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My oldest sister is living what I would consider “off the grid.” She does not have a land line, the internet or cable television. She doesn’t even own a car. She does have an iPhone and a MacBookPro however. She has a Netflix account and watches DVDs. She uses her iPhone to connect to Pandora and hooks it up to portable speakers. She checks email on the phone. I guess you could say she’s AT&T’s beeotch which is hardly off the grid,  but you get the idea.

It’s been fun to watch her make this transition. She’s saving a ton of money (which was her original driver) and has improved greatly the quality of her life. It’s very vogue in Portland, Oregon to live simply.

Last night I was having dinner with a dear friend and when the bill came he insisted on paying for the wine. How many times has this happened to you? You’re with a group of people, enjoying a wonderful meal and the bill comes and chaos ensues. Math is hard people and then there’s the tip and do they have cash, and who has change for a twenty and let’s just have the waiter split is two ways…..ugh. Instead, he asks if he can just “bump” us the money.

Sounds like fun! What the hell does that mean? It’s an iPhone app that accesses your PayPal account and let’s you easily send money immediately to your dining partner. It even does math for you by calculating tax and tip.

Granted, your PayPal account has to be attached to a checking account which means you’re still on the grid – BUT, this could completely eliminate the need for a debit card and certainly kill off the paper check for good if the technology is widely adopted.

I guess my point is this. Credit unions move people’s money. Period. For the most part we still rely on old school methods for achieving this. Bumping money with your iPhone is like toasting with a glass of champagne. It’s fun, it’s hip, it’s the future. We need to be a part of that future.

My friend Kent Dicken at Shared IDiz had a great blog post last week that involved the coolness of bananas. That’s right. Imagine if you were the marketer for Chiquita. You need to somehow differentiate your banana. Go.

Any ideas? Think about it. I’ll wait.

They did something very simple. Very random, and it changed the way I buy bananas. Success.

Yesterday I was listening to the local news and a reporter, Stephanie Strickland struck her own version of Olympic gold when she was able to get the attention of Snowboarder Shaun White. How? With a banana.

As she tells the story, she knew there was no way she could get an interview with this icon, and there were literally thousands of photographers and reporters that would be waiting for him outside the venue. So…..she got some poster board, a  few Canadian stickers and a banana. She wrote “Sign this Banana” and waited. It worked.

Shaun walked over and said “You want me to sign a banana?”

“Yes, please.”

And so he did.

Then he posted a picture of it on his Facebook page that simply said “I had to sign this banana.” 4,582 Facebook fans agreed.

Lessons learned. Shiny happy people on your marketing stuff does not differentiate you. So stop doing it! Think like a banana. Be the banana. Find your inner banana.

I completely forgot about this medium in eulogizing the death of traditional marketing. I guess I forgot because, well, I don’t see how you can avoid billboards – so I guess they are here to stay. Unless there are laws passed that prohibit….oh wait, here it is on Wikipedia (so it has to be true). Currently, four states – Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii and Maine – have prohibited billboards.

But if you’re lucky enough to live in the 46 states that allow billboards and you serve anyone who lives, works or worships along a major thoroughfare, consider this:

Seriously though, I do think a billboard advertisement can be effective. Here are 15 absolutely brilliant billboard ads.

The Dos and Dont’s of Billboard, Bus and Bench marketing:

  • Don’t try to say too much and discourage readership.
  • Don’t let your design suck.
  • Do remember the math of billboards: 8, 9, one in three, and 27.
  1. A person has about 8 seconds to react to your billboard.
  2. It takes 9 impressions to get into people’s minds.
  3. One in three times people aren’t paying attention to your billboard, so, they need to drive by your ad at least 27 times to get it.

I would love to see what credit unions are doing in this space. I don’t think this will die anytime soon.

NOTE: For purposes of this virtual funeral, Marketing will be defined as anything that is one way. Meaning, the member can’t be heard in the process.  It is intended for them to pay attention – or go away and read this. Examples: television ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, direct mail and brochures.

I’ve been speaking a lot lately – about marketing – or the slow death of it – and I get mixed reactions. Some deer-in-the-headlights, some nodding in agreement, some defiant in disagreement. All valid.

If your credit union’s goal is to attract and retain younger members, these traditional marketing efforts will not work.

But let’s celebrate what was a great run. Pay our respects, share our stories and memories and celebrate the life that is ahead. All of these marketing mediums made us better people. We should be thankful for their place in history. They will be missed.

R.I.P. the Television Ad.

Show of hands: how many of you remember when television went off the air? I do.

It’s one of the main reasons I got a real job in high school rather than the not-so-lucrative-baby-sitting-gigs my mom was able to pimp out. We lived in a very Catholic neighborhood. Giant families. She would “offer” me up on a Friday night at like a dollar an hour to watch 6 brats scream their way through my evening. The best part about baby sitting – was when you weren’t. When those rug rats were all safely tucked into bed and you had the television all to yourself. And hopefully some Hostess product.

Then it happened, the clock outran the viewing time. You were left with nothing to watch but this:


And you did.

Counting the minutes until the parents would finally arrive, give you 5 dollars and drunk drive you home. Good times.

Television was captivating in the 70’s. There was no internet. No video games. No Wii. If you weren’t watching television I suppose you could listen to the radio, read a book or go explore nature. But why? When you could plop down in front of the boob tube!

There were only 4 stations back then and you had to get up to change the channel. If the reception was poor, you had aluminum foil and your fist to remedy that. Very high tech. Because there was so little to choose from, you could clip the TV Click out of the Sunday paper and post it on the fridge to see the entire week’s offerings and plan accordingly. If you missed a show, you missed it. No taping. No Your only connection would be to hear, from co-workers, that JR Ewing was shot! Dang!

Commercials were put in place so we could run to the bathroom to pee or grab a soda. Most of your members today probably still watch TV the new-fashioned way. By endlessly clicking through their 180 channels, wading through commercials looking for something interesting to watch. There’s definitely hope that they might see our ad.

And we can tell the board that we are “out there” on television.

NEXT: The wake. What will television look like without ads?

When my nieces and nephews ask me to “Read them a story.” and then hand me a book that they’ve heard a thousand times, I like to make up a new one based on the general premise of the book. It’s usually met with delight. 

Storytelling was used for centuries to pass along history before paper, pens, typewriters and MacBookPros were invented. Even with all of these modern devices I’m continually amazed how many credit union people I come across that don’t know the story of how their financial co-op came to be. 

Now more than ever we need to tell our story. And not in the sing-songy-heard-it-a-million-times “We’re a not for profit financial institution owned and operated by our members…..”

Tell it a new way. How about starting with this phrase…..“After the great depression……”

Story telling is different than a slogan or a tag line. Brent Dixon had a great post recently that talked about the ingredients of a great story. 

This morning I took this photo. I’m staying at the Residence Inn near the Portland Airport. When I went downstairs to get my morning coffee at 6:00 am I saw this pile of stuff outside the door of Room 217. There’s a story here…..Go!


juliaChildHave you ever heard someone say that in a meeting? A planning session? Or worse yet, a brainstorming session? 

If everyone felt that way – you try something once, it fails, it cannot be done – we wouldn’t have airplanes, electricity, telephones, post-it-notes or the Food Network! 

I just finished reading Julia Child’s My Life in France.

She didn’t set out to become a highly rated televised cooking show, she had a passion for French cooking. She wanted to teach American housewives, who did not have servants, to master the art of French cooking. She spent 10 years writing her first cookbook. The manuscript came in at over 700 pages. 

Her first publisher, after giving her an advance, told her there was no audience in America for something that detailed. The TV dinner had just been introduced and that convinced the folks in charge at this publishing house that no one was interested in cooking anymore. The American housewife was looking for fast and easy. That may have been somewhat true – but not everyone was looking for that. Could there be a niche for French? Maybe you could be successful by not appealing to the masses? Interesting thought. 

Luckily someone at Knopf publishing shared her passion for French cuisine and was able to convince the company to take a chance. 

The notorious James Beard was actually the first person to be televised cooking. He had no real camera presence. He was an artist – not a great communicator. So it was concluded by many that “No one wanted to watch someone cook on television.” 

Think about it – today we have an entire network, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that is devoted to watching people cook. One of the highest rated shows in a season is the Next Food Network Star. 

So the next time you hear someone say, “You know, we tried that once – it won’t work.” You may be hearing an idea so great its time has finally come. You may have finally found your true differentiator!

Question everything. 

IMG_0381My wonderful niece Leslie came out to see us this week-end. She’s a Special Ed teacher, and mother of two. It’s her first vacation without the family. So I asked her – what do you want to do in New York? Go to MoMA! The Museum of Modern Art. 


According to their website –  MoMA is a place that fuels creativity, ignites minds, and provides inspiration. 


The admission is twenty bucks – times 3. I’ll admit it – I plunked down $60 and immediately thought of what ELSE I could do with that kind of money. But I love my niece, and this is where she wanted to go. 


The main room looked like someone was setting up for a garage sale. There was all this crap laying on laying on the floor- shoes, books, old appliances, cell phone chargers, empty pop bottles, towels, beat up games with pieces clearly missing. WTH? Mark and I looked at each other – thinking the same thing. Leslie was in the back of the room reading the story of the installation


Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) explores notions of transience and impermanence with installations that combine aspects of performance, video, photography, and sculpture. Projects 90, his first solo U.S. museum show, presents his recent work Waste Not. A collaboration first conceived of with the artist’s mother, the installation consists of the complete contents of her home, amassed over fifty years during which the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong, or “waste not,” was a prerequisite for survival. The assembled materials, ranging from pots and basins to blankets, oil flasks, and legless dolls, form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through.


And so we did – with fresh perspective.  Instead of piles of junk, it began to look like a 3 dimensional quilt. Nothing material was ever tossed. Buttons, lids to jars, worn out shoes. They may have lost their original purpose, but in times of great need, what other benefits lie within their sole? 


In the spirit of bricolage – I challenge myself to find “other uses” for my garbage. 


Any ideas?

IMG_1002To whom it may concern:


My friend Shari Storm twittered the beginning of that famous Crosby, Stills and Nash song this morning. And it got me thinking.


I used to hear a song on the radio. Think, oh man I have to buy that album. Next time I go to the record store, I’ll look for it. Whenever I entered said record store (my all time favorite was Music Millenium in Portland, Oregon – I can still smell it) anyway, whatever music was playing would distract me and I’d forget why I was in there. So I’d wander around and eventually buy something. Fumbling with the tightly bound cellophane in my car, then trying to slice of that one annoying sticker so I could finally free the disc. Pop it in, and off we go. 


Now I’m hearing a song in a bar, grab my iPhone, click on Shazam, identify it, buy it (for a buck) In a bar.


Traveling twice the speed of sound…..


I used to read a book review in say People magazine, clip it out, stash it in my purse until I went to the book store. Hopefully remembered it was there, look for the book (hope it’s in stock) and carry it home.


Now I’m talking to a stranger in a bar, she sees my Kindle, says “Oh man, I just finished this great book, you should get it.” Flick on the book, over to and blammo, I got it (and it’s 10 bucks off the print price). 


I’m at a credit union inquiring about opening up a business checking account. It’ll take a week to ten days to get my debit card, and checks. Mobile banking. They’re thinking about doing that. 


It’s easy to get burned…….


The MySpace Generation: Marketing to Generation Y

That’s the title of my speaking topic for tomorrow. I’m up right after lunch. I expect to have board members and senior management in my session. And I’ve been losing sleep over this? Why?

Not because I’m 47 – technically on the cusp between the Baby Boomer Generation and Generation X. Not because I’m not prepared, in fact I think I may have over-prepared. I guess it’s because I feel like I’m going to poop in every marketer’s punch bowl tomorrow, and well, you’re my peeps.

But it’s been bugging me for some time now, so I have to say it. We have to STOP doing what doesn’t work. We need Marketing 2.0! Modern marketing. New tools in our toolbox. In doing my research I created a marketing/media timeline:

1681 is the year of the very first direct mail piece in America. A pamphlet published by William Penn.

“No Junk Mail” is a movement in Australia today.

1704 came the first newspaper in America. So far this year 3 major newspapers have gone out of print/business.

1876 was the first telephone call ever made. In 2003 Bush signed the Do Not Call Implementation Act to protect consumers from telemarketers.

1924 the first radio broadcast in America. In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed allowing for Pandora type streaming commercial free customized radio.

1941 is the year of the first television broadcast in the US. Just 50 years later TiVo is invented changing the way we watch TV (commercial free).

1990 The world wide web is created. Marketers quickly tried to adapt this new medium to old school methods. Pop-up ads appeared and almost immediately software was created to block them.

How do you market to generation Y? You can’t. Period. So stop trying. Stop doing what doesn’t work. It’s no wonder the average age of a credit union member is 48 nationally. That’s one year older than me! Look at your web page, your last direct mail piece, listen to that radio ad you just produced, or clip out that newspaper ad and hang it on the wall above a teller’s desk- do you think anyone under 45 is really going to care?

It’s funny, but Generation Y acts very much the same way as our credit union founders. They are faced with exactly the same economic challenges, have traditional values and do not trust big banks but rather each other. They love to gather (think common bond) and give each other advice (think people helping people) they just don’t do it in the company lunch room. They do it on their phones and laptops on the subway, in the coffee shop, or just walking down the street.

We need to join this conversation. We need to stop TELLING them what they want and what they should do and start LISTENING to what they want and figure out what YOU should do.

Social network users are 3X more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising in purchase decisions.

1 word-of-mouth conversation = the impact of 200 TV ads!

We need to understand, word-of-mouth always has been, and always will be the best, cheapest and most effective marketing. Your direct mail pieces aren’t getting you word of mouth. They may get you some hot money.

Stop “going after” people and products and start targeting a problem. Kudos to Technology Credit Union for writing their own iPhone application! And to the 200 plus credit unions that are now Twittering (thank you Roger Conant for CUTweetTrack).

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t want to encourage R & D (rip off and duplicate) by just showing the things that credit unions are doing to attract this generation.

What are you doing in the Gen Y space that is worthy of a mention? What’s left of your common bond? Is there a cause in there you could get behind?

And because I’m going to be speaking to the League of IBM Credit Unions (now called the Alliance of Credit Unions) I leave you with their mantra. Think.

Pronounced bree-kuh-lahzh

– noun,“To make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose).”

As Sister Rose Delores would say, “Now use it in a sentence.”

One who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur.

Think MacGyver or Mr. Bean, or you as a five year old.

One of my fondest childhood memories was practicing bricolage with my two sisters. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so we had to be creative. Of course we loved to play Barbies. One week-end my mom let us take over the dining room table to build a Barbie world. It started with Barbie’s house. I was in charge of the bathroom. We made her a bathtub out of a pink Pyrex loaf pan (which is being offered on eBay for $24.99) and my mom carved us a tiny little soap bar, and made her a toilet paper roll with a toothpick and cut up paper towels. The towel rack was a bobbie pin with another chunk of paper towel hanging from it. Barbie loved it! Nobody recalled our Barbie dream house because of lead paint.

We also used to play “store.” Mom would always open her cans and boxes on the bottom so we could pretend they were still full and we would make price tags for them and with cinder blocks and boards made store shelves and would take turns being the shopper and the cashier.

She was a wonderful cook. My favorite meals were “Clean out the fridge night.” It was time to take leftovers and whatever else we could find and make a meal. Not everyone ended up with the same things on their plate – so you felt special.

This recession will bring back bricolage. We’re not going to be able to buy whatever we want and passively be entertained. Budgets are getting cut, times are tough. We have to get back to basics.

I’m sure our fallen brothers and sisters in the military relied on the practice of bricolage. Let’s remember them and honor them.

My wish for this Memorial week-end is for us all to practice bricolage. Make a fort with your kids, rustle up vittles, make music with waxpaper and combs and plastic containers and wooden spoons, make up a bedtime story, use clothespins to attach playing cards to your kids bicycle wheels to make a cool noise. Enjoy what you have.

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March 2023