Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Climate That Fans The Flame Of Innovation!

It was a blend of academics and politicians that birthed this city of Athens with the creation of the University of Georgia a few years after the US became independent from England.

A joint venture team that seems to function a lot like a match made in heaven today!

The University of Georgia was the first state university in the US. Leave it to the visionaries down in Savannah to take the lead in bringing about extended education on a state sponsored level!

It took a few years to finally get the first building up on the campus, but once up it housed administration, faculty and student – all in the same building. Shortly thereafter a small town started to pop up in what is now downtown Athens.

What initially housed the University is called Old Campus and might represent about 15-20% of the University’s grounds today. There’s limited auto access and oak trees that date back a couple hundred years shade much of it

That first building is still standing on Old Campus. There is Old College (the original building) and then there’s another building called New College. I think that New College was built in the late 1950’s.

As the campus grew, so did the downtown, although I don’t think it was as much a party or music town as it is today.

Athens also became known for some innovative ways to process cotton. So innovative that Athens continued to generate some top revenue the history books say through WWII.

When I entered into my first classes at the University in the fall of 1975, I was invited to become a member of a special freshman honorary society. The leader of the group was Dean Tate…the Dean Emeritus of Men.

He was walking history and when we would meet late at night in the chapel on campus…he would tell stories of the past.

Dean Tate died when I was in grad school and the student center is named after him.

Today, when I walk Old Campus, I hear him telling those stories and I actually feel like I hear other voices from the past as well.

When I arrived on campus in 1975, the music scene of Athens was just beginning to develop. The bar scene too.

There was a band called the B-52s that performed in the basement of a pool hall called Allen’s. There was also a bar called TK Hardy’s and a concert dance hall called The Warehouse.

I heard that today, Athens claims the number one slot in having the most bars per square mile than any other city in the US.

I have roots here in Athens. I went to high school here. Played in the school’s marching band. Ran for president of the student council. And had my first company based out of Athens in which I did paintings of old houses and barns.

So why move BrandVenture out of Atlanta and over to Athens?

Why did Bogusky move the creative team out of Miami and out to Boulder?

The city life is fun…but after a while, most every client figures you are not too unlike every other agency and consultant found in the city.

There’s also a bunch of other agencies and consultants in the city…some that play the politics…others headed up by the “good ole boys” and “grand ole gals”…others that have been around for years…and others that hang both company name and title as the fancy packaging around limited skills and resources.

Bogusky – creative chief of Crispin Porter + Bogusky – fell in love with the backdrop of Boulder and connected with the Bohemian Millennial “Challenge the Conventional” culture of the community.

It’s a climate that fans the flame of technology and non-conventional, innovative thinking.

While known as the “Classic City”, Athens has a similar culture as Boulder, Colorado.

And right now, being in touch with this type of culture is more likely to breed the innovation and creativity to move brands forward in the midst of changing times.

So Athens is where BrandVenture is now headquartered. It is a culture and history we are embracing. It is the context and home-base from which we now journey.

We are just as accessible here via phone, web, Twitter and Facebook… and Athens is great place to visit!

So come let’s journey and move brands forward!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Encountering Radical Change!

There is change… and then there is radical change.

On April 10, 2009, I experienced radical change first-hand!

It was Good Friday and I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend.

I left my office at lunchtime and drove over to the nearby Lowe’s to pick up two more bags of mulch.

It was soon going to rain, so it was my goal to get the mulch and get it spread out first, and then make a sandwich and clean the house second.

The distance from the Lowe’s parking lot to my house is approximately 3.5 miles.

Driving the MINI Cooper, I only really had storage room on the passenger seat, so I placed both bags on it and also buckled the seat belt around them. If the seal belts were not connected, the seat belt alarm would go off and it bugged the heck out of me.

I was on a four-lane road called Moreland that then changes names north of Ponce to Briarcliff. It’s a four-lane road – two lanes on each side – that then narrows down to a two-lane road, as it gets closer to my home.

This stretch of highways had recently been featured in a newspaper story about the top ten worst intersections in the state. Never thought that I would experience those stats first hand, but I did!

While it was not as crowded as the roadways are during rush hour, there were a number of other folks that had now left their offices early and others that had the day off.

As I made the turn in the road, there before me was the challenge that would spawn the radical change… in the midst of all the traffic, there were two cars in the inside lane that decided to turn left and were stopped waiting for clearance in the traffic flow.

I am thankful that I was not driving fast.

The last thing I physically remember was saying, “there is really no way out of this” to myself. Change was inevitable.

Making a long story short, I ended up using the right lane to get around the cars and thought I had clearance, but I ended up nudging or being nudged and the MINI went out of control.

I hit a lamppost and brick wall head-on.

The engine in the MINI broke free and ended up also in the front seat.

I shattered both legs below the knee, broke my right collarbone, broke my right wrist and injured my right eye and the bone around it.

With all the metal plates and screws in me, I will never clear one of those metal security screeners!

I was hospitalized for 17 days and now at my parent’s home in recovery.

I cannot put any weight on my legs as they heal so I have to rely on a wheelchair to at least get a different viewpoint or perspective.

It’s just over a month now since the accident and I have had a lot of chance to think through next steps.

The radical change?

• I closed down the Atlanta office of BrandVenture – not sure just how accessible the office would be

• Put my house up for sale – cannot do the three stories!

• Relocating both me and the business to Athens, Georgia

• Planning to do joint venture work with Sliced Bread

• May go back to school to get my PhD

Part of me keeps saying caution, caution, caution… another part of me says that this change, may be radical, but is inevitable and part of the “master plan.”

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have been reading my morning Ad Age electronic stories.

One of the stories talked about the shift that is in place where the “hot shops” and “most creative ideas” are coming out of agencies and creative groups that are located out and beyond from the Top 10 Market Metros.

Ad Age also highlights an agency in Greenville, SC that is hosting its 2nd Annual Food For Thought Conference. Individuals can attend this conference in person or experience it on line through Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or Blogs.

The agency hosting the event is Erwin-Penland that is housed on Main Street, not Michigan nor Madison Avenue.

If you read this Blog, I would love to get your thoughts.

I’ll be in recovery for at least another 60 days… but then I will be getting the company re-established in Athens, Georgia.

The next blog will be about Athens, its history, its character, what makes it unique and what fuels the creativity that dwells here.

The change now taking place is radical… and not sure I would have done this if I were not forced into it.

BUT… I do believe it is going to enrich my insights, my resources and tools, and the perspective I can bring to the brand marketing planning table.

So… make sure you have those seat belts on and Hey, Let’s Journey!