Aug 16

RepTV: Trump X 2

Please join my Rep TV Co-Host, Paul Merchan, and me as we nail Dr. David Redlawsk, (Chair, Department of Political Science & International Relations, University of Delaware,) to the wall and ask him to evaluate the current president of the United States (I can’t seem to remember his name).

In part one, the good professor waxes poetic on what Trump has done since his inauguration that would qualify as good, bad or just plain evil (Note: This discussion occurred before the horrific events this past weekend in Charlottesville).

In part two, Professor Redlawsk makes a BOLD prediction that you MUST hear.

So, strap on your riot gear, batten down your Alt Right or Alt Left hatches and get ready for a wild ride…

(And, PLEASE join us tomorrow for part two of Trump X 2. It’s even better than the first go-around.)

Aug 03

I sure hope they bring back Chutes & Ladders

Did you know Americans are rediscovering and falling back in love with board games such as Monopoly? According to this article in Adweek, board game sales in the U.S. grew by 28 percent last year. And, global sales are just below a staggering $10 billion.

Why the resurgence in board games? Juli Lennett, toy industry analyst at NPD Group says board games “…play into the nesting trend. More people are binge watching and cooking at home, and they’re playing board games at home rather than going for an expensive night out. Instead of snapchat or texting, it gives people an opportunity to come together face to face and have fun.” How novel.

Many of the board game makers employ a push-pull marketing strategy aimed at attracting both kids and their parents. The Game of Life, for example, uses electronic banking cards, rather than cash and other board games are licensing popular “kid” characters from ‘Star Wars’ or Disney’s ‘Frozen.’

To date, Hasbro’s been the big winner in the board game sweepstakes. Their recent Monopoly contest to decide which tokens to keep and which to replace scored an amazing 4.3 million votes on social media. Even big name brands got in on the Monopoly token name change frenzy. Zipcar ran a #SaveTheCar social campaign and the New England Aquarium hosted a #VotePenguin campaign on Facebook Live. I was always a thimble guy myself (guess I channeled my inner female self from the very beginning).

Board games are so hot that bars are actually retrofitting themselves to ride the wave. Kingmakers, which has locations in Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis actually has board game “sommeliers” who, for $5 a player, teach and recommend selections from its library of 500 games based on the group and mood of the players. (Note: Imagine telling mom and dad that your four-year degree just landed you a gig as a board game sommelier at Kingmakers. Ouch.).

I think the board gamed resurgence is very cool (and a reminder that digital is NOT the one and only way to go when it comes to capturing a new target audience). I just hope Chutes & Ladders makes a comeback as well. I was positively addicted to that game as a kid. It always broke my heart to get so close to the top only to roll the dice and, boom, land on a chute that took me right back to the bottom of the board. I guess it was good preparation for my future career in PR.

 

 

 

Jul 27

“So what?”

Nicole “Kick-Kick” Moreo is Director, Research & Insights, at Peppercomm. She also serves as Vice Chair of AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication), one of the leading media intelligence and insights organizations in the world. Last, but not least, before injuring her back, Kick-Kick was widely seen as Peppercomm’s kickball team’s answer to Mia Hamm.

Just a few days ago, Adweek ran a major feature headlined: “The 2016 Election Was a Wake-Up Call for Marketers, Forcing Many to Rethink Big Data“.

I found the premise (Hillary’s over dependence on data blinded her to the seminal shift in voter emotions) to be flimsy at best. But, hey, I’m not a data analytics superstar, so what do I know?

So, in search of truth in a post-truth world, I turned to Kick-Kick for clarity:

  • Do you think the Clinton campaign’s dependence on big data did, indeed, play a significant role in their loss?

I think there were many variables, even some that we will only learn about as time goes on,  and data was only one piece of a larger puzzle. To put the blame on data is really over simplifying the conversation and just highlights the fact that most people do not understand data.

2.) Is Big Data just the latest shiny object? What happened to qualitative research, focus group findings and simply putting oneself in one’s constituents’ shoes and experiencing, first-hand, the value proposition of a brand, product or service?

I think what most people do not realize is that “Big Data” is simply “unstructured data”. Big Data is not a strategy in and of itself. A true analytics program is not purely driven by Big Data, that is just one source of information. It has received a lot of coverage because new technologies are finally allowing us to tap into data previously unavailable or unmanageable, but a data strategy is comprised of many other variables. These variables include both qualitative and quantitative data sources all aimed at providing context. As many people quoted in the article mention, most people who comment on Big Data actually just do not understand how it fits into a bigger picture.

3.) What’s the answer? Do we have too many “lazy” marketers and agencies expecting data to make their decisions for them? Or will we see a new hybrid model emerge that marries the best of the art & science of research and measurement?

I do not think that laziness is the problem. I think the general lack of understanding how to use the data available is the problem. As the article mentions, our goal is to connect with audiences. An audience is not simply made up of engagement numbers, website clicks, or survey answers. It is how all of these actions come together to tell a story about an audience journey. Art and science are both needed.

I think marketing is currently dealing with two key issues: 1) an onslaught of data vendors who claim that they all have the answer to discovering true insights or ROI 2) a lack of historical context on how to use data and where it fits into the department/ agency mix. We can use data to test, measure and optimize for true insights more than ever before, but we still really just get caught reporting metrics.

I think the answer is simply analytics maturity. We have seen analytics teams growing across the board. These teams are made up of data scientists, data analysts, researchers and strategists that all have different backgrounds. I am personally excited to see how this will require marketers and agencies to ask smarter questions from their data and produce stronger insights.

4.) Any final thoughts?

Whenever I am asked to speak about data, my response usually centers around the importance of asking the right questions. Using all sorts of different manipulations, a human can really get data to say anything. Asking the right questions, and making sure you are collecting the right data is what really matters. I have had to say “so what” to many data reports. A graph is simply a pretty graph and a data point is simply a metric without context. You only get the context by asking the right questions.

# # #

More about Nicole:

Nicole leads Peppercomm’s research and analytics division, and has been with the company since 2011.  Nicole has designed and directed measurement, analytics and research programs for clients ranging from consumer, to financial and B2B.

Using the latest ideas in statistical, analytical and market research, Nicole is known for finding the answer of “what does success mean to you”. Nicole is Vice-Chair of AMEC North America and was named as one of the top 25 innovators in America by the Holmes Reports in 2016.

Find Nicole on Twitter at @kikimoreo.

 

Jul 21

Only the front office was white

This headline accurately reflects the near-total lack of diversity in the front offices of Major League Baseball teams AND is a play on words to one of the best books ever written about the historic Colored Baseball Leagues: Only the Ball was White.

So, how come there are so few minorities holding senior management positions in Major League Baseball? Wayne McDonnell, Clinical Associate Professor of Sports Management at NYU (aka Dr. Baseball), shares his thoughts on this, and other knotty subjects challenging baseball’s future, in the first of two Rep TV videos with co-hosts Paul “Scooter” Merchan and Steve “Choo-Choo” Cody.

Tune in for part two on Monday when Dr. Baseball predicts which teams will face-off in the 2018 Fall Classic. Sadly, he didn’t even mention the Mets. But hey, Dr. Baseball’s batting average for predicting World Series winners is below the Mendoza Line, so maybe there’s still hope for the Mets. Nah.

 

Jul 18

Loving your subject and your students is what separates the great teachers from the mediocre ones

This is the second of my two-part blog about Northeastern’s esteemed history professor, Dr. WIlliam Fowler. I had the good-fortune to study under him, and he had a profound impact on my life.   

In today’s blog, Dr. Fowler, who has just retired, shares the key attribue for a teacher at any level to be considered truly great.

“Love your subject and your students,” he said. “If you love your subject, as I did, then you cherish it, you embrace it, you want to hone in on what you think is particularly important about it and, critically, you want to share it with others.”

“I’ve been in places with teachers in which you hear them make comments about their students that are quite startling. Those teachers are the exception but, when you hear them speak in a derogatory way about their students you think, my god, the students will definitely pick up on that negativity.”

Students are like sharks, said Fowler. They smell the blood and know when you like them and you’re interested. They also know when you’re prepared and when you’ve just thrown together a couple of slides and are winging it. Students know good teachers from bad.

Fowler says it’s also critical to know one’s students. “When a student comes to you or it’s obvious he’s struggling, the great teacher needs to be a patient listener. When a student is having a hard time, there’s almost always a story outside of the classroom that’s at the root cause.”

“I never let a troubled student leave without my having made an attempt, in the student’s presence, to call someone else on campus who can help. That’s what great teachers do.”

Happily, Professor Fowler never had to make that kind of call for me. But, I would argue that the attributes of a great teacher are almost identical to those of a great leader. I wouldn’t pretend to say I’m the latter, but I do love my subject. As for the people, let’s just say I like them. A lot.

 

Jul 17

 Raise your hand if a teacher made a profound (and positive) change in your life


Over the years I’ve spoken to successful individuals about any teacher who ignited a spark that drove their success. In my case, that teacher is Bill Fowler, who taught three or four of my classes at Northeastern University. He changed not only the way I thought about history and life but also demonstrated a leadership style that I emulate to this day.

What separates this Renaissance Man from every other instructor is interaction.

I recently spoke with Dr. Fowler, who has just retired.

My goal was to learn, first-hand, how he perfected his particular style of pedagogy, what traits characterize the best teachers and how today’s crop of students compare with my generation.

Becoming Abraham Lincoln

Fowler literally brought historical figures, from James G. Blaine to Robespierre, to life. He did what stand-up comedians call “acting out.” So, you’d sit down in class and, boom, all of a sudden you were listening to Ulysses S. Grant, King Louis XIV or Andrew Johnson.

It not only made for superb drama. It made learning an experience.

Fowler stumbled upon this experiential technique working as a park ranger with the National Parks Service. “I gave talks at the Old North Bridge. There were barking dogs, jets flying overhead, all sorts of distractions and I needed to keep the group focused.”

In addition to shouting so he could be heard, Fowler had to communicate directly with individuals in the audience. “That’s where I learned direct eye contact could give them a sight, a sound and a smell. I wanted them to feel as if they were on that bridge on that fateful day long ago.”

Then & Now

As far as the difference between students in the 1970s and ‘80s and their modern contemporaries, Fowler refers to the latter as ‘The Wikipedia Generation.’

“They think everything they could possibly need to know is in Wikipedia. Period. As a result, they’re able to access information, but they can’t process it. They can see almost anything, but they can’t understand it.”

And, that’s where great teachers like Fowler fill in the blanks.

“The first thing I do, at the beginning of a new semester, is acknowledge they’ll be turning to Wikipedia for all of their answers and suggest we go there together, see what’s on Wikipedia, examine the information and analyze it.”

“My classes are journeys into the nuances of history that today’s students would otherwise miss completely if they relied solely on Wikipedia. Truth only comes from reflection and thought and analysis. And, that’s what the Internet is taking away from us. Good teachers need to intercept, interpret and, in effect, be a filter for what the students learn on Wikipedia.”

But, don’t get the idea that Fowler is down on Millennials and Generation Z. He isn’t. “Every generation suffers amnesia. They think what they’re doing today, in the here and now, is the only thing that matters. And that holds especially true for our political leaders. They want you to believe the world began on the day they took office. Millennials are just a reflection of our nation’s leadership. There are no more Harry Trumans, JFKs or Teddy Roosevelts who studied and wrote about history,” he observed.

Fowler believes his job was to make students think about what came before and put what is happening today into a frame of reference for them. He certainly did that for me.

Note: In part two, tomorrow, Dr. Fowler will address the key attributes that a great teacher (or leader) should possess.

Jul 14

Just the facts’ ma’am

I was fortunate enough to catch former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on MSNBC this morning.

Ballmer was appearing on @POTUS’s least favorite network to plug his new gig, www.usafacts.org and, if you haven’t paid it a visit yet do so ASAP.

USAfacts provides exactly what its name suggests: facts, and nothing but facts. The site is an aggregator of no fewer than 70 different sources of facts from various government departments, bureaus and agencies. There are no opinion pieces. No editorials. No speculations. Just facts and figures.

It’s a safe port in a storm-tossed TrumpWorld of fake news, bogus claims and outrageous lies.

Ballmer says the site was created in response to a recent Harris Poll survey that says 88 percent of Americans crave facts as well as a trusted source of information.

The majority (Democrats and Republicans alike, BTW) cite the national news media as their go-to source for news and information, but a staggering 75 percent of Millennials count, instead, on Facebook (knowing full well that FB is a miasma of lies, half-truths and stories that would make the editors of The National Enquirer blush in embarrassment).

I’ve already bookmarked USAFacts.org and subscribed to their daily report.

As Ballmer said, numbers don’t lie. And the numbers on USAFacts are fully vetted by responsible career professionals who’ve devoted their careers to serving the country. In other words, there’s no Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow filtering and spinning breaking news.

I want facts. I think all Americans want facts. And, right now, all we have is interpretation.

So, three cheers for USAFacts.org. My only hope is more Americans, ranging from “the base” to Bernie backers, include it in their daily news consumption.

I can’t speak for you, but I agree with the 88% of Americans who believe a single source of information is critical to an informed debate. Ballmer’s new baby may be the closest thing available to satisfying that need.

 

 

Jul 10

Gee, I Wonder What the Results Will Be?

Taking a page right out of Big Tobacco’s playbook, five major beverage manufacturers are ponying up $67.7 million to prove that a glass of wine, beer or cocktail every day will increase one’s chances of avoiding a heart attack and live longer.

Yet, other research has begun surfacing to suggest that even modest alcohol consumption can lead to increases in breast cancer and changes in the brain.  Holy conundrum, Batman!

So, the National Institutes of Health is stepping in to determine, once, and for all, if alcohol is good or bad. The total price tag for the multiple clinical trials? $100 million. So, that means Big Alcohol (or Big Al, as I like to call them) is funding two-thirds of the entire effort.

That’s like letting McDonald’s and Burger King pool their monies to prove there’s absolutely no link between their high calorie junk food and virtually every disease known to man.

Big Al’s serious investment is troubling to researchers who track influence-peddling in science (talk about a cool job!).

“Research shows that industry-sponsored research almost invariable favors the interests of the industry sponsor, even when investigators believe they are immune from such influence,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at NYU.

Needless to say Big Al’s lead spokesperson vehemently disagrees. George F. Koob, director of the Alcohol Institute (yet another way cool job) said the trial will be immune from industry influence and will be an unbiased test of whether alcohol “in moderation” protects against heart disease.

In case you’re interested (or, like me, want to volunteer) the study will recruit and follow nearly 8,000 volunteers age 50 or older at 16 sites around the world.

As was the case with Big Tobacco, Big Al may end up not liking the study’s results.

Imagine if every bottle of wine, IPA or Stoli suddenly contained the warning: “Drinking has been proven to cause numerous adverse ailments including shortness of breath, uncontrollable leg twitching, constipation, heart attack, stroke and death.” That might give the average consumer pause to think twice, unbend the elbow and exit the bar stage left.

Not me, though. No one’s keeping me away from my Sancerre at poolside. Uncontrollable leg twitching and research be damned.