facebook. I don’t care what some of my friends are listening to .. some of it stinks.

-Digital music services. For example: iTunes, Amazon, etc.
CHRIS: Much of what I talked about above with consumer apathy. But I think its best attribute is the idea of the single song. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve wasted on an entire album just for one song. The problem with that is discovery of the deep cuts. I think it will hurt the artists most. I foresee a day when the “album” will no longer exists. Artists will only put out singles.

-Illegal downloading. For example: the original Napster, Soulseek,
CHRIS: Napster got people comfortable with the idea of digital tracks. I think it also sowed the seeds of destruction for lots of areas. The biggest victims were the artists. It’s a problem in general with today’s web. The idea of ownership and copyright of creative content is slipping (has slipped?) away from us. Kids know it’s wrong to take a candy bar out of store without paying. But they think nothing of copy-pasting text or right-clicking and grabbing a photo from the web.

While it’s been building for a while, the societal shift happened with the ruling on the Shepard Fairly Obama hope image. I don’t think we’ll ever go back. The trouble with “illegal” things on the web in general is the lagtime. By the time some legislator gets outraged enough to change laws, the thing they’re fixing went out of vogue 18 months ago. Case law and technology are not synched.

ADAM: Does the metaphysical meaning of music get altered when its packaging goes away?

CHRIS: Absolutely. Placing importance on the abstract is a difficult sell. When people can hold something in their hands or see it, there is an emotional and physiological connection. “I have something” But digital tracks are kind of like insurance. It’s something we buy, but can’t hold. I think that’s the Achilles Heel of digital music and the opportunity for record stores. Back to a previous question, when people can come in and the music curator lets you hold the album cover or flip through the liner notes, there’s more of a connection to the experience.

**Read Adam’s full story in the San Antonio Current here.

the marketer’s bookshelf

As I consult or speak, people often ask me for marketing or business book recommendations. While I sometimes review new business books on the blog, I didn’t have a list of the classics. I thought it would be nice to have a central repository that I could point to as the “essential marketing book shelf”. So here are some of my top picks in several business categories:

— The Essential Essentials —

There are only a few people in the world that I consider worthy of the title of marketing guru. So I could probably list the entire Seth Godin canon in this post. However, there are two of his books I consider fundamental reading.

I distinctly remember when I was honored to receive one of the 1st copies of Purple Cow. The milk carton that came in the mail freaked out the secretaries at the office I was working in at the time. The book was remarkable in that it practiced what it preached in the way it was distributed. When I do a marketing keynote, I lay out 3 essential elements of successful marketing for the audience. The ideas in Purple Cow parallel my first step which is “Great marketing begins with the product”.

 

The other essential Godin book is Permission Marketing. This book was written in 1999 and predates Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels, but the basic idea works for those items as well as the traditional marketing channels that Seth discusses in the book.

 

While he’s not a marketer, per se, the other prolific business author who has multiple books that could be on this list is Malcolm Gladwell. Much of creating successful marketing is understanding the way society and individuals think. Both Blink and The Tipping Point are important books to read to understand this better.

 

Ogilvy on Advertising is an old book. David Ogilvy is dead. But if everyone who created TV, radio, print, or online ads had a copy and referred to it, we wouldn’t see so much horrible advertising today. If you’re only going to read a few books on this list, make this one of them.

 

— Branding / Brand Strategy —

I’m a big proponent of the idea that strong brands are created by consumers, not marketers. But the majority of the time in order for that to happen, the marketer must have a solid brand strategy in place. Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout is a must-read that helps you understand the importance of developing a strong thought-out brand strategy.

 

Closely related to Positioning (literally) is The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding which Al Ries wrote with his daughter Laura. It’s basically a more bite sized version of Positioning with plenty of real life examples.

 

If I’m recommending marketing and business books, I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Brand Zeitgeist. I wrote it because I wanted a comprehensive look at the branding and marketing basics that I want audiences to understand. Brand Zeitgeist reinforces basic marketing and branding principles and illustrates how businesses can use fundamental aspects of human nature to develop a brand strategy.

 

— Entrepreneurship / Career —

I have two tchotchkes, both given to me by wife, that have similar mantras. One has a quote from Thoreau that says, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” The other one has Dan Zadra’s simple quote of “Trust your crazy ideas.”
There are advantages to being different. I was first drawn to Chris Guillebeau because of his amazing travel quest, but related to that is his outlook on life which is outlined in The Art of Non-Conformity.

 

I spoke on a panel with Pamela Slim in 2010. In our chats both onstage and offstage, I found her message from Escape From Cubicle Nation was a needed one. Too many people are stuck in jobs they hate. Don’t be like that.

 

Another good resource for job seekers or would-be entrepreneurs is Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love

 

— Communication —

While it covers visual presentation in general, I feel it should be mandatory to pass a test on Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen before someone is allowed to create a slide in PowerPoint or Keynote.
(Bonus points if you also read Seth Godin’s Really Bad PowerPoint e-book.)

 

Up in the “branding” section of this post, the books will tell you repeatedly to avoid brand extension, but Jay Conrad Levinson has successfully milked his Guerrilla Marketing concept for all it’s worth. His numerous books which all revolve around the same ideas have good points. Much of it common sense stuff that you need to do. A copy of one of the guerrilla marketing books needs to be in every small business owner’s hands.

 

— Social Media —

At any given time, there are a lot of good books about social media marketing. Everyone wants the answers to social media presented as a neat package in a book. But the trouble with printed books about social media is that they’re outdated by the time they roll off the press or even onto your Kindle. You need a big picture overview of the fundamentals BEHIND social media that you can apply to any platform.
The book you need for this was written over 12 years ago before social media as we currently define it even existed. Most of the 95 theses in The Cluetrain Manifesto can be applied to your marketing strategy for any current social media platform. Don’t want to buy the book? Read it for free.

 

— Corporate Culture / Ethics —

I have to stop myself from using Zappos too much as an example of how great corporate culture and employee empowerment can contribute to a strong brand and a healthy bottom line. In Delivering Happiness, Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh, outlines the Zappos philosophy and how you can do it in your business.

 

Successful long term businesses have a strong moral code at their foundation. I have found that the KJV Bible provides a specific set of guidelines and principles that will work in every possible situation.

 

— The Usual Suspects —

Robert Waterman / Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence may be a little heavy for every application / user and parts of it are dated, but it is the definitive resource for how to manage a company.

Most essential business reading lists like this one will include Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. All these have valuable business insight, but I would challenge anyone to find someone who is not a MBA nerd who has actually read these books. Put them on your shelf, but read the Cliffs Notes version of all three.

— Virtual Bookshelf —

The books on your shelf are great for the big ideas that stay constant, but the tactics of marketing are changing every day. You need updates. Don’t get caught up in the ‘fad du jour’ mob mentality on Twitter, but do stay abreast of marketing trends by following marketers on Twitter. (I may do a follow-up post to this one of Twitter recommendations … posted on a Friday, of course.)

And there’s still a need for longer content than 140 characters so make it a habit to read competent marketing blogs and online versions of marketing publications. Look on the right sidebar of this page for my marketing blogroll. (link for rss readers)

And while not reading, you should be watching TED videos.

— Your books —

Initially, this post seemed like a great idea as a quick listing of essential business books. But it’s been one of the hardest I’ve written. I have had to leave out many books I enjoyed and found valuable, but would have made this list much too long.

So I’m turning it over to you. What essential book on the marketer’s bookshelf did I miss? Feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments.

Disclosure: I wrote one of these books. Most links are Amazon affiliate links. A list of these books can be found on Amazon.

A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland

It’s a holiday tradition for many people in this area to head down I-65 for a day of Christmas shopping and fun in Nashville. For many, the day is capped by a visit to Gaylord Opryland for their Christmas light displays. And while that’s an enjoyable few hours, there’s more than enough going on at the mega-resort to make a full weekend getaway.

This is the 28th year for “A Country Christmas”. While perennial favorites like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes and Louise Mandrell’s Christmas Dinner return this year, there’s lots of other things going on throughout the entire holiday season from November 18 to January 3.

New this year is Holly Jolly Town Square, a step back to a nostalgic 1950s town square, complete with all the shops from main street, a holiday kids’ train, live entertainment and more. You can check people off your gift list by stopping by the Treasures for the Holidays craft and gift show which runs from Nov 18 to Dec 18. The craft show is a free event that features more than 40 merchants from across the country.

This Christmas is the kickoff of a long-term alliance between Gaylord Hotels and DreamWorks Animation. All four Gaylord hotels, including Opryland, now feature the DreamWorks Experience. Characters from such films as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar are now featured in interactive experiences that will continue even after Christmas is over.

However, the DreamWorks Experience does take a holiday turn from now to January with events such as ShrekFeast character meals, character meet and greets, Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating, Holiday Shrektacular – a street party with characters, music and dancing, and a DreamWorks themed Scavenger Hunt.

My family has enjoyed previous years’ ice displays from Charlie Brown and the Grinch. This year’s ICE! continues the connection to TV specials while bringing in the DreamWorks Experience with ‘Merry Madagascar’. The vividly colorful ice displays will depict scenes from the TV holiday special that featured Santa and his reindeer crash-landing on the island of Madagascar and being assisted by the animals from the movie.

While you’re staying busy with all these festivities and more at Gaylord Opryland, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy over 2 million Christmas lights across the property. And take a long pause at their impressive outdoor Nativity display to remember why this is a special time of year.

For more information about this year’s events at Gaylord Opryland, visit www.ChristmasatGaylordOpryland.com.

DISCLAIMER: Gaylord Opryland provided a room at the inn (Christmas joke!) for two nights and tickets for my family to attend many of these events. We were amazed and delighted at the level of service and hospitality that the Gaylord staff provided. A version of this review was printed and published in the Amplifier in Bowling Green, Ky.