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The Power of Brands

I recently witnessed one of the most compelling, yet strange reminders of influence and power that certain high profile brands and logos can have on consumers. My wife and I spent a Saturday at a popular festival in Western Indiana that typically draws around 2 million visitors annually from all over the Midwest. At this festival, like other large scale festivals, there are a number of vendors present selling a variety of items ranging from food, arts and crafts, collectibles, household items and more. This festival had about 250 different vendors, so there was no shortage of items for sale to peruse, and my wife made sure that we didn’t miss any one of them.

With such a wide range of items and an even wider range of consumer interests present, it would be reasonable to assume that not every item for sale by each vendor would be of interest to each customer and that some products would be more in demand than others. As we walked along from vendor to vendor, most tents typically had a handful of people browsing around at any given time, but we began to notice several tents packed with people, so much so that you couldn’t even tell what the vendor was selling without working up the nerve to try and wade in among the mass of people at these tents. Finally, we decided we had to find out what all these people were trampling each other to have the chance to buy. Once we made our way into the crowd at one of these tents, we discovered the items being so coveted were fleece jackets affixed with “The North Face” logo. The North Face is a popular outdoor apparel company whose jackets and coats typically start around $150 USD and go up in price from there. We were informed by the vendor at this tent that these jackets were being sold for $35 USD. While yes, retailers do offer discounts on their products to reduce inventory and make way for new designs no retailer is going to discount their products by that much, or sell them out of cardboard boxes at a tent in the middle of Western Indiana, so we knew right away that these jackets were counterfeit products.

I would have to assume that my wife and I weren’t the only people to realize instantly that these jackets, while very closely resembling the real thing were not at all genuine The North Face products. But even with that fact being plainly obvious the number of people crowding into the tents, ripping open cardboard boxes to look for just the correct size, grabbing cash out of their wallets or purses and forking over money for clearly counterfeit products was astounding. In a case like this, power and persuasiveness of one of the world’s most recognizable clothing brands won out over inferior quality of materials, inferior quality of craftsmanship and the financial damage incurred by an American company having its trademarked property illegally exploited.

Brands and logos can mean a great deal to people because they are often viewed as status symbols. Right or wrong, people want the brands they wear, drive and talk or text on to reflect how they wish to be seen by others. This is largely an unintended consequence of branding in that it has nothing to do with why a company builds their brand in the first place. Companies build brands in order to foster awareness in the marketplace and to build loyalty among consumers. However, consumers often buy brands because they are trying to portray a certain image to those around them. This is the reason customers buying theses jackets were so willing to overlook quality and craftsmanship. The components on which The North Face’s brand is built is not what was important to these consumers it was the brand and the logo themselves. Whether the jacket keeps them warm and dry, or whether it holds up beyond a couple of wash cycles means less to the consumer than what The North Face logo says about them to those around them. While this example is quite specific, it is not altogether unique. We’ve all heard stories in the past about people keeping cups and sleeves from Starbucks and reusing them with cheaper brewed coffee from home, and we know that companies like Apple and Nike are exploited by counterfeiters just as The North Face is.

The power of brands and the influence that they have over consumers can be a double-edged sword for companies. Apple, Nike and The North Face are companies that make millions of dollars every year and are successful around the world because of the brands that they have built. But, it’s what those brands represent to consumers and how consumers want to be perceived by others that costs these companies millions of dollars more each year in trademark infringement and sales of counterfeit merchandise. With all that being said, if you asked the CEO’s at Apple, Nike and The North Face if the negative aspects of having a brand that is viewed as a status symbol by consumers outweighs the positive aspects (profit and market share) for the company, they would all likely say, no, they don’t.

http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-lafayette-square-area-bouncing-back-20120429,0,3156175.story

I came upon this story written by Fox 59′s Russ McQuaid, and I was glad to see that the efforts of the Lafayette Square Area Coalition are getting some well deserved media attention.

The LSAC is a not for profit organization made up of citizens, business leaders and local officials that are working to generate economic development, improve the quality of life and brand and market the neighborhood around Lafayette Square Mall. LSAC has centered a great deal of their efforts around land use initiatives and promoting the creation of an International Market Place. The International Market Place vision intends to build on the cultural diversity already present in the neighborhood and encourage more culturally and ethnically specialized business to locate in this area. The Lafayette Square area has already received national attention for the number of unique, ethnically diverse eateries that have popped up in the area over the last few years.

I had the chance to meet with a number of the people involved with the LSAC during a Keep Indianapolis Beautiful cleanup event around this time last year. I was impressed with the organization’s leadership. The leaders were engaging, knowledgable about community development, possessed a strong vision and had a well thought out plan to reach their vision. What impressed me even more though was how connected and engaged area residents were in the push to rebuild and rebrand this neighborhood.

I hope more good stories about the Lafayette Square neighborhood like the one linked above continue to make it into the news. The more good press this area can generate the easier it will be to disseminate a renewed brand and attract further economic development. The Lafayette Square neighborhood still has a long way to go, there are still a lot of vacant lots and empty retail spaces in the area, crime is on a downswing but still an issue and the area still has blighted spots and crumbling infrastructure that need attention. But, I hope that small, consistent victories continue to happen for this neighborhood and that the revitalization efforts will continue to gain momentum. As the Lafayette Square area continues to come back, I hope the LSAC and the residents of the neighborhood can provide inspiration and motivation for other Indianapolis neighborhoods like the Near Eastside, the Near Westside, West Indianapolis and the Southeast side all of which are currently working on their own rebranding and revitalization initiatives.

Indy’s Next Marketing Step

Many in the marketing business and pundits have asked the question “What’s next for Indianapolis?” following the success of hosting the Super Bowl earlier this year. One obvious answer that has popped us is “another Super Bowl”, some have gone out on quite a limb and thrown out the idea of a future Olympic bid.

While another Super Bowl for Indianapolis would be great, and I think the city likely will get the game again down the road I don’t think there’s much that can be gained for the city from a marketing and image standpoint. When the city won the right to host the 2012 game, the goal became to brand Indianapolis as a world class city capable of effectively hosting events of the largest scale. The city more than proved that by pulling off a hosting effort that has been praised by the NFL, fans, residents, business owners and the national media. As far as hosting the Olympics, that’s an ambitious dream, but I believe that’s all it is. Hosting the Olympics would require a logistical framework that is beyond that which Indianapolis has to offer, even with the enhancements made in order to host the Super Bowl. Additionally, the financial requirement necessary to garner legitimate consideration from the IOC would be extraordinary. A medium-sized city like Indianapolis simply cannot generate, nor could it ever justify spending such a large amount of money on a one time event.

I believe Indianapolis’ next step should be in a somewhat different direction. The city has spent years, and a great deal of money to position itself as a city with lots to do and see and lots to offer to visitors. World class museums, a renowned symphony orchestra, state of the art sports and entertainment venues and a plethora of hotels, bars, and restaurants make Indianapolis a great place to visit. But what makes Indianapolis a great place to live?

Answering that question is how I believe Indianapolis should proceed with its marketing efforts. Promoting Indianapolis’ livability is vital to spurring business development and economic growth. In order for companies to form in or relocate to Indianapolis, the city has to be showcased as a great place to live and not just as a great place to visit.

I believe the city should focus its branding efforts on promoting what the city has to offer in terms of livability. Indianapolis should build its brand on equitable, affordable housing, economic competitiveness, viable communities and neighborhoods, environmental resources, vibrant public spaces and higher education choices. That said, the city still has some work to do in the areas of public transit, reforming K-12 education, pedestrian-friendliness, revitalizing urban areas, encouraging mixed use development and building neighborhood identity.

Overall, Indianapolis has a great foundation for promoting a brand based around livability, and there is certainly momentum in place to make that brand even stronger in the years to come.

I was listening to a discussion on a local sports talk radio program about teams that will never win a championship or win another championship.  Since I’m sucker for downtrodden sports franchises I decided to compile my personal list of the ten professional sports teams least likely to ever win a championship or another championship.

In alphabetical order…

Atlanta Hawks

Baltimore Orioles

Cleveland Browns

Columbus Blue Jackets

Kansas City Royals

Memphis Grizzlies

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Hornets

New York Islanders

Sacramento Kings

Marketing Lessons from the 2011 Colts

The Indianapolis Colts are moving into a new era with the announced hiring Ryan Grigson as the team’s new general manager. Grigson has very big shoes to fill taking over for Bill Polian who is widely considered one of the most effective talent evaluators and franchise builders in the history of the NFL. Before we close the book on the Polian era and the disaster that was the Indianapolis Colts 2011 season, I think we should examine some of the key mistakes that cost Polian his job and cost the Colts a chance for a successful season. There are a lot of parallels between the mistakes the Colts front office made this season and pitfalls that all marketing professionals should try to avoid.

 

Always plan ahead: Bill Polian identified the primary reason that he fired by the Colts as not having an adequate backup plan in place when franchise quarterback Peyton Manning became unavailable for the season. In marketing, it is essential to plan ahead, to think before you act. No matter how well you think you know the product or business, or how well you think you know the market, you should ALWAYS create a detailed marketing plan. Do your research, define your target market, understand the competition, set your marketing goals, lay out your strategy and project your budget and you are well on your way to success.

 

Be flexible: Without Peyton Manning at quarterback, the Colts offense went from one of the most potent in the NFL to a statistical bottom feeder. Without their all-pro quarterback, backups Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky couldn’t execute the offense as effectively as Manning. The Colts coaching staff struggled to adapt the offensive game plans to fit the players that were available, and they didn’t begin to make headway in terms of changing their offensive philosophy and altering their personality to accommodate for the loss of Manning until the season was already lost. The lesson for marketers here is that a bold plan is only part of the formula for success. Once your plan is in effect, you need to anticipate changes that will need to be made to keep your product or business competitive. You need to monitor what the competition is doing to increase their market share. You need to be cognizant of market volatility and the impact the economic and political events can have on your strategy. Most importantly, you must employ timelines and benchmarks into your plan to evaluate its success or lack thereof and be ready to change course if necessary.

 

Keep it in the locker room: In sports it often seems like everyone on a winning team is eternally happy. When a team (or a business) is struggling a much different picture develops. During the Colts twelve year run of success, you would seldom hear of player squabbles, tiffs with management or negative press in general. This season, however, you had endless rumors surface concerning the health and future of Peyton Manning, Bill Polian constantly feuding with local media and criticizing the team publically on his radio show, owner Jim Irsay circumventing his own PR staff and going rogue with his own thoughts and feeling about the season on Twitter, and players like Reggie Wayne openly questioning decisions of management. What do marketers take away from this? No one stays on top for ever, no matter how hard you try. You may have a great product or business, and you may be executing your marketing plan to perfection, but there will still be bumps along the way. There will be setbacks; challenges will pop up that you could not anticipate; and new competitors will enter the marketplace. When these things happen, it is important to roll with the punches. Disagreements may arise about how best to address challenges, and that’s a good thing. When you’re faced with a challenge, you need access to as much information as possible, and you’ll want to vet as many possible solutions as you can. The key is to keep these disagreements in-house and publically maintain confidence in your brand and your strategy. Foster debate among your brain trust, but always be sure to keep the debate focused and productive and never let things get personal.

 

Play nice with the media: I’ve already touched on this point a little, but it’s worth emphasizing. When you’re marketing a brand, the media can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. It is up to you to make the relationship a worthwhile one. The job of the media is to disseminate information to the public. This sounds straight forward, but the reality is that media today is an extremely saturated and ultra-competitive marketplace. Media outlets are desperate to differentiate themselves from competitors and present the stories that have the strongest appeals to their customers. For better or worse, negative news sells. If there is a hint of a negative story associated with your brand, the media will find it and exploit it. The central theme here is to maintain a good relationship with media, keep the lines of communication open and encourage access to your brand for local media. You may need to be proactive when things are going well to get your story out, because quite frankly the media may not be searching for an upbeat story, but if you that story to them and develop a strong rapport, your story will get out. When things aren’t going well, however, maintain that dialogue with media and don’t shut them out. When you shut off access to the media, it is often a dead giveaway that you have something you’re trying to hide and beyond that when you sever your relationship with the media you give up your ability to control the flow of information and to have input in the public perception of your brand.

 

Own your successes and your failures: The Colts have enjoyed a lot of success on the field and a lot of financial success off the field over the last twelve years. It is easy to own those sorts of achievements. It is not easy to own your failures. I give Jim Irsay, Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell credit for the way they handled responsibility for the failures that the Colts endured in 2011. President Harry Truman popularized the line “the buck stops here”. The line is a way of saying that, as a leader you take the ultimate responsibility for the failure or success of your decisions. Not once during the season did Jim Caldwell blame his players or assistant coaches for the teams on the field struggles. Bill Polian did not lay the blame at the feet of scouts, personnel people or the coaching staff for the team’s woes and while Jim Irsay made the decision to fire Polian after the season and may ultimately fire Caldwell as well he made his decisions based on reflection and with his vision for the franchise in mind, and even with that Irsay was very vocal about accepting blame personally for the failed season and acknowledged that it is his responsibility to make the changes necessary to put the team back on a winning track. Winning is easy, losing is hard. But remember that there is a great deal more to learn from your defeats that from your victories. From personal experience, I can tell you that if you own your failures along the way and learn from them, it will make the victories much more enjoyable.

Senate Bill 84

When the Indiana General Assembly begins its session on January 4th one of the bills it will be considering is Senate Bill 84. Senate Bill 84 is a measure that would require all of the state’s high schools and the IHSAA (Indiana High School Athletic Association) to abandon the multi class format used for the state’s boys and girls basketball tournaments which has been used since 1997 and return to a single class format. State Senator Jean Leising has proposed the bill claiming widespread support for the change in her district, which includes sections of southern and eastern Indiana. Leising also claims that a return to a single class basketball will help to renew interest in the tournament around the state and rejuvenate the sagging attendance numbers for the event.

I am always disturbed to see bills like this being proposed even if there is a good chance that they will never get out of committee, and there is a very good chance that this one will not. Indiana, like the rest of the country, is still facing a troubled economy and a high unemployment. The legislature is also facing decisions on controversial issues concerning right to work, mass transit and ongoing battles over education reform. In other words, the legislature has its plate full of weighty issues, and while State Senator Leising may not want to hear this, class basketball is not a serious issue. It’s not an important issue for Hoosiers looking for work. It’s not an important issue for homeowners facing foreclosure. Finally, it’s not an important issue for the parties most affected by this legislation, the schools and the IHSAA. Not only is it not important to them, they are overwhelmingly opposed to it.

Sadly, every year, legislation like this is put forth by state legislators. In fact, this will be the third time since the IHSAA implemented multi class basketball back in 1997 that the general assembly will hear a bill intended to undo what the IHSAA has done. Though this bill will not go anywhere, the fact that a lawmaker would write such a frivolous bill with so many critical issues facing the state is astonishing. This bill is not worth the piece of paper on which it is written. This bill isn’t worth one reading in committee, and it isn’t worth five minutes of debate.

This bill is nothing more than an empty attempt to turn the clock back. It is human nature to want what we do not have, or in this case to want what we no longer have. Proponents say that multi class basketball has caused the dramatic drop in attendance for the state tournament games. The reality is that the drop in attendance for tournament games can be attributed to any number of factors. Facebook and Twitter did not exist before 1997. Heck, my family didn’t have a personal computer until 1997. We have hundreds more cable TV channels than we did in 1997, not to mention DVR capabilities and Netflix. The list could go on and on, but the point is that many of the products that have our attention and occupy our time did not exist in the time of single class basketball. Switching to multi class basketball hasn’t hurt the interest in the state tournaments; the existence of a plethora of alternative entertainment options has hurt interest in the state tournament. Proponents also say that we are sending the wrong message to student athletes by recognizing multiple state champions. The fallacy with this argument is that we recognize championships at multiple levels and have done so for many years. Sectional championships are celebrated, so are regional titles and conference titles. High school sectional championship teams are often celebrated and remembered for years even if they do not advance to anywhere near a state championship. How is this different from celebrating a Class 2A or 3A championship?

Bringing single class basketball back will not generate renewed interest in the state tournaments. Single class basketball cannot eliminate all of the entertainment options that compete for our attention and our time. Bringing single class basketball back also won’t put people back to work or help people struggling to make their mortgage payments. My advice to you is to keep a watchful eye on your legislators. When a lawmaker like Jean Leising proposes a bill about class basketball or a lawmaker proposes a bill to designate sugar cream pie as the official state pie of Indiana (yes, that was an actual bill) they should be fired. These lawmakers should be voted out of office for putting personal interests, or in the case of State Senator Leising a personal delusion ahead of the interests of constituents.

We’ve all gotten the lecture from our parents at some point about how important it is to maintain a satisfactory credit history. Without reputable credit, it is very difficult to buy a home or a car and in some cases can even affect your chances of securing employment. We’ve all heard the horror stories of people who have had their identity stolen in which the perpetrator goes on to make purchases and open lines of credit in the name of the victim. These stories are sobering, and the victim may have to spend years, not to mention thousands of dollars in legal fees to repair the damage done to their credit history. Stories such as these are why your parents gave you that lecture and why you often see advertisements from companies offering to monitor your credit history and make the information, including your credit score available to you (for a fee of course).

I’m not here to tell you that you should be monitoring your credit. Hopefully, you’re already doing that.  What I am telling you is that you need to do more. Damage to your online reputation can have consequences that are just as bad if not worse than damage to your credit history.

Online reputation management is a rapidly emerging market in today’s business environment and for a legitimate reason. With so much of our reputations and in many cases our livelihoods being directly linked to others opinions of us developed through social media profiles, weblogs and Google searches it is no surprise that individuals and businesses are willing to pay companies to go about maintaining or repairing their online reputations.

I am not championing these services and I cannot vouch for their level of effectiveness in protecting or repairing your online reputation. However, the reality is that we are all marketers, and we all work in the marketing business whether we realize it or not or whether we want to be or not. With that being the case, you are responsible for how your product (you, in this case) is perceived in the marketplace. Most marketing professionals will tell you that the introduction phase of the product life cycle is the most challenging to navigate. The way in which you introduce a product to market is critical. If your product is not accepted by consumers, consumers won’t buy it. The introduction phase of the PLC is all about first impressions. In the past, first impressions were built through letters, phone calls, handshakes and business lunches. Now, first impressions are built through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and Google searches. Though the methods have changed, the end results have not. First impressions are lasting, and the perceptions that they create, good or bad, can be very difficult to alter.

Before ever meeting you in person or even connecting with you on the phone potential employers, potential clients, business partners, colleagues and lending institutions (you had to know I had been going to tie all of this together somehow) will build their perceptions of you in the digital environment.  The bottom line is that protecting your online reputation should be as much a part of your routine as checking your credit history, changing the batteries in your smoke detector, changing your clocks for daylight saving time and changing your furnace filter. The only difference is that you should be checking in on your online rep more often. Google yourself once a week, it’s not pompous, it’s just smart business. Be sure to log out of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. when you’re not using them. Be aware that your log in information can be more vulnerable when using the internet in public places like airports, hotels and coffee shops. Don’t leave yourself logged in on shared computers or at work. If you use social media apps on your smartphone, don’t leave your phone just lying around. If you lose your phone, contact your wireless provider to have your service disabled immediately. If you find erroneous information about you in your Google search results, contact the webmaster of the site where the information is posted and contest its validity. If your email or one your social media accounts is hacked, change your password immediately and contact the support team to have your account either reset or deactivated.

Paying someone to monitor your online rep, that’s up to you. If you feel that’s necessary, more power to you. If not, taking advantage of the tips I listed above will more than send you in the right direction of preserving and protecting your online reputation. As for changing the batteries in your smoke detector and changing your furnace filter, well, you’re on your own there.


The Politics of Social Media

Since we’re now just inside of a year until the 2012 Presidential election, I thought I would give my assessment of the strength of each of the remaining candidate’s social media presence. In a race that will likely go down as the most expensive presidential campaign ever, it is ironic that social media, arguably the most cost effective marketing tool available to the candidates may be their most powerful. Social media give the candidates access to millions of young voters, many of which may fall in the always coveted “undecided” or “independent” camps. Social media also provides the candidates their best chance to engage with supporters on a personal level and it gives candidates a chance to control their message and steer the online conversation. In years past, the power to control the messages and shape the conversations regarding the candidates was generally reserved for members of the media, but technology has forever changed the dynamic of how political campaigns are staged and how elections are won and lost. Incidentally, this also gives people like me one more campaign marketing component to critique.

So, here is my analysis of the current strengths and weaknesses of each candidate’s social media presence.

Barack Obama – For historical context, it should be mentioned that Obama and his team used social media masterfully during the 2008 election and as result created the blueprint for what all major candidates hope to accomplish through social media marketing. Closing in on 2012, I would say that the Obama has not lost ground in his social media efforts but approaching this election as the incumbent rather than a newcomer creates some unique challenges for the president. Most notably, Obama now seems to have a bit of an identity crisis in the social media universe because there are Facebook and Twitter profiles for Barack Obama, President of the United States and for Barack Obama, the 2012 candidate. It is understandable from both a marketing perspective and an ethical perspective why Obama’s team would choose to keep the campaign conversation separate from the presidential profile but to voters and and followers it may become difficult to understand the dichotomy and worse, by being forced to maintain two huge social media presences voters may feel overwhelmed by Obama information and may begin to disengage with the president and his campaign in the online environment.

Mitt Romney – Romney has a solid social media foundation but has more work to do. Romney has 1.17 million Facebook fans but only slightly more than 160,000 followers on twitter. The lack of twitter followers could be attributed to a lack of substantive content or could be an indication that the campaign is not resonating with younger voters. I would submit it could be a combination of the two as Romney’s content lacks personality and it clearly is generated by campaign staff as evidenced by a lack of personal anecdotes. However, when the Romney campaign isn’t using social media for mundane debate reminders and generic political speak they do a good job of using the platforms to identify directly how their candidate differs from President Obama. They do a nice job of providing specific, timely examples of issues they disagree with the president on and explaining how they would approach the issues differently.

Rick Perry – Several poor debate performances had derailed Perry’s campaign after coming on strong when he jumped into the race in the late summer. Perry’s social media presence echos echos the criticisms of lack of organization, rushing into the campaign that pundits have written about for the last few weeks. Perry’s Facebook page consists only of a campaign web aid with links to receive email updates and to make donations as a result of the serious lack of content the page only has 103,000 fans. I give Perry props for maintaining a Twitter feed that is informative, but not overwhelming and one that is timely. Perry’s twitter feed has an intimate feel and contains lots of anecdotal references. A casual observer could think that Perry himself is updating this feed (he may very well be). I think this speaks well to Perry, but just as with Facebook, Perry has only 103,000 twitter followers. There is a lot of work to be done for the Perry camp.

Herman Cain – Cain’s Facebook presence is as poor as Perry’s. The page consists again of a simple campaign web ad and nothing else. Despite that, the page somehow has gained over 400,000 fans. I give the Cain folks much higher marks on their twitter efforts. Cain’s twitter page is one of the most energetic and eye catching of all the candidates. The Cain logo is featured prominently along with a well placed photo and the colors used create a neat contrasts and really make the page stand out. As far as content, there is not as much policy and platform talk as Romney’s twitter feed, Cain’s twitter feed is more of a day by day account of the campaign. The feed sort of gives you the feels of being on the campaign bus without actually being there and while this doesn’t make for earth shattering, newsworthy content I do give Cain’s people credit for using multimedia effectively as almost every post is accompanied by video or pictures. Cain only has 106,000 followers, so more of an effort needs to be made to engage voters online.

Newt Gingrich – Gingrich’s campaign has been slow and steady, not overpowering any but slowly gaining momentum as others falter. I submit this may be in part to a solid social media presence. Gingrich’s Facebook is lacking in content, which is a minus, but the page does offer direct links to donate, volunteer, buy gear, Gingrich’s calendar and more. I would classify the Facebook page as a great resource for Gingrich supporters, but the lack of substance won’t do much to draw in undecided voters.  Gingrich’s twitter feed is nicely put together. The design is simple but impactful with a good contrast of colors, and the logo is excellent as it has the Facebook, blog and YouTube URL’s integrated into the design. Gingrich is one of the only candidates that seems to interact with followers and fosters a back and forth dialogue which is promising. Beyond that, the Gingrich folks use twitter effectively in terms of promotion by telling people when and where the candidate will appear whether in person, on television or on radio. Gingrich has over 1.3 million twitter followers. I would think that is a strong indicator that they are using this tool effectively.

Ron Paul – I give the Ron Paul camp points for being active in social media, but I take points away for not using the tools effectively. Paul’s Facebook page is similar to Cain’s twitter feed, sort of a rolling record of happenings on the campaign trail. While it is reasonable to expect that most of these profiles are maintained by campaign staffers with little influence from the candidate themselves, Paul’s Facebook page is a bit too blatant in this regard. The page consists mainly of donation requests and begs for Facebook likes and Twitter follows. Paul’s twitter feed is basic and doesn’t give enough information in the profile or in the layout. Posts are frequent enough although less than almost all of the other candidates, but the format of the posts is ineffective. Most posts consist of a headline statement and a YouTube link, for example, “Leaving Iraq? (YouTube link)”. A simple statement accompanied by a link is not enough to draw in voters. Using YouTube as a tool to communicate policy ideas is a terrific idea, but you’ve got to give followers a taste of your content, a tease to draw them in otherwise the videos are an exercise in futility.

Michele Bachmann – Bachmann’s Facebook page may be the strongest of all candidates. The page contains links for supporters and a nice balance of content that outlines views and policy stances coupled with account from campaign events and promotion of upcoming appearances. Bachmann’s crew is employing multimedia well as they have included lots of pictures and have done a nice job of linking to media pieces in which Bachmann is profiled. This cataloging of print and online media could be a powerful tool for educating and swaying undecided voters. Bachmann’s twitter page is a bland, unassuming design, and the content is not compelling enough to draw in followers. The twitter feed is focused more Bachmann the congresswoman, and not Bachmann the candidate, and while this may be by design (similar to President Obama’s team, the Bachmann team may be trying to keep the campaign detached from Bachmann’s congressional presence) it may be a missed opportunity as Bachmann does not enjoy the luxury of having the bully pulpit and high profile of President Obama.

Jon Huntsman – Huntsman’s Facebook page is similar in its formula to Perry, Cain and Gingrich. Little in terms of content, but lots of links for supporters like volunteer info, donations and purchasing gear.  Again, this strategy may be detrimental because while to may be enough to keep loyal supporters engaged it does little to answer questions or to start a dialogue with undecided voters. Huntsman’s twitter page has a straightforward design and is not overly memorable. Huntsman does use his feed to call out President Obama directly and identify some examples of how they differ on policy. The feed does a solid job of promoting upcoming events and appearances and an equally solid job of featuring video and pictures from high profile appearances. My main concern regarding Huntsman’s twitter presence is the profile calling followers to follow Jon2012HQ. The problem with asking potential voters to follow your “campaign” is that it defies traditional twitter wisdom. The success of twitter is built around the fact that an average person can connect, and potential engage in a dialogue with a high profile individual. Bottom line, potential voters want to connect with a candidate, not the candidate’s handlers. This is worth pointing out to all of the candidates and in the case of Jon Huntsman, he only has 47,000 followers, so dumping Jon2012HQ and consolidating as many followers as possible would probably be in his best interest.

Rick Santorum – Santorum’s Facebook page is in the middle of the pack. He doesn’t have links for followers to engage with the campaign but does have a lot of pictures and video and gives anecdotes from the campaign and promotes upcoming appearances and events. The Facebook page is light on content but does provide links to some op-ed pieces where Santorum lays out his policy ideas and vision. I really like the design of Santorum’s twitter page, it is built around a great, eye catching sidebar that includes large, easy to read URL’s for all of Santorum’s social media pages. As far as content, the tweets are very personable to the point that I would be willing to bet Santorum himself is doing the tweeting. I like the personal, down to earth nature of the tweets, but there’s a missed opportunity to promote campaign appearances and to engage voters on policy. Beyond that, the tweeting is a little too frequent for the amount of the substance being put forth. Obviously there is a lot happening in a presidential campaign, but averaging 6 or 7 tweets per day may dissuade some followers and potential voters.

I was channel surfing Sunday evening, and I happened upon MTV and the rebooted version of Beavis and Butt-head. I couldn’t help but watch for a while to satisfy my tendencies for nostalgia and curiosity.  The formula for the show is virtually the same as when it aired in the 1990′s, as are the graphics and the voices. The latest episodes also include Beavis and Butt-head’s critiques of music videos (I think these were the first music videos I’d seen on MTV in about fifteen years) from contemporary artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and critiques of “quality” shows like Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. I also learned on the Internet that TNT has given the green light for a reboot of the TV series Dallas complete with Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy reprising their roles as J.R. and Bobby Ewing. Now the hey-day of the original Dallas series was a bit before my time, but I recognize that the show is one of the most popular of all time and terms like “Southfork” and “Who shot J.R.?” (It was Kristin in case you’ve been on pins and needles for the last 31 years) have become parts of the American lexicon.

These television reboots along with several recent movie reboot projects like The A-Team, Star Trek and The Lion King 3D (I will admit Mufasa was a hundred times more badass in 3D) have confirmed my long simmering suspicion that Hollywood and maybe even America in general are out of new ideas. At first this realization had an adverse effect on spirit and for that matter my national pride, but after brooding for a while, I came to another realization; I’m okay with the fact that we have resigned ourselves to recycled ideas and concepts that were popular 20, 30 and 40 years ago. Compared with the original crap that Hollywood attempts to spew out these days, I’ll gladly take a remake of a show that was popular in an era in which onesies were my preferred leisure wear and Kool-Aid was my beverage of choice.

I’m not saying there aren’t talented actors or writers in today’s world. I just believe there is a severe shortage of creative, entertaining, original concepts out there. That being the case, I would rather watch young actors like Christopher Pike and Zachary Quinto put their unique spins on portrayals of legendary characters Kirk and Spock under the direction of a talented director like J.J. Abrams than take in an episode of The Real Housewives of Miami or Bridalplasty or God forbid another 60′s period piece like Pan Am or The Playboy Club (Seriously, could the networks crank out any more of things right now?).

So, with no creative, original ideas on the horizon I say bring on the remakes. Give me some fresh actors and directors with some modern takes on things, but let’s embrace the fact that Hollywood is now forced to dust off the archives and do its best to figure out what past ideas are best to remake and pass off to the public as new and original. In that vein, here is my list of TV shows that I think deserve a reboot.

The A-Team

T.J. Hooker

Walker, Texas Ranger

Perfect Strangers

Family Matters

ALF

Webster

Renegade

In The Heat of the Night

Magnum P.I.

Seinfeld

Jake and the Fatman

Mama’s Family

Quantum Leap

Mr. Belvedere

Finally, so as not to exclude documentary series I propose a redux of Y2K – World in Crisis

That’s my list. Tell me which ones you think suck and give me your list down in the comments section.

The Miami Dolphins improbable blowout win over the Kansas City Chiefs in week nine of the 2011 NFL season leaves the Indianapolis Colts as the only remaining winless team, and puts them on the inside track to landing the first pick in April’s NFL draft. Most pundits and fans agree that whichever teams lands the number one overall pick will almost certainly select Stanford senior quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck is considered to be a “sure thing” by scouting experts and possesses all the intangibles needed to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL. Luck is also displaying his talent along with poise and exceptional leadership skills as he leads his Stanford team to its best start since the mid 1950′s and a shot at a national title game appearance. So with Luck available in the upcoming draft, the Colts mired in a miserable season in which each passing week it looks more and more like they will, in fact, pick up the number one overall draft selection and the future of all-pro quarterback Peyton Manning in serious jeopardy following three neck surgeries in the last 19 months it would seem that the stars are aligned for both Luck and the Colts.

Not so fast. Let me tell you why the last thing Andrew Luck needs is to be drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. A steadfast rule in sports is that you never want to be the guy that takes over for the guy. You want to be the guy that takes over after that guy is held to unreasonable expectations, and expected to perform on a ridiculous timetable, and is subject to a barrage of constant criticism from both fans and the media. Think about it, even with the tools that Luck brings to the table can you imagine the task of trying to replace Peyton Manning? (For the record, let me say that I am of the belief that Manning’s career obituary is being written far too soon. I think with the rest that will come from missing this season and with rehab Manning still has a chance to return next year and to regain form and play at a high level for several more seasons.) Remember expectations were not initially high when Manning was drafted in 1998. The team was coming off of a 3-13 season; Manning was replacing Jim Harbaugh, who was popular with fans, but whose QB skills were clearly declining. The Colts offensive line had been one of the worst in the league for the prior two seasons and with the exception of Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison the team did not possess a lot of talent at the skill positions. The situation would be much different for Luck. While this season has been a disaster for Indy, the Colts had twelve winning seasons in a row prior to this year and have made nine straight playoff appearances. Luck would be replacing a legend not only in Indianapolis, but around the league in Peyton Manning. The offensive line is in transition but still has veteran anchors in Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem. While age is becoming a factor the Colts still have pro bowlers in Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea, and some young impact players like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie.

I mentioned earlier that the whole “don’t want to be the guy right after the guy” rule was steadfast, but of course there always is one exception. Aaron Rodgers took over at quarterback for Green Bay after sitting behind Brett Favre for three seasons and has become an all-pro player and led the Packers to a championship last season, but that’s the only exception that I can think of. Jay Fiedler couldn’t replace Dan Marino, Brian Griese couldn’t replace John Elway, Todd Collins couldn’t replace Jim Kelly, Cliff Stoudt couldn’t replace Terry Bradshaw, Quincy Carter couldn’t replace Troy Aikman and, hell, the Bears still can’t replace Sid Luckman and he retired almost 50 years ago.

Just in case you need more evidence, I don’t limit the rule to just hall of fame quarterbacks, how about some hall of fame coaches. The Bills are still looking for the next Marv Levy, the Vikings are still searching for the next Bud Grant, the Dolphins are still trying to find the next Don Shula and the Redskins even tried replacing Joe Gibbs with Joe Gibbs and that didn’t work.

Andrew Luck should be hoping that the Colts can salvage the second half of their season and that the Dolphins actually showing up against the Chiefs was an aberration because it would be much easier to become a star in Miami where the last hall of fame starting quarterback was thirteen quarterbacks and twelve seasons ago than in Indianapolis where the last guy was a hall of fame quarterback and was the biggest star in the league until the second you got drafted.

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