Archive for May, 2010

fight or flight
May 31, 2010

Modern day travel is a bit of both. Ten days and six airports later, i am tired. Lineups and lounges, lattes and load factors, there’s an organized insanity that rules the take off and departure of over  70,000 flights and 4,000,000 passengers every day around the world. Like a sky high montreal, with no cafe au lait or smoke meat sandwiches to be found, no wonder people get cranky.

Take today for example. Leaving Kelowna, I stood in the usual line up and proceeded to the usual Air Canada counter for check in only to be chastised by the ground agent for being at the wrong counter. Her counter was for baggage. Her neighbour’s counter was for check in. My initial though was “hell ya i’m in the wrong place, I should have flown west jet” but I didn’t want to jeopardize the future of my luggage which was already in her hands. So I settled on a polite “OK”.

And the space in air space. That’s ironic isn’t it? A folding chair in a phone booth would be more comfortable. And there wouldn’t be anyone to remind me to fasten my seat belt or try to sell me earphones for three dollars. credit cards only please. no cash.

I don’t know how the road warriors of air travel, those most represented at the departure gates in which I spent too many of my vacation hours, are white, male, middle aged business men. Too bad it isn’t more glamourous. There might be a new career in it for these guys. It has all the makings of an entertainment industry like ultimate fighting or playoff hockey. At the very least, all the markings are there for a gripping reality TV series. Speed, skill, patience, nerve and bravado, cunning, deceit not to mention wheelie bags, laptops, smart phones, and a copy of The Globe and Mail. These are the tools you need to make air travel work.

But they’re calling my flight so it’s time to go. wish me happy landings…

roadside distractions
May 26, 2010

ontari-ari-ario. we meet again.

under the happily ever after circumstance.

1 brother. married

1 sister-in-law gained.

1 ,500 km road trip attempted.

3 gold mines

1 bear crossing

1 terry fox memorial

2 moose

1 fox

and a 2-4’s worth of abandoned roadside motels (2-4 is an ontario term for a case of beer’s worth)

1 trip to gramma and grampa’s house from northern ontario to southern ontario.

after a 20 year absence, I find myself in my old stomping ground. canadian shield. pine trees atop miniature islands of rock in lake superior (or any lake in northern ontario for that matter). if a lone pine tree can survive such an existence, why don’t those dozens of boarded up road side motels have a chance? hard to say. except that northern ontario continues to scrape an existence from this hauntingly beautiful landscape.

a visit to old fort william in thunder bay reminds me that life prior to my own was a helluva an ordeal. canoes, birch bark, spruce root, sap, bugs, cold, heat, starvation, portage and general hostility. makes my trip in the mini van sandwiched between my parents and my kids seem like a trip to disneyland.

a few days later, a mid-week visit to a beach on Lake Erie reminds me why the OECD has a question or two about the productivity of the canadian economy. packed. absolutely packed. no hard working voyageurs to be found there.

but it’s good to be home, roadside distractions and all…

May 12, 2010

News today that smart centres has scaled back its development plans considerably after receiving formal approval from the Ministry of the Environment for their revised Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) assessment. First 80, then 60, do I hear 40 – how about 22 acres? It strikes me that the strife the city and its citizens have gone through was totally avoidable had we had a process where the MOE work came first, then the horse, then the cart, then the fill, then the stuff. But no, first the land purchase, then the plans, then the PR machine, then the divisive community debate. It SC were a shampoo bottle, its instructions would read lather, wash, repeat. Forgive me if I’m left feeling a bit water logged when in fact I should be showing gratitude to those who worked so hard to protect that ecosystem.

Plenty of backwards things happen all the time. I think we have more than a few things so of late. Education funding – increase the expenses, then cut the budget. Off shore drilling – agree to it then collectively shrug our shoulders in horror as we wait for the oil to hit the shores.  Afghan Detainees – cover up the documents, then have meetings on how to reveal them again.

I happen to get an e-mail today about how prisoners are far better off than pensioners on a limited income. Low income seniors would be better off in jail, according to the e-mail, where they would get free food, free housing, medical care and plenty of attention instead of being left to decide whether they should eat or take their medicine because they can’t afford both. I’m not advocating we put gramma in the slammer, but it sure gets you to thinking about how bassackwards things really can get.

On a personal note, I think plenty of social customs are a bit bassackwards too. Take birthdays for example. Rather than get gifts for our birthday, I always think we should host the party and offer gifts for our friends and family as a thank you for putting up with us for yet another year. And how about that third meal of the day. Breakfast should be the big meal, to get the day off to a good start. Instead, we rush all day then hurry home to make a big meal when, let’s face it, after a day of office work, we could all do with a scaled back ordeal – bowl of cereal or toast before bed, maybe just a salad. I mean, it’s not like most of us toil in the fields from dusk till dawn anymore. And it no longer takes 8 hours to prepare and cook a meal from scratch.

So the message from the universe today, for me, is that the process is the message. How we approach community building, governing, even socializing could do with a bit more attention. So I resolve, from here on in to ask questions first, and shoot later.

the brand scan
May 3, 2010

One day, my 8 year old asked me to buy a product because he said I could win a valuable prize pack with purchase by entering the UPC code online. Huh? He’s 8. Then, a few weeks later, my 5 year old suggested that we buy Fruit Loops because they have 2 grams of fiber. What? Kids today aren’t impervious to anything especially not advertising. In the UK, as I understand it, there are no ads on kids channels. There aren’t any ads on the Knowledge Network or CBC kids or PBS – but Teletoon makes up for that in spades. In fact, by the age of three both my kids recognized the McDonalds and Coca Cola brands. In essence, they could read brands before they could read words. Scary – and a powerful lesson in corporate presence. Just goes to show you how brands penetrate our daily life. So I got to thinking about how brands affect me in my daily life – much of which is spent in the marketing business. And I didn’t have to stray too far to see how branded we are.

Starting in the bathroom – Ivory, Pantene, Gillette, L’Oreal, Colgate, Crest – moving to the laundry room – Tide, Glad, Bounce, Ivory Snow, Clorox (gee – should I really have that stuff in my house after the good work the Shuswap Watershed people have been doing), Windex. Moving to the kitchen – Kraft, Kelloggs, Dairyland, Premium Plus, Sunlight, Electrosol, Campbell’s, Lipton, Ragu, McCains – you get the idea. Hundreds of brands in a single household. Don’t even get me started on the kids room – Lego, Nintendo, Playmobil, Bakugan, Fisher Price – Lego should be in there twice, there’s so much of it, but I digress. Thankfully, the fewest brands are found in our living room – where we spend much of our time – but wait, that’s where the TV is – so we can flip from brand to brand at our TV viewing leisure. Thank goodness the back yard is nearly brand free.

So what does this say about us? A brand, originally, was a mark on a cow’s hide to identify its owner. So, in the case of our household, that’s one heckuva family tree. We own the products, but the brands own us. They probably know more about my shopping habits, household income, and demographic profile (soccer mom perhaps) than I’d care to admit. Can we live without them? Sure we could. In a cave maybe. On the outskirts of nowhere land.

Fact of life. Trick is, if you’re going to be cattle, try and pick a rancher who will, at the very least, let some of the heard in on cold winter nights. Which is why community development is so important in brand awareness. Locally for example, do we shop at Askews because they have the prettiest bags, well, maybe a bit, but it’s mostly because we have a relationship with the brand. They’re neighbours and supporters of community projects. Same goes for SASCU and Skookum and Wearabouts among many others. You can put a price on brand loyalty – and it starts with what you get back for your burn.