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Santa_Sleigh.jpgBack when I was a boy, we knew Santa was on his way when the weatherman came on the news at 10 and showed good ole’ St. Nick on his radar. “Santa has left the North Pole…” He would proclaim in a tone that conveyed the seriousness of his message, “So all you little boys and girls out there had better be in bed…” and near panic would ensue as my sister and I scrambled off to our rooms.  Today, thanks to the NORAD Santa Tracker, you don’t need your own radar to keep up with Santa’s whereabouts, just an Internet connection. Way cool.

What is even cooler is how NORAD’s tracking of Santa was started and became an annual tradition.  As it turns out, a tiny error by Sears & Roebuck started it all!

The following story is borrowed from http://www.noradsanta.org/en/whytrack.html.

The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.

Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends, have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to Christmas Eve phone calls and emails from children. In addition, we now track Santa using the Internet. Last year, millions of people who wanted to know Santa’s whereabouts visited the NORAD Tracks Santa website.

Media from all over the world rely on NORAD as a trusted source to provide Christmas Eve updates on Santa’s journey. Kids can also call NORAD to track Santa. The number is 877-Hi-NORAD. Or send an email to noradtrackssanta@gmail.com.

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rudolph_2011.jpgI ran this story this time last year. I didn’t know its origin then, nor did I know if it was true or not. I didn’t care then, and I don’t care now! It’s good story full of marketing and leadership lessons! Not to mention INSPIRATION! Enjoy!

A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.  His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing.  Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.  Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home.  Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?” Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears.  Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger.  It had been the story of Bob’s life.  Life always had to be different for Bob. Being small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys.  He was too little at the time to compete in sports.  He was often called names he’d rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.  Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.  Then he was blessed with his little girl.

But it was all short-lived.  Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.  Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.  Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift.  But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined a make one – a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.  Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.  Who was the character?  What was the story all about?  The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form.  The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was.  The name of the character?  A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.  But the story doesn’t end there.  The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book.  Wards went on to print Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.  By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.  That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.  In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May.  The book became a best seller.  Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn’t end there either.  Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph.  Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.” The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless him again and again.  And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad.  In fact, being different can be a blessing!

It’s choice–not chance–that determines your destiny.” – Jean Nidetch, entrepreneur & founder of Weight Watchers”

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A jewel of a jingle?

By Dr. Burt Smith December 14th, 2011

jingle_bell.jpgOklahoma City Jeweler, BC Clark, used the same jingle for their Christmas promotion year after year. Then a few years ago, they got to thinking that maybe the market was tired of this jingle, because they were getting tired of it, so they decided to change it. They quickly learned it was a big mistake because their customers let them know! They very quickly changed it right back. You can get the whole story here.

While some might consider this a “strategic hiccup,” it’s actually quite a story in the power of their brand, and a profitable lesson for us all. If a customer is so attached to any aspect of your business they’d miss it if you changed it, you know you’ve got a loyal following. Any time your customers will take time to speak up and let you know they’re unhappy, that’s a golden opportunity to fix it. You’ll likely keep and grow a customer relationship, and you may even impress them so much with your handling of the situation that they’ll tell all their friends about it and your net result will be even MORE customers and more profit!

Keep in mind that customers you get from referrals have no acquisition costs attached to them, so the margins are that much better! Strong customer service is a critical component of effective branding!

It also reminds us precisely When We Should Change A Strategy.

The wise person isn’t the one who makes the fewest mistakes. It’s the one who learns the most from them.” – Harvey Mackay

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My name is Earle?

By Dr. Burt Smith December 6th, 2011

Steve Earle is just an incredible talent! This dude can take any song and put his own unique signature on it, which is to me the real value of his brand. With all the talent he has, he has unfortunately battled with a few demons here and there, which in turn has just helped make his delivery that much more genuine as far as I’m concerned.

I am hopeful that he’ll do an entire Christmas album one of these days. Here’s a sample of just how good that could be as a way to sweep us into the holiday season!  

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Here’s a video prepared by the OC Student Chapter of the American Marketing Association. In it, a student whose mother received a transplant gives us 10 compelling reasons why we should be donors.

I’d sure be grateful if you’d view it, not just because it’s good to know but because they’re in a contest based on the number of views and they could win some cash to help the chapter do even more neat programs.

Thank you for your support and if you already are an organ donor, thank you for the life you could someday bless!

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