Tourism Marketing

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This past week, trade shows for three clients graced my calendars simultaneously. Since I had gotten to ISC West, I thought I could skip the ESX electronic security expo in Nashville. That’s because I figured I could split my week between the Health and Beauty Aids Expo in NYC and UBM’s bundled packaging, plastics, medical device, quality, automation, and manufacturing events in Philadelphia. Long week, but I learned a few things. Well, one I already knew — there are no shoes comfortable and supportive enough for a day at a trade show. And also, each city and convention facility has its pros and cons. Let’s look at them.

Overall Facilities:

Jacob Javits Center in NYC has been there a long time, far longer than Philly’s Pennsylvania Convention Center. It has been there long enough to need regular renovation, another of which it is undergoing now. I have been at show in Javits when the roof has been leaking into an exhibitor’s booth. The PA Convention Center (PACC) is newer but was built for smaller shows and became a work in progress adapting to fit larger events. Neither one is ideal, but Javits has always been larger-scale and able to go with the flow. Advantage: NYC

Our client HLP Klearfold fortunately had a prominent location toward the front of the HBA hall at Javits.

Our client HLP Klearfold fortunately had a prominent location toward the front of the HBA hall at Javits.

Access:

Both facilities are in the heart of major urban centers. Although NYC is the larger city, Javits is conveniently located on the west side, a block in from the Hudson. It is a short walk from Pennsylvania Station, but an even shorter walk from the midtown ferry of NY Waterways, so you can park on the NJ side and enjoy a nice boat ride getting to the show. PACC is at the very heart of Philly, a block off Market near City Hall. It is accessible from various train, subway, and bus stops, and there are lots of parking lots nearby. Problem is that when Center City Philly traffic is completely gridlocked, things can be bad for getting in or out of PACC. Advantage: NYC

View of space shuttle Enterprise on the flight deck of the Intrepid from the top deck of a NY Waterways ferry.

View of space shuttle Enterprise on the flight deck of the Intrepid from the top deck of a NY Waterways ferry.


Labor:

Be prepared to pay top dollar as an exhibitor at both halls, because both are unionized labor. But I understand at the event in Philly, the requirement did not kick in until your booth was 400 square feet or larger. So, for smaller exhibitors, and at carpentry rates of $200 per hour, it might pay to stay small. Also, good help can be hard to find, so be prepared to supervise your own booth construction. All things considered, things are always more expensive in NYC. Slight advantage: Philly

Food:

While at Javits this week, I didn’t bother leaving the building for lunch. The closest restaurants are a long walk. At a prior show, I made the trek and discovered they were all booked by exhibitors for private parties. That leaves cabbing it to a better meal or the Javits downstairs food court where this week, I discovered subterranean pigeons. I’ll take Philly’s Reading Terminal Market (where Wayne Hayward of Tinius Olsen treated me to a great gyro lunch) and many nearby restaurants any time. Big advantage: Philly

Demonic pigeon from the bowels of the Javits Center subterranean food court.

Demonic pigeon from the bowels of the Javits Center subterranean food court.

Traffic:

Truth be told, that always depends on the quality of show management, the calendar, and multiple other factors. Like print, I keep hearing that trade shows are a dying enterprise. However, where else can companies meet face to face with new prospects and existing customers and vice versa. Expositions typically have an educational component with a full schedule of on-site conference sessions. While attendance seemed very light at both the NYC and Philly shows the days I was there, I don’t think either event or venue was a clear winner in this regard. Tie

Hotels:

Both cities have some phenomenal four-star hotels and both have their share of sub-par properties. New York’s rates (rapes?) are legendary, although Philly’s aren’t exactly a bargain. Both cities have made news in recent years with bedbug reports, but Philly had a fire from a meth lab being operated from a hotel room in Center City. My solution is to stay in NJ and take the ferry. Another tie

Winner:

If you go by my above scoring, you’ll see it is pretty much of a dead heat tie. But in this case, bigger is better (New York), experience counts (New York), and there is the X Factor that New York, like Las Vegas, is a destination city. So, I guess I give a slight edge to New York City with the recognition that trends favor a passing of the baton. Philly hasn’t been at the trade show, convention, and meeting business as long, but with continued improvements on all fronts, might just pull off a coup. Meanwhile, for fans of Elvis, country music bars, cowboy boot emporiums, you can’t do better than an exposition in Nashville.

Elvis lives (outside many storefronts) in the Nashville Expo Center neighborhood.

Elvis lives (outside many storefronts) in the Nashville Expo Center neighborhood.

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Lots of things happen for a reason that isn’t always clear at the time (more on that later). Earlier this year, Mike Bodnar, GM of Security Partners, a Lancaster-based central monitoring station and security services provider, reached out to me to ask if I’d do a presentation on security marketing at their first-ever dealers conference. Impulsive me, I said sure. In April, when I visited their hospitality suite during ISC West in Las Vegas, I asked Joseph Mitton, Marketing Director for Security Partners, more about the event. He told me that they had done a survey of their dealers and marketing was the topic that the majority were interested in. That both surprised and encouraged me.

As the event drew closer, Debbie Stremmel, who was coordinating the conference for Security Partners, shared more details and I was struck by something obvious — the complete event package was a terrific way for Security Partners to market to, and solidify relationships with, its existing customer base.  Smart guys.

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Generous, too — Pat Egan, Principal of Security Partners, paid for accommodations for 50 plus of his dealers from across the nation at the very cool Lancaster Arts Hotel, had presentations and a second day mini products expo at the Lancaster Barnstormers minor league ballpark, wined and dined them at Lombardo’s one night and on a murder mystery dinner excursion on the Strasburg Railroad the next.

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Everything was neatly tied with a branded bow under the conference theme of “Acclerate” as in accelerate your business — from PowerPoint templates, to printed conference materials, to even welcome and sponsor messages on the Barnstormers’ digital scoreboard.  There was a nice blend of presentations: from “Trends and Overview of the Security Industry Landscape” by Shannon Murphy, VP of Sales and Marketing for Electronic Security Association; to “Business Growth Strategies” by Rob Pianka, Coach, of ActionCOACH; to “Attrition Management” by John Brady, Principal, TRG Associates; to me with “Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World.” Day 2 featured that mini product exposition followed by several roundtable discussions with Noah Bilger (Alarm.com), Dean Mason (AlarmNet), Tad Lamb (2GIG Technologies), David Donovan (Honeywell Alarm Security), Alicia Pereira (Video IQ), and Ed Warminski (Videofied). Over the years, I’ve been to a lot of these kinds of events and this was one of the best, which is saying a lot given it was a first time for Security Partners. It surely resonated for all of the dealers who participated locally and from across the country.

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The value for me was sharing a lot of agency history and experiences in security marketing: over 18 years with Linear, several more with SafetyCare, more recently with 2GIG Technologies, Secure Wireless, and Time and Parking Controls; plus, the way that the marketing landscape keeps changing dramatically on all fronts, creating new opportunities, especially through technology. But there is also the benefit of getting feedback from dealers. It was useful to hear how hard it is on the sales side to get access to quality leads, especially in quantity, to do phone sales for a product that most homeowners need but few currently have — a security/home automation system remote controllable from anywhere by smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that). On the business-to-business side, it is equally tough to find the right marketing message and media to reach decision-makers with current needs.

Ironically, the one thing that has stayed with me the most since the conference was a point I made that came back to haunt me the next day. I stressed that when you are building a web site today, you should avoid Flash because most mobile devices do not support it. Of course, a dealer came to me the next day to tell me something I already knew, that our main web site uses a lot of Flash videos that do not play on iPhones. It is a nagging problem we have lived with in recent years, but I decided to see if anyone had developed a recent workaround. A Google search led me to a promising conversion application, so I posed it to George Rothacker, Renaissance artist/marketer, long-time agency friend, Flash expert, and collaborator on our web site. George, problem-solver that he is, saw the process through to a semi-gratifying conclusion. While this app can’t convert large complex files like our web site videos, it can be used to convert smaller Flash-based files that DO play on mobile devices and are consistent cross platform and across all web browsers. George has been able to perfect the technique for a series of Berenstain Bears online games for a credit union client of his. Lemons into lemonade. If anyone out there would like to use Flash on mobile devices to do animation and effects, talk to me. The answer all began with a conversation at another highly effective marketing technique — a dealers conference.

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It’s been an amazing season for mainstream movies. Argo, an incredible backstory to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Lincoln, a transporting journey with the President during his fight to pass the 13th Amendment. Skyfall, arguably the best Bond movie ever. The list of cinematic gems goes on and on.

Silver Linings Playbook really nails the manic energy of the Philadelphia sports fan. The fact that it can be attractive to Jennifer Lawrence is icing on the cake.

Silver Linings Playbook really nails the manic energy of the Philadelphia sports fan. The fact that it can be attractive to Jennifer Lawrence is icing on the cake.

In particular, one of them resonated on many levels, most of all the local level. Silver Linings Playbook may be the quintessential Philadelphia movie (I know, Philadelphia Story it ain’t). If you haven’t caught it yet, please do, because it is a marvel on so many levels, not the least of which is how families and individuals grapple with mental illness, a matter that really matters especially at this sad moment in America.

David O Russell is a moviemaker who understands how much place plays a vital role in films. His last film, The Fighter, captured the down-on-its-luck industrial grittiness of Lowell, MA. Here, in Silver Linings Playbook, he absolutely nails the identity that an NFL franchise gives to its citizens. Along the way, he takes us on a wonderful visual tour of the city and Delco neighborhoods.

Philly may be behind other cities on a variety of initiatives, but it has long been way ahead in having its own film office to attract movie and tv production to our town. The list of films set here for all or part of storylines is long and memorable.  Credit Sharon Pinkenson and all the leaders who have supported her efforts to land location shootings as a way to showcase tourism and civic pride in our town.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Russell has assembled a great foundation adapting Matthew Quick’s novel, and a stellar A-list cast with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as the romantic leads and note-perfect supporting performances by Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Anupam Kher, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker and others. Cooper and Lawrence do a sensational job of conveying a full range of emotions and human frailties while finding themselves and each other amidst a lot of wreckage from past events.

Not surprisingly, it is Philadelphia Eagles football that is the glue that binds the Solitano family together, so much so that Pat Sr. (De Niro) can only watch the games from home, because of all the fights he has gotten into in the stands (sound familiar, Philly faithful?). Russell really manages to spotlight the crazy streak that sports fandom generates. Fortunately, the story is set in a happier time —2008, a year when the Phils were World Series victors and the Eagles managed to make it to the conference championship game.

Perhaps the final gift that Silver Linings Playbook gives is that it helps Eagles fans forget for a little while the debacle that this season has been and which will likely lead to the departure of head coach Andy Reid, whose prior record more than speaks for itself, although no one says it so eloquently as Bill Lyons.

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Last week, my family went on a New England road trip and I brought along my laptop and iPhone to stay connected with the office and clients. It is the norm for many businesspersons these days (and not much different from typical weekends). The downside of technology is that you are always connected. Fortunately for me last week was quiet and the digital side was a huge help in managing projects in progress.

I mention all this because my family’s trip was a wonderful educational trip mostly along the coast of New England. It underscored for me how much life, especially working life, in America has changed over our relatively short history. It was humbling on many levels.

The Morgan docked in Mystic, CT is under major restoration but still tourable.

The Morgan docked in Mystic, CT is under major restoration but still tourable.

In Mystic, we had a chance to tour the Morgan, the only remaining wooden whaling boat left and currently under major restoration. On a hot AC-less day, its cramped quarters underscored that a long time at sea was a very long time. Especially at a time deodorant wasn’t invented yet.

The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, RI, is a glimpse back to the Gilded Age.

The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, RI, is a glimpse back to the Gilded Age.

With class warfare in full political mode, a visit to Newport, RI and the summer homes of the Vanderbilts and others underscored that at times the gulf between the haves and have-nots was much greater. The American middle-class didn’t exist yet. It is a testament to capitalism and free-enterprise that a middle ground evolved and thrived in the last century. Even if it feels like we are at another tipping point.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA tells the amazing story of whales and the men who hunted them.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA tells the amazing story of whales and the men who hunted them.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA is a treasure chest of knowledge and exhibits about what was New England’s principal livelihood for many years. I learned why every whale hunted was such a vital collection of valuable resources, principally oil used as a fuel for lights, which extended American’s day on average by an extra hour after sunset. However, the hard work and danger to successfully hunt, kill, and bring back a whale was beyond daunting. It must have taken a certain kind of bravado or crazy to sign on for this duty. Ironically, it was the discovery of oil in the ground in Titusville, PA that signaled the beginning of the end for whale-hunting as an industry in New England.

Up close and personal with a humpback whale from the deck of the Seven Seas tour boat.

Up close and personal with a humpback whale from the deck of the Seven Seas tour boat.

Happily, the whaling industry is thriving in a new way now — tourism. Whale sightseeing boats out of Gloucester are doing an amazing job of introducing landlubbers like me to these amazing creatures. On the Seven Seas, we saw a dozen humpbacks during an afternoon voyage off Cape Ann. And as these awesome natural wonders put on a show on the surface of the Atlantic, they are unaware they are helping to support all the shops, restaurants, and motels in the area that depend on summer vacationers. There were close to 150 on our ship, times twice daily, times many other similar tour boats. Talk about an unlikely ecosystem.

A Lowell textile mill reimagined dollhouse size.

A Lowell textile mill reimagined dollhouse size.

On the way home, we headed inland to Lowell, MA for a different take on the New England economy of yesteryear. The once thriving textile mills there are now a working museum run by the National Park Service. They have done a terrific job of presenting the relevant-today story of cheap labor in service of manufactured goods. The Lowell mills were populated by a steady stream of ever-cheaper-to-compete labor pools. Ironically, most were women. First, farm girls from New England. Then, immigrants were brought in, from one nationality or country at a time, always in search of remaining competitive. Lowell went from being one of America’s brightest stories during the Industrial Revolution to finding itself fighting for its economic life, first against other cities in New England, then in the southern US, and finally, in countries around the world. The work in the mill was hard, loud, monotonous, long, and often dangerous. In those early days, there was no OSHA and there were no unions, although both would come later.

The Lowell lesson is an instructive one — if America wants to compete in today’s global markets, we face tremendous challenges in terms of costs, regulations, worker/union expectations, technology, and governmental cooperation with the private sector. With Lowell’s mills closed in the early 90s, the city is now retooling in another direction — tourism. I encourage you to avail yourself of this instructive link to our past (and hopefully, future).

The late great Ron Rotelli (center) helping to manage a Time and Parking Controls seminar at the National Constitution Center.

The late great Ron Rotelli (center) helping to manage a Time and Parking Controls seminar at the National Constitution Center.

My vacation ended on a very sad note with an email from Kevin Elsesser, GM of Time and Parking Controls — his longtime associate Ron Rotelli passed away in his sleep during a family vacation. Ron was a man of many talents, he made friends instantly with everyone he met, and he balanced work with a love of family and a long list of personal interests, especially music. He was one of the least likely people to have his life cut short in such abrupt fashion, which just underscores the age-old Carpe Diem message for the rest of us. That he will be sorely missed by so many was brought home by the endless line of friends, family, and co-workers inside and outside the Donoghue Funeral Home Thursday evening.

 

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Joe Paterno statue

Joe Paterno has been synonymous with Penn State. It will be hard to change that.

Last November, we had some wait and see recommendations on the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal. In the ensuing months, Sandusky has been convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse, and this week, the Louis Freeh investigation results landed on the university like a well-deserved ton of bricks. The report provides extensive documentation of school officials creating a false Sophie’s Choice between protecting the football program or protecting the kids in Sandusky’s Second Mile program.

It is hard to imagine how the reputations of Penn State University, the football program, and Joe Paterno could be damaged if they had dealt with news of Sandusky’s activities at the time they learned of them. While there might have been some initial bad press, no one would have judged the institution and its officials badly because of the acts of a sick individual. Fourteen years and many additional victims later, however, there emerges from the wreckage, a remarkable amount of institutional and personal complicity.

There are two kinds of public relations: the PR that comes from an institution’s own communications with the public via media (including now social media) channels AND the PR that results naturally from being a good local, regional, national, and global citizen.  Penn State needs to start practicing both forms. Immediately.

Here are some overall thoughts on PR via good communications practices and Penn State’s unique situation:

  • Start doing the opposite of what PSU did during this dark period. Hiding things (very bad things) and misrepresenting is what got university officials into so much current trouble. PSU needs to be transparent. Share information, more than less, when asked. Unless a university attorney is advising against making a specific statement (and even then press the point with legal), speak accurately and honestly. The truth shall set you free.
  • The nickname for PR is spin. Although politics is involved, this isn’t about winning a campaign. PSU needs to worry less about putting the worst news in the best possible light and worry more about sharing information that is clear and coherent and factual to the audience it is sharing it with.
  • Make some tough decisions ahead by remembering to put the interests of students first and with a goal of restoring the brand and integrity of the institution. For instance, much of Philadelphia talk radio yesterday was abuzz about what to do with the Paterno statue and his name on the library. Tough calls, but one host made the point that especially in the case of the statue, seeing it is only going to spark immediate associations with the scandal (it isn’t next to a scale of justice statue determining whether all the good outweighs the bad). Also, there is never going to be a consensus opinion about this man, so don’t look for one. Use the prism of what will be best for PSU and its current and future students.
  • There are going to be many other voices on the landscape for  the foreseeable future via the past administrators on trial, the Paterno family, attorneys for all, and of course everyone with even a modest connection to PSU with a strong opinion. Some of this represents the parties involved, but the rest represents the court of public opinion. Avoid being sucked into public battles. In fact, the more that some of the parties involved speak directly or through hired mouthpieces at the moment, the worse they sound.
  • Accept that some events are going to be out of the university’s control (court rulings, NCAA decisions, etc.), so however much that rocks your world, be prepared to accept the results, act on them responsibly, and move on as best you can.

Where Penn State can make a huge difference is by making a huge difference. It is largely too late to make any good come out of this very bad situation. So focus on doing good, day in, day out, on many other fronts.

  • Repair any town and gown fallout locally. This may mean gradually de-emphasizing the football program, which created such an integrated Happy Valley economy by cooperatively helping to create more year-round tourism opportunities to visit State College and surrounding towns. Work to partner with the communities around PSU, so the university isn’t looked upon as an 800 pound gorilla with a football helmet on. Penn State is its own community, but it is interconnected with a wealth of others around it.
  • Beef up academic and social outreach programs that teach and practice ethics and morality in business, government, and daily life, especially those that protect and aid the weakest members of society. It is shocking how so many grown men in this situation could not recognize the right thing to do when the welfare of children was at stake.
  • Renew an emphasis on excellence in everything, by not letting the scandal distract from important current programs and activities that have nothing to do with the Sandusky mess except a Penn State logo. Look for new initiatives locally, nationally, internationally. One example is an ongoing effort — every year, without fail, kids from Penn State visit the Philadelphia area and many other communities to raise funds for children with cancer. They do this with little fanfare. I suspect by the number of students involved, they raise an amazing amount of funds. As a father of a childhood cancer survivor, I will never ever judge PSU as a whole on the basis of this scandal, because of the annual enthusiastic commitment I see from these students.
  • Become Penn State proud again. Don’t let the actions of an unfortunate few define the whole vibrant campus. Look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are going to help many others restore the Penn State name through your own deeds and conduct. Step in when you see a fellow Penn Stater doing something that is going to create a negative impression of the university.

Scandals come and go. The tarnish from this one is not going to easily rub off. But a lot of positive energy over time can diminish the memory of some very bad events and set a course that ensures that something so odious won’t ever happen again. The culture of Penn State needs to change. The university needs new leadership in Old Main and can’t allow itself to be controlled by the gate receipts at Beaver Stadium ever again.

Coda: Ironically, as I finished this post, I received a NYTimes e-alert with a link to this story. There’s no time like the present to begin rebuilding the PSU brand.

 

 

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Living north of the Mason-Dixon line, I get a little tired of all the Blue State – Red State chatter and the way that the South gets looked down upon from the ivory towers on both coasts. I have never found it less than rewarding  to visit any Southern state or city. The locals are always friendly, the food is always comforting, and the music is always invigorating.

The chance to visit the Electronic Security Expo in Nashville was no exception. I had a great time sampling barb-b-q, listening to honky tonk bands, and sighting Elvis (at last four times in an hour).

My sense of Nashville is that it exists for in-state politics and out-of-state tourists lured by the Grand Ole Opry and the chance to discover the next great country music star in one of the many juke joints along Broadway.  Most of the manageable downtown consists of hotels, a few office buildings, the convention center, and a lot of tourism sites and supporting businesses. I didn’t see a lot of residences in town, so the city really seems like a business and arts center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nashville is doing a good job of converting long-gone spaces into new places. Former banks on opposite corners are now a gift store and a tattoo parlor respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A visit to the Ernest Tubbs record store reminded me that vinyl lives. And that country and crossover music has a unique heritage all its own. Personal favorites like Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Patsy Cline, and Steve Earle were there in abundance.

By the time the ESX show opened, I was in a mellow CMT frame of mind. It was great to visit clients former (Linear), present (2GIG Technologies, Secure Wireless) and hopefully future (Security Partners). It was even better to help out with some onsite PR when 2GIG Technologies did the remarkable — winning the overall Maximum Impact Award two years running with a second incredible home security/automation panel, the Go! 2.0.  It was a terrific way to wind up a fun visit to a fun Southern city. Makes me long for a road trip through Memphis, Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, New Orleans. . .

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This week, after a very bad week of news in Atlantic City, I was reminded of the industry truism, “Good advertising can sell even a bad product. . .Once.” During a major new tourism campaign, “Do AC,” and the another launching the upscale Revel casino,

two Canadian women tourists were stabbed to death in broad daylight on the boardwalk in front of a casino. Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of these ladies. It didn’t seem possible to make this horror show worse until news broke that the killer was a paranoid schizophrenic homeless woman and that the incident revealed a pattern of other towns around the state dropping their homeless, mentally ill, and prison parolees, a solution nicknamed “Greyhound Therapy.” Could you ask for worse PR in support of your paid advertising efforts?

But while the “Do AC” and the Revel casino campaigns represent good advertising, Atlantic City is NOT a bad product. My wife and I had our favorite wedding anniversary there, with dinner at The Borgata, followed by an amazing Stevie Wonder concert.  Spent portions of various shore vacations there. Annually attend at least one trade show at the Convention Center. Enjoyed dinner at the fabled Knife and Fork. Shopping at the Havana styled Quarter at the Tropicano. Despite this week’s bad press, Atlantic City still has many great things and places and events to offer. According to this account, Governor Christie has concluded the same and is even upping the ante by trying to push for sports betting. Since AC is often compared unfavorably to Las Vegas, this is one small way to level that playing field.

In spite of this horrendous week, Atlantic City will survive, perhaps in large part because of its romanticized past. You couldn’t be farther from the wholesomeness of the Miss America pageant right now; however, there is a mystique of long odds/down-on-the-luck/always the chance of a big win to AC.  Some of it is tied to organized crime, and much of it still ends badly, but hope always springs eternal.

In 1972, Bob Rafelson made “The King of Marvin Gardens” with Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, and Scatman Crothers. This very good scene between Nicholson and Dern turns “It’s Monopoly out there” on its head with “Go directly to jail.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuIIkqrwgHA

Louis Malle captured that spirit in the wonderful Burt Lancaster vehicle, Atlantic City. Here is a truly bad trailer that doesn’t do this exceptional movie justice. The first 10 minutes of the movie does a much better job of hooking viewers. Later in the film, there is a passing reference to Nucky Thompson.

Martin Scorsese and HBO elevated the gangster turned Prohibition politico into a terrific series, Boardwalk Empire. Maybe the folks who recently voted to keep Ocean City dry have been avid watchers and determined that nothing good can come from the business of alcohol, legal or illegal.

Of course, no one has ever captured the criminal and gambler sides of Atlantic City better than Bruce Springsteen in his ode to the town. “Put your makeup on. Fix your hair up pretty. And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”

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Just prior to heading to NYC for the weekend, I got an email from Mike Sisti with the following New York Times story link as possible blog fodder. I found it to be a pretty interesting example of why price wars, in this case between rival pizza parlors, have a tendency to cause pain for all involved.
A temporary race to the bottom can permanently harm multiple competitors and skew consumer perceptions about quality, service, and other differentiators. Being the low cost leader in any business is not necessarily the best position because customers are often left with the impression that corners must be cut in order to achieve the lowest of the lows.

Gray's Papaya is advertising 99 cent pizza.

Gray's Papaya is advertising 99 cent pizza.

While walking around the Village south of Washington Square yesterday, I saw evidence of the cutthroat battle between the non-chain pizza purveyors. I did not come across any 75 cent postings. Gray’s Papaya was glad to have a sign in the window advertising 99 cent slices. Then, I turned a corner and saw a remarkable commitment blending branding and pricing strategies. Between raw materials, cost of labor, rent, and other overhead and fluctuating variables, I am not sure I would ever name my business 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, but I’ll bet for the moment, things are working well.

When you're 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, you are committed to a pricing and branding strategy.

When you're 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, you are committed to a pricing and branding strategy.

In other restaurant news, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Mental? Why not Dental?), since July 2010, has decided to enter Zagat’s realm and is now requiring food establishments to prominently post letter grades received following most recent spot inspections (A, B, or C). At first glance, I noticed nothing but A’s around the Village and assumed it was not mandatory and only those getting top grades would post (however, all are required by law to post their grades). Soon thereafter I came across a posted B grade (lone cockroach spotted?). This is an unusual blending of carrots and sticks to get restaurants to clean up their kitchens. Most people if given the choice between an A or a B or even a C are not going to want to risk food poisoning and are going to opt for the top grade. Having been a dishwasher in a couple of kitchens early in my working life that were not always pristine, I can see where this regulatory approach has some merits and built in incentives to keep things more toward spotless than spotty.

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Don't tread on me — somehow my Macbook Pro survived being run over by only upper display and case damage.

Don't tread on me — somehow my Macbook Pro survived being run over with only upper display and case damage.

My trip to the ISC West Security Expo this week didn’t start out on a winning note when I went to straighten my car in a parking space at the airport car park. My laptop case flopped over at the worst possible moment and I managed to run over the edge of it. Despite a creased screen, my Macbook Pro and mental state survived a very bad hand. From there, I found myself having a fun, never less-than-entertaining time in Sin City. I’m not a gambler, so I can usually limit the damage on a Vegas trip to electronica.

Things off to a great start with the chance to catch up with old Newton friend, Don Shook, who now heads Merit Media Relations in Vegas, a PR firm specializing in the packaging industry. We worked together with Don years ago when he handled corporate relations in-house for Graphic Packaging, the folding carton giant, and then a unit of Coors. Don has been a great many things in his career, including law enforcement in CO, a news video editor at Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV when Larry Kane was anchoring there, and a world-class punster. All that and this photo of us in the lobby of the Venetian with a statuesque blonde should more than qualify Don to succeed Ricky Gervais as host of the Golden Globes.

The author and old friend Don Shook, the gold (leaf) standard in media relations.

The author and old friend Don Shook, the gold (leaf) standard in media relations.

The rest of my short stay was no less memorable. It consisted of a whirlwind Thursday calling on two Newton clients exhibiting at ISC West and walking a very packed Sands Expo Center.

The folks at 2GIG Technologies continue to lead the industry in security and home automation with panels that emphasize elegant ease-of-use design and do things no one is even thinking about. They use the Alarm.com platform, which was featured in a full page ad in the US Air magazine on my flight in.

The 2GIG booth was demo land at ISC because everyone wanted to get a preview of the new Go! 2.0 panel.

The 2GIG booth was demo land at ISC because everyone wanted to get a preview of the new Go! 2.0 panel.

Powerhouse decided that "the force is with 2GIG" and used a Star Wars theme to promote the Go!Control Panel.

Powerhouse decided that "the force is with 2GIG" and used a Star Wars theme to promote the Go!Control Panel.

The Powerhouse Star Wars suit featured a fully armed Go!Control Panel from 2GIG Technologies..

The Powerhouse Star Wars suit featured a fully armed Go!Control Panel from 2GIG Technologies

I got a demo of 2GIGs new Go! 2.0 panel and it is quite frankly mind-blowing what they are building in. No wonder their booth was packed from start of show till finish. Also why even their distributors like Power House can’t get enough of this product line — they took to the floor in Star Wars gear with the original Go! Control panel affixed to the front and back of the Imperial Stormtrooper uniform. That’s just terrific trade show buzz-generating fun.

Expertly piggybacking on this Z-Wave of home security functionality is Secure Wireless, another Newton client specializing in the industry’s top wireless transmitters and sensors (compatible with every major manufacturer’s line) plus OEM lines developed for these same makers. Secure Wireless has built a solid business by being even better than the equivalent units by the manufacturers.

Secure Wireless is the one of the leading developers of RF based transmitters and receivers in the world.

Secure Wireless is the one of the leading developers of RF based transmitters and receivers in the world.

The rest of ISC was a blur of very different but always interesting exhibits and statements.

Probably not a good idea to use your products (CCTV cameras) as mini golf hazards in a trade show booth putting green.

Probably not a good idea to use your products (CCTV cameras) as mini golf hazards in a trade show booth putting green.

Bosch decided to emphasize inventory. Hence an exhibit made entirely out of CCTV packaging.

Bosch decided to emphasize inventory. Hence an exhibit made entirely out of CCTV packaging.

Assa Abloy was a big presence at ISC West (including a booth big enough to house a tractor trailer).

Assa Abloy was a big presence at ISC West (including a booth big enough to house a tractor trailer).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capping the day was a chance to catch up with a few old friends at the Nine Fine Irishmen pub at New York, New York. Great Celtic fare for those of us who missed Saint Patrick’s Day, as well as an awesome high-energy house band, Sin E Ri Ra.

And the most amazing groupie I have ever seen.

The Irish know how to have a good time. So do the folks who built and now maintain Las Vegas as one of the world’s great destination cities for business and pleasure.

It's hard to beat Vegas as the 24/7 fun time capital of the world.

It's hard to beat Vegas as the 24/7 fun time capital of the world.

 

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PA's Yuengling just attained America's Largest Brewer status.

PA's Yuengling just attained America's Largest Brewer status.

Congratulations to D.G. Yuengling & Son, who just officially became America’s largest brewer, moving ahead of Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams), according to Beer Marketer, as the largest U.S.-owned brewer that makes all its beer in the states. That sounds highly improbable for a family business and a beer sold almost exclusively in the East (and long concentrated in the Northeast), and especially to anyone who doesn’t follow beer industry brewings. However, all the national brands are now owned by foreign corporations and industry market share is greatly fragmented by smaller brands, microbrews, popular imports, and reduced consumption overall.

If you’ve never visited the hillside town of Pottsville, PA, the Yuengling brewery tour is a good reason to do so (the other is the fiction of John O’Hara, who wrote many a novel and short story about the town in its economic hey day as Gibbsville). The company now has a second brewery in Tampa.

This news should be a big deal for Pennsylvania, but it hasn’t registered to the extent it should. Perhaps that is because marketing isn’t what has propelled Yuengling to the top (hard to top the ad budgets of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors), but quality and persistence are. Yuengling Lager is a really good everyday beer that makes it consistently popular everywhere it is sold. This state has a proud brewing tradition and many brands historically associated with various localities: Philadelphia (Schmidt’s), Pittsburgh (Iron City), Rolling Rock (Latrobe). . .one of my favorite TV commercial memories from childhood when visiting relatives in Scranton was “Gimmee, Gimmee, Gimmee Gibbons”, the slogan of the Wilkes-Barre based Lion-Gibbons brewery.

Beyond state borders, I have always had a soft spot for Coors, because there was a time it attained cult status in the East when refrigerated transport for a time kept it mostly West of the Rockies. Later, when Newton Associates had the Graphic Packaging account, which had been a folding carton packaging unit of Coors, a lucky few (not myself included unfortunately) traveled to Golden to shoot a packaging plant video and got an exclusive Coors brewery tour. Another legendary beer of the time was Olympia from Washington state. Today, we help the O Bee Credit Union with PR — ironically, it began life as the credit union for employees of the Olympia brewery, which closed in 2003.

Happier, hoppier days at the Olympia brewery, which closed in 2003.

Happier, hoppier days at the Olympia brewery, which closed in 2003.

So, although many popular breweries and brands are gone. Yuengling’s rise is happy beer industry news locally. Fortunately, PA is also blessed with a resurgence of microbreweries such as Victory and Stoudts, as well as excellent brew pubs and beerhalls like Iron Hill and Brauhaus Schmitz. For all those Pennsylvanians who enjoy beer, the announcement of the Yuengling triumph is like Octoberfest in January.

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