Friday, December 23, 2011

Winning is Super but…


The 2011 Super Bowl was held on Sunday, February 6th at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas and was played in front of a capacity of over 100,000 people - the largest attendance in Super Bowl history. The Super Bowl broadcast was viewed by more than 100 Million people. The winner of the game takes home the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The trophy is named for a great coach and a great man. Vince Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. He was head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers (1959–67). He imposed a strenuous regimen and led his team to five NFL championships (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967). He won first two Super Bowls (1967, 1968). His success made him a symbol of single-minded determination to win.

The odds of winning a championship in any professional sport are always long. Maybe that is why we care so much about what makes a winning team. To be sure, we can learn a great deal about character, hard work, grit and determination from the individuals who win championships. But maybe there is even more inspiration inherent in the heroic efforts made in spite of falling short. Consider those individuals who find the courage to continue in a losing effort who bravely battle but ultimately do not win. They are unsung heroes and in many ways can be even more noble.

Vince Lombardi died of Cancer in September 1970. Surely he would be astounded at how big the game has become and would be most honored that the trophy is a constant reminder of what it takes to win. Yet, the trophy that bears his name might also be appropriately be awarded for battling against impossible odds. Lombardi deserves the fame he earned for winning but perhaps it is more notable that he is a role model for those driven to succeed – doing what it takes to win, in spite of never knowing for certain of the outcome.

Lombardi's success is legendary, and he is often associated with the maxim, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." It is uncertain if he actually ever even said it. However, he did say something that might be more important: “The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”

There should be a trophy for all those people who do what it takes to win but bravely accept the outcome in spite of their best efforts to prevail. You are winners too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Without Marketing, nothing happens.


Anyone who has studied marketing will tell you that the discipline of marketing is considerably more elusive than the body of knowledge a student of accounting, finance, or architecture might encounter. I mean you’re not going to hire an accountant who doesn’t know the principals of depreciating assets. You aren’t going to hire an estate planner who doesn’t know how explain various transfer taxes. You aren’t going to hire an architect who can’t show you a set of building plans.

I asked a group of students what attracted them to marketing. There was a range of answers. Some students wanted to pursue communications related fields (advertising, public relations or media) and they felt a grasp of marketing would be a good foundation for that career path. Others felt that marketing was basically “sales” and they felt that was where the money is in business. Still others had a combination of reasons why they thought marketing was a worthwhile major course of study that might prepare them for whatever road they ultimately chose.

Most marketing textbooks have two or three run-on sentences that define marketing. That’s okay. It’s even okay for students to feel that marketing is a way of thinking. It’s okay to have an open mind to the possibilities the future may hold. I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the line people started getting the notion that the investment in education (especially college) must somehow be directly pointed in the direction of a specific job. That being said, it is important to note that, elusive or not: without marketing, nothing happens!

That’s because the fundamental reality is that marketing is part of nearly every career choice. It is in every single business transaction. Whatever framework or model you want to apply to your business, you are going to ultimately face the fact that some portion of your interactions are going to fall squarely in that fuzzy area called marketing. I have known engineers who have told me straight up that “marketing is soft” and that is isn’t scientific enough. Well, that may be true but try to sell something without it. Try to convince someone that your product is better than the competition based only on the "superior" engineering. (I know what you’re thinking – Mercedes Benz – only partially true. Status and prestige are not engineering and as important a reason for the purchase of a Mercedes.) Even engineers makes emotional choices about brands and what those brand choices say about the individual.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Customer Satisfaction and the CEO


We hear a lot about companies who strive to earn repeat business by exceeding customer expectations and delivering tremendous value. Still I wonder. Here are four Chief Executives. Tell me if you think they have happy and loyal customers.

Hard Goods Manufacturer & Company – Mighty Kwinn, CEO bends over backwards to listen to his customers. He has a panel of representatives on whom he depends for feedback. The meetings are routinely held in warm places with plenty of time for golf, deep sea fishing and/or tourism. The chosen ombudsmen for the industry are delighted to participate even if, at times, they aren’t sure action is really taken based on the intense discussions that cover price, product, service and ways improve everything from order processing to training support. “Be a good listener,” says Kwinn.

Four States and Texas GC - Sun-tzu, CEO believes winning is warfare. His family-owned high-growth company is looking to earn “clients for life” among the Fortune 500 elite. He believes the way to win is to excel in the trenches with a tough-as-nails hard-bid process. Furthermore, the company has a can-do culture of dedicated workers who will do whatever it takes to deliver on-time, under budget and work safely. Sadly, the margins are always pretty thin due to constant competitive bidding and employee burn out is common. Customer surveys reveal they are pleased with the work. This CEO doesn’t want to invest in any more research. Sun-tzu says “Kill the competition on price. Knock yourself out to deliver.”

Integrated A/E/C - The Top Kat CEO leads his company with flair. Customers like doing business with Top Kat because he has resources that allows him to offer full service from site selection and development all the way to financing and marketing. Top Kat is big and wants to work with others who think big. Top Kat want to “Run with the big dogs and be one.”

Builder of Hospitals, Inc. – John Doe, CEO is an engineer who is convinced he can bludgeon the average healthcare administrator with logic. His company offers a single source design and construction method and you assume no risk until you agree with the proposed solution. An occasional hospital executive might be embarrassed at having mismanaged the process of planning the design and construction of their facility, but the Doe team is ready to come to the rescue. “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door,” he thinks.

Could it be that: Kwinn isn't really listening? Sun-tzu is doing battle at the expense of building relationships and isn't driving for the right things? Top Kat may never really be a Big Dog and thereby fall short in the long run? Doe is completely inflexible with regard to the solution he provides and is perceived as insensitivity?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Remembering Kent Swart


Kent Swart was a great addition to the Thermadyne culture. He had dedication and a work ethic that he downplayed routinely. He had a sense of humor and was instantly likable to those who met him. He liked to call me "an enabler of excellence" because I found myself attracted to any project Kent was involved with simply because I knew there was a higher probability of success when he was on the case. Kent was instrumental in the updating of the Victor Catalogue. (He and Michelle stopped counting at 3,000 edits made to the critical source of our flagship brand product offerings.) Kent was published in several publications about Thermal Dynamics plasma cutting systems and was a key guy when it came to adding real substance to marketing materials (new and existing)..

Over stake burgers at Stake N Shake, on more than one occasion, Kent shared some of his concerns about his career path. The truth is Kent was a quality player who fit in many scenarios. He could be a product manager, marketing manager, team leader and without a doubt A ROLE MODEL. His passing should remind us all how lucky we are to have each other. The planet THMD is a sadder and diminished place due to his absence.

Swart, Shephard, Cox and Morgan managed to play a round of golf as a foursome before he had hip surgery. Kent was also a participant in the AMA golf outings (in July of 2009 and 2010). Golfers know you learn a lot about a guy by the way they approach the game. Cheerfully accepting adversity while trying to excel every step of the way, He was an inspiration. Kent was active in Junior football and participated in a Monday night golf league. In each case, he accepted leadership roles.

Kent's computer screen-saver in his office was a reminder of the love and affection he had for those darling daughters of his. He also often spoke of his wife and how lucky he was. He was proud of the relationship he had developed later in life with his own father. (That alone speaks volumes of his character.) When you lose someone like Kent, your heart immediately goes out to his family. But in a larger sense, you feel a giant void that will not be filled. If you are a spiritual person, you know Kent is in a better place and you know he would want all of us to go on with a smile.

As we stumble over our own human frailty in such times, we cannot adequately identify what Kent meant to us. Suffice it to say, we loved him and he will be missed.

Kent Swart died of a heart attack on September 21, 2010.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Proposal Points to Consider


Proposals are more likely to result in elimination than winning. Sorry to say, but your prospects are going to be looking for losers first in a process that starts with a request for proposal (RFP). Let’s face it, it is a challenging economic environment and the buyers have an advantage now. If you must submit a proposal, think about winning strategies for putting your best foot forward. Remember the reviewers are looking for losers more than the winner in the opening round.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should respond to a request for proposal. You need to have a GO/NO GO decision criteria. Sometimes an off-the-shelf response is okay but most of the time it makes sense to ask: What is specific to this project that we should include in our response?

Consider an executive summary. Take the time up-front to plan your strategy.Take the time to make it shorter. It takes more time to write shorter and more efficiently.” Mark Twain said “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

The number one reason for not winning is inadequate knowledge of the customer. 80% of wins are, at least in part, a result of a previous relationship. So don’t wait to learn about the customer and the specifics of their needs. It could be too late. Studies have shown that odds of winning increase with the number of people involved. So get people in your company involved in responding to proposals.

The average cost of preparing a proposal (in the construction field) is around $2,000-$4,000 per million bid. You need to quantify the costs. Your response to an RFP is for a client to BUY THEIR PROJECT not your capabilities. This is important to remember. A lot of companies fall into the trap of trying to tell te reader how great they are. They say things like: “We can deliver safely, on time and within budget. These are the things your competition will be saying too. How will you differentiate yourself?

Happy Hunting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12 Reasons Why Marketing Has Lost Its Dazzle.


The marketing profession has lost some of its mystique lately. If you take the time to read this list, you probably care about marketing and allied professions that include product, brand, advertising, public relations, communications and business development. Here are a dozen observations I offer as contributing the new realities of being a marketer.

1. Media is not about mass marketing anymore. In fact, success stories from Lady Gaga to political elections are living proof that it ain’t about buying primetime TV anymore. To move people you need to think about grass roots and social media.
2. Advertising Agencies have lost their grip on clients. Mad Men are no longer cornering the market on unique selling propositions and brand strategy. It can happen much more organically now and it does.
3. Public Relations might be more actively leading marketers. Flacks have a much better handle on measuring web content and contributing to the frenetic world of instant gratification of information. It doesn’t feel like marketing as much as it is swimming in a sea of Likes, Tweets and Blogs.
4. Marketing is the new “undecided” major in college. Marketing students are too often unclear about what it really means to study marketing. Unfortunately, a marketing major has absolutely no edge over a smart finance, accounting or economics major in the job market – even for so called marketing jobs.
5. Companies are reluctant to invest in Marketing. In tough times, Marketers are not making a strong enough case for the longer term equity and payback.
6. Marketing Communications is too often an afterthought. Instead of planning and maintaining an integrated marketing communications program the tail is wagging the dog. The marketing department is playing catch up instead of leading.
7. Marketers are generally pretty bad at measuring results. In a tough economy, the CEO wants a return on an investment THIS YEAR. (Sad but true and the marketing maven isn’t ready to defend him/herself.) The quest for market share is being replaced by the much more one-to-one interface with consumers.
8. Market Research and the discipline of studying consumer buying behavior is losing too. Research methodology isn’t funded and analytics are coming from web activity and pop culture instead.
9. The sales function is finally getting some respect. The new hero in business is the impresario who can understand the market and match it with customer services and a bundle of value that starts with (drum roll) personal selling. Sales. Marketing isn’t fighting with Sales anymore. The sales function is now leading the way with data to support its quick reactions to the marketplace.
10. No more bandwagon. People are able to be much more selective about products that meet their preferences and needs. Being an individual is much cooler than being a conformist. So now it’s not about keeping up with the Jones’ but rather about having your own personal brand.
11. Culture trumps marketing. Southwest Airlines, Starbuck’s, Apple and Google are just a few companies that show us that living the brand is much more powerful than trying to apply a sort of ivory tower and remote marketing function.
12. Marketing isn’t magic. It can’t reverse an economic downturn or invent a breakthrough in a vacuum.

Still I hope there are marketers out there who believe the principles of marketing still apply. I hope a few enlightened companies understand that a systematic and routine application of marketing programming can and should be a part of a winning and profitable corporate strategy. Go Team.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Rant About Advertising Copy and Design






I’ve spend a good portion of my career in advertising. I was inspired by my father early on. He owned and operated a successful design studio. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some tremendous creative talent in New York, LA, Miami, Raleigh and St. Louis. Along the way, I’ve been a part of efforts to effectively communicate on behalf of cars, toys, frozen food, electronics and more. So I am perhaps more persnickety than most when it comes to evaluating advertising executions.

To give you an idea how I look at the art and craft of advertising allow me to share a critique of a real ad I encountered. It doesn’t matter what the product is – because it is in my judgment an utter failure as a piece of communication. It illustrates a bunch of violations to my own advertising sensibilities.

For starters:
The headline: “ABSOLUTELY THE BEST...PERIOD!” is meaningless puffery with ALL CAPS and Exclamation point! This empty claim in all capital letters with an exclamation point suggests that the speaker is screaming something urgent or important. The capital letters and the punctuation do nothing to reinforce a position, a brand promise or even a reason to read further. I hate ellipses - especially in a headline. It means something is going unsaid. When a copywriter starts using the exclamation point as a crutch, he usually can't stop. Sure enough in this particular ad a lame tag line is offered: “Home of the Brands You Trust!” The tagline has caps too but fewer. Should we assume the speaker is still screaming at us but not as loudly? Is this unsupported puffery less important that the headline puffery?

The body copy: The body copy is not body copy at all, it's catalogue copy. It just describes physical attributes and contents of the product. The copy begins with “Introducing” which is one of my least favorite words in ad copy. If the product is new and exciting you don’t need a drum roll. Phrases that begin "And Now," and "For extreme safety" are poorly structured. (Extreme safety? Really?) Advertising is supposed to offer information and help a prospective consumer differentiate a product. This ad fails again and again.

Logos and Marks: Companies sometimes become overwhelmed by legal issues, such as trade mark infringement and patent encroachments. It can sometimes result in wrecking the chances of telling a story. In the ad, we see no less than 13 registered trademarks. It has no less than nine logos. It might make the lawyers happy, but a page with that many logos and trademarks, is a communication that is crowded with client-directed mandatory elements. It reduces chances of getting a message across. To make matters worse, do we really need the five year warranty mark stamped in the sky?

The ad unit: The ad has too much going on. Most of it offers the reader nothing. Trade publication ads run into thousands of dollars invested. The creative team should be the first to beg for a smarter use of the space.

Product Photography: In this ad the product is shown in a static tabletop shot displaying the parts and pieces. The layout gets further cramped as it looks like the advertiser required an additional image of the product in use (an application shot). The product is for metalworking and offers dramatic sparks while in use. It could have been so much more engaging and dramatic. Unfortunately, the art direction is now completely hopeless. This ad is the quintessential attempt to “put ten pounds of shit into a five pound bag.” Of course, the toll free 800 number and website are included. (Will the people who answer the phone be ready and trained? Will the website really offer added value? Will the communications in those channels be a jumbled as this ad? I wonder.)

So many of these problems would have been avoided with a better process of thinking about the strategy and communication up-front. Responsible creative direction and respect for the reader are keys. The problems are a pretty good indicator that the advertiser is just going through the motions. The agency is just taking directives from the client. There is no fun, no passion and no energy. It’s no wonder advertising is getting a bad rap. It is no wonder that companies are not challenging there agencies to do breakthrough work. It is a shame and a waste of money. Fire the agency. Fire the product manager. Fire the stakeholders. Is everyone is asleep?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

American Marketing Association and ME

My name is Wes Morgan and I am a marketer. An important piece of continuity in my profession has been my continuing involvement with the local chapter of the American Marketing Association in St. Louis since 1997.

My career journey includes a crazy tour of the advertising business that took me to New York, LA and back to New York…and on to Raleigh, North Carolina and Miami before being recruited to St. Louis at the end of 1996. I sometimes say (tongue in cheek)that I was instrumental in putting two local agencies (TBWA Chiat-Day and D’Arcy) out of business here before becoming a corporate Marketing Communications Specialist in 1998. Around that time, I become more involved in the American Marketing Association.

In 1997, I was asked if I could write a column for the Chapter Newsletter.
I ended up being editor and publisher of 33 issues of the TOPline newsletter over the next four years. I became VP of Communications and a board member in 1997 – Laura Rossman was President. Terry Monchein became president (97-98) and Stephanie Camden followed her (in 98-99). I became President elect in 1999. At that time, the honor of that position carried with it the job of running the student conference in February. That conference (2/2000) was at the Adam’s Mark Hotel Downtown (now the Hyatt Regency Riverfront) and included speakers from The Republic of Tea, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Brand Consultancy and Southwest Airlines.

As President of the Chapter (2000-2001) I was proud to be part of presenting another conference – This time at the Regal Riverfront Hotel, now the Millennium Hotel. Dennis Dunlop (CEO of the American Marketing Association) was a speaker along with notables from The Sporting News and Arthur Anderson (February 2001).

I stayed on for a second term as chapter President (2001-2002). Eventually, I was able to convince John Lewington to follow me as chapter president. He did a great job. I was delighted when the chapter gave him a lifetime achievement award.

I was an active board member during terms of John Lewington (02-03), Susan Davis (03-04), Dan Diveley (04-05), Steve Condor (05-06), Lauren Kolbe (06-07), and less so for Mike McNamera (07-08) and Richard Arthur (08-09)

In January 0f 2009, I indicated an interest in rejoining the board as VP Membership. Melissa Keim (09-10) was good enough to invite me to participate again. I was happy to stay involved through the presidential terms of Dan McGrath (09-10) as Co-VP Membership and Christine Chamberlain (10-11) working on special events (Golf Outing and Conference).

In April of 2012 I attended my fifth American Marketing Association chapter leadership summit in Chicago as President Elect with incoming president Steve Thomas (2012-2013). It was great reconnecting with Dennis Dunlap (AMA CEO and others at IH) not to mention chapter leaders from Houston, Dallas, Lincoln, Cleveland and around the country. I accepted responsibility for leading programming and managed to get an impressive line up in the works: Golf Outing (July), Networking and Lon Zimmerman on research (August), Kraftig Beer (September), Phil Smith on Healthcare Marketing (Prairie Dog from KC in October), Jim Woodcock on Sports Marketing for November, a special joint holiday viewing of SKYFALL 007.

We rounded out the year with Ameristar (January), Social Media leader from Better Homes & Gardens (Mar) and Post Holdings (May) and Biz Library (June).

Our Remarkable Leadership conference in February 2013 managed to go on in spite of a bit of snow and ice with Elliot Robia (Pixel Farm of MN), Andrew Grinch (Mizzou athletic department), Mercy Healthcare and Kevin Eikenberry (via Skype). 

I have enjoyed contributing to the success of the annual golf outing in July (of which I have been chairman since 1999). I was invited to be a board member again for presidents Bev Feris, Anna Qualls, Pier Alsup and Bob Mastis, (2013-14; 2014-15; 2015-16, 2016-17) and contributed with the organization of successful July golf events each year.

In addition, for the 2013-2014 year, I was able to deliver Gabe Lozano for August kick off of programming. Another thing I am proud of is the engagement of two collegiate chapters (UMSL ad SLU). I was instrumental in fortifying the UMSL collegiate chapter as part of the chapters outreach initiatives which also lead to our chapters involvement in UMSL's digital marketing advisory board.

I still believe the AMA is the best professional association in St. Louis, even though I also participate as a member of the AAF (AdClub), BMA (Business Marketing Association), PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) and others. I am fond of reminding folks that Without Marketing, Nothing Happens.

Updated May 5, 2012, and Mar 21, 2013, November 2, 2013 and January 25, 2015 and May 2017 by wam

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Emerging through Tough Economic Times


Emerging through a recession or economic downturn depends a great deal on managing through rough patches and making some key decisions along the way that allow you to come out a better and stronger enterprise.

Most of us have faced the hard reality of acting quickly and decisively with regard to cost structure and continuing operations. Many have moved swiftly to cut expenses and make changes. Changes included practical things and some creative things to cut our overhead, selling and general administration expenses. Tough decisions had to be made in recent years but the best managed firms will emerge smarter, stronger and better companies.

We’re not out of the woods, but we have to hope for and be well-poised for global recovery if not a boom. Confidence is an essential ingredient and the fuel we need as we cautiously move forward with our business plans.

Keep analyzing industry segments. Work with distributor partners. Look for ways to improve productivity, decrease costly downtime (due to things such as welder fatigue) and ways to improve consumable parts life. Industries ranging from construction to shipbuilding will certainly have an impact. Some examples: Commercial and Residential construction and investments in infrastructure may account for as much as 25% the business for welding and cutting hard goods. Oil & Gas/Energy, Transportation, Railroad car production, Trailer manufacturing, Automotive/automotive after-markets, ship-building, aerospace and mining are industry segments that we must understand to better serve metalworking and fabrication needs.

Monitor currency exchanges and changing economies. Currencies, free trade agreements (such as LAFTA and NAFTA) and other global conditions can result in big shifts in demand for products.

Government regulatory issues. Safety, listing agency and government regulatory concerns will always have an impact.

Shifts in skilled labor. Supply and demand of labor and the economic outlook for these various skilled professions will continue to grow. As global economies look at ways to meet demand.

Consolidation of distribution. A trend that will continue to have an impact is the global trend towards consolidation of distributors. Just look at the comparison of Airgas and Praxair versus a few years ago. As key distribution channel leaders get stronger, manufactures and suppliers need to get better and be more responsive.

Product rationalization and product integrity. It is more important than ever. A better and more comprehensive line of offerings doesn’t necessarily mean proliferation. It is important to protect brands/product lines from illegal and inferior knock offs to protect the integrity and trustworthiness of channels and manufactures.

Keep the lines of communications open. Talk time to keep employees informed. Distributor and manufacturers need to have regular meetings and collaborate for business success.

Marketing and advertising needs to be restored. Careful investments need to be made to keep a sustained presence out in the marketplace. Companies who advertise through recessionary periods generally come out on the other end better off in the long run. Social media and other low cost tools are available.

The world is getting smaller. We are seeing a truly global economy. Examples include everything from global sourcing of components and global sourcing of labor to cost containment and manufacturing strategies.

Product innovation. In spite of the economic downturn we must move ahead albeit more selectively, always looking for ways to engineer better, higher performance tools and processes with an eye toward greater productivity.

Training. Everywhere we look, distributors and manufacturers need to get comfortable selling product. End users are screaming for qualified help as they struggle with purchase decisions, application questions and repair functions.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Knuckle Ball Hero

Hoyt Wilhelm is one of my heroes. He played for nine Major League Baseball teams: his clubs included the New York Giants (1952-56), Baltimore Orioles (1958-62), Chicago White Sox (1963-68), and spells with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, California Angels, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Wilhelm was best known for his knuckleball, which enabled him to have great longevity; occasionally as a starting pitcher, but mainly as a specialist relief man. Hoyt was an extremely durable and effective relief pitcher. Hoyt Wilhelm once said: "I don't even try to fool anybody. I just throw the knuckleball 85 to 90 percent of the time. You don't need variations, because the damn ball jumps around so crazily, it's like having a hundred pitches."

Hoyt was a special player with an incredible specialty. Hoyt’s ability to throw a knuckleball made him one of the all time great relief pitchers. He went with what he had and enjoyed a wonderful career in the process. In my book though, Hoyt was one of those rare people in this world who are destined for greatness.

Consider some of his lifetime highlights:
• Before he even got a chance to play professional baseball he earned a Purple Heart, having been injured in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
• He hit a home run in his first at bat as a major leaguer in 1952.
• He was named an All Star in his second season in the majors.
• In 1954, he became a World Series Champion with the New York Giants.
• In 1958 he pitched a no-hitter against the New York Yankees (who went on to win the World Series).
• He pitched his last game just 16 days short of his fiftieth birthday in July of 1972.
• He was named into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

Sadly, the world lost Hoyt Wilhelm in 2002 at the age of 90.
Hoyt had what heroes always have. They believe in themselves and in their own unique ability.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Geaux. Geaux. Geaux.

Bill is a LSU Tiger and the French influence in Louisiana is undeniable so they like to say “Geaux Tigers!” when they root for their teams. The football program will be facing a serious challenge when they meet the Alabama Tide on the grid iron this coming week. This game could have national championship implications.

I am a Hurricane and while I miss the swagger UM made legendary, I’m glad the U is somehow deflecting the white hot spotlight of media attention these days. The Canes are playing out a respectable if not a championship season this year. It makes me smile a little, since I remember when my alma mater was thinking about eliminating collegiate football altogether. It was back in the 1970’s. (Can you imagine the NFL today if those gadflies has won that debate back in the day? A former Hurricane can be seen on national television every week. Canes have Super Bowl rings. The swagger lives in great players like Baltimore Ravens Ray Lewis and a long list of others. I love being a part of that tradition and the one that evolves even today.)

I had the pleasure of watching the Miami Hurricanes against THE Ohio State University last year in Columbus. It was fantastic to be there with my son, who is also a proud Hurricane alumni. We were on the fifty yard line at the Shoe! (We lost that contest but it was so cool, and a little scary, being among the minority in Miami gear and in the middle of all those Buckeye fans.) Ohio State played Miami away this year. We won this time. I watched it from my couch at home on TV. The Canes now play their home games in the same venue in which the NFL Miami Dolphins play.

I’m just sayin’ the U is a place like no other. The school is moving up the ranks as one of the nation’s best academically too. It ranks near the top in research. The University of Miami once aspired to be the Harvard of the South. (But I can assure you no-one is wearing flip flops as they move across campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts in February and I’ll bet there are plenty of Ivy Leaguers who wish they were in South Florida instead of New England between classes and on weekends when the snow flies and temperatures drop.)

Here I am Rockin’ like a Hurricane! I’m sorry. I do understand school pride and I do wish Bill and his alma mater all the best. I just don’t really have a dog in that fight. I certainly understand though. Geaux Tigers. Enjoy the game Bill.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Memories of Andrew

My uncle Andrew died this past Spring and the news brought back a flood of memories.

Wes gets a B – I only took one class with Andrew while at the University of Miami. It was a painting class. He was very encouraging and a little bit inspirational. He gave me a B. I never questioned it. I thought it fair enough. But my Mom wanted to know why Andrew gave her son a B in painting. Andrew explained that I was unable to recognize a painting by Raoul Dufy. Andrew did suggest that the students in his class should be familiar with a short list of important artists. To this day, when I see a Dufy on a visit to an art museum I smile and think of Andrew. (Usually I’m not sure it is a Dufy, until I read the museum placard.)

Laundry Monster – When Vince and Nick were in town and Andrew and Dahlia were traveling, their home near South Miami was a favorite place to do a load of laundry for hungry college students. Those attacks on the laundry monster were so much fun because it was like doing a tedious chore with good friends in a showplace (a beautiful home filled with artifacts and art).

The purple rage – Vince and Nick loved and admired Andrew too. Like all kids they pick up on things their parents do. The twins used to reflect on Andrews parental way of trying to coach them. When he sensed he was not getting his message across he might exhibit a bit of emotion the boys affectionately called the “purple rage.” Alex was familiar with this level of emotion in his father too. When it comes to kids – we all can show some of that purple rage.

South Truro and Two Fine Horses – Two pieces of Andrew’s art hang proudly in my home. SouthTruro is a sort of abstract/expressionist painting, a landscape from his time in the New England area (Cape Cod). Two Fine Horses is black India ink drawing on paper of two horses in a horse-trailer. (That picture hung in the Andrew Morgan kitchen in Miami.When I told Andrew how I admired the simple lines of that composition – he gave it to me.) Both works feature a vintage Andrew signature from 1955 (The year I was born).

Go Hurricanes – I became the beneficiary of that extra ticket when Dahlia decided to give her’s up. Andrew loved the Canes and I loved driving to the Orange Bowl with him. Andrew loved sharing the games with my parents too. Doing the Macarena in the warm sun and watching Ray Lewis reek havock on the offense. It doesn’t get much better than that. I was with Andrew the day the Orange Bowl home winning streak ended against Washington. I am so glad I got that additional time with Andrew and my parents in 1994-95. It was before Miami joined the ACC and before the demolition of the Orange Bowl.

Mowing the Lawn – I had the pleasure of mowing the lawn from time to time for Andrew and Dahlia. Florida landscaping is never easy. Mangoes, Oranges, palm fronds and more. I loved every second of it though.

Yearbook – I was associate editor of the Ibis Yearbook my senior year. One of my favorite pages in that 1977-78 edition features a three of dynamic shots of Andrew in action. The student photographer was able to capture the essence of Andrew’s dramatic gestures. On film it is almost as if he could vanish with a wave of his hand. And so he has. (page 116 University of Miami Ibis yearbook)

Bragging about my uncle – “You know my uncle was President of the Kansas City Art Institute for ten years before the University of Miami offered him an opportunity to head the art department in beautiful Coral Gables, Florida in the early 1970’s.” I’m glad he accepted that opportunity, because by the time Richard Nixon resigned from office over the Watergate cover up, I was checking into Mahoney Hall with my brother Greg at the University of Miami. (I can almost hear Joe Cocker blasting out of our 8-track player now, “She came in through the bathroom window, protected by a silver spoon….”) I ended up at the “U” because of Andrew as much as any other reason. That is a decision I will never regret! (It’s very cold in Syracuse, you know.)

Groovy - I grew up in a West Side suburb of Cleveland (Lakewood), which was home to Andrew and his brothers, one of whom is my father (James O’Connell Morgan). Growing up, I only saw Andrew periodically when he’d come to visit. I remember when I was maybe 10 or 11, Andrew and Peg came and they had Alex with them. I remember Alex touching a nerve in a common generational gap issue about attitudes about drugs like LSD. Think about it – that was the 1960’s. Alex turned out just fine. (A true academic, falling just short of a Ph.D in literature, but as a teenager he knew how to call up the purple rage from his Dad.)

The Chart House – Years later, Andrew and Dahlia joined us for a meal on the bay in Coconut Grove. It was a chilly night but we sat outside anyway. My boy Ben was a Freshman at the University of Miami. Andrew, Dahlia, Ben, a girlfriend, my wife Lynn and our good pal Skye enjoyed a meal together that night. Dahlia was so attentive and kind to Andrew. She seemed honored to be a part of his life. (To tell the truth, he was so lucky to have her in his life too).That was around 2005.

I loved Andrew. I will miss him. He will be missed. He will not be forgotten!

Raoul Dufy (3 June 1877 – 23 March 1953) was a French Fauvist painter. He developed a colorful, decorative style that became fashionable for designs of ceramics and textiles, as well as decorative schemes for public buildings. He is noted for scenes of open-air social events. He was also a draftsman, printmaker, book illustrator, a theatrical set-dresser, a designer of furniture, and a planner of public spaces.

Miami Hurricanes 1985-1994 broke the record for longest home winning streak. They were defeated by Washington. The previous record was by Alabama.

Published in The Miami Herald on March 19, 2011
MORGAN, ANDREW W., born on July 29, 1922, passed away peacefully on March 18, 2011. The family will be home following a private service at Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapel. In lieu of flowers the family suggest donations to L'Chaim Jewish Hospice Program, 14875 NW 77 Ave, Suite 100, Miami Lakes, FL 33014. View this Guest Book at www. MiamiHerald.com/obituaries

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thanks Mom.

Moms are great. The best of them do everything and more for their kids; and, while each and every little thing doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated, the job of being a mom is tireless and pretty much taken for granted. Every generation needs a mom playing a critical role in nurturing families and helping kids build the self-confidence they need to face the world.

They give so much it hardly seems fair to limit the recognition to one greeting card holiday per year. Truth be told, most of us lack the ability to express fully the debt we owe to our moms. You know moms accept and embrace challenges and will beam with pride as kids forge ahead. With all that effort and sacrifice, mom knows her little birds will fly away. And when they do, she also must know it is that very independence of which she must be proud.

You see moms in grocery stores, at little league baseball games, at parent-teacher conferences, in churches and in traffic. She is a multi-tasker and a orchestra leader. She is so important to the fabric of our society. It needs to be said but
"Thanks Mom" seems inadequate at best.

The Road to Success

The journey we have been on can hardly be likened to a path. It has been more like a long and winding road with patches of thick branches and obstacles along the way. It has been a course that has taken us to places near and far; some quite wonderful; some a bit frightening. It is scary not knowing for certain of the destination. Forks in the road and unexpected potholes have added challenges but as we look back we wouldn’t trade any of the adversity if it meant we’d miss the triumphs along the way. The scenery and blue skies, magnificent clouds, people and places. The greatest thrill of all is still the inexplicable joy of sharing the trip with people we love and people who love us. When the ride is smooth, it is too easy to take that calm for granted. When you are is caught in a ditch or stalled in traffic it can seem an endless trek. But when the ride is over you just might conclude it wasn’t about the destination at all. Instead, upon reflection, you begin to see it is the sum total of hundreds of joyful things (and maybe a few setbacks). Time passes. May you arrive at the conclusion of your travel with a sense of accomplishment, feelings of goodwill, overall peace of mind and eager anticipation of your next adventure.
There is always more road ahead.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Be Great - like Toulouse-Lautrec.

I started out in life very interested in art and the commercial application of how art meets commerce. In school, I became aware of an artist who inspired me because he was, in fact, an early innovator in advertising design in a different era. Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit the Kemper Art Museum on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis and found myself in front a Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph of the dancer Jane Avril.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born into an aristocratic family in the south of France in 1864. He suffered from a genetic condition that prevented his bones from healing properly. As a young boy he broke his legs and both ceased to grow while the rest of his body continued to grow normally. At maturity, he was only 4 1/2 feet tall. This misfortune may have been a sort of blessing in disguise. After his accidents he was no longer able to follow in the typically aristocratic pastimes of riding and hunting. Instead, he focused on sketching and painting. As a young man, he lived in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his artwork. Toulouse-Lautrec was very much an active part of this community. Often he could be found sitting in a crowded nightclub making swift sketches. In his studio, he would expand the sketches into brightly colored paintings or lithographs.

Toulouse-Lautrec is now widely known in the art world as the archetypical bohemian artist of the belle époque, the "beautiful era" in Paris in the last decade of the 19th Century. He captured the spirit and emotion of the era in his posters and portraits. His unique condition made it difficult for him to live up to the status quo for a well born aristocrat. Nevertheless, he clearly shared in the joie de vivre of the time. Sadly, he died at the age of 36, but his legacy can be viewed in some of the great art museums and art collections of the world.

You might say he was a victim of circumstances. But then again you might say that it was because of the circumstances he is the acclaimed artist –  even more than one hundred and ten years after his death. He was blessed with great talent. We are blessed by his legacy and his influence.