Cindi Crigler – Celebrating the Life of a True Friend

Cindi Crigler is one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. Best friend to my wife, our families have been intertwined for 15 to 20 years, we aren’t even sure of the exact date of when we all connected. Cindi loves us so much she adopted our backyard chicken when we were looking for a home! I could go on, and have written three different tributes, and they all digressed into thoughts I can’t publish.

All I can say is that truly amazing people are still out there. They are humble and quiet and strong as hell. Because love conquers all. Cindi personified that. Words from her family are below the images. Please read them.

Cynthia Farlow Crigler
1958-2017

Cynthia Farlow Crigler,58, passed away peacefully at her home in Houston, surrounded by her loved ones on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas to Frank and Clare Farlow, Cindi grew up in Houston with her siblings Julie, Allison, and Katherine. Cindi was a carefree spirit and a beautiful light that shone brightly on this earth. Her smile, laughter and gentle soul cannot be erased. Together with Michael Crigler, she had four children and 8 grandchildren. Her beautiful family was her greatest joy and proudest accomplishment. She had a love for all living things and always kept a menagerie of animals. Her life has been a tapestry that she has woven with different fabrics, full of vibrant colors.

She is survived by her parents Frank and Clare Farlow, her step-mother Jan Farlow, and her siblings: Julie Farlow Grote, Allison Farlow Simmons and Katherine Farlow Richardson. She is also survived by her children and grandchildren: Shannon and Mike Taylor and their children Zoe and Chloe; Jamie and Oliver Salgado and their children Vince and Lyla; Casey and Jeffrey Poche and their children Aidyn and Ali; and, Mikey and Taryn Crigler and their children Nate and October. Lastly, a special thanks to her loving partner Stephen Dean and all of her close friends who have supported her throughout her life.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, January 7th, 2017. In Lieu of Flowers, donations can be made in her name to TWRC Wildlife Center www.twrcwildlifecenter.org.

Published in Houston Chronicle on Jan. 6, 2017

See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/houstonchronicle/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=183374597#sthash.NESlitY8.dpuf

Falling Behind?

Hey I'm Jamie

From: Falling behind? by Jamie Varon

But, honestly, here’s the thing that nobody really talks about when it comes to success and motivation and willpower and

goals and productivity and all those little buzzwords that have come into popularity: you are as you are until you’re not.

You change when you want to change. You put your ideas into action in the timing that is best. That’s just how it happens.

falling behind
Jamie Varon on falling behind in life

And what I think we all need more than anything is this: permission to be wherever the fuck we are when we’re there.

You’re not a robot. You can’t just conjure up motivation when you don’t have it.

and

There’s a magic beyond us that works in ways we can’t understand. We can’t game it. We can’t 10-point list it. We can’t control it. We have to just let it be, to take a fucking step back for a moment, stop beating ourselves up into oblivion, and to let the cogs turn as they will. One day, this moment will make sense. Trust that.

Give yourself permission to trust that.

Full post on Medium by Jamie Varon is here:

Jamie Varon is a writer based out of Los Angeles. You can connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and at her Facebook page. Because we all need candid smart and fearless thinkers in our lives. This one impresses me.

On being crazy and Elon Musk almost having a nervous breakdown

You feel like a failure. You know, a failure like Elon Musk. To quote the irresponsible risk taking and brilliant Mr Musk:

“The end of 2008 was really really terrible. I never thought of myself as somebody who could have a nervous breakdown…. I came pretty close honestly in 2008 the day before Christmas…. We just barely made it.”

Q: “So you did have those experiences?”
A: “We had multiple near death experiences. Like death on the nose. Not just in front of you.'”

Q “What’s it like when you go all in and you are about to lose?”
A: “It’s quite a terrible emotion actually.”

http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-on-failure-tesla-bankruptcy-2014-11

So maybe Elon is crazy. He risked his own failure and thousands of people’s jobs. But he isn’t a failure. He rebounded pretty well it turns out. Because he was willing to face death and total failure and keep fighting. To use his words “death on the tip of your nose” and then salvation one hour before Tesla would have gone bankrupt.

One hour. One single hour away from complete devastation.

#dude

(addendum)

“Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”
– Joshua 1:9

The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

On openness and open minds. While you read “the facts,” who is to say that the author of the “facts” isn’t incorrect themselves given the “history is written by the victors”?  (Note  quote and article – via @SarahWorthy)

From “The Other Side is Not Dumb

I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite “facts” that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think “that can’t be true!” Instead consider, “Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.”

Because refusing to truly understand those who disagree with you is intellectual laziness and worse, is usually worse than what you’re accusing the Other Side of doing.

and

high-culture

My take away from the article is similar to what I have always advocated (maybe it’s a meta-meta-meta loop and I’m being duped again?). Anyway, those principles in communication are:

  1. Be present.
  2. Listen first.
  3. Be open minded.

I believe I am qualified to speak on this subject for a few odd reasons.  Like the fact that it is hard for me to be present. Being open minded is always a challenge. And listening first is also a challenge. I’m qualified to venture an opinion because I have failed so many times. Sometimes failure teaches more than success.

Then, you get older. You listen more. You respect facts but question bias in statistics. You trust your gut. Your pattern recognition carries more weight than a persuasive graphic alone.

Mostly, in my opinion you learn to listen to other people deeply. You are “present” and you “hear” them. You learn to “see” people in a different way. You aren’t present because you have to, but because you desire the wisdom they are sharing even if you don’t agree. You listen because, maybe with their input, you might come to agree and learn from them! Your passion for wisdom and knowledge outweighs the biases and prejudices we all develop.

I had a friend describe working for me (I’m paraphrasing as it has been a while.)

“It’s hard to get your attention. But when you have your attention, its 100%. It can be a bit much.”

I may have gotten the wording wrong, but it was said by one of my true friends who has been there for me for over 20 years. I respect his opinion and I used his feedback to try to tone my presence down without turning down the attention with which I listen and speak.

Changes I made? Everything from changing my attire to be more casual even in business-suit-Houston and studying my own body posture when listening. Crossing my arms and looking down was my habit when listening deeply. It turns out not everyone interprets my posture for what it was; it came across as disapproving to some when it was in fact the exact opposite. So I changed. I learned to lean against a tree and nod my head, not always in agreement, but to acknowledge what they were saying. So when I say I took my friends feedback seriously, I mean it. I even read two more books on body language.

My reward for my changes? I get to learn more from more interesting people. I LOVE THAT!

Speaking and sharing knowledge

As they say, “the thing with introverts is that it is NOT that they don’t like to talk. It’s that they like to talk about things they are interested in.”

That of course is why we must listen first and learn about things we know nothing about without interrupting people, because that curiosity might uncover something new we are interested in. It is respectful to others. And learning is a lifelong endeavor – I have no intention to stop being curious or learning from others as long as I am breathing.

Avicii’s video for Wake Me Up really captures the loss if we fail to listen to our youth in particular (more after the jump).

2016. This is a unique time in history. Seriously.

Modern knowledge in the Internet age swirls around like a whirlpool, regardless of age, gender, nationality or some certificate on your wall. Degrees in my field for example are close to irrelevant. This amazing kindling of knowledge I am seeing is practically a cauldron  about to spill over for those not paying attention.

Example: you are likely to learn more from those younger than you this year than those older than you if you are over 40.

Youth of course has it’s own arrogance and may not want to learn from their elders because like EVERY generation they believe they know more. But they MUST have this arrogance or they won’t take risks, start companies, invent calculus,  and push our society forward. Still, they can learn from their elders. But only, only if they respect you first. And they are the future. So yes, if you are over 40, get off your high horse and earn THEIR respect even if when we were 20 it was our job to earn the respect of 40 year olds.

I have traditionally, and will continue to respectfully, listen to my elders by being fully present. To learn from their wisdom. Yet…..

I must observe that in the last six months in particular, I have learned more from carefully listening to people sometimes much younger than me. To give them the floor and listen deeply and respectfully.

If you listen, our youth from 5 to 20 are particularly generous with their knowledge. I am so grateful to my younger friends and acquaintances who “grok” that I am interested in what they are teaching me. That I am fully present and grateful to them for sharing their knowledge with me.

This respect is the same as how appreciative I am of my 70 or 80 year old friend who share with me. Tell me stories. It’s kind of awesome. People are people, we should not underestimate them regardless of age. 

The reward from these interchanges is truly priceless. Knowledge, respect, love, a human connection. Pay it forward in a time when knowledge is flying back and forth between all generations and cultures. It’s an exciting (and stressful) time to live. But definitely not boring, my friends!

For the curious ones out there, now is the time. Shut up and dance. Listen first. Be present. Be open minded.

Stories are the best way to share knowledge. Tell yours to those who are intently interested. And be interested in others and ask them to tell you their story. It’s a start. For example I know Alie will teach me to fire dance.

Fire dancing is something I will not do. But if asked, there is a possibility of zero that Alie would not share this knowledge with me. It is knowledge one question away from me. What a cool world we live in!

allie-fire-dancer-houston

Instead, I choose to photograph my friends, be present, listen to them, and learn what I can while wishing they would keep the fire farther away from me. (Even if my mantra is to move fast and break things.)

#peace

PS – Day job stuff. As the founder of Tendenci – The Open Source Membership Management Software project, these topics in sociology do apply very much to our vision. Systems of interaction can change behaviors (do you “like” or not click “like” on FB when a couple breaks up. It’s a serious question. Thus I value your feedback to make https://github.com/tendenci/tendneci/ even better for the open source community.)

Kenan Doyle Branam services Saturday

 

Services for Kenan are this Saturday, the 28th of April, 2012.

A message that was sent out to the Houston Netsquared Meetup Group tonight in memory of our  friend and colleague Kenan Doyle Branam. He was a debater, optimist, producer, geek, well read, researched, and all around renaissance man. We will miss you Kenan. Even if you challenged us constantly with debates and thoughts Kenan, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. A tip of the hat to you. You will be missed.

April 26, 2012

All,

Sad news….

If you have attended Net2Houston over the last six years, then you know Kenan. His meetup profile says Kenan attended 28 meetings with us, although I think it may have been even morehttp://www.meetup.com/houston-netsquared/members/3125708/

Kenan Doyle Branam was a Netsquared regular who always asked challenging questions from the heart. An optimist, he always found the positive, which was impressive given his posts frequently talked about his growth from being a skeptic to an optimist over time. What a beautiful transition.

I’m sad to say that Kenan passed away unexpectedly last week and his services are this weekend. The official notice is below. If you can attend i know Kenan would be honored as would his family. The official version follows. And I know the family would appreciate help with the costs of the funeral. Please consider the part at the bottom about the fund at Amegy in lieu of flowers, but your presence on Saturday would be a huge tribute as well.

Thanks,

Ed

—————

The Houston Advertising, Media and Production Community lost one of its own in the sudden passing of Kenan Doyle Branam on Saturday April 14, 2012.  Services will be this Saturday April 28th 2012 here in Houston.

Beginning his long career in media, Kenan worked as a cameraman in the local broadcast television station in Tyler. In addition to this his media experiences later included advertising agency client service, corporate communications, point of sale training, and even documentary and music video work. 

Kenan was President of Paradigm Communications, Inc. for 25 years, and most recently worked as a Media Consultant supporting people to show up, be heard, look and feel good about their web presence.  Throughout his long career he was a careful watcher and analyzer of media. He was, in his own words “a philosopher, then an artist, then a media evangelist”

A great number of local organizations were fortunate to have Kenan initiate lively and thought provoking conversations while bringing his gifts of philosophy, kindness, laughter and an artistic sensibility to their gatherings.

A Life Celebration for Kenan will be held

Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 3:00 PMTotal Video at Houston Studios
707 Walnut, Houston TX 77002.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Kenan’s memory can be made (and would really help his family at this time) at any

Amegy Bank for the Memorial Fund for Kenan Doyle Branam.

Managing The Fire-Hose of Ideas

As the company has grown over the years, I have hit a number of tipping points that were unexpected and hurt the company. Bears AttackUnfortunately I have been unable to find a book that predicts these moments accurately and I know few people who have organically grown a 30+ employee 13 year old technology and marketing firm. We’re a bit odd. So while there are many sage leaders in the city of Houston, few have ever been “in my shoes” so to speak and most aren’t really sure what we do. In other words, sometimes I am flying blind and changes are clear only in hind sight. I am having one of those moments now and it involves ideas and a very motivated, skilled, enthusiastic and hard working group of employees.

The problem is ideas. Too many of them.

My management philosophy has always been the same. “Hire good people. Train the hell out of them. Let them run.” There can be problems with this. If you train them and they run off to a field to pick daisies, you fire them. But my experience has been that people are a LOT more motivated when they are given the tools and the freedom to do their jobs.

I once worked at a large corporation where I needed a Vice President’s sign off to get a $30 book I needed to do my job. And I had to write up a justification about why I needed the book. I called it a “pre-book-report” at the time. Anyway, I come from a family that consumes books like other people consume Doritos so this blew my mind. My manager, her boss, the VP and I spent way more than $30 in salaries debating the merits of said book. Most of which was made up because none of us had read it. So while the CEO said we were there to “maximize shareholder values” the rest of us didn’t get the memo. So I kept reading books and just paid for everything I needed out of my own pocket.

And I vowed I wouldn’t cripple my employees that way when years later I started a company.

Back to ideas. Thanks to our clients we get to eat. And we help them make a profit using our technology and processes. Everything is thanks to our clients. They expect and deserve the best possible service at the best possible value that we can deliver. That takes training. And I am committed to training. So far this year we sent 11 people to SXSWi, 2 people to SMX, 2 people to DrupalCon, 2 people to NTEN’s NTC, 2 people to the TSG Summit, 2 people to PyCon, we have 4 scheduled to attend Tufte, etc….  And it’s only March 19! Perhaps I shouldn’t share this because my competitors can see that the secret sauce over here is training. But I’m not that worried as investor led companies tend to maximize profits for the quarter and therefore lack the discipline and will to invest so heavily in training. Particularly if all of those expenses hit you in the same quarter.

Now, all of those employees are back from cities all across the United States and they are walking in to my office with idea after idea. After idea. After idea. And ideas are good. But it’s too much.

This is compounded because ideas are pretty cliche. You can’t patent an idea, you can only patent an implementation of an idea. Ideas only have value when you take action on them. It is results that create value, not ideas. Yet all of us in life want to provide the ideas and have them get done, usually by someone else. And we take it personal when someone shoots our idea down, and people know that, so the more ideas you throw out there the more people nod their heads in agreement. “Why yes, that is a good idea.” And it might be. But we’ll never know unless someone prioritizes it and commits the resources to implement the idea and then evaluates the results.

And some ideas are just bad. For example Ethan Watters expressed these emotions about one idea:

The idea of going to a Shriners meeting and listening to some high school student read her award-winning essay on the value of democracy seemed like an activity that I might encounter in the first ring of hell.

Nothing against the Shriners, but that is an idea that if you told me you were doing that I would say “hmmm, sounds interesting.” Yet I would be thinking: “No, that does NOT sound like a good idea for me and NO I do not want to test that idea.” But I wouldn’t say that.

A few years ago I judged a Tech-Transfer event for MBA students who presented a case on if an academic patent should be commercialized for the university where the research was done. I kid you not – this one patent was for a nanotech etching machine that was less than half the size and more expensive than one that was commercialized and in use in industry. It is hard not to look at that idea, shake your head, and think “was that just some dude who wanted to frame a patent for his wall?” I guess it’s academia so they have more wiggle room, but sheesh. This is an example of a bad idea that wasted time and money.

Testing ideas is expensive.

As a CEO your dream is someone walks up and says

“I had this idea so I prototyped it and the initial results look promising. Can we schedule a time to go over the results?”

And sometimes that happens. It really does. And those people get promoted at our company much faster than others. But more often than not you are presented with an idea like it is a sacred object and expected to immediately commit resources to test it. And there are simply too many ideas. And never enough resources.

(Sidebar: You actually get a LOT of innovation from the sales team (yes really) because they talk to prospects and see actual needs before people who only work with products we already support. Because no one within the company already knows X new product, a sales person with initiative will self install (read: prototype). That is how we started offering WordPress and Drupal as new product lines and THEY ARE GREAT!)

I was pondering the expense of organizing and testing all of these ideas while on a long walk with the dog this morning. A few possible solutions came to mind:

  1. Set up a DIGG type ranking system for idea submission and have employees vote the ideas up or down.
    1. They talk about this a little in Groundswell. But Idunno, I rarely see committees find the best possible idea. They usually blend everything until you get a compromised version of mush. Or whoever can write the best python script wins the vote. I love Amazon reviews, but I rarely write one. Does that mean my ideas don’t have value because I won’t use that particular tool?
  2. Require employees to write-up the idea and present it in an organized fashion at a scheduled time.
    1. This would stop the revolving door in my office of people presenting great ideas. Yet as I recently blogged about visionaries, it is the Eureka moments that lead to big discoveries. I am not sure a global “you must write it up” filter is in the best interest of the company.
  3. Schedule office hours.
    1. This is probably something I should do as a CEO as I am a little too accessible at times which prevents me from getting my work done. But again, will I miss a Eureka moment? What is it that I do that could possibly be more important than working with our employees?
  4. Say “no” to everything.
    1. Saying “no” to everything has actually worked well for me in the past. If the employee  isn’t motivated enough to overcome the first “no” then they aren’t that committed to the idea. Or so goes the thinking. But people are very different culturally. Extroverts ask me the same question 10 times while introverts won’t ask at all! Won’t this method bubble the “squeaky wheel” ideas up to the top? I doubt those are the best ones.
  5. Make them run it by their manager first.
    1. Otherwise known as the “hide behind hierarchy” method. Would this not break the spirit of an employee if they felt the CEO was inaccessible? What if they had an issue with their manager at a personal level, but had a good working relationship, but didn’t want to share? And do I really want to be the type of founder who is unwilling to talk to any employee? The answer to that is a resounding “no!” I spend more time with employees than I do with clients because I know developing our employees is what it takes to get to great customer satisfaction!

I’m at a loss here. I see we have hit this point. I feel like I am drinking from a firehose and I can’t keep up. While ideas alone are worthless, the implementation of a good idea has definite value!

My question to anyone who has made it this far in the post is “do you know of a system that has been tested and works for a CEO of a high growth company to handle employee ideas?” And I specifically do not want ideas. What I need is knowledge of a system that has been tested and works. Even if that system is a behavior modification on my part.

 

 

on selling out

The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

There is a point in one’s life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one’s collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.

Thankfully, for some, this all passes.
….
I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things.

Dave Eggers

Via @dstagg and @mysecondempire.

strange day on the interwebs for schipul crew

The most exciting thing for the schipul crew today, besides being able to serve our clients who are the reason we exist, was definitely the Monster cover DrupalRap. Created by ahughes3, dstagg and bpotter in conjunction with a conspiracy to reduce productivity for the entire company last week, I think they did an awesome job. Check it here:

“Monster (Drupal Remix feat. A.Hughes and D.Stagg)” from Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. on Vimeo.

In other random news, one of my photos was used on Techcrunch and hit the twitters in volume. And the folks at redit got in a debate about a centaur that increased my flickr views by a few thousand for the day.

What can we take away from all of this? That the interwebs are a very strange place. And that video and photography are critically important skills for marketers to learn. Seriously.

i don’t ride horses, i ride unicorns

At this moment, there is one YouTube celebrity with more subscribers than anyone else. It’s not Lady Gaga. It’s not Justin Bieber, either. More than 3 million fans on YouTube have signed up to receive updates and videos from Ryan Higa, a college student in Las Vegas, who was raised in Hilo, Hawaii. – NPR

a structural conceit for binding together

the door is hereWe are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensées; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.” – Joan Didion

Creativity With Purpose

“…as agreeable an idea as “Creativity for its own sake” is, it’s not particularly sustainable, financially rewarding or emotionally satisfying over the long run.

Human beings are hardwired to embrace “Creativity With Purpose”- i.e.create stuff that actually has real value to ourselves and other people. Creativity is tied into our evolution as a species and our basic survival instinct. It’s there for a reason.”

hugh macleod

When to Apply Business Advice

I emailed out to the company today’s quote of the day, something we do internally, with the three quotes below. But given how popular advice from 37 Signals is among some of my employees, I wanted to add some commentary (after the jump). And BTW, I definitely agree with these three quotes from Rework.

“You need less than you think…Do you really need six months or can you make something in two?”  (pg. 53)

and

“No time is no excuse.  The most common excuse people give: “There’s not enough time.”  They claim they’d love to start a company, learn an instrument, market an invention, write a book, or whatever, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Come on.  There’s always enough time if you spend it right.” (pg. 40)

and

“When you put off decisions, they pile up.  And piles end up ignored, dealt with in haste, or thrown out.  As a result, the individual problems in those piles stay unresolved.  Whenever you can, swap ‘Let’s think about it’ with ‘Let’s decide on it.’  Commit to making decisions.  Don’t wait for the perfect solution.  Decide and move forward.  You want to get into the rhythm of making choices.  When you get into that flow of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale…You can’t build on top of ‘We’ll decide later,’ but you can build on top of ‘Done.’  The problem comes when you postpone decisions in the hope that a perfect answer will come to you later.  It won’t.” (pg. 77)

All from Jason Fried and David Hansson in the book Rework

COMMENTS: 37 Signals has been successful creating jobs for people and making a profit. They build tools for themselves and then share their applications with others. There is no question Basecamp is a success. The 37 Signals formula is to build products to the exact specifications of THEIR customers, it just so happens the customer is first and foremost THEM.

Our business model is different. We make products for OTHER people. This is a subtle but important distinction. Picture a male fashion designer who makes women’s clothes. He can appreciate them. He has a creative vision. But the clothes he designs will be worn by his female clientele. The male fashion designer’s success is when women purchase his designs built for the them. The male fashion designer is challenged to make a simple and beautiful product that works with the physical reality of his customers.

While I usually agree with the content of Rework, I find I do not always agree with the 37 Signals viewpoint. Yes, it works for them. Yes I agree with 90% of it. But just as critical is to know what advice is bad advice for a firm like ours. I think it is important that I plan for the company’s future. Thus I do not agree with statements such as this:

“Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control…Why don’t we call plans what they really are: guesses.  Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses and your strategic plans as strategic guesses.  Now you can stop worrying about them as much.”  (pg. 19)

It is catchy. It makes for a good anti-establishment Purple Cow type of quote. But I suspect the employees at Schipul appreciate me applying that advice carefully. Does that advice relate to our particular situation? No. And I think the team at 37 is plenty of smart enough to tell people to apply their advice…well, if it applies!

Sometimes advice is populist, but there is a logical flaw. A company who follows the infamous “work smarter not harder” quickly falls to a company that believes “work smarter AND harder.” Working smarter-not-harder would only work if hard workers were dumb. But we get smarter through experience! So unfortunately, hard workers are typically also smarter than you. Oooops. But we don’t like to admit that. What we want to hear is that the 4 hour work week is a winner.  I certainly wish the global economy worked that way!

I guess I am saying, use common sense and trust experience built upon DOING stuff.

The Myth of Innovation

Great lecture on the Myth of Innovation by Scott Berkun.

“As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.”

– William McKnight, 3M Chairman, 1948 (45:34 in the video above)

A Modest Proposal for Brand Colocation Fees

coke-a-colaIt is a common mantra in marketing that our brands live in the mind of the consumer. A recent television commercial for a major software brand quotes the Chief Marketing Officer of a major beverage brand saying

“Our brands are owned by the consumers who love them.”

Or as the Social Customer blog quotes:

You Don’t Own Your Brand – Your Customer Does
– Christopher F. Carfi, CEO of Cerado

Perhaps the first people to observe this are Ries and Trout in the book Positioning. That brands occupy a small space, a niche, a “creneau” as the French say, in your mind. The brands are in your brain and you can’t remove them. We can not remove Coke-a-ColaTM, MicrosoftTM, DisneyTM, GoogleTM, ExxonTM, SonyTM, NFLTM, The Super BowlTM, The Olympic GamesTM, etcTM, etcTM, etcTM from our minds even if we wanted to!

And brands, mine included, invest heavily to achieve this. To place our brand in your brain we use PR tactics and advertising. And to defend our brands against infringement or dilution. Now that we own a creneau in your brain we do not want someone else to come along and mess it up! That is OUR corner of YOUR brain. Don’t touch it.

You can NOT have a Super BowlTM party. That is a trademarked brand, albeit a government authorized monopoly functioning at the pleasure of the people represented. But that is another post.

If Chuck-E-CheeseTM starts offering Mickey MouseTM themed parties without paying Disney for use, they get sued.

That is a hypothetical of course but the point is that if one brand tries to access that portion of your brain encoded by another brand in your brain, then we have a legal battle of the brands. Fighting. Over a space. In your brain.

Disney and the NFL are fighting over a space in YOUR brain.

coke-a-cola-cupAnd who is paying YOU for the lease of the space in your brain? Who gave the Super Bowl brand-colocation rights in your brain? And if not, can you reasonably avoid the barrage of branding messages out there designed to write on that spot in your brain? Of course not.

So why aren’t you being paid a brand colocation fee, rent if you will, by brands that are occupying your brain? You are watching tennis with your kids in the room on TV and the GEICOTM advertisements places a freakin lizard and money with googely-eyes into your head. What’s in it for you?

Not much. You are just the real estate where brands live. And you get nothing for it.

Brand Colocation Fees: a Modest Brand Proposal

You should charge brands a fee to live in our brains. Lets think about it:

If the dude was sleeping on your couch for a day and then left, you call that a “favor for a friend” or a “minor inconvenience.” But if the dude MOVED INTO your house and stayed in that same spot in your house day after day, sooner or later you’d give him a bill for rent, right? So how is this different?

In fact the unwelcome-boarder analogy can be extended. Say that another vagrant shows up. The two proceed to fight over YOUR sofa in YOUR living room. Then if you mention either of them by name they SUE YOU! Yet aren’t THEY the interlopers? Have THEY not taken residence in YOUR living room? Aren’t they quite literally fighting over your sofa, disrupting you, in your house? Why do you put up with this?

Well I tell ya, in Texas, we don’t. No sir. We all have guns and drive pickup trucks and by golly we’ll chase them out screaming like Yosemite SamTM shooting at them as you run so far awaySM. By golly. Or we’ll charge them a fair rent. Either works. You gotta be flexible in a recession, right? So anyway.

The only reasonable conclusion is that a Brand-Colocation-Fee must be charged for the brand to “co-locate” in our brain.  A Brand-Colocation Fee (BCF) is the only fair solution to reconcile the years of free rent accumulated by these interlopers, these free riders, residing in and fighting over the sofas and man-chairs in our minds. Even that extra comfy chair your Dad always took when he got home from work. The brands want to sit in that chair too! It is only reasonable that brands must purchase the brain’s equivalent of the very fair and equitable NFL Personal Seat License (PSL).

And like a PSL is not a seat, just the rights to buy a seat, so too a BCF doesn’t guarantee a space in your brain, just the branding rights to that corner of your brain. If I have no need for a number-one-or-number-two creneau for aircraft engines, then you can ignore the brands anyway.

Hey, it’s YOUR BRAIN, right? RIGHT?

How to calculate the Brand-Colocation Fee

This of course brings us to three new challenges:

  1. How to calculate the appropriate BCF for a given brand and;
  2. how to collect the appropriate fees from a brand and;
  3. how to disburse the interlopers’ money to the brain-land-owners

First lets agree that the average consumer knows thousands of brands and has many many “positions” in her mind as a consumer. Each of these positions is unique and has one, maybe two brands, that occupy that space. Number one or number two.

Additionally brands are faced with a global marketplace and regional competitors. It is very confusing to track whose brain has recorded which brand. And so as not to be a burden to the brands, we humbly suggest that brand colocation fees should be modest on a per-person scale. But how do we manage this?

A Brand Colocation Fee Union (BCFU) to Manage BCF Collection and Disbursement

We need an efficient oversight committee to calculate and manage the collection of brand colocation fees. To take into account birth and death so Disney isn’t paying a BCF to a deceased account. Yet we, the brain holders, need equitable representation. We need in fact a Union to ensure our brain space is properly represented. But what do we call this Union? I propose a Brand Colocation Fee Union.

The Brand Colocation Fee Union, or BCFU for short, will manage the calculation and collection of brand colocation fees in a fair and equitable way for brands and the consumers alike.

Given this is a complex matter we further propose to put all of the Corrupt New York Bankers back to work creating brand lookup tables and more imaginary math to calculate a fair and equitable and defensible (and probably corrupt) set of rate tables.

The BCFU brand source tables should take into account factors including but not limited to:

  1. Some brands are welcome and I, as a consumer, will gladly waive the fee. Yes this means I am brain washed, but why else do open source advocates love the completely proprietary Apple brand? So sometimes the BCFU fee should be zero. We can sort the crazies using demographic data.
  2. Fees should be equitable and reasonable. Given the relatively low cost of many consumer products, say a Coke, an annual fee for even such a strong brand might only be one (1) US dollar per person per year (not consumer as even non-buyers carry the burden of the coke brand in their brain).
  3. Brands that insist on existing in our brains, but serve no purpose but to annoy, should be penalized! Just cause they bug us. Specifically brands should be penalized for advertising to the wrong demographic. Think “Head On” or “The Clapper” – two brands closely followed by Capital One, AFLAC and Geico for seriously-damn-annoying factor. These people should pay a reasonable person $10 per year.
  4. Political brands, as much as I hate to say it, should be exempt from BCFU fees when sending information for the service of their constituents. But should reasonably be charged a penalty for negative campaigning. After all, they are working to reposition a brand in your brain to a new position in YOUR BRAIN. Again, we leave this to the BCFU to calculate with their fancy economists.
  5. Crappy brands like Larry Flint or Girls Gone Wildthey owe me BIG. I want 1 million dollars per year for these stupid brands! But again, being a reasonable and represented person, I’ll defer to the wisdom of the unions when it comes to equitable brand taxation.

Next Steps in the Battle to Win Back Your Mind (or at least charge rent for the space)

To recap, given Brands exist in OUR BRAINS. we should charge a fair rent.

We propose to call that brand-rent a brand colocation fee (BCF). And, being American, we wish to outsource the hard part to a union called the Brand Colocation Fee Union (BCFU).

What are your thoughts? Which brands should pay the most? The least? Which politician or law firm can get this started for us? A brain-space space-race. Our new bureaucracy, the BCFU, surely wouldn’t let us down?