Like many people involved in marketing, I am fascinated with the impact of social media on consumers, businesses, and all in between. Like many of my bretheren, I subscribe to a laundry list of RSS feeds, blogs, and newsletters, all revealing tales of how social media is the cure for our age, how some companies “get it”, how customers are taking control, how we will all, once and for all, get exactly what we deserve.

But enough is enough. We can’t expect Facebook, Twitter, or any electronic forum to guilt or shame any business into some semblance of social responsibility, if they are just too big, too powerful, to listen.

The Wellpoints and Goldman Sachs of the world don’t embrace any of our social media banter. Not one bit. These types of companies will use the time tested, good old fashioned sour mash mix of misinformation, newspeak, and PR bullshit that the marketing biz is so very good at providing.

No ladies and gentlemen, why don’t we all draw a line in the sand, and please admit that all this buzz is just that. Social media tools are great for organizations that truly enter into a social contract with their customers. Hence the “social” thing.

Even many of the worst corporate entities in America can stand to benefit. But to really do so, it takes a huge transformational effort internally. We all work under the rather animistic notion that companies have personalities. And what is the source of this illusion? The CEO perhaps? The customer service team? The PR and marketing folks?

The true personality of a company, or any organization, must ultimately reside with how it behaves to others. This must include its customers, vendors, distributors, local community, the ground it is built on. Everything.

Zappos recently came under fire for putting way too many ad agencies through the ringer by announcing an open casting call, so to speak. Many firms scrambled for the chance, not really understanding that it was really an embarassing situation for Zappos, and whoever ultimately got in the card game. Why? Because on the front end, Zappos has a reputation for being really nice to their customers, almost providing the illusion that they have your back, dude.

But man, on the backend, to set up a cattle call for ad agencies is just wrong. This is a good example of the actions of a psychopath, and the disease must be treated before any social media tools are handed out.

I don’t see any marketing or “new marketing” pundits out there even talking about corporate “personality profiles” or such as a major part of their makeover packages.

Chris Carfi, over at The Social Customer, created a few years back an excellent Manifesto that attempted to define the push to social media driven consumer power.

The complimentary piece needs to be a Consumer Bill of Rights. Now I have attempted to push such a concept at the last two companies I worked for, and it met dull ears. But I believe to rally around such a thing can and will help a company set itself on the right path, and help it define its “personality”.

I’m going to leave you to think about this, with a video of Wendell Berry. Do take the time to watch it. My point in this post is to get you thinking about connectedness.

I’m an eBay regular, and recently discovered Mike. He is selling some accordians. And he is using YouTube in eBay to really help sell his accordians. But Mike is teaching all of us supposed marketing and social media hipsters a very powerful lesson. The medium used (you pick from your favorites) is merely a vehicle to communicate something authentic, real, valuable, with tangible information that the consumer can use. And he gives us a little something extra, his love of music. A song for you and me. If after watching Mike play his accordian, you are not feeling better, or smiling, then watch him again. Then go do something authentic.

Seriously folks, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Obama recently named John Huntsman, Jr. as Ambassador to China.

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Huntsman International has extensive business interests in China, so don’t expect any action on the part of our administration to pull back American jobs. Business as usual. We should all expect to see our trade policy with China continue to go downhill.

You may also find it interesting that Huntsman is suing Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank for backing out of a finance deal that would have provided $15 billion in financing for Huntsman’s acquisition by Hexion Specialty Chemicals last year.

California also just released the last listing of 30 chemicals they have deemed as potentially carcinogenic, or lead to reproductive/development issues.

If you want to have some fun, compare them to those found in the Huntsman Product List.

Now I have nothing against chemicals per se. The universe is a big chemistry set, after all, and we are made from the stuff we ponder. But any chance I have to hassle these dudes, I’ll take.

Unlike the higher education many sons and daughters of well off families receive at Yale, Harvard, and other bastions of ethics, Berea has been a remarkable beacon of how things can and should be done. However, since Berea does not charge for tuition, they have been especially hard hit by our fellow Americans greed on Wall Street and at Big Banks.

There are so many young people out there who truly deserve to get an education and break the cycle of poverty in which they have been raised. So, I’d like to propose that Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Bank of America each pass the hat, and cough up some dough.

 

Also, do take the time to read a good article in the NYT regarding how Amherst College is learning from Berea.

I was recently struck by the incredible resiliency of Nature, during a short walk in our woods. And it led to some notes. I’ve added them to this post, as images.

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Mr. Goodwill Millions

Mr. Goodwill Millions

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I am a child of General Motors, so to speak. My mother worked all of her adult life there, retiring in 1987. My brother also worked and retired from GM, so though I cannot speak from personal experience from being “on the line”, I can offer perhaps a few observations. They might be of value to someone out there who is now reformulating their opinions regarding the demise of GM.

As a kid, growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, we had two main job providers. General Motors “Delco”, and Chrysler. Kokomo was a town of about 50,000 souls, and we had a good mix of whites, blacks, hispanics, even a few asians.

And Kokomo was a good place to be a kid, to be a grownup, to raise a family, and grow old. What made Kokomo unique in Indiana was the fact that so many were earning a living wage, living in their own homes, buying cars, putting their kids in college (and for most families this was a first, including mine), and resting somewhat securely in the reasonable notion that if you worked hard, and gave your best, most productive years to your plant, you could retire with some security, and some dignity.

Gosh, imagine that. As an American, having a simple wish. A decent job, providing a living wage and healthcare that provides for my family, with some degree of security. Henry Ford understood this, and also knew that the employees building Model Ts were the ones who would buy them. But only if they could provide for their family first.

Many are saying that GM and the American auto industry is a failed experiment in Capitalism. Well, if failure means that our largest industry can’t provide the above, well then I guess America is a failed experiment.

We didn’t see lots of crime, and though we experienced some racial tensions, it was moderated by the fact that whites and blacks were making good money, doing the same work, and all in it together. Togetherness was built into the fabric of the UAW.

My mom remembered the days when there wasn’t a union, and lived through the abuses of being a laborer for a large, powerful company. Sure, many will say the UAW helped destroy GM, but it helps to understand the misery and injustice that helped fuel the union movement.

We saw the theft of American jobs, outsourced to Mexico and China, by GM. My brother even remembers dismantling production equipment, knowing it was destined for China. Keep this in mind when as you watch the “new and improved” GM. It will be more of the same. This in a time when Mexico’s biggest export to America is poverty, and that of China, cheaply made goods relying on slavery.

GM could have a strong future if the Obama administration would hold true to the promise of making America stronger by bringing the jobs back here, where they were stolen from.

GM can produce great vehicles. Don’t let the likes of Michael Moore say anything differently. I’ve owned several, and though they aren’t a BMW, they also don’t cost as much, and they do the job. I once took a VW bug to a repair shop in Kokomo, and Walt, a german immigrant, drove an Oldsmobile. He said it made more sense to drive a domestic vehicle. Cheaper parts, and repairs. Mr. Moore thinks the car is dead, and the sooner we all take the bus or train, the better. Well that might be true if only for the fact that our infrastructure has been molded around having a car in every garage. Bring back decentralized everything. Bring back our towns. Knock down the Wal Marts, the Titanic Malls, and the chain restaurants.

Remember, companies like GM built the buses and trams that served us well, but quickly moved to destroy mass transit in order to sell cars. Pure profit.

And this single act changed the face of every town, large and sall, in our country. So now Obama and his team have the chance to show some real cohones and make thing right again. Work quickly to redefine our infrastructure in a way that blends smaller, efficient hybrids and electrics with a revived, workable mass transit system. Bullet trains shouln’t be a priority. Think about it. If people going to use a train to get to Chicago or LA, it means the train needs to stop at many locations to pick people up, etc. Trains are part of our future, but unless they have a way to stop and start along the way, thus servicing the common man, you’ll only see Joe Biden on it.

Have GM build a Prius clone. Clue to the folks at GM. Go out, buy one, reverse engineer, make better.  Repeat Ad Finitum.  Better yet, make it a Burning Man project. In fact, the folks at Burning Man should do a contest, of sorts. “Bring me a 100 MPG vehicle that is workable, and YOU get to light the Man”.  My bet is that you would have a prototype this year. Add solar panels to the top. Make one that is a wagon. Make one that is a funky cool Big Daddy Roth pickup truck.

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The Obama adminstration also has a funny way of doing business. They keep the folks that have floated to the top at GM, like Fritz Henderson, to run the show.

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Read what Mr. Henderson said regarding the bankruptcy, and you’ll hopefully understand just how clueless GM management is. Note that management is very, very different than leadership. Mr. Obama, I am a partial owner of GM now, and I’d like you to fire the entire executive team, and the board of directors, at GM. OK?

Speaking of worthless, did anybody else watch CNBC’s “Meeting of the Minds: The Future of Capitalism“, and get a little nauseous?

Is anybody else out there just fed up with hero worship in the business sector?

I was struck by the parallels in the film, Breaker Morant, and the issue of how we identify prisoners of war, enemy combatants, and spies. Let alone the whole issue of torture.

Well I have read a good deal of the latest US Army Field Manual regarding prisoners of war, and I for one always felt that a uniformed army was an absolute necessity of formal recognition. Even our own revolution ( circa 1776) quickly responded to this need, and either clothed the combatants appropriately, or offered documents ascribing to such requirements.

Our enemies who would fight us in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, or any number of hot spots, do not ascribe to any military created (legitimate) by a single government  recognized by the UN, or any other body. No uniform, no single association with any formal recognized sovereign government.

Further interesting reading regarding the much bantered Geneva Conventions , and how they work in concert with our military code, have led me to believe that we should not torture anyone, whether they be a recognized combatant, or a scumbag. But it also leads me to believe that most of those captured on the battlefield and currently held at Guantanamo, should have been shot on site.

So, how would you feel if we eliminated Guantanamo, brushed aside any intimation of torture (aside from back to back alternating episodes of Sean Hannity, and Keith Olbermann/Rachel Maddow), but reserved the right to execute on the battlefield, in situ?

And what are your thoughts on where we should move said bad guys? I for one suggest Alcatraz. It is a sham of a tourist attraction, Let’s fire it back up. The prisoners could have weekend passes to awesome things like Beach Blanket Babylon (and could even contribute as creative directors), have long walks in the Castro, and in general just chill a little.

As many of you may know, Elizabeth Warren, of Harvard University, was chosen by members of the Congressional Oversight Panel to act as chair. In the true spirit of doing what is right for the American people, Ms. Warren has been marginalized by much of the mainstream press, as well as our own Congress, and virtually all of the Wall Street and big banking weasels.

Ms. Warren is, in my opinion, the only person qualified to be on the panel. And she exhibits the qualities that President Obama is looking for in a new Supreme Court judge, namely empathy (which I also will assume means acting above the role as a strict enforcer of the Constitution).

 

Some have criticized her for being off base, focusing more on her own passions, which include fighting for the middle class. I think this criticism is just an excuse on the part of her detractors, as she is making many folks uncomfortable with her discoveries.

Ms. Warren is fighting a good fight, and we should all let our government know that we are behind her efforts.

Even Bill Maher was a bit put back by her honesty.

As mentioned earlier, I wanted to put a couple of ideas out there regarding alternative power generation.

I’ve lately become very interested in all things piezoelectric. Do you have a long necked lighter that you use to light your gas grill. Is there one built in? Chances are, it uses a piezoelectric element. When you push the button, or pull the trigger, the pressure you apply ultimately compresses either a quartz or ceramic element, which in turn generates the charge. And let me tell you, for such a small device, it really puts out a good zap. Good enough to make a grown man talk.

What would prevent one from using similar technology in a road substrate? Either as embedded elements or cells, or mixed in to the very fabric of the roadway?

Please excuse the drawing below, but this might give you a better idea of what I am envisioning.

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The second recent idea is a very simple device that uses the varying tension created by guy lines connecting trees. It would take the tension, and use it to turn a small DC generator contained within the box. I would think some type of geared arrangement would ensure that all the varying tension force would spin the generator axle in one direction.

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One of the tendencies I see in the alternative energy market is the entrenchment of wind turbines, photovoltaics, focused solar energy, and the like, as the only alternatives. This may in large part have to do with the relative efficiencies of such approaches, but I also suspect big oil is lining us up for them, and they would miraculously have the lions share of the market in them.

But we need to think about not only these options, but quite frankly, any options that when used collectively add up to a significant energy output.

So put your thinking caps on. After all, who knows where the wind blows?

The farm stand is now open, and folks love the eggs. We got four more juvenile hens, all silver wyandottes, and they are settling in nicely.

The herb patch is going to town, and we have already cut French tarragon (great in an omelet with smoked Gouda, btw), Greek Oregano, and of course, mint. Nothing like mint tea in the spring.

This years garden will have collards, japanese eggplant, 5 kinds of tomatoes, lettuces, Brussels sprouts, red and white potatoes, red, yellow and white onions, kohlrabi, red and green peppers, and other stuff.

We’ll be giving away white oak, maple, and poplar saplings, all year long. No monoculture!

I’ll also be building a small area for local bicyclists to park their rigs, cool off, and try one of our old rocking chairs.

Come on by.

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