Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Second childhood

Maggy and I just came back from a great walk in the park.

As we entered our building she stopped short and stared at the window. She then proceeded to approach the "other dog" slowly until they were face to face. Next she swerved to the side and watched. All very curiously and seriously. She wasn't even deterred by my laughter as I watched her.

I haven't seen her react toward her own reflection since she was just months old. It was quite fun to see and remember as well.

Monday, June 9, 2008

CBC's HNIC gaffe

CBC Sports has blown it by losing the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song (especially following their loss of the Olympics following Beijing). As many, many Canadians have said over the past few days, the song is our 'unofficial' national anthem, and it's a forty-year-old component of a long-standing, successful national brand.

While the Executive Director of Marketing, Scott Moore shrugged off the loss of the theme song as an opportunity to help 'refresh' the brand, CTV picked up the jingle for use by its TSN/RDS and during Vancouver's 2010 Olympics. As opposed to keeping its venerable brand intact, CBC plans to launch a national contest to generate citizen submissions for a new theme. This instead of paying the $2-3 million price tag to own the song outright after building its equity over the past four decades. Sounds like small-thinking, tactical marketing is driving business strategy, versus the other way around. 

The big questions moving forward will be:

- will Canadians condemn CBC for not caring about the HNIC brand and its elements as much as they do?
- do Canadians really care who carries their beloved hockey programming to them as long as it's a great experience (e.g. fun, inspiring and respectful to the tradition of hockey in Canada)?
- does CTV/TSN/RDS have what it takes to replace CBC as Canada's home for hockey programming?
- did CBC Sports not learn when they tried to let Ron MacLean go?

Whether this will be a big deal or minor gaffe for CBC remains to be seen. 

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Changing times

It's sad to see the decline of the NA auto industry continue - especially having grown up in Oshawa. While I feel empathy for the community and workers, it's difficult to be surprised at what's occuring. The fact that GM has not kept pace with reality is one of the largest contributors to their failing business.

And the union has also had an impact on the situation now at hand.

While the "Big Three" have dominated the NA car market for decades, they have failed to be responsive to several key emerging trends over the past 20 years:

- the rise of the efficient, affordable, consumer-oriented car makers (Toyota, Honda, Hyundai etc.)
- the move to consolidate and streamline product lines and brands - is there really a need for the same cars to be branded as Pontiac, GMC, Buick etc.? And why so many? How can this be cost-effective?
- the improved nimbleness of plants that provide great environments and benefits without heavy-handed, fat-cat, self-justifying union bosses
- the move from the old industrial model to a new paradigm that features products that respond to consumer needs and wants, and less emphasis on big-budget, ineffective marketing tactics

My experience last summer is a good indication of how GM has lost such tremendous ground to Toyota in its own back yard. I tried hard to buy a GM Vibe as I had done my research and knew that the Vibe is the same car as the Toyota Matrix. Given that I'm living in this area now, I figured I would show loyalty for the home-grown. Following weeks of online research, test-drives and quotations, I found that Toyota's sales and service model was by far superior. My final decision was based on the fact that Toyota could provide the model and specs I wanted, quickly, and for the same price as a Vibe. Plus when I asked for online quotes and timing from 20 dealerships from both GM and Toyota (still trying to find a way to stick with the Vibe), I received responses from Toyota from between 1 and 24 hours later, versus GM who took days, weeks and even up to a month to respond.

That was the clincher as I realized that GM, as big and powerful as they have been in the past, has not recognized what's clearly in front of their face. The consumer now comes first - not their executive bonuses, union packages, nor old-paradigm business models. And that's not even taking into consideration their slow-off-the-mark response to developing fuel-efficient cars, and elimininating gas guzzlers from the roads. Now with the current focus on eco-friendly transportation, high oil prices, and struggling US and Canadian economies, this old-time company may well simply collapse before our eyes.

(Interestingly, one of the reasons Toyota was able to provide the model I requested much more quickly was because their plant in Cambridge, Ontario is much closer than the GM/Toyota plant shipping the Vibe from California. So, in the end, I went with a home-grown solution anyway...)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Windy city

When moving to Toronto, no one mentioned that it's windy about 90% of the time - at least it has been for the eight months Maggy and I have lived here. Generally we reserve the windy city title for Chicago or Winnipeg or perhaps some northern, coastal place. As it turns out though, in TO, even if it was a balmy, humid, hot day an hour ago, temps can drop and the wind picks up and jackets are still required.

This wouldn't be a big deal, except that Maggy's park and our home seem to be in the middle of a wind tunnel which I'm sure exacerbates the speed and force of the gales that can sometimes take my breath away.

We've had a few glimpses of spring/summer weather over the past while, but nothing has stuck. I may rue the day I said this, but I'm really looking forward to some sustained summer heat as I'm tired of feeling cold all the time. That said, I suppose the longer we wait to turn on the a/c is much better for the environment, so I will hold that thought as Maggy and I go out for a stroll keeping the 'wind at our back and the sun on our face'.