Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Random Thoughts: Halloween, Jesus and Bin Laden

I recently heard my youngest child won't be enjoying any sweets at this year's (elementary school) Halloween party. Candy and sweets are banned, and replaced by cheese and crackers. I am ashamed to mention that we actually have pumpkins on display at our house, and that one day soon, we will be carving them. I hope we can get one more year in before someone decides to take a stand for the rights of pumpkins.

And never mind about Jesus. All the Christmas trees in public schools are long gone. Thank goodness for Walmart and Target, who took a stand last Christmas to allow their employees to tell customers "Merry Christmas"—after a backlash from patrons during the previous year. I am guessing the corporate motivation was not connected to any financial gain... Nah! I am sure finances had nothing to do with it (wink-wink).

Last but not least...Osama Bin Laden. If I were a betting man, I would say he is dead. It's my blog so I will say it—I think he is dead! Man, in general is vain. He would be writing op eds and taping interviews for CNN or doing tweets from the green room on the View if he were alive. Plus, if our government wanted to snatch somebody, they could do it. There is something else going on here, and the cynical part in me is guessing that a few dollars are being spent to perpetuate this hunt.

(I was just watching a special about Bin Laden on the History Channel, so I thought I would bring him into this post.)

Peace. & Thanks!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Day at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky

Have you ever heard of a little hamburger chain called "Burger King"? I had the opportunity this week to meet with Andrew Keller, the Creative Director at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky—the firm that currently handles the creative for Burger King. They are also known for their work with Volkswagen, BMW Mini, and Microsoft Windows.

I was pretty blown away by their huge facility that exuded creativity and employee perks. They had a concierge on staff, as well as an "extreme concierge" where you could take out a couple dirt bikes and go ride the trails before your a.m. meeting. Have a flat tire or need a repair—just drop it off, and it will be ready for you when you leave. It seemed like the Disneyland of creative agencies. The motif was very raw-industrial, and the place was swarming with ideas. Ideas where stuck everywhere! People where everywhere—the place was packed with over 500 creative employees. It was a cross between a rich-kids tree house, and a super-sized college dorm room. (I say this in a favorable manner.)

Lots of young people, mountain bikes all over the place, girls walking by with their dogs, and people meeting in small groups with laptops and whiteboards. As I sat down in Andrew's office he pressed a button and two translucent garage doors silently closed behind me. It was pretty cool. As my eleven year old son would say, it was "sick nasty"! Out of all the cool and creative things I was exposed to, the coolest thing was that a total stranger, at the top of his game would spare an hour or so out of his busy schedule to talk a little shop with me. I believe Andrew had just gotten back from Paris the morning of my visit and was headed to New York later that day.

I have often been somewhat cynical on this blog, but today it feels right to just be thankful. It was a great experience, and I am truly thankful for my friends (and neighbors) Bryant and Carol Spann, who made the connection—and for Andrew Keller who shared his time.

Be good to someone today.

Peace. & Thanks!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hey Apple!

I am a "Mac" and have been a "Mac" for a long time. The new OS for the iPhone is terrible! My 3g has never been the same since I upgraded the OS, and apparently I can't go back. Since I upgraded the OS it has been sluggish to answer calls, sluggish on apps, and drops calls like crazy. It sounds like the only solution is to upgrade to a new phone, which I may have to do. That might be great for Apple in the short term, but what is going to happen when guys like me won't pump up their products anymore? I hope they are thinking about that...It won't show up on any studies in the short term, but could bite them in the butt over the long term.

I have raved about Apple forever, but those fuzzy feelings deep down in my gut, are getting ready to come back up! It's not pretty.

Come on Apple! I am all for making a profit, and a good sales strategy...but if you think you are going to string us along on your gadget-magic, and bypass the excellent quality you have provided us over the years, you are sadly mistaken.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What does "C" stand for?

What does the acronym YWCA stand for? My guess would be—"Young Women's Christian Association." Their mission is "eliminating racism, empowering women". I like that. Who would be against that?

I get emails and newsletters from the local YWCA and have noticed that none of these correspondence ever mention anything about "Christian" principals or values. I went to my local YWCA web site and entered the word "Christian" in the search box, and got "0 (zero) responses for my search request. Not one mention of the word Christ or Christian on their web site. My guess at this point is that they must not align themselves with Christian principles anymore. Maybe they never have, I don't know. I can't find anywhere on their web site that defines what their acronym stands for. I only mention this is because of my familiarity with the YMCA whose mission is "to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build health spirit, mind and body for all." I would only assume that the difference would be in regards to the different genders—but I don't want to assume. (That is why I am asking you.)

Anyway, I am aware of their new branding campaign (aka—enhance your donations campaign). It was created by Landor which is a very successful branding company with locations in 21 different countries. Wow! They work with some big clients and have some great solutions, but I have to say, I am not a fan of this one. I read their case history for this client and it stated they were asked to help create a new identity that would more effectively communicate the organizations mission. This case study also stated, "that the new signature features YWCA in bold lowercase letters and places the mission above the YWCA in the same typestyle, tying the name of the organization directly to its mission." And I don't want to forget to mention that Landor also states that the color (orange) is "engaging, warm, and welcoming." From my perspective I think it is about as nondescript as the acronym it doesn't stand for.

I did find an article by a lady named Barbara J. Nelson, about the YWCA's mission expansion and the origins of the Y's anti-racism campaign. Pretty interesting. Apparently, the Y did have Christian roots, but changed focus when the organization shifted from putting Christian values into social action—to a focus based solely on the need to eliminate racism. The thrust of this mission expansion became realized in 1970 through a resolution called "One Imperative" which was the pre-convention product of a Conference of 500 black women of the YWCA, that emphasized the elimination of racism over all other priorities of the YWCA.

On a personal note—sure, I hate to see that the YWCA has dropped their Christian affiliation. But on a professional note, I just wonder why one of the world's leading branding firms would not address the name of the YWCA in it's recent rebrand (especially since they were charged to create a new identity). After reading this article by Barbara Nelson, I see this shift in focus has been brewing since the early 1900's. The recent rebrand would have provided for a great time to re-work the identity (and possibly the name) to align better with the overall emphasis and focus of the organization. My guess is that the money-stick prevailed once again over the principal-stick, because the client and the design firm decided that the brand recognition and value was too great to risk a change. I would hope that wasn't the case, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet against it.

If KFC stopped selling chicken—people would know, and people would talk. If Burger King quit making burgers—people would know and people would talk. If the United Negro College Fund, would give scholarships to rich white kids—people would know and people would talk. So how can an organization that has 25 million members in 122 countries drop such an important word from its association without anybody knowing about it, and anybody talking about it?

I guess Landor has done a great job. I am sure that they knew—and sure that the talked...about the dollars at stake and the stink they would cause if they would pull "Christian" from the name. Even though I believe the YWCA does a lot of great things in our community and around the world, I certainly don't think they stand for their brand. You either go with Christ or you don't. If Burger King didn't offer burgers anymore, would they still be Burger King? There is no in between. (That is unless you are a democrat or republican—I think they both stand for everything.)

Anyway, I don't have anything against the YWCA. I am all for helping others. However, if they are getting donations and memberships under the guise of a "Christian Association" (which is inferred by their identity/acronym and corporate history)—I would have a problem with this.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A note from Gabriel (today)

The story starts three days ago. As a principal of a creative strategy firm (Blackwell and Co.) I consider myself somewhat off-the-cuff, scatter-brained, OCD, ADD—and do my best to keep all my thoughts and notes organized in my Franklin Planner and Moleskin sketchbook. That is it. I have files, and stacks, and drawers, and binders...but my lifeblood is poured into one of these two books. Well...I lost the sketchbook. What a bummer! It actually made me sick to my stomach, plus it came with a good dose of rage that was hard to keep in check. How could I have been so careless!

On the second day, I got home from work and was reading the news on FB and clicked on a link to a story about some political stuff. BAM! Like a bolt of lightning I found myself eye-to-eye with some type of virus on my phone. As fast as it happened it was over. The phone was dead. I called my friend Jens who offered up some encouragement, but it didn't really help. A lost sketchbook and now a dead phone. Whoa is me. (I do know that in the scheme of things this really isn't a big deal, but it does get better.)

Oh well, today was a new day. I usually start each day out with a nice hot shower and a little prayer for my family and friends. Despite my previous blunder, I am still a pretty thankful man. Anyway, at the end of my prayer, I slipped in a little request to God and asked if I could please see a way to get my sketchbook back—and here is what happened.

I got back from lunch around 130pm and Allie (our Account Coordinator) says she got a strange message for me...Someone called and had the sketchbook. They did not want to share their name, the did not want to share a phone number, and did not want me to meet them. They said that they would take the book back to where they found it (Chase Bank), and that it would be available after 2pm. So around 215pm I went to the bank, asked the teller if anyone left a package for me and sure enough they did—the book!

This book was pretty new, but had several thumbnails and scribbles as well as some of my thoughts regarding certain accounts and certain prospects. I am a faithful guy and try my best to keep Christ focused...and a lot of my notes (to myself) and about certain situations often refer back to how "something" relates back to Christ. Now I am no saint, and that is for sure—so don't take any of this the wrong way. If you ever see me having a hotdog and a cold beer, I am not a hypocrite, I am just a regular-old-man. Anyway, as I was paging through the book I found a note stuck to a page with some tape—it read:

From Gabriel

Hmm...Humans are so very interesting and so very confused at times. No matter what this "Christian" venture is your company is pursuing, if God has not ordained it, it will not prevail. Always remember that it is by the Lord's spirit; not by works!

Without sharing too much information, the note followed a section in my book, regarding my thoughts about a prospective client that I believe was "out of focus". So, the note was positioned in a very appropriate spot. But wait! There is more. Shortly after I picked up my sketchbook, I headed out to run an errand. While I was out I had a visitor stop by. It was a familiar local homeless person who we often call "The Shem" (I know that sounds bad...but its the truth.) This is a very tall, lanky, dark-haired man, who dresses as a woman. He/she has been around Charleston for many years wearing the same hose and skirt. I often see him sitting on the ground in front of some of the area storefronts talking to himself, and have at least on one occasion caught him relieving himself in my back parking lot. In my 13 years of business, I have said hello to him, bought him some coffee, and maybe some food—but I never had a conversation with him, and he NEVER came to my office—not one time—until today. He came in the front door, asked to speak with "Steve Blackwell", and as someone went back to my office to get me, he left.

Weird. Crazy. Strange? Could he have been the guy that kept my book for three days? Could he be Gabriel? Is Gabriel a real guy that found my book? Is this some kind of joke? Could this be "Gabriel" the angel? Did God answer my prayer? Is the "Shem" part of this or was it just a coincidence? I don't know. But for a guy who believes that God sent His son, who died on the cross, was buried and rose from the grave on the third day—and who now lives with the Holy Spirit inside him...I wouldn't discount it.

I don't know much about the angel Gabriel, but found this on Wikipedia:

Gabriel is usually portrayed as male, but sometimes also androgynous or female, as in some contemporary art imagery, in popular imagination, and various new age beliefs that say that although all angels are androgynous, Gabriel is more female than male based on astrological properties.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] However, according to the traditional Christian Bible, all angels are neither male nor female, and they also do not reproduce or marry.[11]

iPhone fixed (thanks Jens!), sketchbook back (thanks Gabriel, stranger, or whoever), and thanks God—I enjoyed another day. What a day!

Peace. & Thanks!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jesus is a Purple Cow

As I celebrated Easter this year, I spent Good Friday morning watching Mel Gibson's, "Passion of the Christ" with my friend Jens. I can't say that I enjoyed the movie, but it really helped me to reflect on what Christ did for us. (As tough as it was to watch, it is something that you should see if you haven't seen it yet.) I spent some time reading these accounts in the Bible this weekend and was reminded once again of our historic passion for money and power. From my perspective it usually gets in the way of everything. But from God's perspective it was just part of the plan.

Everybody was giddy and blown away by Jesus, His knowledge of the scriptures, His miracles...there was a buzz in the air. I always hear people talk about change, and their sincere desire to make change...until you mess with their money or their power. The same thing was going on thousands of years ago. The existence of Jesus threatened the power and stability of the Sanhedrin, and the abuse of power and money lived on as the story unfolded.

Leading up to His death, he had performed some remarkable feats. He walked on water, He healed people, He foretold the future, He healed the blind, and raised the dead. No PR machine, no iPhone, no agency, He just did amazing things that people talked about (and still talk about). That is what author Seth Godin might call a Purple Cow (I would certainly call it that). Don't get these stories confused with a Disney movie or a Greek myth. Jesus was a real person. He did not perform the ridiculous, He performed the remarkable. He is the red thread that ties the entire Bible together. It wasn't a storyboard by Pixar, but a plan from God. That red thread was foreshadowed and concealed in the old testament and then later revealed through the gospels in the new testament. A good friend shared it to me this way, "the old testament of the Bible is the new testament concealed, and the new testament of the Bible is the old testament revealed." —What a plan!

A virgin birth, a life with temptation but without sin—a brutal punishment, and crucifixion, coupled with darkness an earthquake and a mass of bodies rising from their graves as Christ died on the cross, and arose from the grave three days later. Not for money and not for power—and not because we deserved anything, but because He loved us...Now that is a Purple Cow!