Sunday, July 15, 2018

A cake to die for

A few years ago, my wife Dianne was sent a cake in the mail. 

It was a "thank you" from a very thoughtful friend. I wondered how good the cake could possibly be.

It was freaking' amazing.

So I started doing some research, and found that Caroline's Cakes is one of Oprah's favorite things. And Caroline's Cakes is pretty famous for.....their cakes.

Well, I pursued them, hoping to make them into a customer. I would love to host their eCommerce store, or provide them with their merchant account. I wanted to help them to "tell the world" about their magical cakes! 

Many emails and phone calls later, I got to know the "Caroline's Cakes" family.

Today I received an email from Caroline's son:

Like Caroline, I am grateful for all of our wonderful customers. On July 15th of last year Caroline passed away after her courageous battle with ovarian cancer. The outpouring of support from friends, family, those who knew Caroline, and those who had never met her but knew her cakes has been absolutely amazing. 

Many thanks to all of you for helping all of us at Caroline's Cakes through this past year and especially as we move into the year ahead. 

I am grateful to have had Caroline as a mother, and lucky to also have had her as a boss, leader, and visionary for this wonderful company and for the cake community that she created with all of you. I still rely on her daily for inspiration and guidance and I work to fulfill not just her dream, but mine as well.

September is ovarian cancer awareness month and Caroline's Cakes will be donating a percentage of all Caramel Cake sales during that month to support ovarian cancer research. We will have custom tins made with our logo in teal, which is representative of ovarian cancer awareness. Giving back was always an important part of how Caroline lived her life and ran her business and we hope to have a positive impact on the research to beat this terrible disease.  
Thank you all again for being a shining example of kindness in the world, and remember, as Caroline always said: "Eat cake, and be happy!"


Richard's email above made me pause. 

When your name is on the building - when you are the brand - you are automatically building a legacy. 

Caroline did not sell cakes. She connected with and nurtured the people with whom she came in contact. She was incredibly generous, both professionally and personally.
She made friends with bus boys and maids and big stars in Hollywood and all in between. It has been said that Caroline’s Cakes were so unique and delicious that they could be the secret to world peace.
She founded her bakery business in 1982, specializing in the hard-to-create Southern delicacy, the seven-layer caramel cake. Through her energetic entrepreneurship Caroline’s signature caramel cake was featured in the hit movie The Help.
Caroline was always thinking of how to make things better in her business and in the lives of others. She loved to work and did so all hours of the day and night no matter where she was. Her sharp business acumen had a laser focus and her bubbling creativity resulted in her invention of new processes and equipment to improve her business.
In business, when "you are the brand" you will live forever. You are building a legacy. A culture. A standard of excellence.

Walt Disney passed many years ago, but his legacy will last forever.

I think we shall be saying the same about Caroline Ragsdale Reutter.

“My goal is to continue to 'make the world a smaller place' with the Caramel Cake and my other Southern specialties. I am so grateful for all of my customers and their generous and ongoing support.” ~ Caroline Ragsdale

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Does my face ring a bell?

This past week, the was invited to help our vendor and sponsor 8x8 with their "ringing of the bell" ceremony at the NYSE. It was an amazing experience. 

And it got me thinking about...........bells. 

Joe: "Have we met before?"
Sam: "Well, your face rings a bell." 

To "ring a bell" can mean to awaken a memory. 

Bells such as the type used in churches are large and loud. Their sound can be heard from a great distance. Bells sound a single, clear note so their sound is distinctive and not easily confused. 

Before electric sirens and amplification systems, bells were a valuable means of signaling people and alerting of important events.

Accurate clocks and timepieces were not always as available as they are today. Bells were used to signal people of the start of events such as a church session, the start of school, or a celebration. The bells acted as a reminder of the start of the event for people who had an out of sync timepiece or no timepiece. Someone would literally ring a bell as a reminder. 

As an aside bells were later used on clocks to mark the hour. A large clock usually in the town square could be heard throughout the town. This clock acted as a master time reference for the town. The hourly bell ringing gave people an opportunity to synchronize their respective timepieces, and early watches required frequent adjustment.

There are many bells that ring to remind or instruct us to do things: doorbell (open the door), telephone bell (pick up the phone), school bell (come to class), toaster bell (take out the toast), and the clothes dryer bell (take out the clothes). So, if something such as a face, a name, a number, or a date "rings a bell," it causes you to remember something.

I can remember that "ringing your bell" had to do with the affect of getting "clocked" by a impact to the head. In the case of boxing, a "bell ringer " would be a knockout where the bell was rung to signal the end of the fight. It was often illustrated as such in old cartoons. 

Or the reference to the carnival sledgehammer strength meter where the hammer strikes the fulcrum and launches a metal hammer up a vertical slide and ultimately hitting the bell at the top. Just as with boxing, the winner is a bell ringer. It's not a big stretch to see how this morphed into its current sexual vernacular or even financial stock market reference.

Bells have been around for about 5,000 years, and have obviously been used to convey information and to remind people to do something.

We spent two days at the NYSE. A wonderful evening private party on the trading room floor, and then, the "ringing of the bell" ceremony the next morning at 9:30 am (sharp). I admit it, this experience was a big deal for all of us. 

The history of the NYSE is connected to the history of business in America. I met some amazing people who have worked at the NYSE for 10, 20 years or more. And I asked everyone the same question: 

How can you possibly predict the market?

And here it comes. The same answer, from almost everyone that I asked. In some form, the answer to my question of how to predict the stock market was the same. 

"You cannot predict the market. You cannot predict how a stock will perform. But you CAN predict how people will FEEL about HOW THEY THINK a stock will perform". 

The stock markets (NYSE or NASDAQ) do not really track the performance of a stock, or track the value of any company stock. 

What the market does track, however, is how PEOPLE think about a certain stock. It tracks how they FEEL about what they think might happen to the stock price of a specific company.

And when a CEO's compensation is connected to the price of a stock, the stock price is all that matters to that leader. A CEO can take steps to increase the price of the company stock (and their paycheck) sometimes at the peril of the employees, the shareholders and the community. 

And that is when the bell went off in my head. 

Trillions of dollars are exchanged each day on the NYSE. These trades are not based on how a stock or how a company will really perform. It is all about how people think - how people WILL think - about a stock or a company. 

It is all about people guessing what people will be thinking (guessing) about what will happen next. 

The value of a company's stock is not the value of the company. The stock market simply tracks the "opinion of a guess" of a future value. And it tracks the past opinion of a past predicted value. Got it?

I have to admit it, this trip to the NYSE really struck a cord with me. Maybe my next blog will be about pianos and guitars. 

Ringing the Bell

Sunday, June 3, 2018

I was promised Smell-O-Vision

InfoComm is the largest, most exciting event in North America focused on the pro-AV industry, with 1,000 exhibitors, thousands of products, and 44,000 attendees from 110 countries. It is this week (June 6th through the 8th in Las Vegas). InfoComm is all about the future of work, the future of living, learning and playing - in the clouds. 

I wonder if this will be the year of Smell-O-Vision 2.0?

Smell-O-Vision was a system that released odor during the projection of a film so that the viewer could "smell" what was happening in the movie. The technique was created by Hans Laube and made its only appearance in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery, produced by Mike Todd, Jr., son of film producer Mike Todd. The process injected 30 odors into a movie theater's seats when triggered by the film's soundtrack.

Smell-O-Vision never took off.  But what about our other senses? 

Most of us are taught that the human body has five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. But many neurologists identify nine or more senses, and some list as many as 21.

The sense of touch is actually several "somatic" senses, including perception of pressure, heat, and pain, and there are also a variety of interoceptive senses, which analyze information that originates from within the body.

Interoceptive senses include balance (the sense of the body's alignment), the organic sense (the sense of internal condition, such as hunger or thirst), and proprioception (the brain's knowledge of relative positions of body parts).

Proprioception is the sense that is actually tested by walk-the-line or finger-to-nose sobriety tests.

This year will be my first time NOT attending InfoComm live, because we have two events in New York City this week. So, I cannot attend live. I simply cannot be in two places at once. 

Or can I?

Enter vendor and sponsor: Suitable TechnologiesI will simply "Beam In" and walk the show floor. I will meet and greet our amazing vendors and sponsors who are at InfoComm, in Las Vegas. From New York City. 
Ah yes, to be in two places at once. Makes perfect sense these days, right? 

Stay in touch!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Is your image sharp?

Sharper Image Catalog, Holiday 1983

Back in 1977 Star Wars hit the big screen. Also in 1977 the original Sharper Image catalog dropped. Do you remember getting the catalog in the mail?

Almost nothing in the catalog was a necessity. But the "cool" factor, the "wow" factor of the products featured in the catalog was impossible to ignore. There was a special feeling about ordering something from Sharper Image. "Where the heck did you find THAT thing?" would be the most popular response to showing off your newly delivered next-gen gadgets to friends and family.

In the 80's I was deep into my gadget years. I admit to spending thousands of dollars on things that I did not need but things that I simply wanted. I remember when the first Sharper Image stores opened. A trip to the local shopping mall always included a tour of the Sharper Image.

Unlike Star Wars that grew and thrived over the past four decades, Sharper Image fell on hard times. The stores closed. The catalog stopped shipping.

And then it happened. I received a new Sharper Image catalog in the mail. It was sent to an old mailing address. It was a mailing address that has not been used in many years. But our friends at the Post Office figured it out, and they forwarded it along.

I was intrigued. After so many years, it was like a younger, impulsive and fiscally foolish version of my personality was coming home for a visit. I wanted to learn more about the how and "the why" Sharper Image was brought back to life.

I connected with the parent company. I just wanted to ask the question: Why? What did they see? What was the big idea of bringing Sharper Image catalog back from the dead?

Here is what anyone with access to Google can learn on their own:

Camelot Venture Group is a private investment group that invests primarily in direct to consumer companies including online, disruptive businesses, catalog, retail, technology and financial services, and sports management. 

Here is what most people will never learn: 

The leadership of Camelot is amazing. If you take a peek at their portfolio of their holdings, you will see many brands that will make you smile. 

I emailed them and told my story - about how I would spend thousands of dollars with Sharper Image in my 20's. And now in my 50's deep feelings of nostalgia made me reach out via email.

I did not expect a phone call from the managing partner, nor did I expect to spend over an hour on the phone. Just this month, I was invited to meet with them during an upcoming visit to New York. They are intrigued by our business model. Stay tuned! 

Now, the big lesson that I learned from all of this was as follows: the REAL money, the REAL value from the Sharper Image legacy was the data. The mailing list. The purchasing history of people like me. The master Sharper Image file of people who would spend money on things that they did not need, but things that they simply wanted. Bragging rights.

The Sharper Image was doing the Amazon business model, long before Amazon ever existed. 

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Camelot, I received a free "Master Class" in best practices in direct to consumer marketing including online, disruptive businesses, catalog, retail, technology and financial services, and sports management.

Many people from the past received a Sharper Image catalog in their mailbox, after many years of silence. Since they said "hello" after all of these years, I thought it was only proper to say hello via email in return. After all, I am not even sure I was using email in the 80's.

In business, image is important. Your brand (personal or otherwise) is important. What was cool and hot and admirable in the past, might not be cool and hot and admirable in the future. Make sure that you always do your best keep your own image (your brand) as sharp as possible.

If your current brand "died" (ala Sharper Image) would very smart people pay good money to bring it back to life? 

What did you spend money on in the 80's?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Are you a people person?

Who remembers the Barbra Streisand song "People" from the 60's? People. People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world. So far, the month of May has been "A month of meeting People" for me. Lots and lots of........People.

30,000+ people attended the Collision Conference in New Orleans. 20,000+ people attended the TechDay event in New York City. 10,000+ people attended Propelify in Hoboken. 1,500+ people attended the Zendesk user conference in New York City. 

And, around 200+ people attended the 2018 Marketing Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

For the past 40 years, Lee Clow has told stories through advertising for some of the most well-known brands in the world. His creative career began with Chiat\Day and its humble beginnings at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Today, Lee is the Director of Media Arts for TBWA\Worldwide and the Founder and Chairman of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2016. He believes advertising is an art, a media art, that evokes emotion in consumers to make them laugh, cry, surprise or inform and his work does exactly that. Lee’s portfolio includes memorable campaigns for brands like Gatorade, Pepsi, Adidas, and Energizer. But Lee’s impact on the industry can best be summarized by his partnership with Steve Jobs for more than 30 years producing work for Apple. 1984 Macintosh, “Think Different” that evolved into the introduction of the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Today, Media Arts Lab works exclusively on Apple, breaking barriers and challenging the industry with what he calls the “New Storytelling.”
Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of the altMBA and The Marketing Seminar, online workshops that have transformed the work of thousands of people. Seth writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes and The Dip. Permission Marketing changed direct marketing forever, and Purple Cow is considered one of the most influential marketing books of its time. Seth has given thousands of speeches to millions of people around the world, and his five TED talks continue to spread. In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “Seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. Seth’s latest book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn is now in its fifth printing. [ Photo credit, Jill Greenberg ]
Esther Lee is MetLife’s Global Chief Marketing Officer and is a member of the company’s executive team. She joined MetLife in 2015 and is responsible for managing all aspects of global marketing, the global brand, and the customer journey. Esther and her team lead a strategic, customer-focused marketing practice across the globe that drives business growth. Prior to joining MetLife, Esther was Senior Vice President for Brand, Marketing, Advertising and Sponsorships at AT&T. In that role, she oversaw global brand marketing, advertising, media, and sponsorship, as well as the integration of brand leadership into the company’s business strategies. Through the ongoing rollout of the company’s “Rethink Possible” brand platform, Esther led the strategy to create awareness of AT&T’s commitment to innovation to allow people to do more, explore more, and live more expansively. Before joining AT&T, Esther served as Chief Executive Officer of North America and President of Global Brands for Euro RSCG Worldwide, where her work focused on transforming the company’s creativity and vision for long-term growth. Prior to that, she served for five years as Global Chief Creative Officer for The Coca-Cola Company, where she drove creative strategy, the development of integrated campaigns for the company’s global brands, and the operating models to support these efforts. Most notably, she drove the creation, development, and launch of the “Coke Side of Life” global campaign—the foundation for today’s “Open Happiness” campaign.
They called it the "Hall of Fame" but what is should really be called, is the "Hall of Mastery" for these people have truly mastered their craft. 
Here are the best lessons that I learned from "People" so far this month:
"The people who can find the simple, honest human connections in their business are the ones who will be the most successful." ~ Lee Clow
"Marketing continues to be not about you, or your product, it's about them. You need to focus on ideas that resonate with humanity." ~ Seth Godin
"Companies are facing disruptions in emerging technologies, societal and economic change. The fundamental role of marketing has remained constant. It is evergreen." ~ Esther Lee

Simple. Honest. Human. Respect. 

Lee, Seth and Esther have influenced millions (Billions?) of people during the course of their careers. They are recognized as the best in their fields. And the only thing that seems to be greater than their skill, talent and expertise is their amazing unbridled generosity. They truly care about people. It is obvious. They freely teach everything that they have learned. They teach everything they know. 

I was invited to attend the Marketing Hall of Fame induction ceremony by someone that I have known all of 30 days. We met at an event, the same kind of event that I always try to attend. We were strangers. And then, we were two people in deep conversation about similar interests. "You should attend our event in NYC. You will meet some amazing people. I'll send you an invitation." I only learned a few days before the event that my friend Seth was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. 
People. People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Invention, meet your Mother

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is an English-language proverb. It means, roughly, that the primary driving force for most new inventions is a need.

This month 25,000+ amazing people attended Collision in New Orleans. Next year, "North America's Fastest Growing Tech Conference" will be in Toronto. Check out their video above.

Last week, TechDay New York had 20,000+ people attend. Tech Day is the LARGEST "Start Up" event in the USA. Above is a well done video from one of our sponsors.

This Thursday May 17th is Propelify, with 10,000+ expected to attend. Above is the video from last year's very successful event on the Hoboken waterfront. Check out the AMAZING view of New York City!

Members of the receive free passes to such live events, thanks to the generosity of our amazing sponsors. And, members who attend go home with thousands of dollars worth of "swag" and goodies to help them to run and grow their business. Again, we have very generous sponsors. But, these amazing sponsors want to "meet" these amazing people. 

Just from this month alone, we have 55,000+ people to thank for their support. 55,000+ people that our vendors and sponsors would like to engage. 55,000+ people who are in business, and who would like to GROW their business. 

I got it!  We can send them an email!


We can send these 55,000+ people a multimedia presentation. We can tell them......a story. 

"Necessity is the mother of invention"

Shorthand ( is an amazing multimedia storytelling platform, that works seamlessly on any device. We know that most people access the Internet these days via mobile. So, it is "necessary" to reach people via ANY device, especially mobile. 

Since you are reading this blog, there is a 97% chance that you already know who Seth Godin is. If you just put "Seth" in Google, his website comes up as the first thing you see. Not too shabby. 

Seth, in Judaism, Christianity, Mandaeism, and Islam, was the third son of Adam and Eve and brother of Cain and Abel. But the Seth that I am talking about is the "amazing Seth" and the Seth that invented permission marketing (among other things).  

Because we have "permission" to send 55,000+ people an email thanking them for their attendance, we shall do so.

But - if we want something good to happen, if we want to engage with 55,000+ people, if we want 55,000+ to give us their attention, if we want 55,000+ people to get to know us, to trust us, to become our friends........ 

...then there is a necessity to tell them a story.....

The End


PS.....there is even MORE cool stuff is happening this Thursday in The Big Apple.....

Allow me to use the word "amazing" just one more time (I know, I was counting too). My friend Seth is being inducted in the Marketing Hall of Fame in New York City. I'm going. If you can make it, you should join me in supporting Seth. His daily (free) blogs have been a gift to the world for many years. ^^^ You can get tickets from their website. Use the code SOCIAL and you will save 25%. 

Come to the event to support and meet "the amazing Seth". I'm sure there will be some great stories that you can tell your friends.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I'm pumped up!

"I'll wait for you."

Remember these words.

This weekend, we experienced a Nor'easter with high winds, downed trees, and lots and lots of RAIN.

My wife and I were home alone, and yet I heard a "scream" coming from the basement. Turns out it was not a person screaming, but our sump pump blowing a gasket, and hence, giving out a death scream as it kicked the bucket.

And now, our normally dry basement was becoming - less dry. In fact, it was getting very, very wet. The water was rising. Fast. If the water continued to rise at its current rate, our furnace would short out and stop working. The electrical connections to the furnace would be under water.

I Googled the exact make and model of the sump pump, hoping to (by some miracle) find a local store that might have one in stock. If I could find an exact match, I MIGHT be able to "do this myself" and swap out the pump. [ My family will be laughing hysterically when they read this. I'm not very handy. ]

It was around 5:55 pm and I found a hardware store that carries that brand of pump. The Denville, New Jersey True Value Hardware store closes at 6:00 pm. I called and explained my situation.

"I'll wait for you.  Take your time, I'll wait for you."

By some miracle, I was able to bring the broken pump with me to the store. The owner met me at the door. He got a replacement pump off the shelf, and also collected all of the tools and parts that I "might need" to do the job myself. Any tools and any parts that I did not need, I could simply return for a full refund.

I explained that I am not that handy, but if I don't get this pump working tonight, we surely would lose our heat and most likely lose our power tonight.

"Take my cell phone number. I'll walk you through it. If you want, I'll go on video chat with you, and we'll get it done together".

Remember the scene in the movie "Castaway" where Tom Hank's character makes fire? That is how I felt as I got this replacement pump working. I had the right tools. I had the parts. And I had my new best friend at my side on video chat. My friend, the owner of True Value Hardware in Denville, New Jersey.

Also, the price of the pump was "the best price" that I could find on the Internet. Talk about a time where someone could charge more. I would have paid anything, I was in a bind. But not only did I get a great price for the sump pump, I received what might be the best customer service experience of my life.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. The owner of True Value Hardware in Denville, New Jersey not only saved the day, he threw in a Master Class in how to put the customer first. Small, family owned Hardware Store. Since 1946.

I wonder if my customers and clients talk about me, the way I am talking about the owner of True Value Hardware in Denville, New Jersey. Does anyone blog about "me" or my staff? Time for a little reflection and introspection, me thinks.

In the age of Amazon and eCommerce and business where we never meet our customers face to face, I was reminded what really matters.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. As business owners, we can't always control the selling price, but we can ALWAYS control the value. We control the ROI that we deliver to our clients and our customers.

I also think it is time to take the "e" out of eCommerce. It's all just "commerce" at this point. Customer Service from people who truly care will never go out of style. In person, or via technology, we control the value that we deliver.

Yeah, I'm pretty pumped about how this all went down.