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Yes, I run this this story every year. I love this story more and more every year. I have yet to research whether or not it is true, because I really don’t care whether or not it is true! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! – Dr. Burt

A fellow 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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Christmas lights have come a long way since I was a kid. In the days of old, Christmas lights were all on one circuit, so if one bulb…one itty bitty bulb… burned out, the whole strand of lights would stop working and you’d have to check each bulb to figure out which one to replace to get the strand of lights to light up again. I’m not kidding. Ask your grandparents if this isn’t true!

They fixed that problem several years ago and today there are a lot of really beautiful, high quality, durable, affordable Christmas lights to choose from. In fact,a person could probably make a nominal investment in one set of Christmas lights and basically be set for life thanks to the quality that is now engineered into even the least expensive ones. But, alas, for most of us, that won’t be the case.

What happens is that the makers of Christmas lights come out with newer, better, nicer, fancier versions of lights every year, causing us to look at the lights we used last year and wonder how in the world we could stand to adorn our house with that old stuff when a better, more eye-catching choice exists for just a few dollars more. This year I was rather amazed at how many Christmas lights came with apps you could use to control not only the timing of when your lights came on and went off from your smartphone, but the apps also let you choose various combinations of displays to appear at various times. What a world!

This is precisely the kind of innovation Drucker said every organization should practice. The organization should deliver a quality product offering for the customer, and constantly be working on ways to improve that product offering. Indeed, the lights most of us already have probably fit the bill in terms of functionality but the manufacturers of Christmas lights offer us more and better choices in terms of style each year, thus creating new demand. The customer gets more value, the organization has the opportunity to grow its bottom line via share of customer and additional market share, competitors are kept at bay, employees who are helping contribute to the innovation earn a degree of job security, and so on.

Marketing is all about facilitating a mutually-beneficial value exchange with the customer. Innovation is a way to continually enhance the value offered to the customer and enhance profits for the organization.

There is no such thing as an ‘average fighter pilot.’ You’re either an ace, or you’re a target.” – Guiding Principle used by the Army Air Corps in WWII

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Oklahoma 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 with something, 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.

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