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Archive for August, 2008

Attention Business Professionals: Can You Look Yourself In The Mirror?

Friday, August 29th, 2008

As you read this post there are less than 130 days to go in 2008–130 days until the clock strikes midnight and we all welcome in 2009–130 days to make something happen this year. Clearly the state of the economy is very challenging…maybe the most challenging readers have ever faced.

As August comes to a close, you might be missing your goals. Frankly you might be missing your goals by a tremendous amount. You might be missing your personal goals by a ton and have absolutely no chance of hitting them or even coming close… or at least it feels that way. My reaction to the past few sentences is “so what?” Maybe all that is true, but until December 31, 2008 is upon us and you go to sleep, you never know what can happen. Sometimes surprises happen. There have been so many times I have been involved with a proposal or a piece of business that I thought we never had a chance to win and lo and behold when the client made the decision we were the victor. Things can turn around quickly as long as you keep focused, keep trying to make things happen.

It is very easy to throw in the towel when you believe your goals are not within reach. It is very easy to not work as hard as you did in the beginning of the year because of the economy or what is happening to your clients. I say do the hard thing. Keep working as hard as you did early on and who knows? At the end of the year you might surprise yourself and your company.

At the end of the year no matter what the numbers may suggest, I want to make sure I can look myself in the mirror and say that I did everything within my power to have a good year. If I am able to do that and we miss our numbers I will be disappointed but not angry with myself. My hope is that everyone at M/A/R/C Research can do and say the same thing.

So I ask you, “Can you look yourself in the mirror at the end of 2008?”

I look forward to your comments and thoughts.

Why Can’t Traveling Be Fun? It Can! Read On…

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

This past year I celebrated traveling my 1,000,000th mile on American Airlines. I have always traveled a great deal and probably have flown over 2,000,000 miles in the past 25 years. I used to love to travel and can still remember my first big business trip I went on way back in the 80’s when Marianne Schafer and Field Facts sent me to the AMA conference which happened to be in Palm Springs, CA. What a GREAT spot!

Speed up to 2008. Travel isn’t as much fun as it used to be. In fact it really isn’t that much fun at all. The airports these days are filled with long delays and unhappy people…not to mention increasing fees every day.

Why can’t airlines make travel fun? I say they can and should and if they don’t, they will have a bigger problem on their hands.

What can the airlines do?

  • How about playing bingo in flight? Think about it for a minute…the flight attendants don’t serve a ton of food these days and seem to have some extra time on their hands. They could pass out bingo cards and announce the numbers on the intercom system and the winner gets a free drink, free meal, deck of cards and maybe a grand prize of a free flight to anywhere in the United States. This won’t cost the airlines a ton of money and it would show the passengers that the airline is very creative and cares about them.
  • What about making some announcements about the city you are going to? I realize that some people are taking another flight, but on flights that 75% of the passengers are staying in that city, talk a little bit about the restaurants, museums and things to do. I think people might enjoy it and again start to have fun again on flights.
  • At the end of the flight, let any kids who want to, take a picture with the captain in the cockpit. I think my kids would like to do this. It would be easy to do. When you land, make a quick announcement and ask those interested to stay seated until everyone is off the plane. Then they can come up and meet the captain and take a picture. I don’t think it would take a long time, and it would probably give the kids a memory forever.

Those are just a few ideas that I thought of that perhaps might make a difference to some people.

  • What do you think of my crazy ideas?
  • Are any of them fun?
  • What ideas do you have?
  • Are you enjoying traveling these days?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Attention Coffee Drinkers: Which One Is Your Favorite?

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Last week someone sent me a creative email (thanks JK) that I had to share, entitled "Coffee Art." Apparently there is a restaurant in Vancouver (actually three), where they dress up the coffee drinks. You get to watch them create the pictures. What can be done with coffee, cream, milk and imagination is simply amazing!

All of them are very creative. For me two of them stand out a little more than the rest. The boat is really clever and the detail is amazing and think about what happens when the server delivers it: when they put it down it probably creates waves–which is even more creative. The second one I really like is the ape. For some reason it just makes me laugh and automatically puts me in a great mood. If this restaurant was around here I would visit it every week.

It's full of stars...and planets.

Wow! I can see myself in this cup...hey...wait a minute!

Sailing...takes me away to where I always heard it could be...

Doing everything we can to keep our heads below water...

Moon and stars...

A pretty flower

Monkeys, tigers and boats! Oh my!

  • What do you think?
  • What is your favorite?
  • Have you been to a restaurant that is very creative with their presentation of food or drink?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

What Shape Is Your Watermelon?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

I realize that you are probably reading this post because you are curious as to what crazy thing I might be discussing today. Watermelons! Most of you are probably thinking how can Merrill possibly write anything about that topic that would be of interest? Close your eyes and picture a watermelon… Now what words first come to mind? When I think of a watermelon, words like big, round, juicy, seeds and summer first come to mind.

Yes a watermelon takes up lots of room! And yes it is a very weird shape!

Well smart Japanese farmers have forced their watermelons to grow into a square shape by inserting the melons into square, tempered glass cases while still growing on the vine.

Japan has again shown off one of its greatest innovations — square watermelons.

For years most of us struggled to fit the large round fruit in their refrigerators. And what about cutting it — it rolls around! Years ago a forward-thinking farmer on Japan’s south-western island of Shikoku solved the problem. The farmer, from Zentsuji in Kagawa prefecture, came up with the idea of making a cube-shaped watermelon which could easily be packed and stored.

I think the idea is very creative but because it is very expensive–10,000 yen ($83, which is two or three times the average cost of a watermelon in Japan)–I probably wouldn’t buy it.

  • Have you seen a square watermelon before?
  • Forgetting about the price – what do you think of the concept?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

P.S. To me, the true lesson behind the watermelon story is anything is possible to increase efficiencies as long as you are willing to look at things a little different!

Do you have a secret way of looking at something a little different?

Attention To Detail By Guest Writer Lisa Goin

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Lisa GoinWhen I was asked to be a guest blogger, I was torn on the subject of my entry:

Should it be related to:

  • What I do as a creative director
  • My experience as a working mother with 2 1/2-year-old twin girls.
  • What I’ve done to combat the effects of the economy on my families grocery bill. My quest for coupons and the satisfaction felt in saving $108.00 in one grocery-shopping trip.
  • My self-admitted obsession with reality TV. I have no shame in indulging in hours of Project Runway, Shear Genius or Biggest Loser and American Idol.

Even with all these, true inspiration still eluded me. As each day went by, none of these topics were inspiring me to run to the computer to tap finger to key.

And then it happened. The 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies. I know what you are thinking: Not another discussion about politics and the Olympics. Nope. It wasn’t the amazing history of the Olympics either. Or the incredible athleticism and dedication of all the athletes. It was the creativity that got me off the couch, leaving my family, still watching in awe.

Zhang Yimou considers one detail, then manyIt was the unbelievable attention to detail when it came to the vision and creativity that went into the conception, planning, and execution of this massive production. I was captivated by the details in the story it told and how it all unfolded and the transitions it made between all artistic forms: performance art, choreography, costume, colors/lighting, timing, music, illustration, technology, martial arts etc. It was awe-inspiring, and just the thing that made me jump up off the couch and run to the computer to blog about it.

Attention to detail is something I’m familiar with in my day-to-day passion for the work that I do. I feel it is one thing to be creative, but it is a whole other thing to be creative and also put the crucial, and in some cases tiny, details and thoughts into an already solid creative concept. This, is where the magic happens. And in the case of the production in Beijing, it was inspiring.

My favorite part was when the dancers started to draw on that big screen as they performed, and how that drawing then was enhanced when the children added their emotion to it. I particularly enjoyed how the athletes walked across enormous sized ink pads and their footsteps added color and motion to the entire piece of art… it involved many, in creating this piece of art. The thought and detail in that one snippet alone of the production was a really amazing work of art. One that the entire world witnessed being created — in real time. This is what I think art is all about.

  • What do you think of this production from a creative perspective?
  • What "detail" was your favorite part?
  • What "detail" was your least favorite part?
  • Do you have any secrets or best practices that you use to be detail oriented?

I look forward to reading your comments.

Chime in.


About Lisa Goin, Creative Director at AvreaFoster

As Creative Director, Lisa draws on nearly 20 years of advertising/design experience to help continually raise the bar on the creative work produced for her clients. Lisa works on many accounts, in industries ranging from technology to healthcare. This wife and proud mother of twins enjoys “jumping in and problem-solving.” She holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute.

Bird's Nest

Attention Conference Goers: Are You Going More/Less This Fall?

Monday, August 18th, 2008

In a few months, the colder weather will be upon us. For folks who are fortunate to live in Texas, that means it will be 85 degrees and beautiful. It also means that the conference season is here as well. Within an eight week period, the AMA, CASRO, ESOMAR, MRA, PMRG, QRCA, The Research Industry Summit and The Market Research Event and others will all happen.

A few questions since the economy is very challenging right now:

  • How will conference attendance be affected?
  • Since there seems to be more conference choices than ever, how will that affect attendance?
  • With so many conferences having overlapping dates, how will that affect attendance?
  • With companies exhibiting, are they planning on bringing fewer people than before?
  • Are companies planning on doing more internal training as a replacement for attending conferences?

For us, we are probably sending the same number of people in total but spread out over more conferences. The overlap of conferences for me will probably cause me to miss The Market Research Event for the first time in years.

  • Are you concerned?
  • What are you planning on doing?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

Cna Yuo Raed Tihs?

Friday, August 15th, 2008

A few weeks ago I got an email (thanks BM) that at first looked like a criptoquote. I looked at it again and to my amazement it was something a little different. This gave me time to pause and think about how the human mind works.

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mta etr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it

The funny thing about it I could read this without ANY problem. Not sure that means I am a poor speller or my mind works in a very odd way.

Note: to my knowledge, no one at Cambridge actually conducted a study…but it’s still fun anyway.

  • Could you read it?
  • What does that tell you about the human brain?
  • Did you enjoy the exercise?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Attention Sports Fans: Who Are The Nice Guys In Sports?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Walter PaytonWhen you see a piece about athletes in the newspaper, on ESPN SportsCenter, or in online articles, chances are it has a negative spin. The athlete did something wrong. Frequently we see sports athletes getting arrested or accused about something. Like most of you I am tired of it! Let’s focus on something a little different today.

  • Who are the nice guys in sports?
  • Who do you root for even if you don’t like their team?

My favorite football player of all-time is Walter Payton. Even though I never met him he appeared to be the classiest person during every interview. He was very soft spoken and never had a bad thing to say about anyone. And oh by the way, was perhaps one of if not the greatest running backs of all time.

Last month I found myself rooting for Rocco Mediate. Rocco appeared to have a permanent smile on his face as he was challenging Tiger Woods during the US Open. His personality came right through the TV for me during every interview and I started to really like him….. A LOT!

Who are some of the other nice guys? Jim Valvano? Peyton Manning? Bobby Orr? Pat Neshek who has a blog (of course I like him) and appears to always be having fun.

  • So I ask you: Who are the nice guys in sports?
  • Who would you like to meet and have a beer with?
  • Who appears to be a regular person with a really cool job?

I look forward to reading your comments.

Everyone Starts Things…But Do You Finish Them?

Monday, August 11th, 2008

A few weeks ago I was playing (or trying to play) a game with my kids. Not sure but it might have been Go Fish or Concentration. During the game we were joking around and laughing when all of a sudden a new TV show comes on (apparently one of their favorites) and so long to Dad and the card game. I tried to be rational with two boys under seven by saying "you have to finish something that you started". Clearly that didn’t work, and now they were mesmerized in a trancelike state as they were watching Ed, Edd n Eddy.

Recently I read a story about a Texas oilman who graduated college 71 years later! Good for him. I also read a story about a 59 year old guy who was kicked off his football team 37 years earlier and recently went back to school and finished out his last year of eligibility.

We have all:

  • Started a book
  • Started to get in better shape
  • Started a project in the back yard
  • Started to remodel the house
  • Started to get back into religion
  • Started to taking golf or tennis lessons

The real question is, "DID YOU FINISH?" Did you continue with what you started? It is easy to start something. In fact it is VERY easy to start something but very hard to finish it.

  • What have you started that you would like to finish?
  • Do you have a secret that helps you finish things that you start?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Jane Cook, A Person Who Supported So Many People Now Needs Our Support…We Love You Jane

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Note from Jennifer Davis, Jane’s daughter:

“…we lost my mom on Saturday August 9th. We were all in the room, telling stories of love and teaching. We will miss her more than words can express… Thank you for all of the wonderful postings, flowers and prayers.

Jennifer on behalf of Rob, Katy and Robbie”

The rest of Jennifer’s message and Jane’s obituary can be found with Jane’s comments below.

For the past 5+ years I have been on the Market Research Association (MRA) National board. During that time, I have had the opportunity to work with and be led by some great presidents.

Each year the association gets a new president, one with their own style, grace and goals. I can still remember the first board meeting with a very special president in 2005 and my desire to send a follow-up email right after it ended:


I am sitting here at 30,000 feet and thinking about the MRA and can’t help but send you an email. I am truly impressed with your leadership qualities, communication skills and ability to work with any type of person.

Thank you for being the next President of the Association and leading us during another exciting time! I know everyone on the board is looking forward to working with you and exceeding all of our goals in the years to come.

Enjoy the weekend.


This president that I am referring to is Jane Cook. She is much more than just a past president of the MRA. She is a daughter, wife, mother, business executive and friend. Jane is that one person you COULD always count on to be there for you. Jane listened to you when you were down and gave needed advice that usually was right on. She is one special lady who always had time for everyone. She is beautiful on the inside and out and has a smile that would always force you to say yes no matter what she asked. She is always even-keeled and has so many other special qualities it would take me hours to list each and every one of them.

Way back in the early 80’s my dad developed cancer. During that time he insisted on not only having the treatment before work so it didn’t get in his way, he also insisted that no one know. To me, that speaks to the heart of my dad, who he is and the passion and work ethic he has and still possesses. I never knew until two days ago that Jane did the exact same thing during her year as President of the MRA. Was she hurting? Yes. Was she tired? Yes. Did she ever complain? No. Did she ever tell anyone? No. Did she ever show it? No. That’s not Jane. She always knew what needed to be done and NEVER allowed anything to get in her way–not even her treatment for cancer.

In the past decade, Jane has battled cancer a number of times. Each time she has won. Unfortunately our beloved leader, mother, wife and friend has another round of this battle as she goes up against this disease once again. This time the doctors have told her it is terminal with not a lot of time left.

To her husband Rob, daughters Jennifer and Katy, and son Rob, please know that you aren’t the only people who love Jane. That love is shared by hundreds if not thousands who are in the research and business community and have been fortunate to know her.

At the present time Jane is not in a position to take calls. However, all comments that are posted here will be read to Jane as well as cards that are sent to her.

You may send cards to:

Jane Cook
222 Crescent St SE.
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403

Jane, our thoughts, prayers and love are with you and your family as you fight this battle again with the same positive attitude, energy and grace that you have each and every day.