This email exchange is almost all verbatim. I removed the names and identifiable facts.
Potential Client: “It was a pleasure visiting your website and speaking with you today, Bruce. I have attached our ad agency RFP (Request For Proposal).
We look forward to your proposal. If you have any questions please contact me.”
Agency: “Attached is our response. Because we specialize in your industry we feel confident we can exceed all of your requirements.”
Potential Client: “We can tell you put lots of hard work into this.
We will have a meeting room with projector. Let me know what else you need.
But please sharpen your pencil.
We will be looking for you to drill down on creative, suggested media, social media strategies and spend based on demographics.
Please confirm you are on board and we will proceed.”
Agency: “We are excited by the prospect of helping you build a great creative program and we are eager to undertake the next step.
See you next week. Thanks for the opportunity.”
Potential Client: “Just received note from my bosses. As soon as you have creative they want a preview before confirming presentation. I’m just the messenger here.”
Agency: “Do they want to see existing creative we’ve done for other clients or custom work for you?”
Potential Client: “Creative ideas for us. The other agencies did submit customized creative samples, teasers if you will.”
Agency: “We appreciate that ownership wants to see our ideas before the presentation.
We hope they understand our ideas are our most valuable assets and we take them very seriously.
As you can see by our insightful RFP response we have more knowledge, understanding, and successes in your segment than any agency anywhere.
We are excited to share that knowledge with you to create powerful work. We are not willing to share our ideas before we have planned a strategy with your input nor are we willing to do that for free.”
Potential Client: “I will share your comments and get back to you.”
Did we get the meeting? Have we won the business? What do you think?
When a potential client asks for free ideas, a short turnaround time, AND lower prices before we’ve even met, what’s the chance that it could possibly turn out well? This is a presentation we won’t be making.
After all, to win business we will do everything. But we won’t do anything.
Have you read about Carnival Cruise Line’s latest woes? Of course you saw the bloated corpse of the Costa Concordia floundering like a beached whale off the coast of Italy, you saw the 2,758 stranded cruisers on the Carnival Triumph eating onion sandwiches and using the Lido deck for a latrine, and you saw 4,300 passengers from the Carnival Dream being ferried back to Florida after that ship’s generator failed. But those are the sexy things the news media loves to splash across its pages and screens. Have you seen the numbers?
All of this bad news has eroded the company’s profits. Carnival says it expects to post a 2013 profit of $1.45 to $1.65 per share, down from its previous projection of $1.80 to $2.10.
Last Tuesday USA Today reported that Carnival Corp “…lowered its 2013 earnings forecast yesterday afternoon, acknowledging that bad publicity and reduced ticket prices have taken a toll on its bottom line. Several analysts immediately lowered the company’s stock ratings, and share prices dropped overnight.”
And a recent Harris poll of more than 2,000 U.S. travelers showed a 17% drop in their trust in Carnival Cruise Lines. Worse, the trouble isn’t just limited to Carnival’s core brand. Harris found that trust in rival lines including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival-owned Holland America also dropped.
So what can Carnival do? Needless to say, the first thing is to stop the bleeding. To fix their problems the company has announced a full operational review and says they will spend close to $700 million to upgrade back-up systems across their entire 101-ship fleet. Cruisers, investors, and rival lines can only hope that that expenditure will stop Carnival’s continued problems. If evenly applied, that enormous expenditure only adds up to about seven million dollars per ship, not very much when you consider the cost and complexity of each vessel.
But even if almost three quarters of a billion dollars fixes the ships, Carnival’s still got a boatload of work to do before the ship hits the fan again. Here are just five of a long list of things I believe the worlds largest cruise line should do immediately to get their image — and their profits — on the road to recovery.
1. Manage Carnival’s Face Time (Part I).
The next time there’s a mishap, Carnival’s president line should immediately take a helicopter out to the stranded ship. He should stand with the captain and announce that he’s there for the duration and will be doing everything he can to see to the cruisers’ safety and comfort. His presence will help show Carnival’s passengers that he’s got skin in the game — his own.
2. Manage Carnival’s Face Time (Part II).
When the Concordia went down in Italy, Carnival chairman Mickey Arison should have been on the first flight to Civitavecchia and set up Carnival Central Command right there. After all, nothing says you care like being there.
3. Manage Carnival’s Face Time (Part III).
While the Triumph was floundering, an iPhone picture of Miami Heat owner Arison sitting court side at that evening’s game went viral. Even though we all know there’s nothing Arison could have done to improve the stranded ship’s situation, someone still should have said, “Yo Mick, why don’t you catch the game at home tonight?”
4. Enhance Connectivity.
In today’s hyper-connected world, being disconnected makes people very nervous. Carnival should install 100 Iridium satellite phones on every ship so that stranded guests could at least let their friends and family know they’re okay. A quick, “Yeah, we’re stuck but we’re fine” conversation would relieve a lot of stress and pressure.
5. Finally, Carnival should change their corporate name.
In addition to the Carnival-branded ships Carnival Cruise Lines owns ten different cruise brands, including Seabourn, Holland America, Cunard, and Princess. But each time a Carnival ship is stricken, consumers have no way of knowing whether the bad news is about a Carnival-flagged vessel or one of the other brands the parent company owns. Carnival should separate the brands so they’re not always painted with the same brush.
Sure, the entire industry will still suffer when there’s an accident. But as we’ve seen, other brands didn’t suffer the loss in consumer confidence that the Carnival-owned ships did.
My suggestion for a new corporate name for the holding company, by the way? Change Carnival to Tarison in honor and memory of Carnival’s late visionary founder Ted Arison.
When I walked downstairs to grab my mail today Shelly told me that I had “won the mail sweepstakes.” Sure enough, my mail slot held the biggest pile on any of the shelves. “Of course,” Shelly added, “most of it is junk.”
But hidden amongst all the trash were three hand-addressed envelopes. Coincidentally, I had also dropped three hand-addressed envelopes into the outbound mail that morning.
According to the U.S. Postal Service’s annual survey, the average American home received only one personal letter every seven weeks in 2010, down from once every two weeks in 1987. If that’s the case, is it any wonder that a handwritten note gets such attention these days?
One note was from Ron, thanking me for some help I’d offered with a project he’s working on. One was from Brian, complimenting me on a presentation I’d given the week before. And one was from Michelle, introducing herself and letting me know that we would meet in July.
Here’s the best part. I opened those handwritten letters first and actually thought about the people who sent them, even putting the notes aside to make sure that I respond in a similar fashion. Because a recent study quoted in the Harvard Business Review showed that the average corporate email account sent or received more than 100 emails per day, and that Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 now send or receive nearly 100 texts per day, I took the time to count the number of electronic messages I received. At 7:00 PM, the count was 127 emails (not counting pure spam) and 42 SMS texts.
Included in those 127 emails were three notes from kids who are looking for internships and seven sales pitches from companies looking to do business with us — certainly requests that might have been worth the time it would take to send a handwritten note. Truth be told, when I receive those types of emails I often wonder if the sender could have possibly made less of an effort to get my attention.
Indeed, that investment of time and effort is part of what makes a hand-scribbled note so valuable. The person who wrote it had to dig up some stationery, find a pen, and actually scratch their thoughts onto paper. And without spell checker or the AutoCorrect option, they might have even had to write the note more than once. Then they had to put the note in an envelope, look up and copy down the correct address, affix a stamp, and even lick the flap. What could be more personal – and more intimate – than that?
But there’s another side of letter writing that’s important too – the pleasure the sender gets in indulging in such an anachronistic activity. Maybe it’s because I love to doodle and draw, but I really enjoy pulling out my stationery and my dad’s fountain pen. I notice the texture of the pen and the flow of the ink. I pay attention to the way I craft my letters and I even try to find stamps that make an aesthetic or social statement. And because I’m left-handed, I’m forced to write slowly so my hand doesn’t smear the drying ink.
Dropping the weighty envelopes in the mail feels like I’m actually putting a little bit of myself into every letter I send. And I feel the same sense of personal connection when I open and read someone else’s carefully crafted note.
By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about the value of handwritten communication. In January 2012 I wrote a post about the GMCVB’s CEO, Bill Talbert, and his branding tips under $100. Tip number two was titled: No one sends personal notes anymore. Except Bill.
Bill is one of the most tech-savvy CEOs I know. But whenever you spend time with him, you can expect a personal handwritten note to show up in the mail a day or two later. Bill knows that as the world gets more and more high-tech, the way to break through the clutter and make a statement is with high-touch. Not a phone message. Not an email. A handwritten letter. With a signature. And a real stamp on the envelope.
And when the news is really important? Bill takes a tip from Michael Gehrisch, CEO of the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), and sends it in a FedEx envelope. After all, what other correspondence gets brought to your desk the minute it enters your office? It’s a heck of a bargain for 15 bucks, I think.
What do you think? Write back and let me know.
In response to last week’s blog post How To Skin A Horse Of A Different Color, John Calia wrote, “A great modern day parable that explains the power of inductive reasoning. It’s McKinsey-level strategic thinking applied to everyday business and personal challenges.”
Thanks, John. I just thought it was a simple explanation of a complicated concept.
That’s what we do every day — reduce very complicated and not very compelling product explanations into short, simple, easy-to-understand, and profitable brands. Because these strategically simple messages make consumers regard, remember, and respond.
But if you’re thinking about how to reduce your brand message to just one word, I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, Bruce, defining an issue and standing for something makes a lot of sense and I can see how it works for others, but…(big sigh)…I’m different. After all, my business is much more diverse, much more creative, and much more customized to my clients’ specific needs…(bigger sigh)…you see, I do too many different things. There’s just no way I could shoehorn everything I offer into a couple of words.”
Really? Your business is too complicated to brand simply? Well then, consider Volvo.
Volvo is ostensibly in the car business. But that means they are really in a number of different businesses — transportation, manufacturing, research and development, metallurgy, engineering, upholstery, design, import/export, logistics, to name just a few. Plus, they operate retail stores (for both new and used products), and also provide sales, service, and accessories. Volvo operates under the governmental regulations of the hundreds of countries, states, and municipalities they operate in. They work in multiple languages, with multiple consumers, and in multiple currencies. And don’t forget that they don’t just make consumer automobiles. Volvo also manufactures buses and trucks and provides engines and engineering for lots of other companies. And yet despite this incredible complexity, Volvo still describes themselves with their commitment to one word: safety.
Volvo’s brand description isn’t even about what they actually provide. Nowhere in their branding do they talk about transportation or about getting from point A to point B. They talk about safety. And this positioning is so valuable that when Volvo introduced an SUV, arguably the new American suburban family car, their XC70 outsold all foreign SUVs (European and Asian) combined.
But it’s not just Volvo that understands the value of a simple brand position.
New York is “The Big Apple.” Chicago is solidly Midwestern. Los Angeles is movies, Las Vegas is sin. Miami is hip. What are you?
Apple built their brand on the da Vinci line, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and it’s driven their product philosophy ever since, most recently resulting in one single button controlling your iPhone or iPad. Despite the outcry from Blackberry users, Apple’s iPhone does not have a raised keyboard.
Here’s what Mr. Mo’ sang:
“Two cars, three kids, six phones; a whole lot of confusion up here in my home.
500 stations on the TV screen, 500 versions of the same ol’ thing.
Y’all know it’s crazy, and it’s drivin’ me insane.
Well, I don’t wanna be a superman, I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands.
And keep it simple.
I called my doctor on the telephone; the lines were open, but there was nobody home.
Press one, press two, press pound, press three; why can’t somebody just pick up the phone and talk to me?
Well I went down to the local coffee store; the menu went from the ceiling all the way down to the floor.
Decaf, cappuccino, or latte said the cashier; I said gimme a small cup of coffee and let me get the hell up outta here.
Y’all know it’s crazy, and it’s drivin’ me insane.
Well now I don’t wanna be a superman, I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands.
And keep it simple, real simple.”
Thoreau famously wrote, “Simplify, simplify.” But maybe if he had heard Keb’ Mo’s song, he would’ve cut his credo in half to just “Simplify.”
What the heck’s going on in the world of brands? If you haven’t been paying attention lately, lots of great companies are suffering significant headaches dealing with the body blows their brand images are taking almost every single week.
Look at Nike, the sportswear company that has built its dominant brand on the broad backs of superstar athletes and their sponsorships. From Michael Jordan to Florence Griffith-Joyner to Tiger Woods, Nike has both created their brand and the brands of their spokespeople athletes through enormous investments and laser-focused marketing.
But suddenly it seems like Nike’s most visible athletes are self-destructing both on the field and off.
Lance Armstrong spent years vociferously denying his regular use of the performance-enhancing substances that helped him dominate competitive cycling. Armstrong was so adamant in his protests that Nike even filmed a commercial showing Armstrong on his bicycle asking, “What am I on? I’m on my bike, six hours a day, busting my ass. What are you on?”
Of course, now we know that Armstrong was on a lot more than his butt. And Nike had to cut ties with their spokesman after they saw his growing unpopularity start to damage their own brand.
While Armstrong was enjoying the Tour de France, Tiger Woods was busy enjoying his Tour de Pants.** But after Elen Nordegren, Woods’ model wife, attacked Tiger’s car with one of his signature golf clubs, Nike again saw their brand start to take some of the lumps intended for their spokesman.
Even more recently, Oscar Pistorius – the Para-Olympian known as the Blade Runner – was arrested in South Africa for fatally shooting his model girlfriend. Unfortunately for Nike, not only was Pistorius one of their spokes-athletes but they had run an ad featuring the Blade Runner with the headline, “I am the bullet in the chamber.” Of course the ad was yanked from Pistorious’ website lickety-split but the damage had already been done. Once again, the sportswear giant has to decide how long to continue to publicly support their spokesperson even before they know if he has a leg to stand on.
Let’s move from the field to the seas. Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line company, suffered an engine fire that stalled their Triumph ship in the Gulf of Mexico. No one was injured and Carnival’s staff was lauded as going way above and beyond the norm to help the stranded travelers. But even though the company refunded their customers’ fees, promised a free replacement cruise, AND paid each cruiser $500, class-action lawsuits have already been filed and Carnival’s brand has become the punching bag of news shows and late-night comedians. Why such an aggressive response? After all, everyone knows ship happens.
So why is all this occurring now? Some people have suggested that the burgeoning 24/7 news cycle is so hungry for stories that they’ll publicize any corporate hiccup just to entice viewers based on the motto that if it bleeds, it leads. Others say that it’s the proliferation of smartphones and mobile technologies that have turned all of us into a new breed of citirazzi – citizen paparazzi who aggressively capture the corporate gaffs that would otherwise go unseen and unrecorded. And still other experts suggest that the corporate world is just a reflection of society in general, and that the scares and scandals affecting brands go hand-in-hand with the degradation of civility and ethical behavior we’re seeing in politics and society in general.
All of those factors contribute to the current situation but don’t thoroughly explain it. Instead, I think that it’s the recent proliferation and expansion of the brands themselves that has caused the problem. As I’ve written many times before, as products become more and more genericized, the brand itself has emerged as the way companies differentiate themselves. And as products and services spend more time in a digital environment where customers can see but can’t touch, the brand personality becomes the way consumers differentiate, decode, and decide what they’re going to buy.
So it stands to reason that the squeaky wheel would get the grease. After all, if good things make a brand stronger, then bad things will also do great harm.
But the major reason why big brands are taking it in the shorts runs even deeper. You see, when branded companies are most successful, their customers use the brands themselves to tell the world who they are. The cars we drive, the athletic shoes we wear, and the vacations we enjoy all become badges that consumers use to create their own personas. We used to say, “Your are what you eat.” Today we say, “You are what you consume.” The result of this is that we are so personally invested in the brands we use that we are hypersensitive to any chinks in our image armor. And so when we notice that the brands we’ve built our own self-images around have the same human frailties that we do, we feel betrayed.
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, corporations and organizations are seen as humans and entitled to the same First Amendment rights as you and me. It seems that thanks to the recent ascension of the brand, brands are too. And just like in the political arena, brands have to take the bad with the good.
** This hysterical line was not mine. It was written by my good friend and very funny guy David Glickman.
“The Dollar Auction game: a paradox in non-cooperative behavior and escalation” was published by economist Martin Shubik in the March, 1971 issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution (I know, I know — you’ve got a copy laying around somewhere).
Here’s how it works: An auctioneer says, “I’m going to give a dollar to the highest bidder, just like a regular auction. The only difference is that both the highest bidder AND the second highest have to pay the auctioneer the value of their bid.”
Mr. Smith offers an initial bid of a nickel because who wouldn’t want to get a dollar for five cents? According to the rules of the dollar auction, if no one else bids, Mr. Smith will get a dollar for a nickel.
But Ms. Jones bids a dime because, as she sees it, “I can get a dollar for ten cents. That’s a good deal. I’ll have to pay a dime and Mr. Smith will have to pay a nickel. But I’ll get a dollar for my dime and he’ll get nothing for his nickel.”
(For simplicity let’s limit the explanation to just Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones even though the argument doesn’t change if more people participate.)
Mr. Smith is now in a tricky spot: If he remains quiet, he loses a nickel. Ms. Jones will get the dollar, paying only a dime and he will get nothing for his nickel. Any rational person would bid 15 cents. Mr. Smith will still get 85 cents profit. So he bids 15 cents.
But Ms. Jones now bids 20 cents because if she doesn’t bid again she will lose her dime. By bidding 20 cents, she will earn 80 cents.
But of course, Mr. Smith bids again. He has to. Otherwise he’ll lose the amount of his previous bids. Similarly, Ms. Jones has to keep bidding.
Soon the bids approach a dollar. Ms. Jones has bid 95 cents so Mr. Smith bids a dollar. That’s right. He bids a dollar to win a dollar because if he doesn’t bid, he loses 90 cents.
So what will Ms. Jones do? She will do what any rational person would do. She can’t lose her 95 cents and get nothing in return. She must keep bidding. She must bid $1.05 even though she has to bid more than a dollar to win a dollar.
Mr. Smith has to bid more than $1.05. Otherwise he’ll lose his dollar and get nothing in return. He bids $1.10. Surely any reasonable person would agree it’s better to pay $1.10 for a dollar than to lose $1.00 and get nothing. Losing a dime isn’t as bad as losing a dollar.
Except of course that now Ms. Jones has to bid $1.15 by the same reasoning. She bids $1.15 to win the dollar.
Both Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones must now continue to bid amounts well in excess of the dollar. And there is no point at which it makes sense to stop bidding. When Mr. Smith bids $4.00 to preserve his $3.90, Ms. Jones will bid $4.15 so she doesn’t have to pay $4.05 and get nothing.
The conclusion of Shubik’s study? That the only way to win is to not play the game in the first place. Because once the escalation and non-cooperation starts, nobody but the auctioneer walks away with any money.
If the only way to win is not to play applies to some business activities as well as Shubik’s study, then it creates a perfect context for sales strategies such as being the low priced leader or trying to outspend your competition.
When we created our recent campaign for Colombian Emeralds International (CEI), we used Shubik’s theory. CEI operates more than 70 jewelry stores in the Caribbean that cater mostly to cruise passengers. And CEI competes with other chains that sell similar products but have bigger names and bigger marketing budgets. Where CEI excels is in their superior collection of emeralds and colored stones and their localized, personalized service.
So instead of going up against the big boys dollar for dollar, we avoided non-cooperative behavior and escalation by forging a new path for CEI. With our client’s cooperation, we created a handsome South American adventurer/spokesman — Diego Galante — and crafted compelling tales of Diego gathering unique jewelry and gemstones from Colombia and around the world. Then we created a different in-store sales experience where our customers were not just buying brightly colored baubles but instead were buying the romance and glamour of exotic experiences.
Using in-room TVs on the cruise ships and social media sites such as Facebook, we promoted Diego as a unique asset that our competition couldn’t match. And by building relationships between our customers and our spokesman, we were able to sell stories and experiences that gave our customers an enormous added value with their jewelry purchase. That is, when our customers got home, they didn’t just have a beautiful piece of jewelry to memorialize their trip but they also could tell a story of romance and adventure to everyone they saw — creating interest, aspiration, and potential new customers.
Thanks to Diego, CEI’s been filling their stores and breaking their sales records. And because he’s provided them with a correct, consistent, and compelling brand vehicle, Diego’s character makes it easier for us to keep moving CEI’s brand towards increased awareness, sales, and profits.
Once you watch these videos, please post a note and let us know what you think. After all, We can do the same for you.
Remember the scene in the movie Poltergeist when the worried parents came home to find their young daughter staring at a TV screen of static? The spooky little girl turned around and announced to her terrified folks, “They’re here.”
I felt that way when I saw the recent marketing efforts for the areas in the Northeast hammered by Superstorm Sandy. Seems like they hired the same incompetent marketers that worked in the Gulf Coast after the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Back then, a prolonged recession, increased competition, reduced consumer confidence, and many other reasons had already softened most of the Gulf Coast destinations’ business. But after the BP disaster they felt that by just announcing, “We don’t have greasy beaches yet,” consumers would arrive in droves. But since when was telling people the reasons why they shouldn’t not come considered good marketing?
“Eat here, our restaurant isn’t dirty.”
“Drive our car, it’s not unsafe.”
“Wear our jeans, they don’t make you look fat.”
Thanks to Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, even most politicians have learned that defending a negative doesn’t work:
“I am not a crook.”
“I did not have sex with that woman.”
Oh yeah? How’d that line work out for you?
Saying, “We weren’t flooded” or that “Our citizens depend on casino jobs” is more of the same — telling people why they shouldn’t not come. Instead, thoughtful messaging for the near future is critical, particularly in markets that were hurting before anyone ever heard of Superstorm Sandy.
As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a November 2008 Wall Street Journal Forum, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Resort areas in the stricken region should seize the opportunity to highlight their strongest selling points and not just make their areas look dry because negative perceptions have already been developed even if there wasn’t much flood damage. And with all eyes on the area, now is the perfect time to show those eyes what they’re missing. At least the positive parts.
The consequences of this tragedy, imagined to be the costliest U.S. natural disaster to date, will go on for years. But world events have already pushed the situation off the front pages.
Do you think the issue won’t go away quickly? When was the last time you were glued to your TV to find out about conditions in Haiti, the consequences of the last election or even health care reform? We Americans have a notoriously short attention span and when the media moves on, so do we.
Of course you know that just because the situation doesn’t make front-page headlines anymore doesn’t mean that everything is better. Post-earthquake Haiti is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and suffers from every possible ill of poverty, non-existent infrastructure, and aggressively corrupt leadership; it’s just that we’re not so actively involved anymore. Out of sight, out of mind is not just a glib saying; it’s an accurate description of our national attention deficit syndrome.
So maybe the cameras moving on to the next subject will be a good thing for coastal New Jersey’s tourism. After all, if pictures of flooded homes aren’t on our TV screens 24/7, visitors might forget about the storm and rebook their vacations. On the other hand, what happens if devastated neighborhoods are the last things consumers see before the cameras leave and there are no inviting images to change that perception?
The solution is not to tell people the reasons why they shouldn’t not come but instead to build compelling stories that connect with consumers’ emotions and build desire. I’m still waiting to see those campaigns from the affected destinations. For their sake, let’s hope they’re coming soon.
Here’s something I don’t understand:
Status, financial success, legislative power, and importance are all the providence of commerce. Yet when we look back over history we see that great societies are remembered not by the business they did but by the art they created.
Sure, there are some stories told about the merchant classes of 15th century Amsterdam or the spice and trade routes of ancient Asia, but for the most part we remember human artistic achievement —from the Venus of Willendorf to Greek and Roman sculpture to the great composers of Europe and the jazz and blues of the American South.
In tourism, too, arts and culture drive the demand train. Shopping is a popular activity — for everything from haute couture to high-rise condos — but more and more we see successful destinations putting themselves on the map by promoting their art and culture offerings. London’s Victoria & Albert and Tate museums; Milan’s La Scala; New York’s Broadway, Guggenheim, MoMA, The Met, and more are perfect examples of this phenomenon.
And closer to home, right here in Miami, we have become one of the top four tourist destinations in the United States in no small part thanks to the contributions of Art Basel, the nascent Wynwood Art District, our collections of starchitects (Herzog, Foster, Hadid, Ghery, Grimshaw, Ingels, and homegrown Arquitectonica), the New World Symphony and the Miami City Ballet, amongst others.
So why is it that local arts communities are treated like second-class citizens? Why are budget happy legislators so quick to cut arts funding in schools?
First of all, we foolishly believe that everyone’s an artist and lessen the importance of talent. When I was a teenager, my father took me to see a Jackson Pollack exhibit. After we wandered among the paint-splattered canvases, I announced, with what must have been the best world-weary affect a 14-year old could muster, “Oh please, anyone could do that.”
The next day I got home from school to find my bedroom covered in newspaper. There was a canvas on one end of the room and a few open buckets of paint on the other. Guess what I discovered… anyone CAN’T do that.
Second, we allow others — those in both art and commerce — to steal original creative work. And whether we call it sampling, collaging or paying homage, by not giving our artists’ their due we diminish the value of their work.
Finally, we artists ourselves are to blame because we give away our work. Regardless of whether we’re eager to please, feel outclassed when negotiating with the business world or because we don’t value our work, we are directly responsible for accepting the low prices and lack of respect that so many of us receive.
So what can arts communities do to encourage original thinking, artistic development, and innovation? I call it The Five “P”s:
If we follow this simple road map, I believe we can create communities where arts and innovation are celebrated and we’ll all be better off for it. Both today and when we’re remembered in the future.