Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Now that was fun


What a great Christmas this has been. Lots of friends, family, great food and good travelling conditions. Hope you've all enjoyed a similarly good time and are looking forward to continuing celebrations as 2009 dawns. I'm not a big fan of New Years Eve parties simply because I try to find cause for celebration on almost any day and December 31 has always seemed forced to me.

However, with that Bah Humbug out of the way, enjoy and be safe.

Gabriel is already hoisting a toast to a fresh start for next year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ooooooof - Time to slow down

After all the hurly burly and scurrying about before Christmas it is time to relax, put our feet up and leave the rest of the job to Santa.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and all the best for this festive season.
Eat. Drink. Be merry.
Be safe.
Hope Santa recovers from this little mishap!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Harry = Happy Christmas


It's the time of year for stories with happy endings. "The Vicar's Wife", "It's a Wonderful Life", "Love Actually", etc., etc.
That's only part of the reason I'm so delighted that Harry will have a new home on Sunday (assuming he doesn't go mental between now and then) with a wonderful woman who will treat him like a king.
And, again the power of personal networks is proven so thanks to all of you who responded to this posting, my email and notice on Facebook. You're great. I thank you. Harry thanks you and so do Kate and Gabriel.
Be a good boy Harry.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A new home for Harry


Hi. I’m Harry Kerr. I’m about three years old, very handsome and kind of like a dog-cat in ways. I’ve had all my jabs and am in good health. I’ve spent the majority of my life with Don and Katie and am a happy indoor cat (‘cause I don’t have my front claws and I’ve been spayed too.) About 14 months ago my parents brought home a baby, Gabriel. For the first while everything was cool but now that he’s walking about and getting ALL of the attention I’m not very happy here. My Doctor says I need to be in a house full of love but where I’m not competing with a child for attention. My parents are sad. They really love me but I guess this baby has to come first so that’s why they’re wondering if you or someone you know would like to adopt me. Please?
If you know someone or want to take me home with you please contact my Dad as follows:
don@gracehanna.com
Thank you. I’ve got lots of love to share!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Visions of sugar plums


If only we all could retain this sense of wonder.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Photo Credit: Gabriel's G.D. Roger Sanders

Thursday, December 4, 2008









It's holiday season and many of us will be looking this year especially for a way to combine high-quality treats and the best value available. As a supporter of things Canadian...heck, some of my best friends are Canadian...and a wine fancier you might think that my quest for quality and value are doomed.


How wrong you would be.


There are many fine wines available from our Ontario wineries and there are three I'd like to share with you, all from Chateau des Charmes and all bear the VQA designation. The first is the St. David's Bench Cabernet Sauvignon. For my money and palate this is one of the best Canadian reds available. As my BFF at the LCBO would tell you, my heart is set on finding wines that sell for around the $20 mark when they could well command twice that or more. The second is the Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Chardonnay for those of you who prefer whites. Again, it's an approachable, versatile wine which is just dandy for quaffing and for enjoying with your favourite meals. Finally, a suggestion. There's going to be a lot of turkey consumed in the next few weeks. While I'd normally go for a Oregon Pinot Noir this year we'll be enjoying Chateau des Charmes' Cabernet Merlot. Purists might scoff and I'll readily admit that I'm no sommelier BUT when I took a wine course a few years ago our instructor said, if you like it it's a good wine.


I'm sold. Suggest you check these three out. You might have to order from the winery direct for a couple of these (St. David's Bench isn't always available in your run-of-the-mill LCBO). Visit http://www.chateaudescharmes.com/ to learn how to get their product in your hands.


Oh. Before I forget, they also do a really great 'champagne' if you're looking for a New Years' Eve or Christmas morning tipple.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hot Food, and Air, at Bus Stops - from the NY Times

Just this past week Kraft was named marketer of the year (2008) by Canada's Marketing Magazine. The following story from the New York Times gives more evidence of how Kraft 'gets' it...that a brand is a promise, elevated to an experience.

By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: December 1, 2008
CRITICS claim that advertising is just a lot of hot air. For the next month, at certain bus stops, they will have a point.
In the latest example of a trend that is becoming increasingly popular on Madison Avenue, heated air will descend from the roofs of 10 bus shelters in Chicago, courtesy of the Stove Top brand of stuffing sold by Kraft Foods.
From Tuesday through the end of this month, Kraft is arranging for the company that builds and maintains the bus shelters, JCDecaux North America, to heat them, trying to bring to life the warm feeling that consumers get when they eat stuffing, according to Kraft.
Such “experiential marketing” is intended to entice consumers to experience products or brands tangibly rather than bombard them with pitches.
It is a response to the growing ability of consumers to ignore or avoid traditional advertising, thanks to technology like digital video recorders. Experiential marketing is also an acknowledgment that products and brands must offer alternatives to the interruptive model of peddling that has been the mainstay of advertising for more than a half-century, which disrupts what consumers want to watch, read or hear.
“Stove Top as a brand has a great equity in the area of warmth,” said Ellen Thompson, brand manager for Stove Top at Kraft Foods in Glenview, Ill. “This is an opportunity to expand into a multisensory experience.”
The 10 heated shelters, primarily in downtown Chicago locations like Michigan Avenue and State Street, will have posters that read: “Cold, provided by winter. Warmth, provided by Stove Top.” The posters will also appear on 40 other bus shelters that will not have heated roofs.
During the first three weeks of December, Kraft plans to give samples of a new variety of Stove Top, called Quick Cups, to commuters and passers-by at half of the heated shelters.
“People don’t always think of Stove Top for an everyday meal,” said Jamie Mattikow, vice president for marketing in the grocery division at Kraft.
“In these hard times, when people are eating more at home,” he added, there is “a great opportunity to introduce our brands to people in a new way.”
The campaign, which is estimated to cost Kraft more than $100,000, is a collaboration of JCDecaux North America; the Stove Top media agency, MediaVest, part of the Starcom MediaVest Group division of the Publicis Groupe; and the Stove Top creative agency, Draft FCB, part of the
Interpublic Group of Companies.
The fourth quarter, when marketers are striving mightily to stimulate sales as the year ends, typically brings a wide variety of experiential marketing tactics.
For example,
Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, is sponsoring a couple of projects this month in New York. One is what has become an annual sponsorship of restrooms in Times Square, on behalf of brands like Charmin toilet paper.
The other initiative is new, a so-called pop-up store in Midtown, BrandSaver Live, named after Procter’s BrandSaver coupon inserts in Sunday newspapers. At the store, consumers can sample products, receive coupons and even be made over with P.& G. beauty and hair care brands.
Other pop-up stores — the term comes from their temporary existence — have been operated by marketers as disparate as Meow Mix cat food, the Suave hair care line sold by
Unilever, the United States Potato Board and Wired magazine.
Other brands wooing consumers with experiential efforts during the holidays in New York and other major markets include the ABC Family cable channel, Burger King, Jameson Irish whiskey, Memorex audio products, Rémy Martin Cognac and TD Bank.

The biggest risk with experiential marketing is that consumers will deem it an annoying gimmick, which could harm attempts to improve perceptions of brands or products.
There is a precedent. In December 2006, the California Milk Processor Board worked with the
CBS Outdoor division of CBS to introduce scent strips on bus shelters in San Francisco. The strips, which smelled like chocolate chip cookies, were an effort to bring to life the experience of desiring a glass of milk for dunking cookies.
The campaign was abruptly ended after an outcry that the scent was inappropriate in public places and could set off allergic reactions.
Mr. Mattikow of Kraft, reminded of the cookie fiasco, said, “We are confident consumers will enjoy” the heated bus shelters.
Mr. Decaux had this response: “The reaction of the public was quite surprising. All it was, was the smell of a nice cookie.”
Still, Mr. Decaux said, “You always have to be careful not to upset the balance between having a presence and being too intrusive.”
Referring to the Stove Top shelters, he added, “I don’t think anyone will find it’s too intrusive.”
Perhaps. After all, some like it hot, particularly on a December day in Chicago.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Absent friends


Was recently going through some old files and photos. Came upon some shots from golf trips to Myrtle Beach in what now seems like the distant past. Gave me pause to reflect on how having successful friends can sometimes lead to separation but how great it is to be able to stay in touch via tools such as this blog, Facebook, email, and that old form of communication - the telephone.

For example, I took this photo on a trip to Kiawah Island. You know, I don't even remember what year it was but I do recall that Commissioner Booty, Counsellor Paul, Dr. Ricky Ray, Father O'Malley and others were in attendance.

I wrote a stupid mystery after the trip, "K is for Kiawah", in which I took the piss out of a number of people on the trip but it was all done with joy and the intent to create a record of a time that meant much to me.

Anyway, I'm still in touch with most of the people on that trip. It would be great if they were more nearby. My pal in Hong Kong I miss a bunch. My friend in Situate as well. Can't remember if the big Latvian was in Kiawah but now he's in Bermuda and I'd love to see him again too.

Good night my friends. Sleep well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When you move...

...to a new home you don't really know if it will be home until you've had some time to meet your neighbours and experience events together.
We've been doubly blessed.
The family sharing the western side of our semi - the Tomlinsons (Keith, Karen and Ryan) - have been so incredibly welcoming. That's Keith on the far left and Karen waving. Ryan is hidden somewhere behind Karen. The first night we moved in we had dinner with them and ever since we've spent many delightful occasions in their company. Across the street live Dave and Caroline and their kids Lauren, Catty and Cal (you can see Caroline and Catty in this photo). They're here 'temporarily' from England (yes, the neighbourhood is lousy with Brits - you might note Keith's Arsenal scarf). Anyway, you can have a great house and all of the wonderful amenities you might desire but if you don't have great neighbours and friends you've got nothing much at all.
Impromptu gatherings on the front porch. Sudden bursts of joint 'gardening' activity and now Caroline figures we should build a float for next year's Santa Claus parade.
We've also done our bit to support the Ontario, Italian, French, Californian, Spanish, Portugese, British Columbian, Argentinian, Chilean, Lebanese and Nigerian wine industry and with the help of another British neighbour Matthew will soon have done a wine tour of all member nations of the United Nations.
Anyway, I am now a reborn believer in Santa Claus. We saw him just today in the company of our great neighbours. I'm so glad Gabriel is growing up in this place.

Monday, November 10, 2008

From the L.A. Times - Caveat Emptor

On store shelves, stealthy shrinking of containers keeps prices from rising

Steven Senne / Associated Press
A tape measure shows the depth of the indentation of a 16.3 ounce jar of Skippy peanut butter next to an 18 ounce jar of the same product.
Quantities of peanut butter, soap and other products are reduced to keep up with rising costs. Shoppers may not know they're getting less for their money.
By Jerry Hirsch November 9, 2008
It is hard to spot what happened this year in the peanut butter aisles of local supermarkets.But a careful look at the jars of Skippy on the shelves may reveal a surprise. The prices are about the same, but the jars are getting smaller.
They don't look different in size or shape. But recently, the jars developed a dimple in the bottom that slices the contents to 16.3 ounces from 18 ounces -- about 10% less peanut butter.The only way to know you are buying less is to look at the weight on the label and recognize it's lighter than before Unilever, owner of the Skippy brand, switched out containers.Across the supermarket, manufacturers are trimming packages, nipping a half-ounce off that bar of soap, narrowing the width of toilet paper and shrinking the size of ice cream containers.Often the changes are so subtle that they create "the illusion that you are buying the same amount," explained Frank Luby, a pricing consultant with Simon-Kucher & Partners of Cambridge, Mass.To shoppers it may seem like getting less, but companies say cutting quantity is a common way to avoid raising prices.It's an age-old dilemma for manufacturers juggling prices, container sizes and profits -- at the same time coping with rising prices for ingredients and greater competition on supermarket shelves.At international food giant Unilever, "we have chosen to reduce package sizes as one of our responses" to rising commodity and business expenses, said spokesman Dean Mastrojohn. He said the new smaller sizes are clearly marked on labels.Shoppers understand the manufacturers' dilemma but also say they feel deceived at times.Kathy Yukl of La Crescenta says she's tired of going to the store and finding dimples in the bottoms of jars -- she buys Skippy only when she has a coupon. She is annoyed that containers that once held half a gallon of ice cream, or 64 ounces, now have only 48 ounces. And she's frustrated that cereal boxes are shrinking."What these companies don't realize is that their chronically deceptive marketing ploys tell us loud and clear that we absolutely cannot trust them for anything," Yukl said.Other shoppers agree. "I think the whole thing is deceitful, and yes, it does irritate me, and I do feel they are tricking the consumer," said Bill Stone of Long Beach. "This practice, however, has been going on for many years and apparently the manufacturers feel it is to their advantage to try to slip these changes by the customer rather than announcing it."Asked whether the new packaging is deceptive, Mastrojohn said only that the lower weight is clearly listed on the package.Unilever also changed the shape of its Breyers ice cream containers, reducing the contents to 1.5 quarts from 1.75 quarts. Competitor Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream did the same, shortening its carton.Reducing the size of the Dreyer's and Edy's Grand Ice Cream cartons was not an easy decision, spokeswoman Kim Goeller-Johnson said."We understand that consumers don't like to pay the same price for a smaller container," she said.But the division of food giant Nestle had seen large increases in the cost of milk, cocoa, sweeteners and energy during a period when the average price of ice cream had "not really changed much," she said."We looked at raising prices to cover these costs, but at some point it just doesn't make sense to raise prices too high. . . . The ongoing feedback from our customers is that they aren't ready to pay $7 or more for a carton of ice cream," Goeller-Johnson said.In June, Kellogg Co. reduced the weight of many popular cereals -- including Cocoa Krispies, Corn Pops, Apple Jacks, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks -- an average of 2.4 ounces per box to offset rising grain and energy expenses.The reduction wouldn't be obvious to shoppers walking down the cereal row. From the front, the size of the box remains the same; only the depth was reduced, Kellogg told The Times.Dial shaved its soap bars to 4 ounces from 4.5 ounces but kept the size and look of its packaging the same, spokeswoman Natalie Violi said.Dial didn't want to increase the price of its soap but needed to do something to maintain its profits because of the skyrocketing cost of tallow. Made from beef and chicken fat, tallow is one of the primary raw materials of bar soap. Its price has doubled over the last 18 months, in part because of increased demand for it as a component of biodiesel fuel, Violi said.Consumers are confronting similar packaging changes in the toilet paper aisle.In its promotional materials, the Quilted Northern brand likes to talk about its history of innovation. In the 1920s, it was among the first bath-tissue brands to be sterilized. Quilted Northern went "splinter-free" a decade later and upgraded to two layers in the 1960s.This year's innovation was to shave half an inch off the width of its Ultra Plush product. Quilted Northern owner Georgia-Pacific said the savings allowed it to make the tissue three-ply instead of two, but it means consumers are getting fewer square inches of paper.Shoppers on the candy aisle will find that the formerly 8-ounce Hershey's chocolate bar is now 6.8 ounces, a 15% reduction.Luby, the pricing consultant, said the move allowed Hershey's to keep the price from rising above 99 cents. The company worries that crossing the $1 threshold could hurt sales, he said.Many of these changes were made when food commodity and oil prices were surging to record highs. It's not clear what the companies will do now that the cost pressures have eased. Oil has fallen from more than $145 a barrel in July to about $61 now. Wheat futures are down from $12.82 a bushel in March to $5.21 now.They're not likely to go back to the larger sizes because of the expense involved in changing packaging. And they are not interested in setting off a price war with competitors, Luby said."If the focus is on profit, food companies would be better off accepting flat volume or even a slight loss in market share in their more stable, mature products in order to make money," Luby said.The big question is whether consumers who notice they are getting less for their money will stop buying the product. Any backlash is likely to be small, Luby said."Many people notice the change but they don't protest and stop buying their favorite brand of cereal," he said. "These brands are strong enough to overcome any backlash."Stone, the shopper from Long Beach, agreed."If it is an old favorite, maybe from a highly reliable source, you will probably continue to buy it, especially if the price has not changed," he said. "In the case of bathroom tissue, one has to have a decent-quality product or else your hand goes right through it, and no one really wants that."Hirsch is a Times staff writer.

Is affordable luxury really gone?

Goodbye Seduction, Hello Coupons
By
STEPHANIE CLIFFORD and STUART ELLIOTT
SASHA TSYRLIN is a location scout who has spent decades finding sites to film television commercials. He used to spend his days in mansions and gated estates.
“You would go to big houses and pretend this is how the average American lived,” he said.
These days, his job is significantly less glamorous. Now, advertisers want their commercials filmed in homes meant for middle-class or even blue-collar families, Mr. Tsyrlin said.
“The client always seems to have an emphasis on, ‘A house is too fancy,’ ” he added. “They say, ‘Well, we don’t want the audience to think that only rich people can afford our product.’ ”
As the economy rapidly deteriorates from flourishing to floundering, marketers are scrambling to remake their advertising so products seem affordable and sensible rather than indulgent and fabulous. For many big marketers, including automakers, retailers, consumer product companies and even financial services, a major shift in consumer psychology spells an end to the aspirational advertising that has dominated their campaigns for the last decade.
There is a sense that expensive purchases — even if consumers can afford them — have become gauche, said Stephen J. Hoch, professor of marketing and director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“At times like this, you don’t want to be as conspicuous,” Mr. Hoch said. “It’s really rude.”
“Since when is overpaying a status symbol?” asks a magazine ad for the 2009 Borrego sport utility sold by Kia Motors America. Prices for the Borrego, proclaimed to be “a new kind of luxury S.U.V.,” begin at under $27,000.
A campaign from
Procter & Gamble compares a product that is part of its Olay line of skin care products with more costly alternatives.
Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, which costs less than $30, is “more effective than the department store cream costing $350,” an ad asserts. “(You just don’t get a chic shopping bag.)”
In the recent boom times, Mr. Hoch said, “marketers were hesitant to bring up value overtly because they were worried about it diluting the aspirational aspect of the product,” he added, but now they “have to try something, because nothing else is really working.”
That was a reference to economic data that included the reports last week from the nation’s largest retailers for sales in October. Almost every chain, from purveyors of haute couture to practitioners of the philosophy of piling it high and selling it cheaply, suffered percentage declines that reached double digits.
“We’re starting to see people trade down, cut back on quantities, cut back on quality,” said George John, the chairman of the marketing department at the Carlson School of Management at the
University of Minnesota.
Some brands seem to recognize their plight. The
Target retail chain, for instance, is striving to play up the “Pay less” part of its long-time slogan, “Expect more. Pay less.”
New television commercials look like the familiar Target spots that feature chic consumers reveling in their cool Target purchases. Now, though, there are paeans to the new reality, complete with price tags.
Watching a $13 DVD on the living room sofa is celebrated as “the new movie night.” A $59.99 bicycle is presented as “the new commute.” There are similar salutes to people who eat in rather than dine out, cut their children’s hair and turn a backyard tent into “the new family room.”
Consumer Reports magazine plans to take advantage of that behavioral shift by running ads on Nov. 24 — timed for the start of the holiday shopping season — that will offer a blunt warning about how much times have changed.
“Dear shopper,” the ads will begin, “There is no ‘bailout clause’ in your credit card contract.” The ads are to conclude by urging consumers to avoid “credit card trouble” by consulting the magazine’s Web site (
consumerreports.org).
The trend toward frugality is sweeping along even wealthier Americans, or those Americans who still consider themselves wealthy after the last few months.
The well-to-do are “making lists, they’re planning, they’re comparison shopping, they’re starting to think more strategically,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, a market research company in Stevens, Pa.
Even so, she added, “many are simply staying out of the stores.”
So rather than pitch seduction, the perfume Tabu Forbidden is pitching a coupon for $5 off the purchase price. The drugstore remedy Emergen-C is not only about staying “healthy year-round,” it’s about a $1 coupon. Reddi-wip is no longer about creamy indulgence, it’s about saving 75 cents.
On the higher end, Bloomingdale’s is advertising 50 percent off furs. Lord & Taylor is taking 60 percent off the price of diamonds.
Expedia is offering a $200 discount to people taking trips around Christmas.
Another sign of the new austerity is a campaign for New York Life that began on Sunday. The ads strongly suggest that the perfect gift for the holidays is not mink or jewelry or a vacation, but rather life insurance, which the ads call “the selfless gift.”
For example, a print ad shows a range of gifts from an ice cream cone (“I like you”) to a necklace (“I love you”) to a wedding ring (“I will always love you”). Under them all is the square blue and white logo of New York Life, wrapped like a present with a ribbon, and these words: “You mean more to me than anything else in the world.”
“As your love has evolved, so have your gifts,” the ad says. “One hundred sixty-three years of experience and the highest possible ratings for financial strength help ensure that your loved ones will always be taken care of.”
In “uncertain times, you stop and think about what matters to you,” said Steven Rautenberg, senior vice president for corporate communications at the New York Life Insurance Company. “People are looking for safety and protection and security and long-term guarantees.”
The campaign, which includes television, radio, print, online and outdoor ads, promotes life insurance “in a way that doesn’t denigrate the other nice things you can do for your family,” Mr. Rautenberg said, but presents it as better than more material gifts.
“This is a message that has special value in times like these,” he added, “but does not fade when the economic clouds clear.”
New York Life plans to increase its ad budget by 25 percent in 2009 compared with what will be spent this year, Mr. Rautenberg said, to get across the idea of “the selfless gift.” The company will probably spend almost $30 million in 2008.
“Consumers right now are feeling very insecure,” said Daniel Rabinowicz, president of the New York office of Taxi, the agency for New York Life.
“We don’t expect President-elect Obama to come out and say, ‘C’mon, America, go shopping for life insurance,’ ” he added. “But we think they’ll be receptive because it has to do with one of the pillars of a family’s financial security.”
To spread the concept of giving life insurance as a gift, Mr. Rabinowicz said, New York Life will do something it has not done before: buy space to run the campaign in the holiday gift guide advertising sections that magazines and newspapers carry in December.
Not all brands can play up value and thrift and expect good results, academics warned.
“Consumers are feeling very differently about their purchases, and they’re feeling very differently about their economic situation, than they did months ago,” said Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“The brands that will do well in this environment are your low-priced brands, brands that are very cheap and value-driven,” he added. “The brands that will struggle are the brands that ask people to step up, because people are not inspired to do that right now.”
That means brands hovering between cheap and luxe are “in a really tough spot,” Mr. Calkins said. He and other marketing professors pointed to Coach,
Macy’s, Target and Whole Foods Market.
“It’s easy to compete on the low end because you just focus on very aggressive pricing and selling a fairly good product,” he explained. “The top will be O.K., too, because there’s always people in this world with a lot of money.”
“If you’re in the middle, though, that’s where people are going to get crunched,” he added, because “that’s where it gets pretty easy to trade down to the lower-end stuff.”
Will this new mood on Madison Avenue become permanent? After all, ads turned austere during previous recessions, and even during
the Great Depression, and subsequently bounced back when better times returned.
“I don’t think that’ll last,” said Professor Hoch of the Wharton School. “We live in a very commercial, consumption-oriented world today, for good and bad, and I think it’ll come back.”

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On my birthday - Gabe's #1


The best gift I've ever received and ever will...until the next one!?!
Thanks for my jeans, book and all of the joy you bring into my life.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Standards please


The Canadian Standards Association, a client of mine I'm happy to say, does some pretty remarkable work deep in the background of all of our lives. You're probably familiar with the CSA mark that appears on your toaster and means that it meets all of the safety standards required of such small appliances in Canada. That's only the tip of the iceberg - or the crust on the toast if you will - of the work this organization does.


Arising out of the tragedy of the First Great War - a lack of standardization of ammunition among the allies cost many lives - CSA performs a great service in improving the standards of living for all of us here in Canada and in many places around the world. If you're not familiar with its work I recommend you visit http://www.csa.ca/ to learn more about it and its people.


So why bring this up?


I forgot one thing at least in my Mr. Mom posting and it relates directly to standardization.


Kids clothes come with a variety of closures - zippers (too few); buttons (too many); clasps; clips; velcro; and, pretty much everything else short of duct tape.


On the clothing with clasps, most often sleepers, I'd love for CSA to set a standard for the number and location of the clasps. Some items have eight, some 11, some 12; some are logically placed; others appear to be sewn on by a drunken goat; some are well secured while others will pull from the clothing with little pressure; and all of them appear completely impotent in the face of an onslaught of squirming and fidgeting by a one-year old.


Can't blame it all on China either. Many of these items are made right here in Canadia (as they say on the Colbert Report). Can't blame it on price either. Some of the most expensive items are the worst. While items from the Joe Fresh line at Loblaws are generally among the best.


Anyway, get to work on this CSA. You'll be doing all of us fumble-fingered old farts a real service.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

God Bless America


Apart from my dear friend Mr. Ricky Ray Britt of Virginia, I know of few people who more loathed the wreckage wrought by the past eight years of the Bush/Cheney/Rove cabal's administration.

Regardless of what happens in the next few years the American people have given us all hope that there is still decency amongst all people, that we can rise above the partisan and intellectual ignorance and overwhelming greed of those who supported Dubya, and that together we might - just might - see a new, brilliant dawn.

God Bless America.

Upright and mobile



This momentous occassion happened on November 2.

It's taken me 'til today to process what's really happening.

My son is now able to walk.

I'm desperately proud of him.

I'm desperately afraid now.

Granted, he's only about as steady on his feet as his Daddy after a night of Maker's Mark with Uncle Bobby Cook but regardless, he can now motor around pretty well.

Never really appreciated what people meant when they say it all goes by too fast. I kind of do now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lessons from Mr. Mom





As a stay-at-home Dad I've been learning some important lessons. Some things spiritual. Others practical. Still others that inspire in me a real appreciation for people with little ones. Thought I might just share a few of these with you today.

1. There's no time to keep up your blog. Honest to God I thought that when Gabriel napped or got busy with toys I'd be able to retire to the laptop and craft clever missives. NOT. It takes considerable discipline (never a strong point for this writer) to carve out time.

2. There should be a special place in Hell for children's clothing designers who think plackets (a slit or other opening in an item of clothing, to allow access to pockets or fastenings) are a clever idea. It's hard enough getting a squirmy one-year old dressed never mind trying to insert tab A in slot B.. Please people - BIG buttons and BIGGER holes. Leave your couture to the adult world.

3. Kids love to stick stuff where it wasn't meant to be stuffed. We live in a 158-year old house. It has forced air heating and hence floor ducts. Now these turn out to be a source of great interest for little ones. Not only can you perform spill and fill functions with them you can also send toys skittering down the duct work never to be seen again. (At least Gabriel hasn't tried to stuff the cat down one as happened to my brother in law Andrew). This was a constant irritant to this old man and I couldn't find anything in the copious amounts of kid-proofing information or products that would help secure the duct cover. So, I went to good old Home Depot and got some mirror mounts. Screwed 'em into the floor over the ducts and they work a treat. Gabriel's not remotely interested now but I do think I've managed to perform a humanitarian act for his many little toy friends.

4. The more expensive the item the more attractive to little hands. My father-in-law Roger calls them mussentouchits. My son doesn't care. He loves the remote control devices. He loves my iPhone. He loves the telephone. He loves the digital box. He loves the Bose. He loves the iPod. He thinks my laptop is better than anything Fisher Price can come up with. He thinks my printer is a delightful place to spill and fill. I'm beginning to think that a return to a completely analog world is the right way to go.

5. The less elaborate the better. Seemingly contrary to point four, Gabe's favourite toys are things such as:
an empty cottage cheese tub with an old rice cracker remnant inside;
a plastic funnel;
anything from Tupperware or Rubbermaid;
the cat's tail;
the fireplace grate;
the afore-mentioned floor ducts;
dust motes (not that we ever have those in our house);
magazines - torn up with great skill...but only the articles I'd like to read...never the 'how to keep your silver shiny' pieces;
Cheerios; and,
did I mention the cat's tail?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One more thing


Our son Gabriel is just amazing.
Yes, I know.
That's what every parent says and frankly every parent is right.
He's learning so much and progressing at a frightening pace.
He's also growing a wee bit of hair.
Finally has more than his Dad.

A return from the reno wilderness

Not much point to a blog if one doesn't keep it up to date.
That's been me.
Undergoing a move to a new home, doing renovations, enjoying an almost-10-month-old son, and learning about a new neighbourhood AND trying to do some work - simply put, NOT conducive to blogging although the richness of material has never been better.
So, just a quick note to indicate that I'm back and over the next while will get back into regular contributions to my blog.

Quick hit for you right now though.

If you're contemplating a renovation and/or staging your home for sale look no further that the team at Stage Right. Carmen, Drew, Shara, Doug, Andrew and the entire team are awesome. No bullshit. On time. On budget. Seems odd for contractors and designers I know but it's true. Check out www.stageright.to. Do it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

One baby, Two and a half Men, Three Mothers







Very special Mother's day yesterday. First one for Gabriel and we all got together with my Mom and Kate's Mom and well, it was just a pretty memorable day all in all.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Marketing to Millennials


Engaged in some really interesting work right now investigating various marketing strategies and tactics segmented by generation. As a Boomer it's refreshing to get my head out of my own...well let's just say, to gain a new perspective. The Millennials are really interesting. In some ways they seem reminiscent of the post WWII generation in their commitment to service, voluntarism and respect for achievement. If this is something that interests you I can highly recommend visiting Carol Phillips' blog http://www.millennialmarketing.blogspot.com/. Carol is a marketing instructor in the undergraduate and M.B.A. programs at the
University of Notre Dame and founder of brand strategy consulting firm Brand Amplitude. She's also a willing and ready supporter of LinkedIn's capability to help people share information and learn.
Now, next step is to determine what generation my son Gabriel is and how we're going to most effectively market regular meal and sleep times to him!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

TAXI!

Toronto's taxi drivers can be exciting at times but they don't hold a candle to this express ride through downtown Baghdad. Do not show this to any new drivers in your household. Too many bad ideas all at once.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/audio_video/times_online_tv/?vxSiteId=353a7de1-1ffc-407c-a7ef-b1d0a78f0fd7&vxChannel=Driving&vxClipId=1152_timesonline0545&vxBitrate=700

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If you love design, like cars, enjoy some fun with Fiat

If you're at all a car fan you'll have heard and read about the Fiat 500. It is the little vehicle that has revived Fiat's fortunes with all, maybe more, of the excitement created by the relaunch of the Mini a few years ago. The Fiat 500 is just about the cutest car you'll ever see - some may think it an acquired taste - and it has all kinds of personality and brio. Nope, can't buy it here but maybe someday. Anyway, if you've got a few moments and want to visit a great website designed incredibly well for this car's market jump over to www.fiat500.com.
Have fun.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just because it makes me feel better - some of my favourite travel photos

















Siena, Muskoka, Florence, and San Francisco.
I don't travel near as much as before. In fact, beyond the occasional trip to Port Hope, Ontario our lives pretty much revolve around our little neighbourhood. However, I still appreciate the benefits that came from being exposed to different people in different places. What a great education and something I hope to do with Gabriel as he grows. A tremendous way to learn tolerance and an appreciation for alternative approaches to living and loving life.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Answering a question on LinkedIn

In the past few years I've taken a real shine to many of the networking tools available on line.
I use Facebook to keep in touch with my young nieces and nephews and other friends as well. It is mostly for fun.
LinkedIn is another network I really like and while it can be fun too it has some very practical business applications and I learn lots from it too. I especially like the Q&A functionality of LinkedIn as it allows people to gain non-judgemental, unbiased and free perspective from all kinds of people. Thought I'd share a recent question and my answer. I don't know Kazumi but I'll bet Fifth Line does some good work if only because of their willingness to acknowledge none of us have all the answers all of the time.
The question:
Kazumi Terada-Ovalle
Owner, Co-Founder, FIFTH LINE Group LLC - 3D Creative Agency
see all my questions
What are some of the most important, un-missable steps in a design/creative project?
As a design company owner, I am putting together a manual on all the procedures that we must go through from lead generation, prospecting, qualifying, signing, creative process, project delivery, to completion. Over the years, we've had to learn some things the hard way, and we want to avoid repeating the same mistakes again. May be we can all learn from each other. I want to open up a discussion here to see what other design companies have learned (through trial and error / school of hard knocks) on what every project must follow in order to deliver a successful design/creative project. Here are some more questions to stimulate the answers: What questions must we ask the prospects before they become a client? What questions do we ask the creative team? How do you define a 'complete project'? How do you make sure that the client and the creative team is on the same page? The project can be anything graphic design related, such as branding, logo design, advertising creatives, collateral design, motion graphics, etc. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

My answer:
There are only three issues critical to success in our business - one, the brief; two, the brief; three, the brief. In the absence of an agreed and signed brief with the client and the design team we are forever and justifiably vulnerable. Whether working for a not-for-profit or a global retail leader, my experience has been that without establishing the quantitative and qualitative requirements of the project and ensuring that the client has a profound understanding of our role in executing their objectives we will be left forever in the world of creating commercially irrelevant art. So if it is a package design, a corporate rebranding, website creation or logo design...BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. If you never define your destination you'll find that any road can get you there and at the end of the day your contributions will be devalued.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What are they thinking #2 - Here's the BEEF!



Last month my blog featured the first (at least to me) in this series from the beefy boys in America. Gotta give 'em some credit here this time. While the continent-sized portions shown in each ad are a little off putting at least this one doesn't feature the sewage treatment images that appeared in the last. (see my blog entry What are they thinking #1 - March 24)
Tell the truth, a couple of weeks ago when my best man Wayne visited we fired up the BBQ and did an awesome steak Florentine. You need a little confidence to tackle this one and it helps if your BBQ generates BTUs close to the temperature and power of the solar surface. Critical to get the best hunk of meat you possibly can and in Toronto that means one of two places. Royal Beef on the Danforth just west of Woodbine or The Cheese Boutique on Ripley (lower Kingsway @ Queensway). I used a 4 lb Porterhouse. That's about 3.5 to 4 inches thick. Bring it to room temp. Dress it very simply with olive oil, salt (sea salt) and pepper. That's it. Now, transport to the BBQ (leave on highest heat). Slap it on and don't touch it for at least 10 minutes. After 10 minutes flip it and DON'T touch it again.
Another 5 minutes each side ought to do it. Let it rest for 15 - 20 minutes. Eat.
If you've got British friends who like their meat well done - send them someplace else.
Anyway, it's spring, it's BBQ time. It's time for beef - even slabs almost the size of Tasmania.

Time for baseball


OK. I know he's too little but dadgum if he doesn't look great in this cap. I am so very looking forward to the day when Gabriel and I can step out into the back yard and toss the ball around. There's a scene in Field of Dreams that always gets me. It's when the Kevin Costner character plays catch with his dad - well, the ghost of his dad. Never got to do that with my father save for one single occasion and I'm vowing to make sure my son gets time with his Pop.

Friday, April 11, 2008

This is really fun

If you've a few moments to spare and love the idea of seeing how the digital world translates to literature check out this Penguin site. A great activity for a rainy Friday.
http://www.wetellstories.co.uk/

Monday, April 7, 2008

More about service attitudes

No ranting and raving this time. Just a few observations on the erosion of service attitudes in the on-line, telephone line purchase of commoditized items. I've recently needed to refinance my mortgage as we've purchased a new home. Thought the logical place to start would be my current provider. For years I've done virtually all my banking on line and my mortgage was always renewed with no issues. This time however the provider announced that they weren't really all that interested in renegotiating and in fact maybe I should be looking in other directions. Surprising enough as that was, I decided what the heck, let's find alternatives then. Here's where I learned a good lesson about what you get and what you give up in on-line dealings. I initiated discussions with RBC - met face to face with a mortgage advisor. Normally I dread these interactions but this person was friendly, helpful, resourceful, engaging, and gosh darn it actually interested in securing our business. How refreshing I thought. She came back with some excellent advice and recommendations so then I thought well let's go back to my current on-line provider and see what they say. Same response. Then I thought, well I'll move the mortgage. At that point, always the naif, I expected some action. Nope. Same response. So asked what the penalty would be for early payment of the mortgage. That seemed fairly straightforward...simple calculation of interest differential and/or payment of interest on three-month period. Nope. Won't tell me a darn thing unless I send them a LETTER by snail mail 30 days prior to my closing date on new property.
Simple observation is this: when you're dealing with purely commoditized transactions such as savings, RSP, and the like the on-line bank is just dandy. BUT when you need advice and assistance there is no replacement for face-to-face conversation with a committed person. It's just too easy for a faceless voice on the end of a phone line or email to retreat to the comfort of standard policy and procedure. You just have to give up any notion of independent thought on the part of the service provider and I guess that's partly why you get superior rates.
Oh, wait. That's not right either since RBC have offered a superior rate and superior service and insight.
And one other thing...this on-line service provider wants my request for a change sent snail mail. Oy!
Gives hope to those of us who value human interaction over purely transactional relationships.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Here's some good advice!!



A writer needs three qualities: creativity, originality, clarity and a good short term memory.
Resist the temptation to roll up the trouser-legs of convention, cast off the shoes and socks of good taste, and dip your toes refreshingly into the cool, flowing waters of fanciful analogy.
If there’s a word on the tip of your tongue that you can’t quite pin down, use a cinnamon.
Mixed metaphors can kill two birds without a paddle.
Visit http://psychoprogs.com/articles/101-writing-tips/ for more of this sound counsel!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

LCBO serves up eco-packaging innovations


Carey Toane -- Strategy, April 1, 2008 Tuesday
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is launching its first
eco-awareness campaign this month. Envirochic highlights products with alternative packaging, such as Tetra Paks, PET, aluminum, reused glass and bag-in-a-box.
Among the innovations is an aluminum wine bottle from Burgundy vintner Mommessin which turns colour when the wine reaches its optimal temperature.
"They're fun, and quite fashionable," says LCBO VP marketing Nancy Cardinal, adding that the new packaging materials are also lightweight and unbreakable. "There are lots of things you can do in addition to being better for the environment."
LCBO president and CEO Bob Peter first issued a challenge to suppliers to develop packaging alternatives in 2005. That year, the LCBO introduced the first wine in a Tetra Pak, French Rabbit. The next year saw the first wine in a PET bottle. Now the LCBO carries over 200 products in those two materials.
"It's been quite incredible how the suppliers have stepped up to the plate and embraced the challenge," says Cardinal. "We couldn't have had this promotion really until this point, and there's just so much that we can showcase as part of Envirochic."
The challenge was part of a larger corporate goal to eliminate 10 million kg of waste per year; that target has since been surpassed by an additional four million kg annually. Annual sales of alternatively packaged products now exceed $120 million.

Very clever and beneficial design

Project H Design Fundraiser- Sponsor a Hippo Roller!by Emily Pilloton
H is for Humanity, Habitats, Health, Habitats, and HIPPO!
Project H, an organization that promotes, inspires, and delivers humanitarian product design, is funding 50 Hippo Rollers for a series of 17 villages in Kgautswane in Northeastern South Africa. Hippo Rollers, if you haven’t seen them before, they are amazing barrel devices that allow the millions whose livelihoods depend on the daily fetching of water to more safely and efficiently access and transport water. The roller holds 3-4 days worth of water for a family of 7, about 5 times the amount of water that can be moved using traditional methods, which frees up time for more productive economic and educational activities. It’s an amazing product and an amazing story of good design enabling communities.
For $100 you can sponsor the manufacturing and delivery of one roller in your name, which will be personally delivered to a family in Kgautswane this April by Project H Design. If you believe in the power of good design, here’s your chance to show it! Check out the Hippometer to see how many rollers have been funded to date.
Visit http://www.inhabit.com/ for some really interesting approaches to green design. Great site.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Two blogs you should check out

My friend and colleague Len Rosen has a great new blog that is rich with practical techno information for the small business and SOHO market. Len has the rare ability to understand what goes on behind the curtain with new technologies but make it as simple as the Wizard of Oz for the rest of us. Check out http://lenrosenmarketing.blogspot.com

The other blog is a tremendous source of creative inspiration. Created and maintained by my friend and client Lara McCulloch of Regal Tent Productions, this site is deep resource of innovative ideas which revolve around the special events industry. I find it useful purely as a thought provocation device. Visit http://ready2spark.blogspot.com

Eight in 10 shoppers say food is over-packaged; FOOD PACKAGING

ALEX STEPHENS -- The Evening Standard (London), March 28, 2008 Friday
A CONSUMER backlash against over-packaged food and drinks is revealed in a survey today.
It found almost 80 per cent of Lon-don shoppers now believe supermarkets use too much packaging on their food items.
Seventy per cent said they tried to buy products with minimal packag-ing and 80 per cent felt some foods did not need any at all.
The increasing environmental concerns of shoppers have prompted stores to redesign packaging and so improve their green credentials.
These include big names such as Tesco, which recently reduced ready-meal packaging by 35 per cent, and specialist producers such as the Seri-ous Food Company, which sells pud-dings in reusable ceramic dishes.
A spokesman for Mintel, which carried out the survey, said: Retail-ers are coming under increasing pressure to introduce eco-friendly packaging. It is no longer enough for a pack to look good.
The survey found 77 per cent of Londoners recycle some or all of their supermarket packaging. How-ever, London still sends 3.4 million tonnes of waste a year to landfill , at a cost of £24 per tonne. Some experts forecast this could rise to almost 23 million tonnes by 2020.
Luke Vincent of Dragon, a brand agency that advises companies on package design, said: These findings are no surprise. There has been a shift in peoples values. They are increasingly aware of environmen-tal issues and with that comes guilt.
Customers expect manufacturers to make it easier for them to do the right thing . We want to go shopping and not feeling guilty. Packaging is not always the most significant issue when it comes to green credentials, but it is very tangible, which is why it has become important . Environmentally friendly packag-ing shows a company is modern and of good quality.
ITS A WRAP: HOW SOME FIRMS ARE REDESIGNING THEIR PRODUCTS
Andrew Peace Masterpeace wine £5.99 Previously only available in glass bottles, these wines now also come in Tetra Pak cartons, which use fewer resources in production and transport.
Tesco Healthy Living ready meals (sample price £3.41) The amount of packaging has been reduced by 35 per cent by replacing the old-style plastic tray and cardboard sleeve with a single, microwave-compatible tray.
Ribena 90p for 500ml bottle Bottles are now made from 100 per cent recycled material (previously only 40 per cent) and are recyclable.
Innocent Smoothie £1.75 100 per cent recycled plastic in 250ml bottles, an increase from an original recycled content of 25 per cent.
Jordans organic muesli £2.78 for 700g.
Packaged in a film bag that can go straight into the garden compost bin.
Green & Blacks miniature bar collection £4.99 New packaging is smaller and uses Forest Stewardship Council-accredited card made from wood fibre taken from sustainable forests.
Village Bakery organic rye bread £2.19 Packed in biodegradable and compostable bags. Previously sold in thin polypropylene bags.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Perspective


When it's all going screwy all I do is look at this beautiful boy of mine.
I've been looking at him an awful lot lately as we're going through the house selling and house buying process.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Deep, deep thoughts


Boy having kids is illuminating. Here my son Gabriel is providing me some deep insights about a six-month old child's view of the world.
On this occassion he was remarking that the birthday celebrations of his Uncle Andy, G.D. (grandpa, but we're not allowed to use that word) Sanders, and Papa Bill Bryson, were really quite enjoyable and he'd be pleased to attend this sort of function again.
And I thought he just had gas!

What are they thinking? #1


For many years I've been involved in the food packaging business. This has presented me the opportunity to come upon some pretty fantastic food images, to create some great principal display panels, to contribute to some mouth-watering advertisements, and to witness some of the most profoundly nasty looking stuff man could ever contemplate putting in his mouth.
THEN, I saw this in a recent edition of Wine Spectator. It's an ad by the beef marketing council (The Beef Checkoff). You can't get the full impact of this ad on my blog. You really need to see the complete 9.5 x 13 image to appreciate the real horrors of this ad.
Now I like a big hunk 'o beef as much if not more than the next person. But this ad could put me off cow for some time. If the Beef Checkoff folks were actively trying to support the Vegan community they couldn't do a better job. The two Gilblratars of filet tower above a steaming cistern of partially digested veggies swimming in a sea of...well, good manners prohibit a more detailed description.
Curious what you think but the night I saw this we had vegetarian lasagne for dinner, Berkshire pork chops the next night, and Thai food last night. Tonight I think it may be a honkin' big salad. Gonna be a while before cattle country comes to my BBQ.
What were they thinking?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When the service is actually pretty good


I have purchased my last three vehicles from the same dealership. No, not these three...only the middle one is mine. My purchases (two Subaru Impreza WRXs and one Land Rover LR2) have provided me with good transportation and reliable vehicles. What's been better though has been dealing with my rep at Marino's Auto Group - Andy Boyes.
Sure, Andy is a personal friend but that's not always a guarantee of good service. In fact it can make the situation downright awkward at times but not with Andy. Where Andy sets himself apart from the hordes of car salesmen is with his candour, honesty, reliability, and genuine enthusiasm for his product.
This is a hard business. Margins are low. Expectations are high. People enter the relationship assuming they're about to be manipulated and misled.
In my experience, Andy in both his pre- and post-sale relationships is an honest man. That's why he's good at what he does and why I'd recommend him to anyone.
We should always make the time to support people who do their jobs well. Hence this posting.

When the techno illiterate meet techno opps

So what happens is really quite simple.
The other day I sent a notice to all kinds of my colleagues, friends and associates.
My motivation was to advise them of the launch of my blog.
My objective was to get them to visit and comment.
My strategy was to provide the required information and hope they'd act.
My execution sucked.
First, I inserted a hot link into the email which just didn't work.
Then, I sent another email and cleverly included an incorrect address for the blog by including an '@' and excluding a '.'
My technology literate friends, Errol in particular, were very kind in pointing out my error.
What's the point of all of this?
Regardless of the world of opportunities presented by the web it still comes down to the details and to paying attention.
I didn't.
Lesson learned.
@ home, I remain your slightly-less-technologically-illiterate servant.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The eternal joys in life

As much as I may complain about declining service standards, silly tax hikes and the like there's always joy in life and this is mine!
Posted by Picasa

So, as much as you may hate winter...

...at least we can still afford (barely) to live a life of sin. I recall my shock at prices when I lived in Leeds a few years ago when what cost a dollar in Canada was a pound in the U.K. and that was when the pound was about $2.52.
Say a quiet prayer for your U.K. friends.

Britons Hit by New 'Sin Taxes'
By JANE WARDELL – 20 hours ago
LONDON (AP) — Many Britons were resigning themselves to more puritanical lifestyles Thursday as they faced the prospect of "sin taxes" that will increase the cost of alcohol, cigarettes, gas-guzzling cars and, potentially, plastic bags.
"Don't Drink or Drive" trumpeted the Sun newspaper after Treasury chief Alistair Darling unveiled the measures on Wednesday in the government's annual spending plan.
The Labour Party government is hoping that hiking taxes on booze will help curb Britain's binge-drinking culture.
But breakfast talk radio was abuzz with callers lamenting the potential death of Britain's pub scene, with the tax hike coming less than a year after the government imposed a smoking ban in all public buildings.
"They put more on alcohol because they think there's going to be binge-drinking, but it won't stop. It just stops people going in pubs," said Sarah Thomas, 33, a teacher trainer smoking a rolled tobacco cigarette outside The Goose pub in central London.
From this weekend, alcohol duties will rise by 6 percent above inflation — meaning an extra 8 cents for a pint of beer, which already costs about $6 in an average London pub.
They will go up around 26 cents for a bottle of wine and a whopping $1.10 a bottle for spirits such as whisky.
The duties will then rise by another 2 percent above inflation in each of the next four years, reversing a trend in previous budgets to keep increases low for most alcohol products. Duties on spirits were frozen for the past 10 years to boost British spirit makers' competitiveness, accounting for the large jump this year.
A packet of cigarettes, already a steep $11.20, will rise by 22 cents.
The first budget under Prime Minister Gordon Brown also planned to reward ecologically minded voters by imposing higher taxes on heavier polluting cars from 2010.
The increases — to be charged at the point of sale and in higher road taxes — mean that many family cars, along with gas-guzzling vehicles and sports cars will come with larger price tags and be more expensive to drive.
George Osborne, the opposition Conservative Party spokesman said the plans would unfairly target hardworking families who need large vehicles like SUVs.
"Labour's economic incompetence means a rising cost of living for the very people they said they would help," said Osborne.
The government will also begin imposing a charge on single-use plastic bags next year — a measure already in place in Ireland — if supermarkets and other stores don't make "sufficient progress" to voluntarily reduce their use by the end of this year.
The government said money raised by a plastic bag levy would go to environmental charities, while that from alcohol and cigarette taxes would help fund a $2 billion package to tackle child poverty.
But Steve Thompson, 39, an air conditioning engineer enjoying a lunch break with a cigarette and a half-pint of beer outside the Melton Mowbray pub in central London, wasn't buying the government's social plan.
"They know that people who are addicted can't quit smoking but they still tax it and get their revenue for it," said Thompson. "They're crooks. They waste taxpayers' money terribly."
Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the government was "shooting itself in the foot" because it would lose revenue if pubs are forced to close.
"The government is punishing all beer drinkers rather than tackling the minority of drunken hooligans," Hayward said.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said that as British costs rises faster than in continental Europe, more people will simply go abroad for the cheaper prices, particularly on wine. The new charges will tax wine at nearly $3 a bottle — the highest in the European Union and well above the 4 cents charged in France.
With Britons already facing rising prices for food and other basic amid the gloom caused by the global credit crunch, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said the new taxes were a form of punishment.
"It is bizarre at a time when the economy is slowing, prices are rising and many families are feeling the pinch, that the government should choose to add to their burden by making the simple pleasure of a glass of wine or spirits considerably more expensive," said the association's chief executive Jeremy Beadles.
AP Reporter Regan McTarsney in London contributed to this story.

It's about service stupid

To paraphrase the statement made several years ago in the Clinton/Bush years, we've had recent experiences which suggest that a temporary revival in service standards in retail has ended.
Recent dealings with Thomasville Furniture in Toronto left us disillusioned, frustrated and profoundly perplexed that a company of this standard has yet to learn the pitfalls of over promising and under delivering. And not just by a little bit. A great whacking gap between promise and fulfillment. Let's just revisit this: we agree to purchase a new bedroom suite at a not inconsiderable expense. The sales person is cheery and accommodating. Promises delivery of the entire suite within one month. You know what comes next. A month passes. But do we hear anything from Thomasville? Nope. We're left to make contact and when we do we're informed that things are just a little delayed but all wll be made right within the week. The week passes. Bupkis. We get back in touch. Oh, the items we ordered are out of stock and because the line, just launched, is so popular, we're now looking a several more weeks and oh by the way one of the items is no longer stocked so would we like another piece which is only moderately more expensive but no can't really say when that will come either.
Now, given that we're about to list our house on the market and have a number of open houses we want the suite to upgrade the appearance of the home.
To make a long story tedious...we finally received a floor model of the bed, two side tables which are not what we ordered (still waiting for those), did get the coffee table but still no chest of drawers. Nothing but a series of disappointments and all so easily managed with that profound retail strategy...TELL THE TRUTH.
Latest episode...Thomasville promised to call on Monday to arrange delivery of tables. No call Monday. Called. Promise to call back ASAP. No call. Called...person has left for the day.
It's now Friday. No delivery. No call.
Ig ergo sum...no more dealings ever with Thomasville Furniture and all for the want of someone with the gumption to just fess up and cut the b.s.
It's about the service stupid!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Exciting and interesting packaging developments

While working on an analysis of the relative merits of various packaging substrates for one of my clients, I came upon a myriad of interesting developments globally. Perhaps one of the most interesting was what I found on the ecolean.se site. They have developed a new product named CalymerTM and it is made of chalk.
As ecolean writes on its site "no chemical processes are necessary to extract the raw materials and only limited amounts of energy are required. Calymer consists of at least 40% (by weight) calcium carbonate - nature's own mineral and building materal - and of plastic binding agents (PE and PP). The calcium carbonate provides the strength and stiffness and the binding agent provides toughness and flexibility. After disposal a used package can either be recycled or recovered as energy by incineration."
While not available for asceptic applications, this is an interesting development in a field where people are ever-more concerned about how packaging materials impact our lives.

A little bit buried and don't want to commit to permanent employees?

A little bit buried? I can help you dig out.

“A critical component of a great brand and the most essential element of its composition is that the experience of the brand must create an emotional connection with the consumer. Emotion is the one human ability that cannot be automated and companies need to embrace the notion that their stories are perhaps more important than their products.”*

At a very reasonable rate I am ready, willing and able to assist you and your clients in their storytelling.

What I do
Storytelling.
Management and business consulting.
Corporate, marketing and retail strategy
Brand creation and management.
Copywriting and project management.
Client service.

How we can do it together
Contract. Free lance.
Part time. Full time.
Maternity leave coverage.
Hourly. Daily. Project based. Retainer.

A little bit of background

Since my first job as Editor of the St. Thomas Courier weekly newspaper, my career revolved around the essence of communication. A copywriter by craft, I spent the past 30 years in a variety of positions on both the client and agency side of the marketing communications business. During that time I worked extensively in virtually all economic sectors and for clients ranging from AT&T to Canada Bread, from Bank of Montreal to ING, from PepBoys Auto to Wal-Mart. At the same time I gained experience working with organizations throughout North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, South America, and Korea. Whether writing compelling copy, creating retail environments which create an emotional connection with consumers, enabling driveway sealing products to achieve premium status, or helping financial institutions create a lasting, trusting relationship with clients, I have driven the process which brings opportunities to fruition.

As my career evolved, my specialty gravitated toward the world of copywriting, brand creation and management. When I founded Grace Hanna Inc. in 2003 I based its approach upon a well-experienced understanding of the critical components of effective communication: Clarity; Simplicity; Wit.

*Rolf Jensen, Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies