Monthly Archives: April 2009

Balling South African style

 

This is South Africa

This is South Africa

Today is my last day in South Africa, and all I can say is I can’t wait to come back here. South Africa exceeded my wildest expectations, and it gave me an appreciation for Africa that I didn’t formerly possess.

I’ve never really quite understood the appeal of South Africa. I mean, this was the home of apartheid, right?  Yeah, yeah, yeah, Nelson Mandela is all that, but what’s all the hype about?

Being Nigerian, my thinking has always been, if you’ve been to one African country, you’ve been to them all. Seriously, I’ve been to Senegal, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Outside of the fact that they speak French in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, in my opinion, they were facsimiles of one another.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that South Africa is BALLING!!!!!!!!!! When I say balling, I mean balling. The hotels here put places like the Ritz Calrton, the W, and the Waldorff Astoria, to shame. I was staying at the HOLIDAY INN and I was balling! 

The food, excellent. The people, excellent. The weather, excellent. The hotel, excellent. Everything was simply excellent.

I could go on and on, but I’ve got to hit the streets before my flight. Rest assured that I will post a detailed blow-by-blow upon my return (when I stop balling and return to the pedestrian life I ordinarily lead) and reminisce.

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Folks on a plane

I find the people I encounter on planes absolutely fascinating. Today I met Caroline Pitts on the Delta airlines flight this morning.  Caroline, originally from East Orange, but now of Atlanta, Georgia, and I talked politics for the two hours from Newark to Atlanta (the first leg of my trip to Johannesburg, South Africa). She was one of the members of the Obama Campaign team, and we talked about community organizing, political apathy and the galvanizing effect of social media and networking tools.

We both talked ‘shop.’  She talked education. I talked mobile and marketing. She was particularly interested in my opinions of Obama’s oratory skills (she recommended I send Obama an email about eliminating his ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ when he speaks). I was riveted by her stories about the unparalleled efficiency of the Obama political machine. 

Before I knew it, we were touching down in Altanta and heading our separate ways. I gave her my card and she promised to call or send me an email (she claims she’s gonna tell my wife what a good catch I am). Yeah, she was 60-something, but I think she was trying to get some…can you blame her? Who doesn’t want them some married, father of three swimming in debt?  Shoot, I’m sexy!

They just made the boarding announcement for part II of my trip (Atlanta to Dakar, Senegal).

I wonder who I’m sitting next to next. I hope they’re interesting. If not, I can always sleep.

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Always wear a name-tag (or be ostracized from conversations)

 

 

It's (likemind) unless you don't wear a name-tag.

It's (likemind) unless you don't wear a name-tag.

 

This morning, the partisan and I attended (likemind) ny at sNice, 45 Eighth Avenue, at West 4th Street. As we sauntered in casually: he in a spiffy sport coat, trousers, tie and dress slacks, and I in an adidas jacket, Levis and sneakers, we were ready for some good java and better conversation.

I ordered a large cappuccino and a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with butter and jelly. The partisan opted for the cafe mocha. We sat at a table on the periphery of a congregation of folk engrossed (clan-like) at a table to our left, and began our conspiratorial discussion of brand (and world) domination.

The topic of our discussion was Twitter and the proper type of engagement a brand should court using the platform (Go Oprah!). How many followers can a brand practically engage?  How many people can you actually follow before it’s just noise?  Where is the Twitter sweet spot?

What started as an intimate gathering of about 8 to 10 people swelled quickly to a respectable crowd of 20-25 in minutes, and upon reconnecting with the matrix, we found ourselves amidst a sea of name tag-wearers.

“So what do you do?” “Where are you from?” “What brings you here today?” (says one name-tag-wearer).

“Oh I’m a brand strategist.” “I just flew in from Chicago.” “I’m just tagging along with my friend, who heard about it.” (replies the other)

For some inexplicable reason, none of the name-tag-wearers approached the partisan or I. Was the absence of the blue-trimmed tag a scarlet letter?

Had we missed the memo that no name-tag equalled no engagement? Were we interlopers in a private club?

Reading about (likemind), I was impressed by the highly informal and organic nature of it all.  Hmmmm….there was a name-tag in the picture…

Attending (likemind), I was somewhat dismayed (is that too harsh? bewildered perhaps?) by its formulaic (and dare I say ‘forced’) execution.

Today the partisan and the proletariat observed.  

Next 3rd Friday of the month, we shall wear name-tags.  

And engage.

And report.

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I am the worst softball player on the face of the planet

What’s worse than striking out in softball?  

How about striking out in softball LOOKING at the pitch?

This is what I did (twice) looking at the pitches!  I suck.

This is what I did (twice) looking at the pitches! I suck.

Would it be worse if you did it TWICE?

What if you also had three errors, that resulted in 8 more runs being scored in one inning (for a total of 14)?  

Now if you talked shit and heckled the other team and the umpire the entire game, would that make it worse?

Or how about if you bragged incessantly about your softball prowess before the game started?

What if the bragging started the day before with your co-workers in the office?  

But what if it’s the last inning of the game, you’re down 10 runs, 2 outs, 2 on, the count’s 2 and 2, and you’re at the plate, pointing to the left field (Babe Ruth-like), and when the pitch comes, you just watch it, in slow motion, cross the plate, and you hear the umpire (that you’ve been heckling all game) yell “Strike!”?  

If you had to ride the subway home, with the entire opposing team, alone, on the 3 train from 144th to 34th Street, as they mocked you, would that suck?

How about when you showed up at work the next day, and listened to the entire episode played out by each team member walking into the office, recounting the previous night’s fiasco to the rest of the office (like some twisted Twilight Zone episode), that would be awkward, wouldn’t it?

Well boys and girls, this is no hypothetical.  

These are actual events from the day in the life of the worst softball player in the world – your’s truly.

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Hats off to you BMW

As someone who talks branding frequently, I just had to share this photo of what is unquestionably one of the best advertising one-ups by a brand I’ve come across in quite a while.

There have been a few brand rivalries of note, fought on the advertising front:  McDonalds vs. Burger King; Pepsi vs. Coke; PC vs. Mac; Nas vs. Jay Z.  

I’ve never really thought of a rivalry between Audi and BMW as one of them (I’ve always seen the battle as between Mercedes Benz and BMW). But apparently, Audi has thrown its’ hat into the ring.

Audi’s shot over BMW’s bow, came in the form of a billboard, featuring the Audi 4 with the statement, “Your move, BMW.”

The billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, was quickly followed up with BMW’s response, across the street, featuring a BMW 3 series under the sole word “Checkmate.”

Scorecard: BMW 1, Audi 0.

 

Well played BMW, well played.

Well played BMW, well played.

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UniverSOOOOOUUUULLLLLL Circus!

Why am I sweating like a slave? A fleeting moment of reflection hit me, as I stood there screaming at the top of my lungs, hooting and hollering with my kids (football style) under each arm. Whatever! I was sweating, but having a blast!

UniverSoul Circus

What was I doing? Guest blogging (actually twittering) at the UniverSoul Circus in Brooklyn last night, at their show in Prospect Park. My friend Denene posted the opportunity on her blog, mybrownbaby.blogspot.com, weeks ago, and I jumped at the chance to blog backstage. Kristin Parker, with Elemental Interactive (creative corporate storytellers) reached out to me a few days ago and set it all up.

Anyway, last night, I packed the kids and wife into the Jeep, and we headed to Brooklyn, the second stop of USoul’s New York leg of the tour. We were treated (celebrity-like) to a behind-the-scenes look at USoul’s operations, and a pre-show meeting with the acrobats, jugglers, performers and contortionists we would later see onstage.

These kids toss each other around with their feet.

These kids toss each other around with their feet.

The performers, from all around the world, were a moving community, touring ten months out of the year. I was struck by the complexity of the circus culture. Despite the different languages they spoke, their various cultures and backgrounds, they worked as a cohesive unit, supporting one-another. I was also struck by the number of children in the circus. The death-defying stunts (I was later to see) were being performed by children as young as 12!

'Zanti' means 'show-offs' - I wonder why.

'Zanti' means 'show-offs' - I wonder why.

My kids were especially excited to see the horses, elephants and tigers backstage, and I couldn’t wait for them to actually see the show. Our tour of the tiger cages was cut short by some guy (read: me) who wanted to get a photo with his kids and a baby tiger nearly swiped his dreds! After a 30 minute meet-and-greet, we were led to our seats under the big-top. 

The show started with a skit by Maggie Shirley Lillie Mae Francis Upshaw Jenkins and Nephew Lucky, the night’s hosts, who introduced James Brown and his Go-Go Dancers. They were followed by the Rough Riders, Shandong Foot Jugglers (troop juggles people), Ethopian Foot Juggler (girl juggles things) and the Wheel of Death. Each act was as electrifying as the last, and the energy of the night built to a dizzying crescendo.

After intermission, Maggie Jenkins and Nephew Lucky introduced the China Soul Flyers, the Caribbean Zanti Dancers, Stilt Walkers, Twisted Soul, Magic Cats and the Elephants. There were skits a-plenty and the DJ kept the house rocking all night.

While the whole night was awesome, the most exciting part of the night was for me unceremoniously un-circus-like. It was an old-school/new school battle, in which two couples went head-to-head, center ring, acting out the lyrics to old and new school songs.  

The new school songs were ‘Kiss Me Through The Phone,’ by Soulja Boy and ‘Shoulda Let You Go,’ by Keyshia Cole. The old school songs were ‘Cause I Love You’ by Lenny Williams and ‘I’m Telling You’by  Jennifer Holliday. Needless to say, old school rocked the house – literally. People (including your sweaty children-toting blogger) were up out of their seats screaming.

If you haven’t been to the UniverSoul Circus, I strongly urge you to go. Unlike Cirque Du Soleil, which is very refined, or Ringling Bros., which is your traditional circus-going experience, USoul is pure energy, start to finish (um…did I tell you I was sweating). But don’t take my word for it. See if for yourself.

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Burnt Bridges: The Scorched Earth Style of Brand Building

I am a firm believer in the philosophy you reap what you sow. So I’ve tried to remain vigilant about the way that I treat other people, especially when it comes to business. I haven’t always necessarily been successful, but I’ve tried. Being Nigerian and an uber-Taurus, surpressing my pride, ceding ground in negotiations or admitting I’m wrong, are bitter pills to swallow. But I recognize that no one wants to deal with an asshole, and I comport myself accordingly.

Only you can prevent burnt bridges.

Only you can prevent burnt bridges.

There are others, I’ve come across, who take an entirely different approach to the public perception of their brand.  I call them ‘scorched earth’ brand builders because of their take-no-prisoners, devil-may-care approach.  They do and say what they want, when they want, to who (or is it ‘whom’?) they want, regardless (or in spite) of the consequences.  

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Don’t burn bridges” or “You attract more bees with sugar than with salt.” These (and many more like them) all speak to the principle that it’s better to curry favor, than alienate people. Scorched earth-ers could care less about currying favor.  They live life and treat people with a singular focus, themselves (think Benjamin Linus from Lost).

I tell my clients (and the youth I mentor) that you should never utter an unkind word about another (publicly) lest it come back to bite you in the ass. You don’t want to be known as a back-biter, hater or gossip. More importantly, maintain your reputation at all costs. So much depends upon reputation – guard it with your life (Law No. 5, 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene).

In business (and life) relationships are paramount. You never know who knows who (or is it whom?). So even if you have utter disdain for another, its always best to keep those feelings bottled up, and play it close to the vest. Maintaining a even veneer (even toward your enemies) will help you navigate effortlessly through fans and foes alike.

You always want to be cognizant of what you leave in your wake.

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The Best Year of My Life

 

Duran preparing to present her speech on Parallel Universes

Duran preparing to present her speech on Parallel Universes (after she takes a call)

I groan every morning when I get up and get ready for work.  It’s not an audible groan, per se, just an internal ‘here we go again’ groan. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job either. I work with pleasant young people, and the demands of the day aren’t excessive.

So ‘what’s the problem?’ you ask. Well, I leave so early each morning (6:25 a.m.), and get back so late (7:15 p.m.) that I rarely see my children. They’re still asleep when I leave, and it’s bedtime when I get home. I get a few kisses and hugs before bed.  I might even get in a quick breakdown of the day.  But I’ve usually got to content myself with peeking in on them as they slumber.

I was definitely spoiled by the year I spent “working from home” while wifey brought home the bacon. At the time (my glorious ‘consulting days’), two of my kids were in pre-school and kindergarten, and the baby was at home with me.

It was unquestionably the greatest year of my life. Wifey hated it. But hey, you win some, you lose some. I got bonding time that I would have never had if I’d been working (and that I don’t get now because I am working).

During that year, I developed unique relationships with each of my children.  Asha (aka ‘the Diva’) and I acted and performed plays.  Chima (Pele-in-training) and I played soccer. The baby (‘lil genius) and I engaged in regular discourse on the state of the world.

The impact of that year is felt each time I come home and the kids rush to greet me.  When I’m home on the weekends, the kids are always up underneath me. In fact, I think mommy might be a little jealous of our closeness (hey, what can I say, I’m the shiznit).

I firmly believe that the closeness the kids and I share is a direct result of the time spent at home with them. I get nostalgic pangs, from time-to-time, and wonder what they might be doing at various points of my day. 

I finally understand what parents mean when they say that kids grow so fast.  This fall all my kids will be in school, and it was just yesterday that I was nearly passing out in the delivery room (good times, good times) with the birth of my first (I subsequently got it together for 2 and 3).

If I wouldn’t be perceived as a trifling shiftless Negro, I would happily put wifey back on the track and chill at home with my chillens. But I’d also take a few days telecommuting as an alternative (Ali G?)

Hopefully the kids will still be up when I get home (fingers crossed)…

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When to say ‘when’

Day 3 of CTIA began four hours after Day 2 ended.  I stumbled into my room at 4:30 a.m., having been dragged from one party to the next, succumbing to the subtle pressure of professional social interactions.

In my post-show travels, I had a wonderful dinner at Mesa (in Caesar’s Palace).  Afterwards, I stopped through Treasure Island for the MEF party at Christian Audigier.  From there it was on to the Playboy club at the Palm hotel (where I was thrice accosted by a over-zealous female party goer – not pleasant).  

picture-3

At 3 am, when Mr. Sandman had me squarely in his sights, I was pulled into a stretch Escalade to Rick’s Cabaret (the old Scores). When it dawned on me that Rick’s was a ‘gentlemen’s club’ (gentlemen? hmmm) I immediately regretted my decision not to decouple after the Playboy party.

But it wasn’t until the lap dances started (none for me, thank you), I realized I was in over my head.  Sensing that others were looking for a messiah to lead them from salacious grips of the flesh den to the promise land of slumber, I made my move and called it a night (prompting others to do the same).

Day 3 started way earlier than I was prepared for, but I took solace in the fact that the crowds were likely to be light, and there would be no heavy lifting involved.

For future reference, I now know when to say “when.”

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Nicely done Handmark

So Day 2’s CTIA after-conference hour offering from Handmark renewed my faith in CTIA’s party acumen. The Handmark party was hosted poolside at the Renaissance Hotel next door to the Las Vegas Convention Center. In addition to the live jazz music, this classy affair also offered complimentary hand rolled cigars, a full open bar and a free cell phone caddy to keep your cell phone gently cradled while you re-charged.

The weather was balmy, the drinks were ice-cold, the music was smooth and the event was a welcome respite from the hard selling taking place on the show floors. Handmark put together and beautifully executed its event, combining all the elements of a casual networking and after-hour relaxation. I left the party feeling pampered and refreshed.  

Hats off to you Handmark.

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