Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It is Christmas time.

Snow, trees, gifts, lights, food, family, friends, invitations, salutations, no complications.

I love it - all of it. I will be the first to admit, I have been too damn busy for my own good to actually sit back and take it all in this year - but I love every second of it nonetheless.

But, you know what is my favourite part?

Home cooking?
No.

Gifts?
Nope.

Time around the Christmas tree?
Phenomenally relaxing...but still not it.

Time with family and friends?
Great - but not quite.

My favourite thing about Christmas...is the music.

Oh sure, that sounds incredibly weak - but it is completely true. Have you ever REALLY listened to and/or read the lyrics to almost EVERY Christmas song ever written?

I mean people do nothing but sing about everything that is good in the world. For one time of the entire year, it is COMPLETELY acceptable to talk/sing/converse about peace, joy, good tidings, family and kindness, just to name a few.

COME ON, even Run DMC made a Christmas rap:



"I'd never steal from Santa 'cuz that ain't right".

Hell no it isn't!

The music of Christmas makes the mood. Do you see people going around singing Halloween Carols? No, of course you don't. Singing a song - whether it is around a tree, at your church, or by yourself (hey, it happens!) is something that makes us feel good about ourselves - and the world. People singing in unison songs about making the world a better place makes us believe - if only for a few moments - that the words in the music can be brought to life.

My Dad, Joe, makes a Palko Family Christmas Album every year. He begins working on it in January, he hand picks every song (with recommendations that may or may not make the cut from the family), he designs and prints the CD case and I just picked my 2008 copies up yesterday. Not everyone likes every single song put on there - but everyone listens to it - because every song represents something good...just like the Christmas Season itself. Those songs and that music are a massive part of the Palko Christmas because every note serves as a reminder of what was, what is - and with our own efforts - what can be.

Have you ever really read the lyrics to most Christmas songs? For instance, take 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' :

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away

Here we are, as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us
Once more

Through the years, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star above the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now


Who doesn't want to have themselves a merry little Christmas?! I do!

In case you really want to listen to a version now, here is Coldplay's:



After listening to that, do you really not feel like just enjoying yourself - and maybe listening to a few other Christmas songs?! Of course you do.

So, this Christmas - sing loud, sing quietly, do not sing at all - it does not matter, but hear the music - and experience Christmas through your ears.

As our good friend Tiny Tim said, "God bless us everyone".

Merry Christmas,
SP

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Here is the thing...God is busy.

He's got a world to watch over, eternity to oversee and upkeep to perform on Heaven, etc.

That being the case, it is safe to say - the Notorious G-O-D is not reaching down, touching a bat, blessing an arm or nodding at an acting performance in hopes of blessing someone to succeed by crushing a home run, throwing a touchdown pass or winning an award.

To prove this point, I defer to my best friend, Scotty (yes, his name is Scott too). Here is an excerpt from an email I received from him after the Cleveland Browns/Buffalo Bills Monday Night Football game this past week (he = Bills fan, me = HUGE Brady Quinn fan):

"Hey Brady, how about you point to the heavens one more time. Hey, it’s snowing this morning...point to the heavens!

People that point to the heavens/thank God for the most ridiculous things bother me. Here’s some examples:
-winning an award ie. Oscar, Emmy, etc.
-throwing a touchdown pass ie. Brady Quinn.
-bloodying someone in the Octagon
-winning a sportsinteraction bet

Accepted examples are:
-surviving a plane crash
-waking up in the morning/going to bed
-having a baby
-walking safely across a country"


I have to say, that he has a VERY good point. There are only SPECIFIC instances in life when a Heavenly Point is acceptable. The reasons mentioned above and maybe a couple of others (if you have any ideas, post a comment below and we will start a list). I mean, does someone actually think that The Man Upstairs is, at the exact moment someone crosses home plate, staring back with a wink in His eye and giving a return point with a 'I gots yo back [insert athlete name]'? No...for instance...


Who the hell are you pointing at, Barry? Did the Big Guy reach down and bless the "cream" from BALCO? Did you double point because you knew your secret was just between the two of you?

This email sparked a question from my brother who wrote:

"The big question: Does holing out from the 18th fairway to win the Masters constitute a Heavenly point?"

This is a valid question...really, are there any circumstances in which a Heavenly Point IS unconditionally acceptable? Go ahead, play this game with your friends - and think of a situation where this is ok.

My response to my bro's question was:

"Though it would be one of the most amazing things EVER…I do not think it constitutes a Heavenly Point because there are two types of people in the world – winners and losers. If a winner (for example, Tiger Woods) were to hole out from the fairway to win – he would be very well aware that there was a great deal of luck involved – and it would not escape him that his play was not good enough to win without making an almost-impossible shot. For instance, when he holed out from a greenside bunker at the US Open this year on #17 of Saturday’s round – a shot that had no business going in – he didn’t point, he simply smiled a coy grin because he knew he got away with one. But, he did not point to the sky acknowledging the Notorious G-O-D because Yahweh had his back. No, that is ridiculous. So, should he hit that shot at The Masters – being the winner he is – I would suspect he would not choose to do it then.

Now, if a loser – let’s say [PGA TOUR Player] for example – made that hole out, I would suspect he would give a Heavenly Point – much like his phenomenally un-heterosexual dance after he lucked into the PGA Championship five years ago. And, like his incredibly non-straight dance, the Heavenly Point would be inappropriate and goofy – thus, making him an even larger goof. He knows he would have had no business being in – let alone winning – the tournament, so the mere idea of him thinking The Big Guy handpicked him to win that tourney with a crazy shot would just enrage me – much like Scotty and his viewing of bloodyings in the Octagon.

So, no, it does not constitute it."


Look the Heavenly Point does not work - in most any situation. Not for winning an Oscar, the Triple Crown, or getting an A on an exam. If the people on LOST get rescued - MAYBE they can think about it. If your proposal is accepted, you can possibly give one - behind closed doors when no one else can see. But, short of that and a few of things mentioned above...the Heavenly Point should be outlawed.

The point is...don't Heavenly Point.

Peace,
SP

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Done and done.

That's right - this past Sunday, after a long build-up, I finally ran my first half-marathon at the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon.

What can I say? It was...AWESOME.

For about a billion reasons - the race was everything I could have hoped for and more. The day started with a ridiculously cold morning - yet I resisted the temptation to layer like mad man, realizing that at some point in time, I would warm up from that whole 'running 22K' thing.

But, this left me and my yum-yums feeling colder than 0 degrees Kelvin and wishing to God I could just be home, in bed, with the fresh smell of coffee hitting my nostrils. Speaking of coffee - it absolutely BLEW MY MIND how many runners were drinking the stuff before the race! I am not joking that I was in awe of the lineups at Starbucks only 15 minutes before these people were about to run a half marathon. I mean, I am no Steve Prefontaine, but that cannot be good race prep.

Anyway, the saving grace of this painfully cold beginning was that my sister, Corrie, was there to take it all in with me as we helped one another along with as many laughs as we could find. She was my inspiration for running this race, as it has been a lifelong goal of hers to run a half marathon and I told her if she did it, I'd do it. For the fifteen minutes before we finally started, being a supportive brother was the reason for me wondering if I would ever be warm again.

Nonetheless, upon being dropped off at the starting area by my brother-in-law and getting both warm wishes and confused stares from two of my nieces wondering why Mom and Uncle Flow were getting out of the car, we walked to our spots and waited for the gun.

Then, it began.


To be entirely honest, it is not that great of a story for the race itself. I trained to run at a 6KM/hour pace - and that is exactly what I did. I did not jump out the gate and I did not slow at the end - as I just ran my pace and eventually, the Finish Line found me. At one point, the sun finally came up and the game plan of not wearing my parka definitely paid off. It was as perfect of a morning as you could as for in mid-October - and made the entire race experience that much sweeter.

As you can tell by the title, my official time was 2hrs 1min 34sec. Seeing as I hoped to hit 2:15, this was a much better time than I anticipated. I will not be running in the Olympics anytime soon, but hey, for a first time - this was all about crossing the finish line.

And, let me tell you, crossing the finish line was EVERYTHING I thought it would be. It was not about the time or the big dramatic hugging of people - I actually could not find Corrie or our entourage for about 30 minutes after I finished - it was just about doing something you set out to do. I have been on a high since that finish line because it was a complete reminder that the only person who can tell you, you can't...is you. Sure, that is a bit cheesy, but who cares?! That finish line actually served as a starting point for my goal of a full marathon. Since my foot crossed that line, I have had the itch to run, train, and get out there and do it all again.


I do want to say a couple of BIG thank yous: first to my sister Corrie for having such high goals for herself that I was able to simply ride her ambition during this training, second to my sister Marlo for being extremely supportive both the day of by snapping tons of pics and cheering both Corrie and I on at different points along the route and for calming me down the night before and helping my nerves! and last but not least to Eric, David and Hannah and Emily for weathering the cold. There is also my parents, Billy, Q, Frigs, Taryn, The Lasenbys, The Gervais', and the Bowens for all of their support.

Few things feel as good as accomplishing something you have worked hard for and more than feel accomplished, this race made me want to go and do more - more miles, more work, more good deeds, more of everything - because the more you try, the more you succeed.

Here is to goals...and effort...and accomplishments...and knowing anything really is possible.

Peace,
SP

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Busy week this week!

Half marathon on Sunday, work to be done during the day - oh, and that little 'birthday' thing on Thursday.

So, being that I needed a good laugh today, I found this collection of clips from NBC's 'The Office'.

For any of you who have worked in a corporate environment, or been around a boss even somewhat like Michael Scott, Steve Carrell does a masterful job of being equal parts awkward, ridiculous, endearing and likable all at the same time.

Anywho, this is me cutting a corner this week - and giving you something to laugh at:



I'm out.

Wish me luck on the run - and you will hear all about it next week.

Peace,
SP

Thursday, October 2, 2008

That's right - only 17 days until the big half marathon.

Yup, approximately 408 hours from this exact moment I will be trudging myself along the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon course.

Am I ready?

Well, 'ready' is a relative term. Yes, I am ready. I am feeling pretty good about this race - only because the goal here is not to win it this year, but to have a good showing and then after a bit celebratory bubbly, it will be back to the pavement/trail/road again to start training for bigger and better things next year.

I am not quite there yet, but already the training process has taught me more about both running and myself than I would have ever thought. The funny part is - there is a point where you are running and the only thing you have to get you through that last leg is the thoughts in your own head. The music on your iPod gets zoned out, the sound of your breathing stops being hear, your own footsteps are completely natural - but you need to find that one thing, that single thought that will push mind over body and bring you across the finish line.

What is my thought? Ha...well I am not going to divulge ALL my secrets on this blog, so the answer to that will have to wait.

Until then, whenever I have a morning where I do NOT want to get up and run (especially as the mornings get darker and colder) there is always one thing that will get my butt moving, and that, I will happily share with you:



"No pain. No Pain. No Pain".

Brilliant.

I love that montage - and if that does not help you get off your butt, then I'm not sure what will.

Two and a half more weeks - and then it is go time.

I gotta go for a run.

Peace,
SP

Monday, September 15, 2008

So, it's election time.

That's right - both countries that make up the wonderful continent of North America are going to the polls within the next two months to elect respective governments.

On one hand, we have our good friends the United States - whose election process is about as long as a term in office - and one the other, we have our great country of Canada - whose leader seemingly only has to hand a Post-It note to the Governor General in order to dissolve our government and call an election for last week. Two vastly different approaches to the electoral system, yet two democratic processes designed to give the power to the people.

There are any number of aspects of either of the current elections that I could go on about this week, but one idea in particular is that of the right to vote. Too often people are vocal about their inability to be heard. Either one group's rights are not being upheld or another faction is being affected by a particular policy. Every so often, an opportunity is presented to each and every one of us to be counted - and that opportunity is on our country's respective election day.

This point is made perfectly by Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson in his monologue from his September 10, 2008 show, which can be seen here:



I realize he is addressing specifically young people in the US, but the truth is - it is our duty in either country to get off our butts and exercise a right many have sacrificed to provide.

In a day and age when there is EVERY opportunity to complain about not being able to make a difference and how things are moving too fast around us - one constant remains...and that is our democratic right to freely elect our leadership. Do not just talk about doing something - actually do it.

So, if you are in the US or if you are in Canada - you are about to have the opportunity to participate in two historical elections that could help shape the future of these nations. It's a pain, it's inconvenient, it takes time - but it is necessary.

Do not misunderstand - I am not 'voting activist', I have never publicly spoken about my political beliefs, but at the end of the day, I am also someone who would rather be a member of the active majority as opposed to the vocal minority.

So...vote.

Peace,
SP

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The title of this week's blog may seem a bit overboard to some people - but it is an incredibly relevant proposition.

Is Good Business Dead?

Well, the obvious question is, "What is good business?"

Certainly high profits, low costs, "green" organizations, being on the cutting edge of innovation and longevity are all characteristics Business Owners the world over want to check off their 'To Accomplish' list. Yet, that is not the type of 'good business' I am referring to. I am referring to old school, throwback, respectful, moral business actions.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many clients, friends, family members, associates, and business partners of CCI Studios struggle to define exactly what our business is, but they ALL remember the experience they had with us. They remember prompt responses, friendly service, being treated like they were the only client we have. The point is - good business is now what you do, it is how you do it.

Only - people do not give a rip anymore. The Baby Boomers have their whole bodies out the door and the generation of 'Millenials' are making the world a lazier, increasingly disrespectful and blatantly narcissistic place. People return phone calls and emails when they feel like it - not when they should. Workers operate entirely on a 'whats-in-it-for-me' level and if you stop and look around, the world is being dominated by people doing unbelievably bad business.

Gone in so many ways are the days of handshakes, taking people at their word, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and simply trusting those you enter into business with. Even things such as ignored correspondence, condescending conversations, and flat-out rude personalities are becoming commonplace and borderline accepted in the professional environment.

On this note, my sister forwarded me this article that addresses this very same topic, and Mr. Healy articulates exactly what I am referring to, so if you have minute - definitely take a second and read this article:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080609.wsb-healycolumn0609/BNStory/incubator/home

Do not get me wrong, there are some people out there still fighting for good business. This is in no way a shot at those people - it is just the question that asks with SO many people doing such brutal business, how do these people stay afloat? Even further - how the hell do these people succeed?! It is because you get other people doing bad business and ignorance is bliss so they all feed off one another! Unreal.

It is frustrating to say the least - as I have always had visions of grandeur where my company was the most efficient, service-based, friendly place to work and deal with on the planet. I am still working toward that goal, but that dream for anyone else out there reading this does come with one caveat - it is an uphill climb, but do not let bad business seep into your organizations. There is a good way to do things - you just have to dig deep and realize ahead of time that good business is good - it's not just a clever name.

Peace,
SP

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Olympics are awesome.

Yes, that is an un-small understatement - but, it is true.

Seriously - every four years (well, two - technically) the world joins up for two weeks of celebration, peace and unity via sport.

Whether you are a sports enthusiast or not - there is just something that brings people together to cheer on sports they do not even think are being participated in until these two weeks roll around. Seriously - did I know Canada was a haven for women's wrestlers? Nope. Did I even know that 'Trampoline' was an Olympic sport? Probably not. But, would I actually get choked up if someone from the true north strong and free won a gold medal in Archery and I was able to watch them stand proudly as our flag was raised and our anthem played? You bet your sweet sugar buns I would.

The Olympics represent an ideal - and every act of sportsmanship or patriotism is a manifestation of a belief in simple, pure, united existence. I know, I know - that is as altruistic as things come, but it is true. You do not see players storming the stands to fight with spectators. You do not see bench-clearing brawls. You do not have to worry about contract negotiations, greed, international treaties or even wars - as for two weeks, the world stops and actually enjoys one another - with little regard for race, nationality, or religion.

Even corporations promote the ideal of the Olympics - such as Coke with this ad:



The Olympics are wicked. There is just no other way for it to be said. In a world of advancing technology and increasing self-satisfaction, the Olympics are a celebration of human interaction, bodily sacrifice and physical achievement.

Let's hope it stays that way.

Peace,
SP

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Let's be honest, everyone has 'their thing'. Some guys are into cars, or poker, or chicken wings, or baseball. Some girls are into shoes, or shopping, or reading, or lattes. Whatever 'that thing' is that people consider to be their one vice or their one weakness, I believe everyone has it. Mine...is college football.

I do not know why exactly college football is my 'thing'. I consider myself to be a relatively cultured man - I read, keep up to date on current events, travel, try different foods, but for some reason, fall is a sacred time of year.

It could be having experienced fall football Saturdays for four years at university - but even before then - there was something about waiting all year, prepping, working, training and practicing for 12 opportunities - 12 shots to win. For the most part, if you lose...you are out. No do-overs, no second chances, no regrets.

Be perfect for 12 games and you will earn the chance to play for the title.

Add that to the electricity in college football - legions of fans packing 100,000 person stadiums, decked out in their school's colours, ready to sweat and bleed for their team to beat their rival on the other side of the ball. That sounds a little too cheesy, I know, but there is truth - albeit hyperbolized - in cheese. These games are considered legalized war as these teams are truly manifestations of educational institutions and traditions going to battle. There is something pure in that - somewhere - and perhaps that is why college football is my thing.

I do not play fantasy football, I do not bet on games, I do not follow every stat of every game - yet, I simply cannot get over the amount of importance placed on two teams, two groups of athletes, playing a simple game - yet having so much riding on it - from perfection to history.

The irony is, the college football season has not been kind to my alma mater or team as of late. No, the Fighting Irish of my beloved Notre Dame have had their asses handed to them most weekends the past few years and have not sniffed a bowl win since Charles was still In Charge. Yet, until that ball is snapped, we are undefeated and as much a national championship contender as Southwest Missouri State.

So, it is August - the preview magazines and blogs and online articles are swelling with guesses, analysis and presumptions about how the season will go. The only way to really know is to wait for kickoff - but one thing is certain - weekends are about to get a whole lot more exciting over the next five months.

My 'thing' is back for another season.

Peace,
SP

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Runners just do it - they run for the finish line even if someone else has reached it first." -Anonymous

Well...it's almost exactly two months until I will run my first half-marathon - on September 28th, 2008 in the great city of Toronto. The funny thing is - it is not the anticipation of the race that has me the most excited...it is the training.

I realize there are some people in the world who think of running as perpetually kicking themselves in face for X amount of time, but I am not one of those people. Oh sure, I'd like to introduce my alarm clock to some C4 in the middle of a deserted field most days, but once the initial realization that I will get no more sleep sinks in, I am actually excited to strap on my shoes and find a perfect mix of songs on my iPod to run to. I know...I must be sick.

Not that running the race won't be a wicked experience, but I think there is something to be said for having a purpose to train - or focus - on just about anything. I mean, I have not played competitive sports since University and other than the odd competition (which, let's be honest, is usually my buddies and I playing pickup basketball or making up a competition out of some asinine challenge) - the adrenaline is more of a drip than a rush as of late. So, to have a goal, a focus, and to have it count - with real timers, real goals and official results - provides for the training itch to be scratched because IT MATTERS.

Don't get me wrong - I am no Steve Prefontaine, but no matter where I finish, I will train as hard as anyone else out there, and THAT is a rush.

Here is one of my favourite commercials of all-time - it is Lance Armstrong on his bike during his training. There is nothing crazy about the video - but it is a perfect example of that feeling of preparing and working and getting it done whether it is in the morning before the world is awake or at night when the world is tucked in bed:



So...the next couple of months are going to be filled with great runs, early mornings and days when I would rather have an un-drugged root canal than go running. But, the mental side of the challenge - the foresight to see when the run is done, the day is started and your body is thanking you - that will have to push my butt out the door and onto the waiting road.

No matter what place I finish in Toronto or how long it takes - it doesn't matter. All that matters is preparing, running, finishing - and looking ahead to whenever the next one is.

Peace,
SP

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It has been a long time since I have seen a good concert. I have seen some decent shows lately - but in truth - I had begun to think that the days of bands playing until their fingers hurt and enjoying a jam session with thousands of their un-closest friends were all but over.

Then, the other night...I went and saw Fergie in concert.

There - we are all MUCH better friends now that I have admitted that.

This year the Rogers Bayfest lineup included the Black Eyed Peas starlet - and thanks to my best friend (thanks again, B!) - I was given a couple of tickets. Now, I will be honest, I was not all that stoked to go see her. Sure, there are the 'assets' many people refer to that one could consider a check under the 'Pros' column for going to see this show, but to be honest, being one of probably thousands of guys at this event pouring a drink through my nose because I could not take my eyes of Fergie's perfectly formed rear makes me feel like a goof, so that reason does not do it for me.

Regardless of whether I was excited to go or not - there I was. And you know, what? It was a great show. Honestly - I am not even a huge Fergie fan (which may disgust the gentleman in front of us who was proudly sporting his t-shirt with 'Fergalicious' in eye-catching sparkled letters), but I do have respect for an artist who puts on a good show - and that she did.

I have been to my fair share of concerts where the artists make the crowd feel like they are lucky to be there. They act as if they are owed something for giving their time to play that evening. They conveniently forget that the [insert ticket price here] goes to feed their non-un-extravagant lifestyle. It always rubs me the wrong way that performers seem bored and/or annoyed that thousands of people would actually like to see them do the very thing they have a talent for.

Thankfully, Fergie was the opposite. She engaged the crowd, had some fun, seemed to be enjoying herself and - gasp! - actually smiled throughout the entire show.

Why the hell am I writing about this, you ask? Well, I guess in my eyes it is incredibly apparent when you witness someone doing something they actually enjoy. Part of me figured Fergie might just mail it in for a performance, collect her money, and move on to the next stop. That was not the case at all - and I have to admit that I had jumped to the conclusion that most, if not all, performers, went through the motions. I was wrong...there, I came clean.

I may not be seeing her again anytime soon, but I will definitely get back on the live music train due to having actually enjoyed a show for the first time in a long time.

Now, if only I had picked up my own sparkled tee as a souvenir.

Peace,
SP

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'd like to think I'm a fairly productive guy.

I try to maximize my day, work efficiently, and try to spend less time thinking about the tasks I need to accomplish, and more time actually accomplishing them.

But, the fact of the matter is - I have a secret weapon...

...music.

Ok, so it's not revolutionary in ANY way, but having music going most of my waking hours helps get me in the right mood to tackle the challenges of the day. Sometimes the mood calls for low-key, acoustically dominated tracks to get my head in the right speaking/thinking mood (how are you doing today, Coldplay?) and other times creativity runs rampant with the blaring of some bounce inducing hip-hop (hello, Beastie Boys) and/or fist clenching guitar riffs (top of the morning, Metallica). As you can tell, eclectic tastes abound.

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that there have been one or twelve times where impromptu karaoke has broken out at the office and/or musically themed (like '80s cheese songs', 'inspirational stuff', and 'stuff-on-our-mixed-tapes-when-we-were-teens' samples) days sprang up out of nowhere. I mean, come on, what stirs creativity more than "How Do You Talk To An Angel" by The Heights?!

Yes, I just admitted that.

So, what is the point, you ask? Music is good. Especially at work. Even more especially when the song fits the mood.

It is true - I just wrote an entire blog reaching a simple conclusion that our species has known since the first beat was busted from tree branch to stone drum.

Turn up the volume and let the work happen.

Peace,
SP

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Yes we can.

What's the good word, CCI Studios fans (or non-fans, whatever your cup 'o tea is)?

Welcome to the new CCI Studios blog. Yes, it is a new format, new content and new everything. The goal for this blog is to keep things simple. Simple layout, simple concept, simple enjoyment. The concept is to switch away from subjects based solely on marketing and give people a sense of who we are at CCI Studios - starting with the mean boss :) Just kidding...I'm kind of nice.

I am going to write once a week - or more or less dependent on how I am feeling - about whatever the heck I feel like. This is not longer simply a marketing blog - it is a thoughts blog. It is an ideas blog. It is a non-garbage blog.

Do not get me wrong - I am not arrogant enough to believe that anyone is THAT interested in reading my thoughts...but the hope for this new blog is to give people, be they clients, friends, fans, competitors or stumblers onto this blog, a change to read about whatever is going on in around the world/CCI Studios/my head. The hope is to generate some thought, perhaps some conversation, and ideally - even some action.

You may agree, you may not. You may laugh, you may curse me - all reactions are welcome - because if ANYTHING I type stirs any sort of emotion in you, then I've done something un-wrong.

So, feel free to read away...comment back to us...and let us know what you're thinking. All ideas are good ideas and no idea should go unsaid.

Welcome to the new blog - enjoy.

Peace,
SP

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What's the good word, blog readers?!

This week's lesson is simple - be a good judge of talent. When it comes to hiring a Designer, Programmer, Manager, whoever, be sure to take your time.

Adding a new member to your team is a major process and a big deal. A new mind means new ideas and a new personality, but it also means a new team dynamic and a new experience clients will have with your firm.

So, when undergoing a search for the next piece of your firm's puzzle, do not hesitate to take your time and be sure to choose someone who has both the creative/technical skills, but who will also add to the vibe in the office and not be a detriment to it.

Great people are what make great firms.

Keep Practicing,
CCI Studios

***Point of note - over the next few weeks, the CCI Studios blog will be undergoing some major changes. The layout and format are going to be upgraded so as to provide you with a better blogging experience. This is just a head's up :) ***

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Quickie...but goodie this week...

Do you know what drives me absolutely crazy?

Shock value.

People who say or do things JUST for sake of being different - but they do not take a single moment to consider how preposterous their actions truly are. They do not even entertain the possibility that maybe - juuuuuust maybe - if they did not ruffle feathers just to make a messy chicken...they would see there is a reason why things are not being done the way they are doing them.

Essentially, this is my long-winded way of saying - DO NOT DO THIS AS A CONSULTANT. Nothing...and I mean NOTHING...makes me more upset than when a consultant at an outside agency, or right here at CCI Studios, makes a suggestion or creates a strategy just for the sake of being different. It is not our jobs to create turmoil for the purpose of being "daring".

If you walk through the doors of an organization and they are the smoothest running, most innovative, on the ball company you have ever seen - tell them. Do not mix it up because you have nothing better to do. Will this happen often - probably not - there is a reason people look for external input...but that does not mean you have to reinvent their wheel.

Now, get out there are do some marketing.

Keep practicing.
Peace,
CCI

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

G'day Marketing Savants,

Today's lesson is simple:

If a marketing practice for your organization is working - why change it?!

In our line of work, people often think that offering a new marketing strategy means having to do something completely new and off-the-wall, without analyzing if there is value to what is currently being done.

A perfect example of this is the video below. In the top frame is the trailer for the original 'Batman' movie and the bottom frame is the trailer for the new 'Dark Knight' film due out this summer:



As you can see - almost shot-for-shot - the two mimic one another. This is not coincidence - what has worked in the past still works now, just with updated content. That sequence or strategy of presenting images and telling the short story of the movie is what is MOST effective when drawing an audience.

So, although the content has changed, the plan has not - and the impact will be that of effective conveying of the story being told.

Thanks for stopping by.

Keep practicing.
Peace,
CCI

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is the good word, CCI fans?

Today's lesson is simple - it's the competitive elephant.

We all have competition. It's a fact of business life. Our clients have competitors, their clients have competitors - competition is the essence of economics.

Yet, from a marketing perspective - you do not have to walk around the elephant in the room. Often times clever marketing actually includes the use of a firm's competitors in their own marketing. This can accomplish two things: It helps you stand out as the best of the best in the industry as it seems as if there are really ONLY a few competitors, thus generating elite brand value among customers. It also helps you or your clients say what you want to say, without having to implicitly mention your competitors - this is as explicit as it comes.

Here are two great examples:

The first is done by Pepsi:



And, of course, the popular 'Mac and PC' commercials:



Do not be afraid to talk about/show/market that competitive elephant - there is brand value to be had by doing so.

Until next week...keep practicing.

Peace,
CCI

Monday, April 7, 2008

Greetings CCI'zers,

Hopefully this blog finds you well-rested after a good weekend and ready to attack the week with undaunted enthusiasm.

Wow, how's that for ultra-positive?!

This week, we are going to discuss as simple means of marketing - digital video.

We live and operate in a YouTube generation and utilizing that medium for yourself and your clients is a resource that is invaluable. Millions of people peruse YouTube every hour of every day - so why would you not take advantage of that?!

Things such as creating a profile, or your own channel, and developing simple, yet creative videos, will give your organization or the business who depend on your intellect to reach an audience they otherwise would not have access to.

What is more, is that digital video creation can be beneficial on your own website. By developing a short introductory video and embedding it on your site, you give your web users a graphical representation of you and your firm - which is more than a text/image based impression.

The YouTube video player has, in itself, become such a recognized brand, that is almost portrays a sense of technical know-how and understanding for anyone who has that content on their site. So, in addition to the message you can convey with the video content, simply embedding a YouTube video in your own site lends credibility and digital respect among potential clients.

Hey, it's simple - but it works.

Keep reading...and practicing.

Peace,
CCI

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Top of the morning, Marketeers,

This week we have a ridiculously simple and to the point lesson:

NEVER LIMIT CREATIVITY.

When you are in a brainstorming session ANY idea is a good idea. If someone is inspired by a picture of a duck at their desk - let them have it there.

The absolute best ideas, thoughts, innovations and strategies may not come from something right off the top of your team's head, but it may be a derivative of an idea that passes through multiple stages of refinement.

Too often we become structured in what we say because we are afraid of how off-the-wall ideas will be received or reacted to. No idea is too crazy, no notion too 'out-there'. If you limit these creative outlets with on-the-spot rejections, you are not only killing creative momentum at that moment, but you are eliminating the possibility of creative ideas in the future due to producing a trained condition based on past experiences of negative feedback.

Let the ideas flow, allow creativity to flourish - and your campaigns will follow.

Until next week...keep practicing.

CCI

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Shibby,

What's the fine word this week, fellow marketeers?

That is simple...the word is "consistency".

Once you have determined what your underlying purpose is to your marketing initiatives, the only way to make that purpose count is to have it ooze from EVERYTHING you do and everywhere you appear.

This may seem like a simple lesson - but the truth is, SO many organizations drop the ball when fulfilling this part of their marketing plan.

The underlying reason for this failure is that businesses believe they have covered off this need when they create a logo and plaster it on everything they do. This is a large part of the process, but this is the EASY part. 'Easy Consistency' is comprised of the following:

1) Business cards
2) Letterhead
3) Fax Sheet
4) Email Signatures
5) Envelopes
6) Labels
7) CD Covers
8) Brochures
9) Flyers
10) Pretty much ANY print material related to your company.

This level of consistency is ESSENTIAL, but it is the easy stuff. It should be made up of the same logo, the same font, the same business name, etc. - across the board on everything.

But, once this is done, business tend to forget the next level - the 'Hard Consistency'. Hard consistency is having your pre-determined purpose emanate from EVERYTHING your business does. Some 'Hard Consistency' areas are:

1) The words/tone used by everyone to answer the phone in your office
2) Keywords utilized in emails/letters to potential clients/existing customers
3) Dress/Appearance during business meetings
4) Articulation during face-to-face meetings and phone conferences
5) The way co-workers in your own company interact with one another

This is just a short list, but it is these things that serve as the meat to the potatoes...the easy consistency is the first impression - the hard consistency is the depth of your company.

Eat, drink and market merry.

Keep practicing,
CCI

Monday, March 3, 2008

Top of the morning (or afternoon or evening depending on when you're reading this),

Today's point is simple:

Market with a social conscious.

That may seem like an over-simplified purpose - as there are degrees, classes, seminars and theses spent on analyzing this exact concept - but perhaps that is the problem...we convolute social awareness in the capitalist markets. As our good friend K-os said "It seems complicated 'cuz it's really so simple".

Actually being - and not just seeming like - a socially conscious organization, shows your clients and peers that you are a leader in your respective market, but you are not bigger than the market itself. Promoting events, milestones, holidays, etc. shows that your company has a place within the big picture, but is not arrogant enough to think you are the big picture yourself.

A perfect example of this is the Budweiser ad for the troops in Iraq:







This has nothing to do with beer - but it is the right thing to promote - appreciation for the men and women who perpetuate the rights and freedoms Americans enjoy every day.

It is a fine line to toe when companies begin to market products in an irresponsible way. Sure, crazy ideas and creative hooks can sell more of a product - and this our underlying purpose, right? - but, it is more than Even beer producers include disclaimers that remind people to not drink and drive and to drink responsibly.

There is power in promoting an ideal - be it hope, inspiration, gratitude, etc. - in such a way that it has nothing to do with the actual product or service you are pushing. You are pushing responsibility and honor and purpose - and those are the most powerful sell points of all.

Be socially conscious - it is the right thing to do.

Keep practicing.
Peace,
CCI

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hey-o,

Well, today we want to talk about something very simple - having purpose. It is the title of the blog, so we might want to address it.

The concept is simple - market with a purpose.

The one question you may ask is "What do you define as a 'purpose'?" Great question - your purpose is the underlying point you want to convey to your audience. Before you put pen to paper to ink a logo, mouse to mouse pad to design a single material, or say 'action' on your commercial, ask yourself what EXACTLY are you trying to say? What word, feeling, term, characteristic, trait, etc. is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for you to explain about your company to your market? Once you define what that purpose is - every single action from there on out MUST fit within that purpose.

Marketing with a purpose serves three ultimate goals:

1) This gives you definitive end to strive for. You will never know how far you have come if you never determine where you are trying to be - and articulating your purpose for your marketing will serve as the most basic, foundational metric for measuring your success or failure.

2) It helps you know when you have done good enough. If you define what your purpose is, you will know when your efforts are of a high enough quality because they will perfectly convey what you originally defined in your purpose. If your materials do not permeate with EXACTLY what you stipulate in your purpose - they are not good enough and need to be be better.

3) It is a guideline for ALL marketing decisions. A certain promotion, advertisement, logo, or marketing initiative will either fit into your purpose, or it will not. If it does not, it does not ever see the light of day.

Your purpose is your blueprint. No building is constructed without a drawing, no game won without a strategy, no life successful without meaning - as no marketing plan can be successful without a purpose.

Keep practicing.
Peace.

Monday, February 4, 2008

So, pretty much EVERYONE watched the Giants upset the Pats in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday in Arizona.

To be honest, we were a little upset the Pats lost. We are huge football fans - and we even tend to enjoy watching the Giants play. So, it's not like we were cheering against them, but we history is history and we would have enjoyed watching an undefeated season be written in stone. But, that's why they play the games. Anyway, we are certain you are not reading this for a sports writers analysis of the game - and if you want one there are probably 8,387,907 all over the internet.

Nope - we are here to discuss the Super Bowl ads. Not so much the ads themselves - but more importantly - what it means TO advertise in the Super Bowl. It is a remarkable thing that Super Bowl commercials have seemingly taken on a life of their own. To many, the ads are as exciting - if not more so - than the game itself.

We believe that Super Bowl commercials are the ultimate example of 'Status Marketing'. It is an exorbitant marketing effort that not only conveys your brand to a market - but does so in such a way that consumers view your brand as being at a level above the competition. Yet, this 'level' is not based on product quality, or user-friendliness, or customer service - it is based on being one of - or the only - brand in your industry who participates in such events. Bud and Bud Light continuously produce Super Bowl commercials - when no other beer does. That will make them seem elite in the eyes of a consumer because Super Bowl commercials are so expensive and are reserved for only the highest bidders.

What is more are events that promote Status Marketing. For instance, Playboy continuously hosts the best Super Bowl party year-in and year-out. They spare no expense, leave no detail unturned and the biggest celebrities flock to the evening - leaving countless men around the world wishing they could get a ticket in. This has nothing directly to do with selling magazines, but the image of the Playboy brand is one of elite status. Seemingly, Playboy does not just offer you a magazine to read - it offers you a lifestyle of bachelor existence that necessitates enjoying the finest things the world offers.

True, Status Marketing is somewhat reserved for those already swimming in riches - as it requires resources to promote this type of brand. Yet, this is a form of marketing that ingrains the importance of a brand into the consumers heads - without them even knowing it. When customers positively view your product as one that is elite - based on criteria definitively NOT related to characteristics of the product itself - you have achieved a very high level of Status Marketing.

And...you may have just enjoyed a very good party.

Until next week...keep practicing.
Peace.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Greetings Marketing Savants (or people just looking for something clever to read)!

Welcome to our very first posting of 'Practicing Our Purpose'. This blog is CCI Studios' footloose and fancy-free way of just calling it like we see it when it comes to marketing and communications.

The purpose of this area is to share with you ideas, thoughts, views, perspectives, lessons and pretty much anything else of use in our field of expertise - and pretty much business in general.

So, sit back, read away, and enjoy our newest feature on ccistudios.com - Practicing Our Purpose.

Being that this is our first shot at this blog, the format you see today may not be the format that exists tomorrow. But, for our first post, we are going to bring back a classic ad, which we happen to think is pure genius. Terrible Terry Tate stars in the 'Office Linebacker' commercial that Reebok put out a few years ago. Brilliant on many levels, these ads combine football and the office environment, and do so in such a way that they are a satire on the modern athlete as well as means to show how certain fundamental principles can span any discipline. Plus, with lines like 'You kill the 'jo, you make some 'mo' - how do you NOT love this?

So, here is the original ad...enjoy, and keep practicing.