Of Sparkling Water and Hockey Pucks

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

Sparkling water costs pennies per can to produce.

If you knew this fact only, and you were in the sparkling water business, you might reasonably conclude:

  • Others are going to want a piece of this profitable market.
  • Some of them have been canning fizzy water for decades, and they’re damn good at it.
  • Some of them have very deep pockets.
  • Some of them are going to innovate.

What happens?

Continue reading “Of Sparkling Water and Hockey Pucks”

If Nothing Else, Start With Respect

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

“Manipulating the masses into buying stuff they don’t need!  That’s what I do!  That’s marketing!”

That’s an actual quote I once heard from a marketing director.  This was during an inventing session, the goal of which was to create new products that would make his customers (in other words, people) happier.

I’ve also been in a conference room when an executive flat-out called his customers (also people) “stupid.”

Continue reading “If Nothing Else, Start With Respect”

The 26 Best Books I Read in 2019

(Reading Time: 9 minutes)

2019 was another good year for reading things.  I completed 48 books, 26 of which I recommend to you here.

As either a warning or a selling point, most of them aren’t business books, and most weren’t released in 2019.

Instead of ranking them, I’ve listed them alphabetically by author, a cop-out if there ever was one.  And I’ve provided links to Amazon for each (just click on the title).  This is for your convenience – I’m not an Amazon affiliate and I’m not here to make money off your clicks.

With that, here are the books that made me laugh, cry, think and act in 2019.  Many of these came to me via personal recommendation, and my hope is that you’ll find a few of them intriguing enough to check out.

Continue reading “The 26 Best Books I Read in 2019”

If It Doesn’t Solve Your Problems, It’s Weak Strategy

Theranos Elizabeth Holmes
(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

Let’s begin with a simple truth:

Every business has problems.

Those problems may be internal or external (often both).  They may be created by others or self-inflicted.  They may be present-day certainties or future possibilities.

But there’s no business anywhere that is blissfully free of challenges, obstacles, changes… problems.

Continue reading “If It Doesn’t Solve Your Problems, It’s Weak Strategy”

The Birth of White Mystery Airheads (and What It Taught Me)

Airheads White Mystery package
(Reading Time: 7 minutes)

It was early 1993.  I was less than a year out of college, and the Assistant Brand Manager of Airheads candy.  (A title that no doubt made my parents very proud.)

After the successful launch of Blue Raspberry Airheads in August 1992, we were searching for the next new flavor to add to our lineup.

We took all the standard steps – reviewing category sales data, reading trade magazines, meeting with flavor suppliers, etc.

And taking the standard steps, unsurprisingly, resulted in a list of the usual suspects.

Continue reading “The Birth of White Mystery Airheads (and What It Taught Me)”

Two-Minute Book Review: Atomic Habits

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

“Atomic Habits,” by James Clear, will be among the most valuable books I read in 2019.

Atomic Habits James Clear

I was drawn to it because, as a soloist, my time is my inventory.  I’m always looking for ways to do more of the stuff that matters, both professionally and personally.  With the subtitle “An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” I was hoping “Atomic Habits” would help me identify some areas where I’m getting in my own way.

The author delivers the goods.  Clear describes the book as “an operating manual,” and there’s a heavy focus on systems: “You do not rise to the level of your goals,” Clear writes. “You fall to the level of your systems.”

Continue reading “Two-Minute Book Review: Atomic Habits”

The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?

Doritos Super Bowl Chance the Rapper Backstreet Boys

(Reading Time: 6 minutes)By now, we’re at the point where we know what to expect from the Super Bowl ads.

Before the game, you could have jotted down a list of what you thought you would see, based on history.  That list probably would have included:

  • Celebrities galore!
  • Animals (especially dogs) at their most undeniably adorable
  • People or animals doing silly dances
  • Inspiring Statements of High-Minded Purpose
  • The unusual, the surreal, the flat-out bizarre (with or without reason)
  • Production values to rival a summer blockbuster film

You can make this kind of list for almost any category.  Sometimes, it’s comically easy to do.  And the more “tried, true and expected” the items on that list, the more ripe that category is for some rule-breaking.

So who broke the rules with this year’s Super Bowl ads? Continue reading “The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?”

The 20 Best Books I Read in 2018

(Reading Time: 8 minutes)Here are the 20 best books I read in 2018.  These books weren’t necessarily released in 2018.  And they’re not just business books, because there’s more to life than business.

Instead, these are the 20 books, of the 38 I completed in 2018, that I’d recommend to a friend or colleague.  My hope is that you’ll find a few of these intriguing enough to check out.

I read several of these for the third or fourth time.  Given the oppressive awfulness of the daily news, this is one way I sought out “comfort food.”  (Another: Plenty of ambient music.)

They’re listed alphabetically by author.  And I’ve provided links to Amazon for each.  This is for your convenience – I’m not an Amazon affiliate and I’m not here to make money off your clicks.

With that, here are the 20 books that moved me, changed me or comforted me in 2018: Continue reading “The 20 Best Books I Read in 2018”