A View of the World
15 January 2009
  A New Bruce Cockburn Album

I just visited the True North web site and saw this on the rotating 'new releases' section. Unfortunately there is no additional album information at this time. The brucecockburn.com web site is "Under Construction" (do people still say that?) Looks like Bruce hits the tour road in conjunction with the album release.
05 January 2009
  Best Birthday Card
As a parent, you hope you're doing your best when raising your child. As a father, you want to prepare them for the world - and sometimes you think it might be too much. Well, my HS daughter let me know how I was doing in the birthday card she gave me this year:


Yes, it brought tears to my eyes.

I love you too.
03 January 2009
  Branding - It's in the Details
There are a lot of people writing about what a 'brand' is, and how branding is critical to the success of any business. This post is about my personal relationship with a brand, and how simple, little things like details go a long way in impacting that relationship.

Macy's is a retail icon - or so it is proclaimed. Macy's has been one of the survivors of the retail industry, buying and rebranding many regional brands under the flagship name. In September 2005, Macy's acquired the Marshall Field's brand, and renamed it one year later. I was a life-long customer of Marshall Field. My grandmother worked in the Fine Stationery department at the State Street store, and as small children we were invited to the employee Christmas party. It was MY store, even as they expanded to the suburbs, anchoring mall locations, and spreading the fine quality that was Marshall Field's. I could go to any location and know I could fine really good merchandise and well-dressed employees, all in an atmosphere of sophisticated shopping. Well, at least until the 80s, at which point Field's lost focus and was eventually acquired by Target. The once-proud Marshall Field's brand name became just another retailer in the sea of rapidly expanding consumerism.

But Macy's was supposed to change all of that. Macy's - the Manhattan maven of distinctive couture - would return the allure to shopping that once belonged to Field's in Chicago - and Illinois. As Macy's red covered the elegant Field's green, I did my best to support this return to retail greatness. (Nordstrom's being my go-to store when I want to get something 'special.') Every time I went shopping, I would try and find an excuse to buy at Macy's - both mall and downtown locations. While the merchandise was slightly better, the brands they carried not so pedestrian, and the (downtown) environment a little more distinctive, it often wasn't enough - and my enthusiasm wavered. Off to a little boutique or Nordstrom's for those special purchases...

So last weekend I found myself at a mall with a Macy's while doing some post-holiday shopping with the family. It had been a while, and we thought we'd check out what Macy's had to offer. The store had been completely rearranged - which was a good thing for me. It caused to me take in the store at a new level, shaking up my expectations, forcing me to look closer at the merchandise it offered, and how it was presented to attract me to purchase. And in this closer look I discovered how Macy's handles the details - at least when it comes to product merchandising. While viewing winter coats, I passed by a wall display that caught my eye: a reflective metallic background with a screened image of trees.

And as I walked past it I couldn't help but notice how the display was assembled. Obvious seams were showing where the background was stapled to the wall, while the edges were anything but square - like the utility knife blade was dulled as it was used to fit the display to the wall. And this was the backdrop for coats that cost as much as a new LCD TV.

I then looked anew at this store, and soon the details were jumping out at me everywhere, from mismatched sale POP headers to display tables that offered nothing more than POS impulse offerings, from celebrity-endorsed signage that clashed with neighboring displays to mannequins that had seen better days (what no touch-ups?), and employees who did not shop at the store. I was driven from the store with a renewed sense of loss. The once and future king of fine retailing offered me nothing better than I could expect at a value-priced store, meeting none of the expectations I was led to believe existed.

Branding for me is an exercise in expectations, and the cost of not meeting those should be factored into any ROI for any implementation - not matter how small or run-of-the-mill it may seem.
Insights from Randy Lawrence, aka randelaw

Location: Illinois, United States
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