Strategy’s role in a downturn

(The following first appeared in the Just Enough Strategy series of technology marketing essays in 2003. It seems eerily appropriate today.)

The panic doesn’t usually creep into their voices until we’re nearly done with the coffee.

“I know strategy is important,” the colleague will say to me as we wrap up. “But I can’t spend a lot of time or effort on marketing strategy. I need to do stuff that will generate sales today.”

I’ll nod sagely. And hope he doesn’t waste too much money on misdirected marketing tactics, confusing any motion with forward motion. Continue reading Strategy’s role in a downturn

Five marketer resolutions

(This essay originated in early 2004 on an earlier Frank Catalano blog. But, unfortunately, still is timely.)

As someone who loves words and language (and indeed is a writer when he’s not a marketer), I’m amazed at how some marketers abuse their biggest tool for communication. Now that 2003 is becoming a memory, there are words and phrases that should be banished from marketers’ and PR practitioners’ lexicons. Not just in technology marketing, but in all marketing.

Why? Because they’re overused, meaningless or lazy. Indeed, I suspect when most prospects or customers see these words and phrases, they reflexively treat them as one treats long names in a classic Russian novel: their brains glaze over and they skip to the next word or phrase.

Allow me to suggest five words or phrases for banishment: Continue reading Five marketer resolutions

BlackBerry nose

As a child, having your “nose buried in a book” was considered a sign of intelligence. Today, adult noses are more likely to be embedded in a BlackBerry. And that may signal the opposite. BlackBerry and Frank Catalano

There have been several examples lately as to when adherence to an always-connected ethic can have severe consequences. Not business, but physical. I call it BlackBerry Nose. The result is similar to that of when a dog succeeds in chasing a parked car.

You’ve witnessed it in hallways and on freeways. And so, lately, has the press: Continue reading BlackBerry nose

Can’t copy that floppy

In the headlong rush from current to new technologies, it’s amazing what we forget. Sometimes without even realizing it.

I’m in the midst of a year-long effort to declutter my home office of 18 years, which has led to unearthing some historic business cards. Last weekend, I also discovered that I apparently have not thrown out a single 3.5″ floppy disk that I have ever owned.

This was clear as I gazed at the literally hundreds of floppy disks, both Mac and IBM formatted. My first thought was I’d see what was on them, transfer important data to compact disc, use an audio/video bulk eraser to wipe the disks, then donate the floppies to a school or other organization that might use them. I had begun this time-consuming process when I noticed something. Continue reading Can’t copy that floppy

My favorite (tech travel) things

Want to know the tell-tale signs of a too-frequent flier? They pay more attention to the condition of their socks than their suit. They refer to the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as “amateur season.” And all of their toiletries are in bottles of three ounces or less — even the ones they use at home.

If there’s someone like that in your life, perhaps you’re pondering the perfect gift. Here are seven of my favorite tech travel things, based on three years of nearly weekly trips: Continue reading My favorite (tech travel) things

Tech toys that don’t teach

With the official start of the holiday shopping season, are you tempted to buy a toy that’s both fun and educational for the tot?

Better focus on the fun. A fascinating piece in the UK newspaper The Guardian states that a government-funded study found — when it comes to three- and four- year old children — that high-tech preschool toys “are no more effective than traditional ways of introducing basic literacy and number skills.”

Instead, the study notes, toy laptops and mobile phones are better as aids for imaginative play than education. Continue reading Tech toys that don’t teach

A call for moderation

Being a panel moderator is the hardest easy job in public speaking.

I’ve moderated, conservatively, more than one hundred panels over three decades (I started as a teen at science-fiction conventions). Aside from the aforementioned fan gatherings, there have been professional panels at events ranging from E3 Expo to technology industry conferences to book and education industry trade shows.

In the spirit of earlier tips for types of public speaking not everyone does, here are nine things you should know about being a good moderator, if you’re ever called to serve: Continue reading A call for moderation

Auction mentality

Ever go to a charity auction and think, “Hey, this is a lot like eBay — why don’t they just put it all online?”

Because odds are it wouldn’t work nearly as well or raise as much money for the cause. It’s a matter of individual and group psychology.

This past spring, as a favor to a colleague, I dipped back into the world of charity auction emceeing for a night at Villa Academy in Seattle. In 2003 and 2004 I regularly emceed charity auctions as a feel-good sideline through Stokes Auction Group (which provides auctioneers and auction services exclusively for charities). This gave me insight into auctions for organizations including the American Heart Association, YouthCare, Boys and Girls Clubs, Young Life, Skiforall, several private schools, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which does the delightfully named “Tennis Ball.” I gave it up when my travel schedule and new position made committing to an auction schedule impossible.

There’s a lot of planning and psychology that goes into a charity auction, from the smallest private school to the largest non-profit. Continue reading Auction mentality

Just my type(writer) 2

Seeing a construction photo showing Paul Allen’s loan to the new Olympic Sculpture Park in today’s Seattle Times, I spotted the perfect companion to my birthday gift.eraser-711083

It’s one of three “Typewriter Eraser” sculptures — five tons in weight and 19 feet tall. I’d seen another version of it years ago at the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art in D.C. (see photo). This one will be on display in Seattle starting October 28.

Unlike manual typewriters and unabridged dictionaries, I’m not nostalgic for the smaller, functional version of these writer’s aids. No matter how you used one, you wound up with light red smudges on the paper and little rubber fragments inside the typewriter. Continue reading Just my type(writer) 2

Just my type(writer)

From the delightful anachronism category, I present the gift I received from my wife Denise on the recent occasion of my XLVIIIth birthday. It is a Smith Corona manual portable typewriter, recently reconditioned, with a new ribbon.typewriter-786021

In my teen years, my mother — knowing of my desire to be a writer — gave me a Smith Corona Electra 120. It was a pseudo-electric typewriter. I say “pseudo” because it was electric except for the carriage return, which was still manual. But it served me for many years until I purchased my first computer, an Apple IIe with a daisy-wheel printer and the fabled 80-column card (if I had to explain today what an 80-column card did, you wouldn’t be impressed).

This Smith Corona will occupy a functional place of honor near my 1948 Webster’s New International Dictionary Second Edition, Unabridged.

Some may wonder why I wax ecstatic over these anachronisms. Continue reading Just my type(writer)

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