New Adventures

Let me (once again) apologize for not writing more frequently. There have been a number of developments that have radically changed my circumstances.

As a refresher, this blog was originally a class project for an undergraduate marketing class. The intention to give everyone in the class a platform to create or expand on a professional online presence. There were other things taught as well such as making sure that you had an updated LinkedIn profile for networking purposes. (My LinkedIn) But mainly it was to make sure that you had something other than what is likely a poorly maintained facebook page for employers to look at, a chance to showcase a portfolio of interests, written communication, and whatever limited technical skills required to update a blog. More and more jobs have online applications and many of them ask for any sort of sites that you might have a profile and having a blog is a great place to include information so that the employer can get to know you without actually meeting you in person first.

This leads me to my current placement.

From my rather gloomy post reviewing paperwork and making calls to dealers/back offices/shareholders in Kansas City, I passed my one year anniversary with my mutual fund services company with little pomp. I was internally very excited though as this meant that I was free to pursue other opportunities within not only the company itself but also the parent company and the many branches that were spread among several industries. Among them, a small but rather successful mutual fund servicing company in Denver, Colorado. I filled out a number of applications and was pleasantly surprised to hear back from Human Resources who, (after verifying I knew the job posting was indeed in Colorado and I did indeed plan on relocating,) set up a phone interview. Long story short, I said the appropriate things and was invited for a day trip out to Denver for a face to face interview. (I must remember to write a post about how neat it was to have a day business trip.) A week or so later I was offered and accepted a position on a projects team. About a month after that, I packed up some belongings and drove myself down I-70 9 or so hours to the mountains.

So far it has been almost everything that I could have asked for. People have been very welcoming and pretty friendly. I live downtown and am enjoying the hustle and bustle of the city (albeit with many more cyclists and beards than I had previously imagined). The view from the office is just fantastic as we have a lovely view of the mountains on the 8th floor. There is a lot for me to learn and I think for a time it will be a struggle to keep my head above water. The main thing the office is focused on is making the transition to the parent company’s technical systems, the systems that I had just left in Kansas City. While that experience is nice, it is hard to make that transition from user to the man behind the curtain, especially when expectations were initially so high. It is suffocating when I have no way to even flash any of my previously celebrated skills. Just a blank slate, starting back at the beginning. But then, I suppose, no one said change was ever easy. And Rome wasn’t built in a day.

::

And it is strange, I don’t have to be who I was at all. I knew a handful of people in the entire state before moving out here and thus, I can be someone completely new to all the people that I meet. I can have whatever nickname I choose, I can pick whatever new favourite drink and pretend I’ve been drinking it for years. Anyone who has ever obsessed over an avatar will know how I have been feeling over the past couple of weeks. You can create a whole new person, what little things would you have them do or say? And then that person is representative of you moving forward. I have been filled with excitement, anxiety, fear, and encouragement all at the same time and yet as I sit at my desk, the main feeling is:

::

“Sedated” I think is the word. Everyone sitting, quietly, focused on the task at hand, a phone rings, the rat-at-tat of a hundred keyboards which represent the whole of the transfer agency combine with the tick-click of a hundred mice drawing impossibly endless circles on a hundred desks barely separated by short little cubicle walls to make a sad sort of percussion section in the grand orchestra of the office. Every once in awhile there is a mumur of conversation but not the same repetitive security verification and confirmation numbers that tumbled monotonously out of all those mouths in Kansas City. Thankfully there is something more, but only just. A paper cup pops as someone sets down his coffee before returning hands to the work that continues on and on as the shadows grow and fade on the mountains, majestic and tantalizingly close, timeless in their watch over the city.

::

Happy to be writing again. Thanks for your patience.

 

Frederick visiting Red Rocks.

Frederick visiting Red Rocks.

NaNoWriMo!

Glad to announce that I am going to try my hand this month at the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Challenge! The challenge is to pen a manuscript over the course of November. Though I’m going to take it a bit differently than what is generally prescribed on the website.  My goal is to try and write in the novel or on the blog somewhere around 1,000 words a day.

I think I write pretty well, but as with anything, I wonder how much better I can be if I actually practiced on a more consistent basis. Over the last couple of days I’ve gone back and looked at some of the things that I have managed to save. This includes old blogs, short stories, even some emails that I thought were pretty good. Most of it is not good. Well at the time I thought I was writing something significant but looking back, not so significant at all. But in a way that was good. Kind of an unintentional journal lets me put into a better perspective what was going on at the time. And looking at the current number of subscribers and hits on this blog, it appears I am doing the same thing now. Just a chronicle. (Which is an awesome title for a novel…)

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Quick update on things:

Finished my last road big road race for the year which was the KC Half Marathon. The race went pretty well. 1:53 According to my profile on Athlinks, I’m averaging 1:49 Half-Maras. So that is pretty much right on track. Weather on the morning was a little chilly but it was beautiful right at the start. Nothing too big to report regarding the race, I just felt pretty strong most of the race, tried not to freak out too much, (didn’t want to get over 2 hours), just pace myself through. If I’m doing another run this year it might be a Thanksgiving 5K.

Trying to sort out the calendar for next year. Talking to a couple of people and maybe its time to plan a couple of races outside the area. See if there is races in St. Louis or Chicago or even some of the fun looking races in California. But obviously time and money constraints will apply.  I am also tentatively aiming at the Half Ironman in Lawrence scheduled for June 9, 2013!!!*

*So many french fries will be consumed if that is accomplished. Look forward to a post on potatoes. 

I started my second quarter classes recently. Got an A on my Managerial Communications class. Yay. This quarter I’m taking Competitive Analysis (Econ) and Strategic Marketing (Marketing). Both classes are going pretty well so far. It is interesting talking in my econ class about utility and opportunity when I’m imagining all the other things I might be doing with my time. It is probably worth it though.** The professors seem to be genuinely very interested in the material which makes those 3 hour classes go by a little bit faster. Another thing to consider for next year is how fast I want to have this degree completed.

**Graduate level degrees, especially in business, seem to be the new bachelor’s degree. Unfortunate and adding to the “education bubble” crisis which looms in the horizon.

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Going to leave this last section to brainstorm topics to write about that are not already on my growing list of topics. Most will be rather short but I do encourage people to adjust their email subscription settings. This next month is going to be pretty annoying for you if you have it set to immediate or daily reminders. You have been warned.

Brainpower!/PartyArty/Apple and Case Study/Fantasy/MLS/Youtubes and Content Creators/Elections/Streaming Music

An Encounter with Meyers-Briggs Part I

Had a really interesting class last week in which we discussed the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. For those who haven’t heard of it before, this is one of the most popular instruments to identify personality. You respond to different prompts and based on those responses you are placed in either of two preferences in four categories leading to classification in one of 16 groups. The four categories are briefly summarized below:*

*For a more in-depth look at the Myers-Briggs and to take your own assessment, check out the official site: Meyers Briggs

Where you focus your attention:

Extroversion v. Introversion
This one is pretty straightforward. Extroverts tend to focus their attention to the outer world of people and things while introverts focus on inner world ideas and impressions.

The way you take in information:

Sensing v. Intuition
Sensing is taking information using the five sense and focusing on facts. Intuition is looking at the big picture and future possibilities.

The way you make decisions:

Thinker v. Feeler
Thinkers tend to make decisions based primarily on logic and on objective analysis. Feelers tend to be irrational and make silly mistakes. Kidding! Feelers focus primarily on values and subjective evaluation which takes into account people concerns.

How you deal with the outer world:

Judging v. Perceiving
It was funny cause when you read the choices in this category, your mind immediately went to your very condescending friend and some obnoxious comment that they made once. It is okay, I did it too.
Judging is used in the older sense of the term and in this definition it means planned and organized. Judgers like order is an easy way to think about it. Perceivers on the other hand tend to like flexibility and spontaneity. Keeping options open if you will.

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So just looking at the categories, you can pretty much feel out which one that you are in each category and when you combine the first letter of those selections, you get your Meyers Briggs type.

For instance, my results came out Introversion/Sensing/Thinking/Judging: ISTJ

From a Meyers Briggs interpretation book:

ISTJ: The theme of ISTJ is inspecting, looking for discrepancies and omissions, and reporting these deviations from the set standards to the appropriate authority. ISTJs want to conserve the resources of the organization, group, family or culture and can be depended upon to persevere toward that goal.

Of course the book goes on to at length to determine general leadership qualities and management styles. A bit heavy but I found to be fairly accurate. The ISTJ group has been labeled by some “The Duty Fullfillers” which I think is a a good way to summarize. I certainly find myself more there than say “The Idealists” (INFP) or “The Visionaries” (ENTP). Now that also isn’t to say that I take 100% stock of this one test that I took one time in 20 minutes. And that was not the intention of the professor giving the test. As with most tools for evaluating and classifying human beings, it is imperfect but useful. Imperfect because everyone does not fit into one of sixteen neatly labeled boxes and one evaluation is not a determination for future actions.*  But useful because there are similar trends with similar type of people.

*Be on the lookout for part 2: Inherent Ability
Understanding different types of people is important at any level. If you know that your boss is bored with data and figures and likes to look at the big picture, you can cater your presentation so that it makes sense to him/her. Or if a coworker is introverted, making sure to pick words carefully, you can take a moment and give them the opportunity to deliver an answer, making sure that they are not drowned out by people who like to talk out their ideas.

Pretend that it is marketing for your life. Arguably the most important part of marketing is identifying the audience. While you may just say “everyone” that presents a difficult task as it is hard to market to everyone at once. It is much easier to segment your market, using demographics or geography, that way you can focus on each group to better communicate your message.** In a similar way, in your workplace or out with friends or at home, you probably already know how to tailor your message for the audience. In some way you have identified certain traits with people and what you can or cannot do or say around that person. Using tools such as the Meyers Briggs not only gives you an opportunity to further unveil the best way to reach someone but more importantly, the way to best exploit that person’s strengths and minimize weaknesses.

**An example close to me right now is mutual funds. Some mutual funds have just finished implementing online resources so that people can check balances, makes purchases and withdrawals. However there still is a tremendous use of paper. Statements have to come out on paper and many changes have to be submitted with proper certification on letterhead or using fund-specific forms. In order to capture the next wave of investors, these old firms must adapt to survive. That means creating a bigger online social presence, generating mobile apps, and changing procedures in order to better accommodate what is becoming an increasing paperless society. 

To me, psychology is a mixed bag. There is a lot of things going on upstairs that I don’t want to know about or frankly care to know about. In most situations I find it unnecessary to find the reason why someone does something or acts a certain way, the act or thought or action is important.  But that ties back to my personality I suppose.

BUS 6000: Paper #1: Leadership

“You have an extraordinary opportunity, take full advantage of this gift.” That was how my professor closed my very first MBA class. I am provisionally enrolled in the prestigious Helzberg MBA program at Rockhurst University. Provisional pending a moderate score on a graduate level entrance exam. To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement.*

*I’ve noted more than once before on this blog that higher education is kind of a big scam, especially for business majors. This holds true. I’m fortunate that my graduate program including all fees will amount to just a hair more than my undergraduate program. Still you must consider that the cost is for about 1/4 of the hours for the same price as undergrad. Law school or Med schools cost much more. I’m thankful that business principles apply in my favor in this situation. There is a demand for MBA programs, so there are more developed and the market has to adjust prices to attract students. Diversification is a great strategy in this type of market, if there was something to diversify. Rockhurst prides itself on being the most accredited and most Jesuit program while an institution such as Baker prides itself on flexibility and ease of entry. Still, at the end of the day, there will be far too many MBA graduates than the market needs and while it will help in advancing the career, still gotta put in the sweat like everyone else. Or get lucky.

So my first class is BUS6000: Managerial Communications which serves a dual purpose. 1) To introduce students to how the Helzberg MBA is structured and what to generally expect and 2) To clean up any sort of remaining communication issues in business writing and presenting. We are to write 4 short papers on topics from the 6 learning goals: Leadership, Ethical and Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Skills and Knowledge, International/Global Perspectives, Information Analysis and Education, and Communication. Since these papers are short, I thought I’d share what I wrote and update as the program goes along.

:: Leadership ::

A tenant of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity is the development of principled business leaders. This seems to be a common theme regarding leadership among the business classes or organizations that I have attended. Such fanaticism regarding developing everyone into strong business leaders instills the idea that if you are not going to be a leader, you are not successful. This unrealistic expectation graduates thousands of students every year who expect to be business leaders but find out rather quickly that everyone cannot be a leader and especially not right away. Realistic leadership, I find, derives from a combination of experience, a solid knowledge base, and good followership.

Experience is a pretty scary term for business students as it presents the first major barrier in starting one’s career. Without strong working experience, there is little chance of promotion or raises or the opportunity to pursue certain jobs. Simply put, most everyone needs to put in the time necessary in his particular area, mainly because what is learned in the classroom does not always translate exactly into the future job. In terms of leadership, experience is necessary because co-workers need to have a good sense of an individual’s skills and how they work before they will be comfortable following them.

A solid knowledge base refers not only to the information that a potential leader has in his head, but also to the information regarding the job. This can cover the actual specifics of the position, general industry knowledge, and especially the catalog of resources and skills available from each team member. The latter part is especially helpful in defining roles and exploiting the personal “core competencies” of each team member which helps the group as a whole be more efficient and more focused. While charisma and building relationships with people are strong factors in leadership, without a strong knowledge base, that particular individual has a much lower ability to realize successful leadership.

Good followership is not simply being able to take orders and do your job effectively. It also means supporting the leader in what ways is necessary. While this may seem to be straightforward, the implications are a bit more complex. Being a good follower does not mean being submissive to a leader but rather supporting ideas or decisions when needed and by opposing ideas when it is not the best for the group. In an ideal group, all members are working hard to support the group and all have applicable leadership skills without striving for control or domination. Rather any particular person in that group practicing good followership could be the leader at any given point, a fact that I feel needs to be emphasized more in teaching leadership.

Leadership is not a universal skill and should not be expected from every student that decides to go into business. I believe that confidence, charisma, and talent go a long way in starting a career in business and growing strong leaders. I do not fault organizations in trying to instill this hopeful idea. However, unless the student can combine experience, a strong knowledge base, and good followership, they cannot realistically expect to become great leaders.

::

Note that this is following the guidelines established for the paper which included:

5 paragraphs, 1 opening, 3 body, 1 conclusion
“copy and paste” thesis in opening and closing paragraphs
Use exact phrasing from thesis for beginning of each body paragraph (for “imprinting”)
Focus on making the document readable and straightforward

For the record, I really didn’t like this paper at all but given the restrictions (1 page, single spaced) there was not a lot of room to play around with it. I am a bit stronger with a bit of persuasion in my writing. It is an art I think, writing, but I won’t delve too deeply into it in this post, just to say, I am comfortable when I can use a lot of “colors” when I have the time and space to make you see what I want you to see. Business writing isn’t like that, which is why this class may be a bit more refreshing. Gives me an opportunity to practice writing things straight up for a change. We’ll see.

In Training

I have been very fortunate to complete another half marathon just a couple of weekends ago. The Hospital Hill Half Marathon went very well, the weather in particular was very cooperative, cool and dry all morning. I was only a couple of minutes off my personal best and given the course (very hilly) I think it was one of the better races that I have ever run. Now before you nod your head gravely and say “I could never do that”, know that you can.* Also I didn’t train quite so vigorously for this race as for previous races just due to general apathy and a bit of exhaustion due to the busy race schedule I set for myself. It does bring up an interesting point on training, however.

Finish Line with PJ @ Hospital Hill

*And I think everyone should complete a half marathon**. One of those “accomplish able goals that will still change your life” type things. If you really think about it, the race isn’t really about the distance as much as the mentality. What better encapsulation of the human spirit that the drive to will yourself through? 

**In a similar vein, everyone should spend a couple of months in the service industry and/or retail. This one is a general one, so people stop being horrible to those respective industries. I mean really. It is not easy. Call centers on the other hand, I don’t wish that upon many people at all. 

Running much more than other things that I have participated in makes very clear the distinction between those who have trained and those who have not. For me it very clearly draws the line when it comes down to a race. I’ll be laboring 7 or 8 miles into the race and wishing I had done a better job preparing myself. Like a test. Unfortunately I’ve found in the corporate world, every day there may be a pop test. But fortunately my current employer is stunningly forgiving and very willing to invest in its assets (like yours truly).

So as the buzz and bustle of tax season rolls into the lull of summer and many financial representatives sneak off for a couple of weeks, it gives our business some moments to reassess assets and evaluate skills. For my corporation, it lends an opportunity to rearrange management and provide annual reviews. Given this general “less than hellishly-busy” schedule, I have been given instructions to bone up on some auxiliary skills that will help me move forward both personally and professionally. We have a rather robust learning management system with classes that appear to be bought from some outside vendor. Classic titles such as:

Taking a Leadership Role: Gaining and Using Influence
Communicating with Tact and Diplomacy
Financial Markets: An Overview

I think it is important to have a set plan for downtime in the workplace. People are generally not going to pay you on the clock to watch silly youtube videos or update your facebook profile.*** So I’ve had the opportunity to take these classes, all structured very similarly, to try to pick up tips and expand on a transcript that will eventually help me move forward (I hope). Would imagine that this sort of secondary training is probably a million dollar industry in itself. Just getting through bullpen would cost the company several thousand dollars I’m sure, but as these other online classes (in tidy 1-4 hour increments) are made available company-wide would imagine that figure ballooning to something around a million dollars or so. In most of these cases, I think it is clear that certain traits can be practiced but there is such thing as a natural speaker or a natural leader. In the corporate environment (as far I have experienced and studied) these natural advantages mean a lot more. More simply put “it is not what you know, it is who you know” and in many cases, it is how well you know yourself.

***Or following European Championships. Where the English national team may surprisingly sneak into the semi-finals under the least expectations in decades. Also I think all outside observers and neutral fans hope to see a rematch of the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain. I actually think everyone would enjoy that match. The Spanish riding out a terrific golden age hoping to add another trophy to the collection and a young and very fun German side that looks set to dominate the next decade in international soccer. Not that I’m following the tournament at work too closely…

This is where I’m trying to find my footing. Due to a strong start with my team, I received a very nice “annual” review but ultimately led to the question: “what do you see yourself doing later on in your career/for this company?” And I was (surprisingly for some) left without a good reply. I am quite sure the next step is to take advantage of company incentives for continuing education (MBA) and then figure out how to leverage that degree and the accumulating experience to springboard into…

…something I suppose. There are a myriad of opportunities not only within my own company but with the ties with our parent company as well. And while it may seem increasingly unlikely I will land that fantasy job**** there still is a strong possibility to land a dream job if I could settle on what exactly it is I want to do.

****test subject in a study of the ability for mid-20 Asian-American males to count tourists on the beaches of Australia whilst intoxicated.

On a more casual note, I am also going to take advantage of a respite in my racing schedule (maybe for the rest of the year) to level up on some video games. Though of a more immediate nature, I will actually be taking a little time off for vacation. Think it is going to be brilliant as it has been a decade since I’ve been to California.

I’ll leave you with a really fun commercial I saw recently for Nike running, see you later, space cowboys.

Why I Love the Theater

At the beginning of the month was a pretty special movie day on May 4th. Happy Star Wars Day!! May the 4th Be With You! I was a huge Star Wars fan for a long time, though now that I think back to it, I’m not sure who it was that first showed it to me. I think I have the original trilogy on VHS somewhere.* Though I was enamored for what I would say is the better part of two decades. One very distinct memories I have was once I found a Yoda action figure which was super rare in my eyes and couldn’t decide for the longest time whether to borrow money to buy it or not (ended up getting it of course). And many, many hours reading all sorts of Star Wars novels (to this day my favourites were the Thrawn trilogy, Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina, and Tales of the Bounty Hunters. I think it generally gave me an appreciation for storytelling and fantasy and lightsabers. Then the prequels came out…

As a fun aside, I pulled this from a friend’s facebook wall, about what order to watch all the movies in case you felt like having a Star Wars marathon. Star Wars Suggested Viewing Order. It is fantastic minus the author’s hatred for podracing. I really enjoyed podracing.

*For the children, VHS is to DVD, what cassettes are to CDs, what CDs are to iPods.

In honor of  such a special occasion, I would like to take a moment and tell you why I love movies.

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Let’s start with the basics. There is an inherent beauty in storytelling. It is central to the formation of culture and the preservation of ideals. It allows us to pass down our morals and values to future generations and pass them down in a way that is largely entertaining. Why early cultures began drawing to leave a history, then the development of pictures (which was awesome) and then finally with moving pictures(also awesome). Combine a rich oral history with moving pictures to help illustrate a story or an idea and BAM! movie.

Okay bad news first. We have so many movies now. Technology has made it very, very easy to make a movie. Anyone can do it. And we all waste a lot of time on movies. Far too much time. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that supports the creation and sale of movies. Whole careers are made for appearing in movies, writing scripts, or holding a boom microphone.** There are a lot of movies out there that don’t tell a significant story. Just garbage. Then there are movies that tell a good story badly. A lot of pressure apparently in making and editing movies. Even a whole dirty system around rating movies. We also place far too much importance on the actors and actresses and directors. That in itself created a multimillion dollar industry of media coverage and random photographers and reporters following these people every which way and even more that are set up as “legitimate” that are used to leverage these faces to push movies out to you.

**And good for them. There are something like 7 billion people in the world and there aren’t enough jobs out there. Even critics.***

On the good side, movies can tell a wonderful story, wonderfully. They can be timeless. Every time I watch Casablanca, Bergman and Bogart never grow older. The piano sounds the same, cigarettes are still smoked in that careless manner every single time, every blink and line captured and delivered as it was when made and always will be. And there is comfort to that familiarity. Like how if given a choice, students who pick their seats will likely sit in the same seat every single day of that semester. Along with that familiarity there is that tie in, that any generation, at any time of day will see the exact same thing that you see. Experience will be different obviously, but the elements will be the same, every time. It is something almost magical in quality that you can share over and over with all sorts of people.

***Okay here is my “little” rant on critics. There is too much information out there. No one person will ever know everything about everything. With the internet and various ways in which we can almost instantaneously generate information or find information or get  bombarded by information, it is no wonder we can get a bit lost when deciding on a restaurant or a movie or a pair of underpants. So we have “media mavens” people who we follow who help dictate where we shop, what we eat, and generally how we go about our lives. The important part to note is that advertisers put these people in the spotlight for us to follow. Take someone who is successful or beautiful and put them in the spotlight to push your hair product or skin product. For every different group, a host of different mavens to cater for one product or another.

Then there are critics. These people write reviews of different things so that we get an idea of them without having to actually experience them or give a general synopsis to help us, the other consumers, make a more educated decision. Now ideologically, I despise critics. Their jobs do have the ability to create an industry and launch a brand or destroy a reputation with just a couple of keystrokes. That in itself is alright if it was all in good intention and people are fairly judged. Critics are people like you or I and as such they are extremely vulnerable to bias and bribery. Many are drunk on this perverted sort of power and have some sort of ideal of self worth that comes generally with little actual information about creation themselves. My advice? Find your niche critics and use them to help you determine what to watch or eat. You should not ask an equestrian about glue the same way you should not ask Robert Butler about “big Hollywood turkeys”  the same way you would not ask a teenage girl about anything (really). I feel like inherently, you know what you’re going to like, so seek out the “mavens” and critics that cater to those ideals and you’re all set. Best summed up this way:

 

I love movies because movies can take you somewhere you have never been. Somewhere that never exists and probably will never exist. Movies will show you something unlikely, improbable, or impossible. For just a little while, anywhere from half an hour to three hours a story, you can be whisked away to someplace magical, join some wild adventure, or fall in love. If you go to the theater and you’re sitting in a packed house and the lights dim and the screen lights up with the opening credits and the hush falls over the crowd, that moment is truly special. You are all about to go on this little journey together, for better or worse.**** I even appreciate the box office. Well that’s not 100% accurate. I don’t like the sweaty teenagers or slightly older, generally more jaded employees who man the booth. I like the process, standing in a queue, looking up at the board with all the movies and corresponding times, I like the little machine that spits out tickets. I like speaking to a person through glass that is likely not a criminal. All very nice.

****With popcorn! Movie theater popcorn is one of the best foods ever. Salty and part soft, part crunchy, buttery. It is simply an indulgence, a luxury that is not quite replicated anywhere else.  

In conclusion:

So there is a big row between Big Hollywood and the Internet, ticket prices are only going up and so are concessions. Millions of dollars are lost due to pirating and illegal distribution. At the same time, box office records are falling left and right. Creative people are everywhere expressing stories in a multitude of ways using all the different mediums we have available. As for me, there are few things quite so indulgent as a couple of hours spent at the movies. We know the stories by now, we want to see actors and actresses show us something we’ve seen before performed in a way that we have never even imagined. Whether your taste in genre be different from mine or you fancy political documentaries or you frequent small art house theaters, I think collectively we can agree, the shows will go on.

An Ad That I Love Vol. V

Yay! A shoe commercial! Athletic shoes are probably the most advertised, they don’t quite have the same sort of market as say dress shoes or sandals. Running shoes particularly have to have pretty good marketing campaigns to really move the product. There is a strange sort of mentality I feel in general consumers that athletic shoes have to strike a balance from wear-ability and kind of do-ability. Put it this way, the ads have to make it feel like the average joe can do something but at the same time promoting this this brand will make you do this amazing thing. This has as much to do with brands as it has to do with the individual ads.

A good example of this is Nike Air Jordans*. While there is a huge portion of the target demographic that may buy Jordans for more of a status symbol (which it definitely is among some groups). There are others that actually use them for basketball and I would imagine they can channel a bit of MJ magic when they lace up the sneakers. I can freely admit that I’ve been sucked in more than once to such schemes, like when I bought an ab wheel or when I got myself a decent road bike when I really just needed help with regular core work or needed to ride regularly to be better on the second leg of triathlons.** In any case, on to the ad!

*It is important to note that many wiki articles have some significant issues with its content. This article is the first that I’ve seen that has the caution regarding “written like an advertisement, needs to be re-worded to be more neutral”. Wikipedia is fascinating because it really has pooled together the collective resources of millions of people to put together a fascinatingly (and mostly accurate) knowledge base. It is not without it flaws, it will be telling in the next couple of decades whether sites like Wikipedia will remain free or the choke-hold of information by the corporations will bleed into limiting the internet as it is apt to do. 

**Which I do need to ride my bike more regularly to build up the appropriate leg muscles and get into a better rhythm while pedaling. Like I need to take a spin class or read a book. I think it is one of those things where I need to observe and speak to a good cyclist to get a better feel for what I need to be thinking and doing. I know that I learn and perform much better when I can take pieces of information, test them, and add them to a larger picture. What is that saying,” some people are thinkers and others are doers”? I just gotta wrap my head around the former to perform the latter. 


Firstly by just sheer aesthetics and first reactions:
I love the kind of exaggerated Kung Fu movie type dialog (especially the laugh) and that the athlete in question seems to just stumble in and doesn’t say a word the entirety of the ad. The kind of unexpected and humorous twist also helps to reinforce the catchphrase for the shoe “Like barefoot, only better”. I also like the name “Minimus”. Just kind of throws the barefoot/minimalist movement (which I have written about at length) right into the face of the audience and kind of rubs it in your face.

On the boring/technical/not very accurate analysis:
New Balance is very strong in the running shoe industry. The company still trails Brooks which holds a pretty significant market share in the demographic despite the presence of major shoe manufacturers, Nike and Adidas.*** The ad is part of a series of short ads promoting the Minimus not only that is a useful and effective alternative to running barefoot but also lends to the idea of trail running (becoming much more popular) and a sense of adventure when you go out running (who knows what you’ll encounter). The red color is distinctive but not too flashy and the character has a big New Balance logo right on his shirt which is a great tie in for the little amount of time New Balance is shown directly over the course of the 30 seconds or so. The main character, as it stands, is bearded, white, and generally gives off a kind of innocence that I think plays well to a running demographic that (for males) generally run 25-40. Do remember though, that women are the big demographic in the running community so it is kind of hard to say where exactly this is addressed in the ad. Still, just a terrific ad.

***Which is in itself a fascinating battle because you can break it down to market share in specific sports. Nike traditionally has a stronger market share in basketball while Adidas has a much stronger role in soccer. But it is not as if they have ignored the other sports, there is too much at stake in order to abandon the other sports and just focus on the ones that they are most known for. So millions of dollars in resources are spent to maintain margins (Nike has the likes of Manchester United in soccer, Adidas has the likes of superstar Derrick Rose in basketball, etc and so forth). But these battles for overall market supremacy leaves space for companies like Brooks (running) or Umbro (soccer) or even more ambitious Under Armour (which now has shoes) to carve out very strong market share in specific niches. Did you read and understand all of that? Congrats, that is bare bones, Strategic Management.

As always, let me know if you have an Ad that you love and maybe I’ll feature it here!

Bonus!

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Quick update in my crazy racing calendar. Competed in the KCCC 5K with a finishing time of a little over 22 minutes. Not feeling very good during the run, it was a bit hillier than previously anticipated and it was quite hot with a starting time around 8:30AM. Still it was very exciting to participate in my first Corporate Challenge event and I’m looking forward to the other ones that are still to come this year. I have not made the half-mara team but I completed the first of two tryouts of the 3v3 soccer team and will be considered for a spot on the triathlon team. Fingers crossed!

Also completed my first triathlon of the year in Columbia at the Tri-Zou, a sprint distance event on campus at the University of Missouri. While it was a nice course and set up was great (another fantastic job from the people at Ultramax), I did not do very well due to the bike leg and the complications with the swim leg. The first leg was held in a pool which has some serious complications as far as logistics for the 800 or so participants. The 400 meter swim was set as a snaking path along the lanes in the pool but meant that one person at a time could enter the water every 10 seconds. While I don’t think there is a way to avoid this given the circumstances, I was very bored and very ancy waiting for over an hour after the first people started before I could even enter the pool and get my race started. That also meant that I would be outside when it was only getting hotter, later as the morning wore on. In any case, I faded a bit on the bike and had a rather poor run (what is generally my best leg) but a good learning experience. It was a fun weekend regardless and shout out to Nathan, not only for letting me crash at his apartment but also beating me in the race and all in the shadow of graduation from law school. Amazing! And best of luck on the upcoming bar exam!

As for me, I’ll be licking my wounds and prepping for the KC Triathlon in a little under two weeks. See you later space cowboys!