Browsing Tag


Marketing IS in the Middle: Vikram Singha

So with the recent examination of my overall social network I got to thinking about the people who responded and those that I engage over and over to learn from, either via social media or in person.  To that end, I’m starting a series of interviews on Marketing, which are essentially just 7 questions.  I’ve got a bunch in the queue already, but wanted to start with a key influencer to my marketing experience, Vikram Singha.  I had the pleasure to have Vikram in my group for like 4 years and to work along side him as a peer during his last role I worked with him in.

Vikram is the type of product manager that looks at the numbers – the opportunity and the revenue, plus one of the best statisticians I have ever met.  Vikram is one of the founding members of Global Energy Talent and responsible for Marketing.  To that end, below is Vikram’s overview on how Marketing’s in the Middle from his experience:

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?
Strategic Marketing- Federal Express; Ecommerce and logistics; worldwide
Product Manager- Inovis; B2B software and services; primarily US
Marketing lead- Global Energy Talent; Human capital  services for the energy industry; worldwide

When you look at your career in marketing, what discipline/component have you found most interesting/challenging?
The sales and marketing interface.  At most of organizations where I’ve worked there has always been tension between these two functions. The push and pull happens on many different levels:

  • who to target?
  • What markets?
  • What to build and pitch?
  • How to price?
  • How to get to the decision maker?

The successful organization aligns the Sales leader and the CMO tightly and creates structures that allow these teams to interact both formally AND informally. The trick is to make sure there isn’t an echo chamber and that creative differences can be brought out and thought through. My sense is that short term focused organizations (typically the tech industry which tend to be more quarter-driven) tend to have more differences. Managing this is always a challenge, as well as part of the fun of marketing.

What do you feel the most important component of a successful marketing gig?  (Product, Brand, Positioning)
Positioning. At the end of the day Marketing’s role is to tell the organization’s story– to prospects, customers, employees and different stakeholders in the market at large. This all boils down to how you talk about yourself, how you empower everyone in the org to tell the same story. Once you sell the vision then its easier to make the transactional sale, whether it’s a product or service.

Since you selected Positioning, how has that contributed to revenue in your experience?
Example at my current gig: Am part of a startup providing recruitment, training and consulting for the energy industry worldwide. We’re competing with both large global generalists as well as regional specialists. The only way we can get access to decision makers is to focus very specifically in one vertical domain and immediately connect with a pain point that most in the industry are generally aware of but usually don’t verbalize- lack of technical talent and the process to fill the crew gap. We’ve done this in a variety of ways and channels, and as result have entrée (and ongoing projects) at quite a few global oil majors that wouldn’t have given us the time of the day if our story was uni-dimensional. Being in the services industry (read: low IP) the value has to be defined at a very fundamental level, else it then just becomes a nickel and dime game.

What experiences brought you to this conclusion?
Trial and error!

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?
Probably an environment where there is freedom to experiment. Ability to learn, and more importantly, institutionalize this learning. Key point is that this is not a marketing issue, rather an organizing principle at its core.

How far is this from reality?
Some companies are doing this already. Toyota, Apple, P&G, Nokia, Ideo. In fact Ideo has some very interesting approaches to ethnographic learning systems that drive marketing design decisions.

Peace, Love, Justice and Activism: An Interview

I had an opportunity to recently connect with one of the most cool folks in my life, Chris Matthias.  Chris is one of those folks who still battles windmills, instills confidence in whomever he meets and ultimately he is out there trying to make a difference.  After hanging out and again seeing his passion to make the world a better place, I thought it was important to share with y’all what he does and hopefully provide you access to a new channel for making a difference you might not have been aware of.

Chris was kind enough to spend the time to work with me and get an interview in place so you can hear in his own voice why it is important to contribute and generally do good things when and where you can.

Q: What is the organization you work for?

I work for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, a congregation of Roman Catholic Sisters who abide in my home town of Adrian, Michigan.

Q: What are the key themes y’all are working for?

Key themes? The office that I work for is called Global Mission, Justice and Peace. Everything that we do is rooted in the vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, which is a crossroads of Catholic Social Teaching, the Dominican Charism, and the issues that the sisters are most actively engaged in. We have what we call corporate stances. These are positions that we have taken on certain issues, which become a mandate for my day to day work. Things like the Death Penalty, Nuclear Weapons, and the War in Iraq. We’re against all three by the way.

Q: Peace and Justice, really – how does one get a career in that?

I’ve had a long relationship with the Adrian Dominicans. I attended one of their sponsored institutions for college,  Siena Heights University. As a student, I took a great interest in any action that was happening in the peace and justice arena. In my senior year, I did an internship in the office in which I now work and the sisters and I developed a great rapport.

After that I moved to Boston, once I graduated and continued to work for organizations in the non-profit sector, or human services.  I returned home for a short time, and just before I was going to leave again their was a want add for the office where I’d interned!   Needless to say, I didn’t get on the train.

Q: Where has peace and justice taken you?

Hmmm. Well, I suppose there are several ways to answer that one. First the concrete….

My work in peace and justice has taken me to a lot of demonstrations. Of course in Adrian, but also to demonstrations in Washington DC as well as Fort Benning Georgia to work on closing the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. But it isn’t all demonstrating. There is a lot of coalition building and colaborating with different groups. For example this summer I went to Philidelphia for the Convention for the Common Good, where progressive Catholics gathered to create discuss which issues they were most dedicated to raising during and beyond the election season.

I’ve also gone and did some modest travel – I went to the UN in New York to learn about what the Dominican Family does as an NGO which was a great opportunity.  I also did some international work in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

In the more abstract, my work in peace and justice has taken me deeper into community with the people in my life, both familiar and unfamiliar. I know that sounds a little strange, but this is what I mean: when one’s work is focusing on injustice and inequity, we are forced to take a pretty serious dose of self examination, to make sure that we are challenging ourselves to be more just and more equitable in how we interact with our families, significant others, neighbors, our food supply, the people who produce the goods that we buy, how we spend money, what we consume, what we speak.

Q: Dude, are you a trustafarian or something?  How can you make it all work?

Far from it.  That would certainly make things much easier. The way that I approach it is to live within my means. Which I get right about 85 percent of the time.  I think that there is a big trade off when it comes to money.  Some of my friends make a lot more money than I do, but what they do to get it is nothing that they believe in.   But they get a sizable paycheck and that’s the reward. They eat at nicer restaurants than I do, they wear more expensive shoes, and can take more elaborate vacations.

Don’t get me wrong, I envy that sometimes. But most of the time it’s very easy to just be happy. The poor have their own wealth–each other.  When I lay down at night I fall right to sleep. Living in right relationships = a good life.

Q: How can folks help?

Every issue is a justice issue, and no one can handle them all. One of the things that is continuously referenced in my work circles is an interconnectedness of the issues. Human Trafficking might seem worlds away from making a choice not to but a Hummer (If that’s an option for you) but they both have to do with exercising privilege at the expense of others. So I say that the first step is start where you are.

What are problems facing your community? Go to a meeting, set up an action. You don’t have to have a Live Earth concert to do some good…Do a park clean up. Buy your food at the farmers’ market, turn off the TV and go outside. Play card games instead of video games. The way I see things, peace and justice are about healthy connecting. Injustice is a result of isolation, and selfishness. By starting small, there is a much better chance that you can stick to it, and then get into the bigger issues.

Q: I hear all that, but if there was just 1 thing everyone should do if they can’t actively travel or don’t have the cash to donate, what would that be?

Compost. I know that doesn’t seem like it’s going to save the world from AIDS, nuclear war, or global warming, however, it does mean that we actively recognize that this is a closed system we’re living in here. Recognize your part in it, and do well by it.  Life will sprout up from it.

Q:How can they follow up with you and your organization?

Visit our website @ or check out my blog, The Happy Activist. I don’t have that many readers right now, so if I get a few, maybe I’ll be held more accountable to write more.

I clearly couldn’t have put it as well as he did, thanks for doing this Chris! I’m definitely thankful for the effort he puts in day in and day out, so give him a read or check out what local organizations you may be able to participate in.

Parentalism: Sharing the wealth

Had a great couple of conversations at an event I went to about a week ago and thought I might use it as blog fodder.   As one would expect the presidential election continues a point of interest in most public discussions, but not always appropriate for many settings.   To that end, Em and I were able to quickly divert the conversation to parenting, which is always a good thing since Em is as blue as can be, I’m definitely purple and we live in a red state.   Parenting is something most everyone can get who is over 30.  It also is something I know about which makes it easy to speak to without much of a stretch.  Plus parenting is a topic which we can all synchronize on, like the first time your kid got dreadlocks,

100_0635 by you.

the time when you broke your arm dropping into a bowl with your 7 year olds or the first protest you took your kids to.

photo by you.

So not sure how, but somehow parenting came back to politics, arrghhh.   So Em does a conversation flip from “sharing the wealth” being a political thing to being equally a parental thing.   Premise: All parental wealth is ultimately shared with the kids.

Under that premise, the transition from “democrats suck” to parenting was pretty easy –  the only really enjoyable sharing of the wealth is being a parent.   So I thought I would take it a little further – is it possible that parenting can fuel an economic rebound?  Can free spending entitlement based parenting be a new socio/political/economic model?

Heck yeah! If trickle down economics works as a model, then improving the discretionary income of minors has some validity and who is most able to make this happen?  Yup, parents. Parentalism.

Propping Up the Cell Phone Industry: A Parentalism Use Case

So I started thinking about how being a parent could drive improvements to the economy.  We could do all kinds of things like change curfew hours, enable them to take up a hobby or make a decision of some sort which requires more cash or changes how the kids can spend cash.   The first thing that came to my mind which could have an impact was my decision on a new cell phone.   My continuous denial to buy my two oldest kids a new 3G iPhone is having a negative impact on economy.  Yes, I know – horrible dad, since all the cool kids have them and AT&T could use a little increased share of wallet from me.   My take is that one should be happy at 12 to have a phone, even if it’s not an iPhone since every good parent gets their kids a mobile phone by 12, right?   Well maybe not every 12 year old has a cell phone and that just might be how parentalism could help the telcos, the economy and my dad coolness vibe.  Let’s do a little math:

  • 75M kids in the US under 18
  • Fuzzy math: kids over 12 years old is let’s say 20M
  • Let’s say that 20% have cell phones, so there is a bunch of opportunity here.
  • Let’s say that another 10% could have phones if their parents were just cool enough

So quick math indicates that by just practicing parentalistic spending you could pump $120M/yr into the economy and no one even needs to get an iPhone, but surely the cool kids would.  No really it is not that hard to back into the number: 2M kids @ $10/mo for the extra line, $40 in minutes/overage and $10 in unlimited texting and the $120M doesn’t include ringtones, games or a device purchase.  This could be exciting economic stuff this parentalism.   Think about it — what is more joyful than seeing your kid text message their way through dinner.   Like father/mother, like son/daughter –  a proud day definitely lies ahead with parentalism.  What other parental decisions could be made which would provide stimulus to the economy?

  • Buy a new Minivan?
  • Start a new college or trust fund to fuel transaction fees?
  • Participate in a bake sale?
  • Refuse to do a carpool
  • Invite people you hardly know to your kids birthday party? (no that would be weddingism)
  • Just say yes to that candy in the checkout lane (it also makes life easier for other around you)

Ultimately there is always a spreading of the wealth which occurs by choice, design or accident which we all participate in everyday. The big questions is when, where and how is acceptable spreading of the wealth determined?  Is it determined by the fact that the wage earner makes the decision?  Isn’t a vote a decision? Isn’t where you live a decision? I guess you could move to Canada…errr wait, healthcare is socialized, maybe France then might work.

I liken a tax credit or stimulus check approach  to having the same positive impact as giving your kid a raise in their allowance within a parentalism model.  Think about it, what did you do with your stimulus check, providing you got one?  What impact did it have on the economy?   Not much….  At the end of the day, I’m not sure I would trust my 12 year old twins to more responsibly stimulate the economy than the government.  I’m not sure I would trust the average adult either.

Well there may be some upside to giving the twins more money, it may improve the skateboard, apparel and video game industry, I guess you have to start somewhere.  On second thought, it might be cool to take a high speed train ride across the country on summer vacation while stopping at several national parks and breathing clean air.  This should be my last political post, probably.

QUESTION TO SELF: I wonder if this is what mommy bloggers feel like after they write a post?

Roads, Rail and Infrastructure: The economic opportunity

Not really political these days, but I find myself just a little more interested in politics than I have been for a while with the upcoming presidential election.  I actually haven’t had a sticker on my car since the first Clinton election which surprises me now that I think about it.  The key driver for my acute attention on this election is the economy.  The current market status is just a fun little thing to watch – evaporating value and continuous corrections.

Every good election seems to have an economic issue, wars not so much – kinda odd.  There have been two fairly interesting politically driven economies – Clinton’s internet stock bubble and Bush’s housing crisis.    Both which have helped bring us to where we are, for good or ill.   This $700B bailout has sparked more than a few interesting conversations in which I was a participant or witness over the last couple of weeks, so the economy is front and center for most of us.  I was recently reminded that we already put like $250B into the mortgage market already this year, but with the passing of the most recent allotment, I’m just a little curious of what it means.  A little positive motivation from President Bush to help me keep my head straight:

We have acted boldly to help prevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis in communities across our country…our economy continues to face serious challenges.

Effort Free Growth

Each of the previous market growth markets – Internet and Housing, had little true production of goods and no real multi-industry impact.  Seemingly effortless growth, – stocks, real estate – passive financial growth.  If you look at the current optics of the market, it has essentially removed all the intangible/labor free wealth from the system.  The fiction and folklore around the current economy is fun to watch as well – everyone has ideas and suspicions.  Take the debates – everyone had perfectly focused talking points to promote their platforms, as long as they ask the right questions.

Plenty of non-answers or message moves throughout both debate, but one particular question effectively helped both debates go a little off message.  A single question from Jim Leherer on “what would the candidates change” based on the latest economic twist?  This question was also echoed in the VP debate.  You betcha – no one is giving up on anything for the United States voters.  None of candidates answered the question really can’t really blame them though.   That’s a tough thing to answer this close to the election date in such a competitive presidential race.  Effectively the candidates were asked to publicly modify their platforms in real-time on national television.  Nothing good comes from a direct answer, but Biden did admit a need to “slow things down”.  But the other three had no real talking points on this, so they just stayed on message. Energy, Engine, Maverick, Big Business, tax cuts below $250,000…..

Neither of the candidate’s platforms really do much for the economy, they do each have a “gap patch”, which will fix it for a while and allow them to get on with their presidency, but no long term benefit for the country.   The question I have is: “Why not go big and build a bunch of stuff too?”.  If the last couple of hurricanes weren’t enough of a clue – we may need a little Civilian Conservation Corp revival, not just to improve for disasters, but to build an infrastructure for growth.   You could give the initiative some cheesy name like Infrastructure 3.0, that way you can have a cool logo and t-shirts.  Gotta give some money to the apparel industry along the way, a single industry growth model doesn’t work.   Perhaps a plan which included the delivery of long term reusable/durable assets which make the nation’s infrastructure sounder and provides for the distribution of funds across economic strata and geographic boundaries. Cross-cutting economics might be one way to look at this.

From Productivity to Production

A geographic based development effort to optimize multi-industry growth and spawn regional economic growth through local/state projects.   Burgeoning economies, sustaining economies – ultimately build things.    Think the development of the TVA via the new deal.   The previous investment in infrastructure post depression was focused to enable the US to fully transcend an agrarian economy and to bridge the economy.  Perhaps the US now needs a new infrastructure that better supports the current information based economy which is in transition.  Perhaps we could put some folks to work building roads and enhancing the current high tech infrastructure for the future growth of our tertiary economy.

I’m not talking about a bridge to nowhere, but maybe some new bridges.  Infrastructure is on at least one candidates mind, Obama asserted that high speed internet infrastructure was important for the populous, but so are roads, rail and the environment.  A set of initiatives which focus on in country investment, energy conservation and better access might be what we need.

A new growth grid which helps optimize transportation and encourages investment in new places, local places could provide a significant improvement to the economy overall.  Basically if we could build an upgraded grid of interstate roads, rail, wireless, and internet bandwidth rural and urban areas alike would benefit.   The system would have improved routing based on current population distributions, mass transit extensions would ultimately be funded by states/private sector would provide for basic sustainability.  A more sustainable impact on the environment and a sustainable economy, for say 15-25 years.   What the US needs now is a little eminent domain, steel production and construction.

I ain’t no Economist, but…

When you hear the word depression, crisis and meltdown – something’s just a little off with the current model.  We might want to find a way to lessen the consumption, limit emissions and improve distribution. The current infrastructure and capacity was optimized for fulfilling demand as forecasted in let’s say the 50’s or 60’s and things have changed a little.

A Potential Opportunity

So there are probably 4 things which could be laid out by who ever wins which could significantly improve the economic balance of the our free market economy.  Balance between the public and private sector is the key, so the government funds it, private sector builds, localities monitor and maintain, and everyone benefits.

Funding: The funding of the activity will need to come from something, so it’s imports and export taxes/tariffs, it’s ok America is on sale and if you really need a new coach bag, you will pay the additional 4-7%.  The Euro and Pound have all kinds of room to absorb the price, as does nearly every other currency.   Other trickle down funding opportunities:

  • The incremental income tax driven by lower unemployment
  • Small business growth in new grid cross road communities
  • More government employees will be needed to support the infrastructure (police, road commission, telco, maintenance)
  • New local development to drive local taxes
  • Project bubbles for in localities on use and sales tax.

Hopefully this redistribution of tax dollars into the economy will help Hockey mom’s and hard workin American’s everywhere.  We can dream….

The Road System

We certainly do have enough roads, but most need a bunch of work and we might be able to improve commutes, increase safety and provide for an improved transportation systems for goods delivery and ultimately lessening the overall impact to local and national environs, plus you get some new bridges and new places for the tertiary economy to develop.  Who knows, maybe the next generation of bridge graffiti will be cooler to look at while your taking the train in an hour from the city, rather than commuting 12 miles in an hour.  But if you have to drive, maybe you can go 12 miles in say 20 minutes – that might be nice.


Well.. we certainly aren’t a compact set of nations like Europe which makes it a good deal easier to develop a strategic local and extended rail system, but the movement of goods, vacationers and business people via rail could accelerate extended industries like metals and aerospace while improving the environment.  No really aerospace, Boeing makes train fuselages, so this isn’t just about construction workers, engineers make out too with this plan. Putting our money here is definitely a long strategy for the movement of people, but it would provide states the opportunity to build into a new modern infrastructure for the movement of goods.  New distribution centers could develop and helping establish new growth areas economically, which don’t have the opportunity now.   Along with roads, this could help move folks and industry to less dense areas, a non-obvious eco-friendly side effect of rail and new crossroads.

Internet and Wireless

So hows that new iPhone 3G working for you?  Ok for some, not ok for others, we are a little light on coverage for the cool stuff.   You could develop as part of the road and rail activities big crazy pipes which run parallel and an extend the next generation wireless network which could further distribute IP connectivity and support for the next wave in commerce. You could also run some new energy delivery through the same network while were at it, perhaps a wind farm or two along the way.

Dream big, don’t just fix it

Wow – that’s gonna cost a lot and take a bunch of time, more than most president’s got, but the results would be immediate as folks ramp up the staff to accommodate so it just might work.  You probably also noticed that a couple of points of tax/tariff will work, but it could be enough of a hit to move some jobs back to the US, which based on fuel prices alone appears to be already happening.  You betcha we gotta do something to make sure it’s funded appropriately.  😉

So what would a maverick do?  Lease the rail?  So you could subsidize the effort by letting folks bid on say the 6 new government internet backbones, which parallel to the new train and interstate road system.   Heck – it’s all for rent!  I have no idea if the strategic multipurpose development on single set of eminent domain swaths can re-distribute population, optimize distribution models, improve the environment and provide bottom up economic growth, but you have to dream big, which I hope the next president does when elected. It’s not like I’m a economist or even that political, but this seems like a big election for some reason.  Make sure you vote.