Imagine being a marketing executive for Budweiser or Doritos or Pepsi – and having the pressure to deliver a Super Bowl ad that’s more entertaining and effective than last year. You might come up with the memorable ‘Weego’ featuring a dog that fetches Bud Light when you call its name or create the clever ‘sling baby’ that snags a bag of chips out of big brother bully’s hands. Then again, you might have a distorted opinion that your audience is moved to make a purchase because you show Danica Patrick scantily clad or David Beckham in his briefs.
Sometimes I wonder who has more pressure in ‘America’s Biggest Sporting Event’: the players and coaches or the advertisers. Yesterday’s game really didn’t have a clear winner in the ‘what happens during timeouts at $3.5 million every 30 seconds’ category. I heard a radio announcer this morning say, “We kept waiting and nothing outstanding ever appeared.”
The challenge with trying to top your greatest hit is it’s difficult to keep raising the bar. (Think about Madonna’s new single as compared to some of her best-known releases.) That’s why some are questioning Tom Brady’s legacy today… as if taking his team to five Super Bowls isn’t enough of a career accomplishment. On the other hand, experts are talking Hall of Fame for Eli Manning. What a difference a couple of minutes make at sports’ highest level.
For the rest of us mere mortals, perhaps it’s best to just try and be a little better each day. Over time that makes a big difference in the results of your company. Most of all, thank your stars there aren’t 80,000 people and a billion more around the world watching you work right now.
For the record, at the Super Bowl party I attended, laughs were loudest for these five spots:
M&M’s – ‘It’s that kind of a party’
Doritos – ‘Dog buries cat collar’
Skechers – ‘Mr. Quigley dog racing’
ETrade – ‘Speed Dating’
Acura – ‘Jerry Seinfeld’
‘Giddyup giddyup 409’… ‘And good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye’… ‘I remember when rock was young’… ‘We’re going racing in the streets’… ‘Baby you’re much too fast.’ These lyrics are from songs – by The Beach Boys, Don McLean, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Prince – that pay tribute to a manufacturing icon: Chevrolet. From the BelAir, to the Corvette, to the Camaro, Chevy exemplifies the ‘heartbeat of America’ to multiple generations of car enthusiasts.
When Dinah Shore sang, “See the U.S.A in your Chevrolet” in the 1950’s, she popularized the brand with millions watching on the emerging technology of television. Sponsorships of Bonanza and Bewitched solidified the company in the minds of parents. Then the 1963 redesign of Corvette into the Stingray and the 1967 introduction of the Camaro made Chevy the envy of teenagers and sports car lovers. Things were good for decades in Detroit. As the famous commercial noted: “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”
Like all companies, Chevy has its share of legacy clunkers. In the ’60s, Ralph Nader took the company to task for the faulty rear suspension of Corvair. The Vega’s engine problems and overall poor quality in the ’70s signaled the beginning of the end of America’s reign as automobile manufacturing king. The SSR – released in 2004 – tried to capitalize on the ‘retro’ movement. Time magazine described it as a “putative performance machine, heavy, underpowered and unforgivably lazy.” Then there was that whole bailout and bankruptcy at GM three years ago. Don’t look for that episode to be featured in any Chevy historical film.
It’s been a long journey for the company French racecar driver Louis Chevrolet started a century ago today with ousted GM founder William C. Durant… and there is reason to be excited about the future. Silverado is the number two selling vehicle in the country. Equinox and Cruze rank among the top 15. The plug-in hybrid Volt, released last December at a manufacturer’s suggested price of $40,000, is the most fuel-efficient car on the road with an EPA rating of 93 mpg. Like any organization, Chevy proves innovation and stick-to-it-ness are essential for long-term success.
Happy 100th birthday, Chevrolet.
As I write this, the state of Texas is blazing. Sixty-four wildfires started in the past two days as lack of rain, strong winds and low humidity combine to create the perfect firestorm. The biggest conflagration is in central Texas – 500 homes destroyed and 30,000 acres burned in Bastrop. Less than 15 miles as the crow flies from our house northwest of Houston is an inferno that’s consumed 5,000 acres. This latest round comes after a series of fires in North Texas during the spring; the biggest one consumed 200,000 acres and destroyed 250 homes, including our good friends’ lake house.
Wind and rain are an annual threat to those living on the Gulf Coast. Each June, proactive citizens prepare for the worst: buying supplies, developing contingency plans and determining evacuation routes. Tropical Storm Alison flooded downtown in 2001. Hurricane Rita missed in 2005. Ike delivered a direct hit three years ago next week. Until the season ends in November, there is always the possibility of destruction.
Last week’s forecast that Tropical Storm Lee was heading this way brought anticipation of an end to the worst drought since the 1950’s. Instead, Lee took a right turn, all the rain went elsewhere and the backside winds flamed the raging fires. Much like the Dust Bowl that ravaged the Great Plains in the midst of the Great Depression, these roaring flames – along with Hurricane Irene that ravaged the East Coast – are piling on to the nation’s woes at the worst of times.
Life is busy. You get moving fast. Caught up in a lot of little things. Then one day you wake up and are told to evacuate your home… to leave behind all your memories. It’s a helpless feeling, and for some, all their keepsakes will be forever lost. Please take a moment right now in your thoughts to remember those affected by these natural disasters. Say a prayer, too, for the first responders and all those who lend a helping hand. As the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 arrives on Sunday, you know it’s times like these when America’s great light of care shines brightest.
When you live in Texas and see news about snowstorms affecting other parts of the country, you think, “Glad that’s not us.” Until, of course, when the Super Bowl decides to come to DFW. Watching ESPN the past few days, folks across America could have been convinced the Lone Star State is frozen tundra during February. Even here in Houston – 270 miles to the south – they’re predicting several inches of snow over the next 24 hours.
It’s amazing how easily perceptions are embedded deeply in folk’s minds. In my coaching work with executives, I’ll interview a dozen people the client feels know him or her best, then share their quotes without attribution. Inevitably I’ll hear from the client, “That comment about me being condescending refers to one thing that happened a couple of years ago.” Yet there it is, a big enough issue to a team member that he felt the need to tell me about it during our 15-minute conversation.
While a single comment may or may not be relevant to a leader’s long-term success, understanding that supervisors, peers and direct reports have long memories is important. That quip you blurt out in a meeting that makes light of someone’s slip-up – the one everybody laughs at and you think is completely harmless – may have a lasting impact on your relationship with the object of your humor.
The snow in DFW will be forgotten once the NFL leaves town and temperatures rise; perceptions others hold of you aren’t so easily changed. So if your relationship with someone seems to be on ice, ask her what you did. If she tells you, apologize. Chances are it’s not too late to repair the misstep you don’t remember and warm up the chill in the air.
So the Republicans took over the House and made strong gains in the Senate. Faster than you can say ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler Too’ the political landscape in America shifted again.
One thing the new leaders soon to arrive in Washington need to understand is the last two elections have not been about like, they’ve been about dislike… as in frustration with everyone in power – regardless of party affiliation. The landslide of November 2nd was simply voters pushing the restart button.
Americans are tired of politicians intent on serving themselves and not their constituencies. If ultra conservative Republicans choose to create stalemate in order to ensure the White House has a new occupant in two years, then there will be no solutions, no answers to our problems.
As business leaders know so well, nothing gets done when folks stubbornly stick to their personal agendas over the necessary vision and growth for the organization. In order for America to get back on track, Republicans and Democrats need to create the right plan – working together – and start executing on it immediately. This approach takes place in companies across the country every day. There’s no reason it can’t work inside the Beltway.
Failure to accept the responsibility granted unto them by the electorate would mean we end up repeating this cycle in 2012… with the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction again. Citizens deserve better.