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Posts Tagged ‘greenville’

BMWm3

Below a little video of the afternoon several local bloggers and twitterati got to enjoy, courtesy of Kamran Popkin and the BMW Performance Driving School. Look for cameos by @JimSharp, @Nullvariable and @brainsonfire (Matt Reese).

Incidentally, Matt is insanely fast in a car, so never EVER let him race you for money.

I really can’t thank Kamran enough for hooking me up AND the BMW PDS’s staff for taking such good care of us while we were there. Everyone – from the catering folks and event coordinators to the driving instructors – is absolutely top notch, as is the facility.

Something I learned today: Any new BMW owner in North America can take delivery of their new car right here at the factory, then drive it to the school for an afternoon of classroom and practical driving instruction. You pay to get here, but once you’re in Greenville, BMW takes care of the rest: Hotel, food and the driving instruction. How cool is that!

BMW classroom

A few other things I learned today:

@Jimsharp likes to live (and drive) on the edge (of the road).

Also, he doesn’t stop. For anything. Not even puppies. (Okay, maybe for puppies.)

BMW2car

Good luck flipping an X5 out on the range. These things cling to walls like spiderman.

Pedal to the metal feels GOOD.

Not hitting any cones is more important than a little extra speed.

Real drivers don’t use traction control.

BMWx5

Some BMWs drive themselves.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses control of their bodily functions.

BMWs aren’t just cars. They really ARE ultimate driving machines.

Driving fast makes me sweat a little bit.

I like the smell of burning rubber in the afternoon.

What you’ll see in the video:

The first driving exercise was a slalom course designed to teach us how to take tight corners at high speed in varying surface conditions (wet/dry).

The second driving exercise was a timed run in the M3 designed to teach us to a) negotiate sudden sharp turns at high speed. (The turn is sharper than it looks.) Also, b) precision stopping from max acceleration.

The third driving exercise was the X5’s 4×4 course. (No racing there.)

The fourth exercise was just a fun ride with one of the school’s professional drivers.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what tunes you heard in that video:

“Shooting Star” by David Rush

“Throw Water On Them” by Asher Roth

Thanks to Jim for shooting most of the in-car stuff. If the video doesn’t play for you, go watch it here.

Also, check out Jim’s video (most of the in-car footage was shot by yours truly). Great editing and music by Jim. Good stuff:

If Jim’s video doesn’t load for you, watch it here.

BMWlineup

PS: No cones were harmed during the shooting of this video. (At least not by us.)

PPS: Want to play like we just did? BMW has a ton of programs for drivers of all levels (even for teenage drivers). Check out the performance driving school’s web page for more info.

PPPS: I don’t work for BMW, didn’t get paid by BMW and have no ties to BMW whatsoever. Everything mentioned on this blog about BMW comes from the heart. (Disclosure.)

Have a great weekend, everyone! I look forward to seeing some of  you at Social Fresh Monday (Charlotte, NC).

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Jul 30 2009 - VID00001_2

I was kindly invited by Social Media Club Greenville to be a presenter during their inaugural Pecha Kucha event last week and brought with me an atypically short and succinct presentation with me. (If you aren’t familiar with the Pecha Kucha model, it’s like this: 20 slides, 20 seconds each. That’s it.) Being of the school of blabber, limiting myself to less than 7 minutes to present anything (much less say hello) is nigh impossible. I gave it a shot anyway, and this preso is the outcome of this little exercise.

The point: Illustrating twelve misuses of the term “Social Media R.O.I.” overheard over the last nine months, and attributing them to the most likely culprits: very specific personality types within organizations – the ones most likely to come up with them and actually have the huevos to use them as if they were in fact real.

Here you go:

If the link doesn’t work or you cannot access it via your mobile device, go check out the slideshare presentation here.

There are many more types of Social Media Monkeys (and misuses of Social Media R.O.I.) but given the format, I only had time for these 12.

I will add a link to the video of the presentation as soon as I get my hands on it. Thanks to SMC Greenville, Trey Pennington and the Jackson Marketing Group for putting on this very fun event. More photos (courtesy of Trey Pennington):

6295_1222056991402_1228265360_30640728_4699374_n

Jim
Melea
Bobby
Doug
Trey

brandbuildermarketing2

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Making a point about finding your voice

Making a point about finding your voice

Hi gang! Thanks a bunch to all who attended our first WordPress Workshop Thursday. It was pretty exciting to meet all of you and have a chance to help you get more out of your blogging – both from a technical perspective (Doug’s piece) and a strategic perspective (my piece). Sorry if we went a little over the scheduled time. There was a lot to cover in just two short hours. 🙂

For those of you who couldn’t attend, don’t fret: We will be putting together a web version of the workshop very soon.

I also really want to thank Bobby Rettew and View for taping the workshop, The Commerce Club for taking such great care of us, StudioPress for co-sponsoring the event, Jim O’Donnell for taking some of these photos and all of you who helped us promote the event. You guys all rock. It takes a lot of people working behind the scenes to actually pull off events like this one, and I am as ever very aware of that. 🙂

Here are some photos of the event:

Our superfly registration (with free parking vouchers)

Our superfly registration (with free parking vouchers)

Gil Gerretsen and Hank Merkle causing trouble again

Gil Gerretsen and Hank Merkle causing trouble again

@HaroAvo and @XYBrewer before I bored them to death

@HaroAvo and @XYBrewer before I bored them to death

Yes, I talka witha my handsa. It isn't just an Italian thing.

Yes, I talka witha my handsa. It isn't just an Italian thing.

Joel Van Dyke and Hank Merkle - up to no good, as always.

Joel Van Dyke and Hank Merkle - up to no good, as always.

Doug Cone (@nullvariable) talking about CSS

Doug Cone (@nullvariable) talking about CSS

Yapping

Rambling about random blogging nonsense, I am sure...

A few of the tables at Greenville's WordPress Workshop #1

A few of the tables. Check out all the hardware! We need more power sources.

Have a great Good Friday, everyone!

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register

Hi kids! So we’re just a couple of days from Greenville’s very first “Working With WordPress” spring workshop, and I thought now would be a pretty good time to go over a few reasons why you might want to consider attending our event (if you aren’t signed up already).

And assuming you are going to be in the 864 area code on Thursday 9 April, that is.

First, let me break down the event for you real quick:

Hour 1: Doug (@nullvariable on Twitter) will run you through the technical “how do I do XYZ” with WordPress. If you are a beginner and have absolutely no experience setting up a blog, Doug will teach you how to start a WordPress blog from scratch, how to use it, how to tweak it, etc. (It’s pretty simple when you have someone guiding you through each step, so it won’t take long.) Once that is done, Doug will show you how to use widgets and other tools to customize your WordPress blog and make it remarkable. That part of the workshop caters to beginners, intermediate and advanced users.

Hour 2: I will teach you how to create relevant content, build an audience, and turn your blog into whatever you want it to be – a business development tool, your very own online publication, an community hub, a multimedia journal, etc. (We’ll chat about what you want to accomplish with your blog and I will tailor my session to fit your specific needs.)

We will have lots of time for Q&A and one-on-one attention, so bring your laptops and as many questions as you want. 🙂

Okay. That was the what. Now let’s talk about the why. To that end, let me give you a few examples of who might benefit from attending our workshop:

Marketing Managers, Community Managers and Business Owners:

If your company, church, school or organization doesn’t have a blog yet, your website probably isn’t getting the traffic you would like. And chances are that you aren’t generating a whole lot of net new customers either. Adding a blog to your existing site creates a dynamic online presence that will enhance – maybe even revive  – your website. For starters, it will help you link up with industry peers AND connect with your customers in a way you haven’t before. We will cover more at WPgreenville, but that isn’t a bad start.

If you already have a blog but it isn’t getting the traffic or activity you hoped for, or it just doesn’t look or work the way you want it to, we will show you how to fix that as well.

People just looking to get the most out of their blog:

Maybe you’re completely new to blogging. Maybe you’ve dabbled but got stumped because you aren’t technically savvy when it comes to computers. Maybe you’ve mastered most of the technical pieces of the blogging puzzle but have no idea how to create content, find an audience or even get noticed by the people you are trying to reach. Whatever your stumbling blocks may be, we will identify and address them right there and then. You will walk away from the workshop with your questions answered and your problems solved.

Bloggers looking to tie their blog to all of their new social media destinations:

Okay, so now you have a blog, a Facebook page, a Myspace page, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plurk, Tumblr, Seesmic, Youtube, Skype, oovoo, 12 Seconds, Buzznet, PingFM, etc. How in the world do you tie all of these things together with your WordPress blog? We’ll show ya.

Professionals currently between jobs – or planning to find themselves there someday:

If you missed J.T. O’Donnell’s presentation in Greenville last week, here’s a nugget of insight for you: 1 out of 12 Americans is unemployed right now. That means that you are one little drop in an ocean of potential employees. Resumes are piling up in stacks, and statistically, chances are that yours won’t get noticed. (It’s just a numbers’ game.) How do you turn the odds of being discovered in your favor? Simple: Make yourself easier to find on the internets.

Fact: 4 out of 5 recruiters use Google to research applicants before inviting them to their first interview. Consider applicant A who has no internet presence to speak of vs. applicant B who has a well designed blog with interesting, smart, actionable content that is relevant to his/her line of work. Which of the two do you think will be more appealing to an employer?

Having a well crafted blog filled with solid content can and will make you more attractive to future employers. We will show you exactly how to build your personal brand online, make yourselves search engine-friendly, and make sure you never stay out of work for very long.

Professionals wanting to further their new media skills:

Most professional courses cost a whole lot of money and don’t always give you skills you can take to work the next day… or take to your next job and actually do something with. How cool would it be for you to be the only person at your office who knows how to build a WordPress blog from scratch, make it do whatever you want, and then grow an audience where none existed before? Do you think that might be a worthwhile little notch on your belt? This workshop will accomplish just that.

That’s basically the jist. For full details about the event (when, where, etc.) go to www.wpgreenville.com.

The event only costs about $50 so you will definitely get your money’s worth. (Besides, it isn’t exactly being taught by chumps.) 😉

Oh, and as an extra little incentive, one lucky attendee will win a FREE  StudioPress theme (a $59.99 value)! Plus, all attendees will will receive a discount code for 25% off of any StudioPress theme on top of that. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Be sure to register today and to pass this on to anyone in the 864 you think might find this valuable.

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J.T. O'Donnell speaking in Greenville, SC

J.T. O'Donnell speaking in Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC got a big treat today: Career expert JT O’Donnell was in town to speak at Linking The Upstate‘s inaugural event at the historic Westin Poinsett Hotel. Two words for you: Awe and some. I knew JT was pretty savvy when it comes to career advice, but I had no idea just how smart, engaging and approachable she was. If you guys aren’t familiar with her work yet, check out her website, her Careerealism blog, buy her book, and go ahead and start following Careerealism on twitter. And if you ever find yourself unhappy with your career or uncertain about your professional direction, do yourself a favor and reach out to her. You will look back on that email, tweet or phone call someday and realize it was one of the smartest things you ever did. Trust me on this.

By the way, if you missed it, you can check out some of the event’s coverage via Twitter hashtag #careerealism. Look for my avatar (ahem).

And as an aside, I have to give BIG kudos to Thomas Parry for launching Linking The Upstate so quickly… and so well. What a way to kick it off. Very well done. The group’s objective is to connect all of the 864’s business groups together (chambers of commerce, technology, HR, creative, networking, business groups, etc.) to leverage their collective economic, innovative and intellectual potential. A lofty and timely goal that I will definitely help support in the coming months.

Here are a few pictures from what turned out to be a pretty social day (even for me):

 

The pommes frites I ate

The pommes frites I ate

 

 

Thomas Parry, J.T. O'Donnell, Trey Pennington and Doug Cone at The Lazy Goat restaurant

Thomas Parry, J.T. O'Donnell, Trey Pennington and Doug Cone at The Lazy Goat restaurant

 

 

Yes, I take pictures of stuff I eat

Yes, I take pictures of stuff I eat

Thomas Parry at the Westin Poinsett Hotel introducing Linking The Upstate

Thomas Parry at the Westin Poinsett Hotel introducing Linking The Upstate

J.T. O'Donnell presenting at Greenville, SC's historic Westin Poinsett Hotel

J.T. O'Donnell presenting at Greenville, SC's historic Westin Poinsett Hotel

I don’t want to leave you guys with just photos and no takeways, so here are a few nuggets of information I grabbed from JT’s fantastic presentation:

 

 

4 out of 5 HR professionals will google an applicant BEFORE inviting them to interview. What will they find? (Hint: Have you googled yourself lately?)

The two worst things that can happen when a prospective employer googles you: 1. They find something embarrassing or not particularly positive (that may make them reconsider your application). 2. They find nothing at all. Lesson: Start managing your online presence better. Create a positive, professional, consistent and factual footprint for yourself online.

College students graduating this year will have an average of 9 different careers before they retire.

The average duration of a job in the US today  is only 18 months. (We are all glorified temps.)

Currently, 1 out of 12 Americans is either unemployed or underemployed.

Job boards are 60% down right now: The demand for jobs is so high that the volume of job applications via job boards is overwhelming HR departments. Result, they are turning to other sourcing methods to find quality applicants.

80% of open positions in the US are filled via referrals.

Whatever you may hear or believe, in this day and age, not having a blog and a presence on LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter can and will absolutely stall your career. (Management level folks.)

Tip: Don’t wait until you are unemployed to start building your networks. The sooner you start and the more you nurture them, the easier it will be for you to find your next gig when the axe finally falls. (Better yet, if you do this right, you will probably be recruited right out of your current job.)

Again: The easiest way to stand out from the crowd of people competing against you for your dream job is to have a well designed and solidly crafted blog. If you don’t have one yet, start. If you have one but it needs help, get help. (Incidentally, if you are in Greenville next week, we are putting together a WordPress Workshop specifically geared towards this. Check out www.wpgreenville.com to sign up.)

For more great advice, go check out the Careerealism blog and be sure to drop JT a note.

Have a great Friday, everyone. 😉

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Jay Handler (@sellphone) presenting

Jay Handler (@sellphone) presenting

So I spent most of Thursday morning at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce with Chad McMillan, Geoff Wasserman, Trey Pennington, Adam Landrum, Jay Handler, Amy Wood and a roomful of business folks – and we talked about various aspects of Social Media as they relate to business. Great little event with a pretty impressive panel and an even more impressive audience composed of Ad agency and PR folks, major players like Michelin North America, and a number of small businesses looking to gain a competitive edge. Topics covered: Brand development in the age of Social Media, digital relevance, creating brand ambassadors, traditional and new media working side by side, opportunities and dangers in a hyperconnected world, etc.

We took a few pictures to give you guys a glimpse into Greenville’s super double-top secret Social Media underworld. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂

Photo credits: Yours truly, Trey Pennington and Doug Cone.

Geoff Wasserman moderating the panel

Geoff Wasserman moderating the panel

Using my trigger finger to make a point.

Using my trigger finger to make a point.

Elabortaing on one of Chad's points.

Elaborating on one of Chad's points.

Chad demonstrating his mad Macarena skills.

Chad demonstrating his mad Macarena skills.

Chandler's impossibly cool suite of Macphile SocMed geek tools

Chandler's impossibly cool suite of Macphile SocMed geek tools

Michelin North America starting up a discussion

Michelin North America starting up a discussion

The Jackson-Dawson team and their Macs

The Jackson-Dawson team demonstrating their patented "attention rotation" technique

Chandler's knowledge acquisition method: Pulling up a chair
Hanging out before Jay's session

Hanging out before Jay's session

Between sessions

Greenville Chamber's Claudia Clanton Wise between sessions

Jackson-Dawson's launch operations control center

Jackson-Dawson's shuttle operations control center

The mini muffins I ate

The mini muffins I ate

The notes I took in my trusty Moleskine notebook

The notes I took in my trusty Moleskine notebook

@Geoffwasserman and @melbrooke exchanging knock-knock jokes

@Geoffwasserman and @melbrooke exchanging knock-knock jokes

Jay Handler (@sellphone) showering knowledge upon the crowd

Jay Handler (@sellphone) showering knowledge upon the crowd

Amy Wood (@tvamy)

Amy Wood (@tvamy) being a goof

Merge's Adam Landrum rocking it out as an MC

Merge's Adam Landrum rocking it out as an MC

Copiuos note-taking going on there.

Copious note-taking going on there.

Amy Wood (@tvamy) talking about Social Media and the News Media

The conversation continues

The conversation continues

Amy has a Flip video too. Standard issue gadget for us Social Media types

Amy has a Flip video too. Standard issue gadget for us Social Media types

The Jackson-Dawson team pulling triple attention duty

The Jackson-Dawson team pulling triple attention duty

Trey Pennington (@treypennington) taking the floor.

Trey Pennington (@treypennington) taking the floor.

Trey Pennington answering questions

Trey Pennington answering questions

Talking shop

Marketing peeps talking shop

Trey and Amy hanging out

Trey and Amy hanging out

In case we were wondering where we were this morning...

In case we were wondering where we were this morning...

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chico and the snow ball

Since some of you requested some pics of the Chihuahuas’ snow day…

Above: Chico dodging a snowball. Yeah, he squints like that sometimes. Snow is not his element. Below: Chico and Chiquita enduring the snow for our entertainment…

chico in the snowsnowdog again

Snow Chiquita

chiquita snow 2If you kids are nice, I may even post some video later. ;)

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snow tree, by Olivier Blanchard 2009

Greenville hadn’t seen this much snow in about 15 years. (I wish I’d had a camera with me last night, when we got snuck in the snow storm and barely made it home. Cars in ditches, SUVs spinning out of control on the I-85, 20ft visibility on back roads (when you could even guess there was a road there). It took us a while, and we almost got stuck in the snow a few times, but we finally made it to our street unscathed – though we had to ditch the car a quarter mile or so from the house since we couldn’t make it up the final hill. The weird part was the thunder and lightning during a snow storm, but I guess these things happen every once in a while.

And while today, most of Greenville is probably fine, we’re still snowed-in. (Living out in the country is fun, isn’t it?) While we wait for the snow to melt so we can make it down our hill without skidding into something expensive, here are a few pictures from this morning’s winter wonderland.

We’ll be back tomorrow with regular blog posts. Have a great day! 🙂

snow blooms, by olivier blanchard 2009

building a snowman, by olivier blanchard

snowman Jack, by olivier blanchard 2009

snowman crew, by olivier blanchard 2009

snow buds, by olivier blanchard 2009

olivier blanchard, snow day 2009

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socmed0ne1001

Come listen to me speak about Brands, Social Media and how to turn your business into an engine of ass-kickery Monday, February 9, 2009 at Soby’s on Main Street in downtown Greenville. (And yeah, I’ll even let you pick my brain a little bit.)

We’ll have delicious Soby’s coffee and pastries ready at 7:15am and will begin our meeting at 7:30am, ending at 8:30am.

I know 7:15 is CRAZY early, especially on a Monday – ugh… – but look at it this way:

a) You won’t be late getting to work (for once)

b) You will start your week pumped up and full of fresh insights

c) Breakfast at Soby’s. Come on. What? Seriously. What better way to start your day?

d) Dancing bears, sock puppets, clowns and me. LIVE. How often do you get to actually see me speak in front of a live audience? You can’t beat that.

Cost is $5.00.

For directions, click here.

Sign up / reserve your spot now. Click here.

See you there!

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orangecoat-olan-mills-style-holiday-postcard-2008-small

Sorry folks, I know this has nothing to do with brand development, marketing or social media, but… oh wait, it does! (I’ll come back to that.)  Truth is, I wanted to post this because it made me laugh outloud. And I laugh every time I see it. If you don’t know these guys, it probably won’t be as funny to you, but if you know them it’s priceless.

Check out the full post here.

Oh, and about the brand/marketing/social media thing: One of the many things that sets Orange Coat apart from other web design firms is the fact that they can blend humor with flawless design better than most, and this card is a testament to that. They may make it look easy, but trust me, it isn’t. Turning ideas (yes, even goofy ones) into reality is easier said than done, but not so much for them.

I love it: Taking the most boring, cliche Christmas season tradition in the world and turning it into a conversation-starter? Brilliant.

And as for the Social Media angle, the post has all of Orange Coat’s Socmed particulars (yay Twitter).

I don’t mean to shamelessly plug my friends today, but after seeing this, how could I not? 😀

Transparency Note: I do not currently receive any remuneration from Orange Coat or any of its agents, but this post may earn me a beer or two. Or three.

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large-msg-114650520417-2

Why people and businesses choose to settle for average, I’ll never understand. Average products, average websites, average copy, average photography, average entertainment, average flavor, average executives… The list is long. The point is, if you look around, you’ll notice that average is the fat middle bulge in the bell curve. Average is the norm. Both the volume and frequency of “average” dwarf the precious few “remarkable” who work every day to raise the bar and set new standards of excellence for us all.

Think about your favorite companies to do business with. Your favorite restaurants. Your favorite movies. Your favorite products. Your favorite hairdresser or fashion designer or coffee shop. Think about how they stand out from their competitors.

Fact: Your favorite (insert product or service here) does whatever it does better than its competitors. stands out in some unique way: Better taste. Better experience. Better value. Better fit. Better… something. At some point, someone decided to do something different. Someone decided to commit to branching off and doing something unique, and that decision resulted in a notable improvement

You don’t build anything worthwhile by copying other people. Yeah, sure, it may seem like the safe thing to do, but it isn’t.

Bleh.

Welcome to the fabulous world of the “also in”.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the “why bother”.

Okay, sure, not every product needs to be extraordinary. Not every product needs to be unique. I guess you could set out to publish a magazine that’s a lot like Newsweek or Men’s Health or Fast Company… only more “average”. You could set out to produce a movie that’s a lot like Titanic or Sling Blade or Gladiator, but… you know… more “average”. You could set out to copy Subway or Jersey Mike’s or Quizno’s and make a subway sandwich, but… just a little bit more bland. A little bit less special. A little bit cheaper too, while you’re at it. I guess that would be swell.

To make up for the blandness, you could always pay an ad agency to try and pick up the slack for you and miraculously come up with a brilliant viral campaign that may or may not have people flocking to your stores.

Yep, you could do that.

I guess you could wake up one morning and decide that your work, the fruit of your labors, could be just… um… average. No more, no less. As long as your business makes money, who cares, right?

Forget the great American novel. Forget the Chrystler Building. Forget the iPod. Forget the Canon EOS 1D. Release your movies straight to video and your books directly to the bargain house. Tell your kids to shoot for a C+. It’s okay. Average is good enough.

Instead of designing your own products, find cheaper ones already being manufactured by someone else and pass them off as your own. Hope that no one will notice. As long as the profits are good, why not? Yep, I guess you could convince yourself that it’s okay to go that route.

It isn’t like you need to actually think about where your company is going. It isn’t like you need to give any thought to the relationship you have with your customers. What role you play in their world. Instead, you can just watch what your competitors are doing, and copy their every move. You can keep cutting corners. You can keep telling yourself that’s the safe thing to do. The smart thing to do.

You can keep telling yourself that if you make your products cheaper, you will sell more of them. After all, that’s how your competitors are stealing your customers, isn’t it?

Or is it better design?

Or is it because their stores have red walls?

I forget.

Why be relevant, after all? Why be relevant when you can just play it safe and follow the leaders?

Hmmm.

Is that what we learned to do in business school? Is that what we learned about in History class? In English comp.? Is that the lesson we’ve learned from watching millions of hours of sports on TV? Succeed by waiting to see what someone else will do to see if it’s safe to try it too?

Really?

Is that what a a CEO or a CMO is paid to do?

You don’t have to answer that.

Not if you don’t want to.

Instead, think fast and tell me how many skyscrapers there are in New York City.

(For the sake of expediency, let’s just say that there are LOTS.)

How many of those skyscrapers can you actually name?

Only a handfull?

Why is that?

Of the thousands of companies you’ll encounter in your lifetime, how many will you actually remember as being worthy of mention? Of having been a pleasure to deal with? A few dozen at most?

Why is that?

Of the tens of thousands of people you will meet in your lifetime, how many will you end up being truly impressed by? How many will you come to count as friends?

Again, why is that?

What does that tell you about average?

What does that tell you about the value of average?

Consider a few names: Starbucks. Target. BMW. Apple. Pixar. Ben & Jerry. Kenneth Cole. Nike.

What is it about these brands that makes them so special?

Is it their ability to crunch numbers? Nope.

is it their ability to copy the guys who came before them? (Um… who would that be?)

Are their products the best in the world? Again, no.

Reality check: Most of your local coffee bars make much better coffee than Starbucks. Target’s clothes are no better than old Navy’s. BMW arguably isn’t Porsche. Apple is nowhere near Microsoft’s sales. Pixar doesn’t always hit the mark. Haagen-Dazs makes the best Rum Raisin ice cream and Mayfield is pretty awesome too. DKNY, Express Men and Banana Republic give Kenneth Cole a run for his money. Most serious runners wear Mizuno, Asics or new Balance on their feet, not Nike.

So what is it?

Is it their ability to stand out? Sure, but that’s only a symptom of their success.

What’s key is their ability to a) create something special that their customers won’t be able to find anywhere else, and b) do it over and over again.

That’s the promise of these brands.

When you buy me, I promise that…

You will look hip.

You will sleep better.

You will save time.

You will smell fantastic.

Your cold symptoms will vanish.

You won’t have to worry about quality.

Without a promise, a brand isn’t a brand. It’s just a mark.

There is no such thing as an “also in” brand.

Okay, now that you’ve read it, say it.

Really. Say it outloud:

“There is no such thing as an also in brand.”

Very good.

When you’re an “also in,” what is your promise? What is your purpose?

“We’re kind of like Subway.”

“We’re kind of like Power Bar.”

“We’re kind of like CNN.”

Think about it.

I don’t care if you’re a mechanic or a graphic designer, a chain of dry-cleaners or a rental car service. If you aren’t there for a reason (other than just making money), you’re doomed. It may not be today or tomorrow or next week, but someone with a purpose will come along to eat you up. A real brand. A real business.

It’s just a matter of time.

If you’re going to be a mechanic, be the best damn mechanic in your zip code. Or the most honest. Or the friendliest.

If you’re going to design logos and layouts for clients, be the edgiest in your field. Or the fastest. Or the most pleasant to work with.

If you’re going to open up a dry-cleaning business, either offer the best quality pressing or the fastest turnaround. Make drop-offs and pickups velvet-smooth. Make your customers want to come back and recommend you to their friends.

I could talk to you about the role that pride plays in building a brand, but I’ll save that for another day.

The point is that being an “also in” company doesn’t cut it. Not if you want to grow. Not if you want your company to go anywhere.

Not if you want to survive, especially in this economy.

Copying other companies isn’t a strategy, it’s a death sentence.

Word to the wise: Don’t be a follower. There’s no safety in being second.

Welcome to a whole new week. 😉

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From left to right, Jeff Papenfus, moi, Madeleine Muska, and David Friedline at Wednesday’s GSATC Ta5 (Tech After Five) event downtown Greenville – sponsored by Immedion this month. Also present were scores of Greenville area bloggers, marketing honchos, entrepreneurs, tech industry superheroes and Twitter power users. I think that’s Dave Smith back there in the white shirt.

My peoples.

Check out Phil Yanov’s photos from yesterday’s Ta5 meetup here.

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Sorry about the delay in posting the Road Race shots, but the Hincapie party/fashion show ran late into the evening Sunday, and I went on an epic 5 hour country ride Monday. Ergo: Taking my sweet old time with the images. Sorry about that.

The bad: Hometown favorites George Hincapie and Craig Lewis didn’t win.

The good: Tyler Hamilton (who’s a VERY nice guy) made a hell of a comeback at 37 years old to win the National Champion jersey by a hair. Pretty impressive given the immensely talented field of world class professionals and the fact that many pros are retired by the time they’re 37.

Pretty exciting race, especially the last few laps. It’s always a blast to go back to my roots once or twice a year and put on my photographer hat at events like this.

And as a bonus, the word is that the National Championships will come back to Greenville for another year!!! Very cool.

Go check out the slide show here.

(If you don’t like slide shows, check out the photostream here.

I promise I’ll be back to posting marketing/branding stuff before you know it. (I just have to get the national championships out of my system first.) It’s always exciting to be part of something this big.

For other photographers’ images of the races, check out James’ links here:

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Year 3 of the annual photographic pilgrimage that is the USA Cycling Pro Championship. (One of the many benefits of living in Greenville, SC.) Earlier today was the Time Trial (won by David Zabriskie – again) on a new course that featured two of Greenville’s unique features: #1: The new ICAR campus (which was allegedly described to the field of pro athletes as “flat” – Ha!) and #2: The crushing humidity that comes after four days of thunderstorms.

Some of my favorite little happenings during the race today:

1. Running into James T. and Andy Woolard.

2. Shooting with Roby again.

3. Running into so many of my cycling and triathlon friends along the course.

4. The mysterious blood-like stains on my “borrowed” photographer’s vest that make me look like a crazed axe murderer.

5. Watching Dave Zabriskie win again.

6. Watching the champagne-spraying shenanigans.

7. The completely instinctive and collective backwards leap taken by the press photographers when the champagne bottles came uncorked.

8. Not getting pancaked by the ginormous pickup truck that almost backed over me while I was shooting Zabriskie go by. (Thanks to the quick reflexes of a course marshal.)

9. The sweet smell of chain lube in the morning.

10. Sunny, sunny, sunny skies.

Tomorrow, the Road Race.

Check out the slide show here.

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