Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Marketing the Brand Part II - Homage to the Brand Queen

Donald Trump and I do not hold a candle to the marketing brand queen, Oprah. There is probably not an adult in America who does not know who she is. After 25 years she is ending her show to concentrate on her OWN TV network. Whatever she does in the future, Oprah is a brand icon and an entrepreneurial genius. She piloted her way to stardom and will probably build a successful, expansive media network.
I have to admit I was never an Oprah watcher. I worked during the day and otherwise was involved in activities precluding me tuning in. But I know some of what she has accomplished.
I totally admire and in some ways can relate to Oprah.
·         She created herself and her success.
·         She is her own person.
·         She has a weight problem.
·         She is a baby boomer.
·         She is literate and READS!
·         She is ambitious…
·         And rich (self-made)…
·         And has made mistakes.
·         O seems like a genuinely real person.
I will continue to follow her career and wish her only the best. Maybe she will share some of her branding secrets with Donald and me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Marketing My Brand

I read an article in a recent Forbes magazine about Donald Trump. He is all over the news. He finally announced that he is not running for President, and I doubt anyone was surprised. Forbes, he contends, consistently over the year has underestimated his fortune. He really is worth a lot more than the magazine guesstimates.
That is not the part of the article that really got me thinking. A big part of Trump’s worth is his brand – his name. Trump the name and brand is worth millions. He can market it and sell it.
That is what started me mulling over the opportunities. Why can’t I brand - me? After all, there are some things that make me a better brand than Trump.
For instance Trump had a negative net worth around 1990 of -$900 million. The only time I had a negative net worth was when I graduated college. I had zero money or assets and only school loans. That was decades ago. And the loans are all paid off.
Trump declared corporate bankruptcy four times. He never filed personal bankruptcy. But I have never declared any kind of bankruptcy.
My hair has never been great, but hair dye and a brush does wonders.
So I am thinking of branding and marketing myself. I could use my blog name MerCyn.
Maybe a company will pay to use MerCyn on their merchandise…
Definitely food items. I love to eat.
MerCyn Cider (hard or apple, I’m open to negotiation)…MerCyn Merry Berry Cynful Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (I really like this one)…MerCyn Mer-aculous Cinching Cream (apply liberally and watch your waist shrink) Not food, but a condition resulting from too much food…MerCyn Cynfully Delicious Coffee… MerCyn Cinnamon Buns (I don’t like them, but my Mom loves them)…
I’m open to other ideas. Any company out there who wants to use the name, e-mail me ASAP. My net worth numbers could use some plumping up.                     

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Great Grandma's Adventure

The title sounds like a children’s story, but that is appropriate. Great Grandma (aka my Mom and hereafter called G.G.) was an elementary school librarian, loves books, and this is all about her and kids. She set off on a journey from Long Island to visit her three great-grandchildren. G.G. had not seen the baby, now eight months old.  The older two are three and six.
I flew out on Wednesday to help my daughter-in-law. My son, the Dad in this story, was on a business trip from Monday until Sunday – a long, long time to spend solo with three little ones – especially over a weekend. I agreed to fly out and help.
G.G. was arriving Thursday night. Her flight was scheduled to leave JFK about 8:00 p.m. She got to the airport early and waited for the plane. To make a long story short – I wasn’t there, so I am not sure exactly what happened – the plane left without her. She missed her flight.  Wrong gate, change of gate...She called me extremely upset on her way to talk to the airline people.
Her plane was the last one out to her destination that night. The only choice was to leave Friday morning. The airline did not charge to change her air travel and booked her on an early morning flight. I think it helped that she was an 86-year-old woman traveling alone. Deciding not to get a hotel room because she did not want to miss her flight (again) - she had to be at the airport 5:00 a.m. – she spent the night in the terminal. McDonald’s was the only vendor open. She sat around, tried to find a place to sleep, and somehow got through the night.
G.G. flew to Atlanta, sleeping through the two hour flight, and changed planes. Realizing there may not be enough time to dash from one gate to another – at 86 years of age she is not dashing anywhere – she arranged for a wheelchair and reached the gate for her second flight as passengers were boarding.
Finally reaching her destination at 11:00 a.m. – 13 hours late – she looked much better than I would have thought. The baby and I met her as she walked, a bit dazed and exhausted but happy the trip was over, from the tram into the main terminal. The weekend had just begun and her (mis)adventure was already well underway.
The  weekend involved two birthday parties, Temple Junior Mitzvah day, where among other things the kids read a story to guide dogs, made sandwiches for one charitable group, put together  bags of Spanish rice ingredients for another, made birthday boxes and other arts and crafts. There was a trip to the bookstore and games of Monopoly (the junior game and the real one), Candy Land, Pay Day - it rained and was cold the entire weekend. We watched movies, including Tangled, How to Train Your Dragon and some Elmo CDs. There were baby bottles, dirty diapers, naps and rest time. I lost count of the number of times everyone piled in and out of the car – three kids in car seats, Grandma climbing in the back, Mom and G.G. in the front.
There were a couple of temper tantrums (OK, more than a couple), the dog barking LOUDLY on a regular basis, and very early wake up calls as the kids decided 6:00 a.m. was a reasonable time for Grandma and G.G. to start their day. There were lunches out, ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, grocery shopping, and an impressive homemade dinner Sunday evening when Dad came home.
There was one adults-only evening. It started out with dinner. Of course we had forgotten to make reservations and had to wait for a table, but this was one of Mom’s favorite restaurants, and a place Dad did not particularly like. We were not going to forego the opportunity for a favorite meal. We had a lovely dinner and went on to an auction at the first-grader’s new school. We arrived late, but it did not matter. Most of the auction was silent – we walked around, studied the various offerings and wrote down our bids. Anything we really wanted we wandered back to….bid again…had some wine…gave competitive bidders the evil eye…G.G. fell asleep for awhile in a comfortable chair (who could blame her, missing a night’s sleep and the time change, three kids, one dog, assorted activities…)
G.G. and I flew home Monday. G.G. held up remarkably well amid the constant commotion of a contemporary kid-centered American household. I am sure she will enjoy a few days of rest and quiet at home, but it was a wonderful, memorable trip for G.G. and great grandkids alike.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole Survives (at my house)

I have always liked tuna noodle casserole. The poor dish has been the butt of jokes by many and scorned by legions of kids and adults alike. A column by Craig Wilson in Wednesday’s USA Today is the ultimate indignity. In a column entitled ‘Never Say Never isn’t cut in stone’ he mentions the moment he announced to his mother that he would never eat the dish again. And he has kept his word.
My hub whines about the dish, but eats it when I make it, which is rarely because of all the grief I get. It is amazingly good comfort food. What is not to like about pasta, cheese, tuna and whatever else the cook chooses to add. I never (there’s that word again) add canned soup. I haven’t bought a can or cooked a can of soup in years; probably decades. (I will on occasion use sodium-free bouillon cubes.)
As we have moved from counting every penny, cutting coupons and actually using them to throwing out the coupon inserts without perusing them, I have moved on to additional and more expensive tuna noodle casserole ingredients. I might add other seafood items such as shrimp, scallops and/or faux crab strips. I am flexible. Whatever is on sale is a possibility. I try low-cal substitutes to minimize the calories and guilt.
There are not a whole lot of things better on a cold wintry day when stuck indoors than whipping up a dish - topped with bread crumbs and maybe some of those French fried onion rings - plopping down in front of the TV and watching a movie with a decadent-sized serving of home-cooked comfort food.
As the TV commercial declared – mmm…mmm…good!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's Official - Summer is Around the Corner

Our favorite snowbirds have returned to the neighborhood from their winter home, whereever that may be. I suspect they winter in Florida, but they are mum on the subject.
The weather is no longer frigid, and scenes like this:
Are replaced by wonderful, warm neighborhood scenery like this:

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Big Apple 5-Boro Bike-Walk-Wait

The alarm rang at 5:15 a.m. and the big day got underway. Barely able to open my eyes, dress and grab my bags before leaving the hotel room, I was ready for the momentous bike ride. Five hardy souls met in the early morning light: me and hub (driving from South Jersey), son and daughter-in-law (driving down from Vermont), and daughter-in-law’s Mom (joining us from Massachusetts). Dressed in bike clothes with sweats thrown over them to keep warm in the early morning chill, we set out.
It was a fast half hour drive to the Staten Island Ferry. We parked in a municipal lot, unloaded the four bikes – son and daughter-in-law shared a tandem - backpacks and bagels for the breakfast we shared on the ferry ride to Manhattan.

staging area

tandem riders with baby on board
The bike, wait, walk, wait and ride again schedule became the day’s theme. We all managed to stay together and had a good time, but the waiting grew to be frustrating. The worst was on the BQE – Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The BQE was under construction and merged into one 12-foot lane. We were trapped – along with thousands of other cyclists – on the highway for two hours before at last getting to finish the race – a short ride on the Belt Parkway to the Verrazano Bridge, then across the lower level of the bridge to Staten Island, where we had started almost 12 hours earlier. We rode 38 miles from lower Manhattan north to the Bronx, back to Manhattan and down the FDR drive, across the river to Queens, Brooklyn, ending up in Staten Island.

Disembarking and joining thousands of eager cyclists, we made our way slowly to the staging area somewhere in the canyons around Battery Park. The first lucky riders started at 8:00 a.m. Our wait of about two hours was finally rewarded when we crossed the start point at 9:30 a.m. The roads and bridges along the entire route were closed to traffic. It was quite a site seeing the broad streets of Manhattan for as far as the eye could see filled with cyclists of all ages and sizes. There were Moms and Dads with children in baby seats on their bike, sitting in strollers attached to bikes, and on tandems – one adult, one child. (The two old ladies of our group noted the fact that there were not a lot of riders of our vintage.) There were fancy, expensive bikes and older models. Small groups attached all kinds of objects to their helmets – the better to find each other. There were feathers, flags, dolls, and cones.
The weather could not have been better. There was not a cloud in the sky, and although it was very cool in the early morning, it warmed up and was perfect cycling weather, the mid-60s. We had all worn old clothes we could discard along the way. We rode up 6th Avenue - Avenue of the Americas - past Radio City Music Hall to the entrance to Central Park. We were stopped and waited a few minutes as everyone merged onto a small path through the park. We rode a few more minutes and walked again as everyone bottlenecked.
bottleneck at the bridge
The best part of NYC cycling, aside from the magnificent scenery, is that it is flat. The only inclines are the bridges. The Verrazano was a challenge, but the two old ladies managed to complete the ride without disembarking and walking up the bridge. A real sense of accomplishment!

There were fabulous views from the ferry ride, along city streets, through Central Park, across the river and the open water. My son, the great organizer, had supplies of fruit and trail mix to carry us through the day. There were port-a-potty stations every few miles and rest stops with water and refreshments. The missing link to a perfect day was an improved means of allowing thousands of cyclists to complete the route without a lot of walking and waiting. The ride took us almost twice as long as it should have.
This was another experience to check off the bucket list. We all agreed it was fun, but our next family ride will be in another city. We are planning Montreal in two years, when baby will join the group. We have to skip next year because kids have to be at least a year old to participate. Meanwhile, we will ride closer to home and try to stay in cycling condition.

waiting on the BQE