By Lou Washington

Lou Jesse HallThis past week the Boeing 707 reached its 60th birthday. The 707 was not the first pure jet passenger transport in the air. But, it was such a huge commercial success that it attained a kind of iconic status among the flying public.

For many of us, the 707 would be the first jet aircraft we would fly. It was a ground breaking airplane. Boeing had not spent much time building or designing passenger transport aircraft after the war. The military kept them busy developing the B-47 and B-52 long range strategic bombers. Both of these aircraft featured technology and design elements incorporated in the non-military 707.

During my young life, I had occasion to fly now and then. Prior to the 707, I had flown in DC-3s, DC-7s and perhaps a Convair of some sort, but the model number was not of any significance to me at the time.

Air travel in these larger prop powered aircraft was pleasant enough. Yes, they were loud and there was a lot more vibration then you typically feel in a modern jet. But the big deal about the 707 was the speed. The 707 cruised at a rate in the neighborhood of 600 mph. That my friend, was very fast to most of the flying public.

By comparison, a Connie or a DC-7 cruised around 350 mph. A little better than half the speed of the four engine 707.

The effect of this was to shrink the world by about half. What used to be a ten hour cross country flight meant you could now fly five hours west in the morning, conduct your business in the afternoon and 707 st louistake the red-eye back east in time for work the next day. Flying the same route in a prop job, would require a day out, a day onsite and a day back.For business and sales folks, this was huge.

I remember vividly my first flight in a jet and it was, of course a Boeing 707. I was about 13 years old and I was lucky enough to be included on a class trip to Washington DC and New York City. I was just thrilled.

Standing on the tarmac at St Louis Lambert Field, The huge TWA 707 seemed to stretch out across my entire field of view. Flying was markedly different in those days. Upon entering the airplane the flight attendant took us to our seats. Once I was buckled in, I inspected the content of the seat pocket in front of me. In addition to the magazine and emergency procedure card, each passenger was provided with a 5 pack of Winston cigarettes! Of course, I was too young to partake.

My memories of the flight are vague, but I do remember that there was a pronounced feeling of acceleration that lasted somewhat longer than the acceleration phase in a prop. The other big difference was altitude. The 707 flew miles above the Earth, while the prop transports had a considerably lower operational ceiling.

This made most of the ground features all but invisible in the jet. But the ride was was sublime! Flying in the 707 after riding in a big prop transport was like riding in a Lincoln Towncar after spending days riding in a poorly maintained buckboard pulled by an ornery mule.

I have included a couple oScan 11f snapshots from my first jet voyage. I always enjoyed flying the 707 during my road warrior days in the ’80s. It was not my favorite, but part of the reason for that was it became increasingly rare as the ’80s moved on toward the nineties.

Boeing built the last 707 in 1979. A 21 year production run for a commercial airplane was phenomenal in those days. After starting production in 1958, Boeing turned out about 1,000 of the four engine 707s. According to Wikipedia, there were ten 707s still in commercial service as of 2013.

The plane figured prominently in the book and original “Airport” movie. If you have a chance to watch the original “Airport” (Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy) you will get an idea of just how fond people were of the 707.

The 707 also stared in an episode of The Twilight Zone. The speed of the aircraft inspired the author to write about a 707 that inadvertently traveled in time. Upon arrival at Idelwild (now known as New York JFK) on Long Island, they find a jungle full of dinosaurs rather than a nice modern airport.

The big Boeing was featured in popular music of the time as well. Gordon Lightfoot’s song, Early Morning Rain, uses the 707 as an image of escape from the cruel realities of life, “stuck here on the ground”  His lyrics tell us of the “big 707 set to go”.    He completes this image with, “Hear the mighty engines roar, see the silver bird on high, she’s away and westward bound, far above the clouds she’ll fly.”

The 707 was quite a show off in real life too. During a meeting of airline executives in Seattle, Boeing arranged to have their demo 707 do a fly by for the executive’s benefit. The test pilot at the controls, put the plane in a full roll during the fly by.

The You Tube link is well worth the time not only to watch the big plane perform this, but to hear the pilot’s son describe the event is very cool.

Boeing 707 Barrel Roll

So, here’s to Boeing! Here’s to the 707! What a great airplane!

Lou Jesse HallThe memory is a funny thing. But, the older I get the less funny it is. Obviously, the longer you live the more memories you have to inventory, to cross reference and to keep straight. I think the memory is an incredibly unreliable thing for certain types of information and just as much, an utter miracle for other types of information.

I was remembering an event from my college days with a buddy of mine. It was a significant event. Both of us could remember incredible details. What we couldn’t remember was when it had occurred. Our memories were not able to tell us if this happened in 1972? 1973? What year?

Here is a short version of the particulars of this memory.

During my college years (early ’70s for those keeping track) I had the privilege of attending a live recital featuring Luciano Pavarotti. The great man was at the height of his powers in those days. He was a legitimate star and soon to be super star.

But the thing that made this particular recital so fantastic was the fact that this recital was taking place on the campus of William Jewell College in Liberty Missouri. This little college town is located to the north and east of Kansas City. As amazing as it sounds, Pavarotti had a connection with this institution.

Just a few years prior, Pavarotti was primarily an operatic performer. He never performed in recital mode, the one man, one piano type performance. This is an important part of any professional singer’s resume. Unfortunately the guy had performed during his youth in recital in his native Italy and he was panned. He was coming to America to fix that.

An ambitious tour was planned and the only thing lacking was a debut location. It was decided at the time that a New York debut might put Pavarotti under a bit too much pressure. So, as a tune up engagement, he was booked to play in Liberty Missouri. I can tell you, this is about as far away from New York City that you can get without leaving the planet.

Of course, he was a smashing success. His career took off like a rocket. He returned to Liberty on several occasion throughout his life. The recital I heard was his first return engagement.

The venue was a small recital hall. I seriously doubt that there were more than 500 people there. My buddy, Marty Loring and I had center front row tickets. I can’t begin to describe the power this guy had in his voice. It was literally like a trumpet.

It is, by far, the most incredible performance I’ve ever attended. After, we were invited back stage to meet the man. He was very gracious and genuinely pleased to greet us in halting english.

It is amazing to me, that this type of event is relegated to the “70′s” bin in my memory. It actually happened a few weeks before my graduation from college. I can remember all manner of lessor things associated with specific years, but this, well, it was sometime just prior to Disco . . .

 

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

As a writer, I try to avoid spending time just repeating the words and messages of other people. I try to contribute something unique and meaningful to any conversation I participate in. If I can’t provide some unique perspective, then I at least try to amplify or clarify things as I see them.

On this fiftieth anniversary of the assassination I have resolved to not join in with the chorus of folks to repeat my own version of  “where I was when I got the news” stories. However, I do think I will add a few comments to the current conversation.

I was twelve years old in November of 1963. I was in the seventh grade. It was a time of transition for me. I had left the familiar environment of elementary school and was starting my junior high school experience. Desegregation was already well underway. I went from an elementary school with a handful of very courageous trailblazing black students to my junior high school where the racial mix included a much higher percentage of students of color.

The student body of my junior high school was diverse in many ways besides race. There were students who lived in the country, students who were from economically deprived back grounds and of course in the seventh through ninth grade age groups, there was a vast range of sexual maturity.

For me, there was a feeling of change that was almost palpable. The space program, the nationwide fitness program and the cultural changes reflected in the movies, literature and music of that era were all in full swing. A year earlier, John XXIII had opened the Second Vatican Council to “air out the church” and set Catholicism on a more engaging course. In my twelve-year-old mind, all of this societal change was connected and interrelated.

On a more personal level, my own physical chemistry was in the throes of that radical change known as growing up and turning into an adult.

Change was in the air. It was scary, it was at times intimidating and it was frequently challenging. It was also quite exciting.

At the center of all that change, was Jack Kennedy. In my worldview, Jack Kennedy was a sort of agent of change. He seemed to me to be the guide or leader of many aspects of this great transition. He was the fellow inspiring us to embrace change and not to run from it; that adversity was also opportunity, that God had supplied us all with the toughness to persevere and prevail against life’s challenges. It was a valuable lesson.

It was also a time of optimism and hope. Even though the assassination did subdue that optimism, the era was still one of hope. No one knew what was in store for us over the next several years. No one understood that this murder in Dallas was just the first of many events that would come to define the times that we collectively refer as the ’60s.

In the year 1957 the broadway musical, “West Side Story” opened in New York. The play was successfully transformed into a movie in 1961. The music for West Side Story was composed by a young Leonard Bernstein with the script by Stephen Sondheim. The story is a sort of modern-day Romeo and Juliet set in mid fifties New York west side. A vast neighborhood of bubbling discontent, social injustice and rival gangs.

It is a beautiful piece of music, one that I loved from the very first time I heard it. Bernstein’s score is rich and complex. At the very end of the piece, in the closing bars of the musical, there is a short musical idea or device that is repeated over and over again. This little phrase, is heard off and on throughout the entire musical, especially in the very hopeful song Somewhere.

Musically, the phrase is simply a 2-3 suspension resolving into the tonic chord. It serves as a sort of final cadence for the musical. The resolution of the chord provides a shining kind of relief for the tension created by the dissonance of the suspension. It’s the kind of sound you would expect to hear as clouds dissipate to reveal a beautiful sunrise.

In counterpoint to that musical idea, Bernstein softly repeats a lower register dissonant chord to punctuate the sweeter resolution heard in upper register. The two ideas are repeated several times almost like tolling bells.

To me, that dissonant “tolling” has always seemed to be a foreshadowing of things to come. Like distant clouds on a horizon promising more rain and wind by morning. Tony and Nardo are dead, Maria is left with memories of her brother and her brash young prince.. The Jets and Sharks have spent their violent energy. It is peaceful at last. Except for the tolling. Except for that dissonance underneath, softly warning us that things are not yet resolved.

To me, the murder of President John F. Kennedy is the first of many tolling dissonances to come. To me it seems to say, bury this youthful idealistic young man, spill your tears, but know that more, much more is on the way.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece on the importance of words in the context of delivering a message. The main thrust of the piece was my dislike of certain code words that are meant to dress up a negative message and portray it as a positive event. Marketing and public relations folks are likely the most frequent abusers of this strategy. I was talking about words like “right-sizing” or “right-sourcing”.

The fact is people, consumers or customers or employees, see through this activity and know they are being scammed. There are almost inevitably two reactions.

1)      People feel insulted that the message bearer would think they are stupid enough to believe the message.

2)      People get mad because they know they are going to pay a very dear price for whatever adventure the company is about to embark upon.

This type of intentional deception is not limited to words. Companies also practice deceptive behavior. As marketing professionals, we must not allow ourselves to be co-opted into these schemes.

A friend of mine sent me an article today related to an accident involving Thai Airlines.  As airline accidents go, this was not a disaster. A few folks were injured, there were no fatalities. The airplane skidded off the runway. There were fourteen injuries. One of the landing gear collapsed during the event.

Sometime, shortly after the accident, someone was dispatched to black out or paint over, the airline logo and name displayed on the vertical stabilizer at the aft end of the airframe. You really have to wonder what marketing genius green lighted this strategy. I guess the site of the hobbled aircraft, with emergency slides deployed, was just too much for the image consultants to bear.

Even though the color scheme on the airframe identifies the airline just as effectively as the logo or the name painted on the tail, someone decided that blacking out the name would surely fool some of the people!

My first thought is these guys care far more about damage control then damage prevention or investigation. That is not a confidence inspiring realization. That would affect my selection of one carrier over another much more than the fact that the carrier had had a recent accident.

I’m far more interested in how a company reacts to a crisis then knowing if they have experienced a crisis. There are very few airlines flying today that can claim an accident free history.

An airline that reacts quickly to help the customers involved in the accident, to learn what caused the accident and to take steps to avoid a repeat of the accident is far more inspiring than one that seeks to hide the fact that an accident even occurred.

When I’m flying along at 90% of the speed of sound, through a -70⁰ vacuum, stuffed into a metal tube along with several hundred other folks and a couple of thousand gallons of high-grade kerosene, I want to know that the folks upfront driving the plane and their bosses back home, value honesty over deception.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

We took in the movie “Jobs” this afternoon, the bio of Apple founder and industry visionary Steve Jobs. Despite the crummy reviews and relatively low-level of hype surrounding the movie, Barb and I decided that it beat the uninspired collection of cinematic dross playing on the other 15 screens.

Before I get into a review of the movie, let me just say I never knew Steve Jobs personally nor have I read any of the biographies about him. I will say that Barb and I lived for a couple of years in Cupertino and we both worked in Palo Alto so I had some early experience with Apple as a company.

We lived and worked in the Valley during the mid to late ’80s. I had occasion to know some folks who worked for Apple during those years and I was indeed struck by the passion they felt for the company and its products. They were almost religious in their devotion.

During those years it was not uncommon the have people working beside you that were just putting some bread in the fridge while they looked for a real job. The company I worked for had numerous refugees from Atari who had recently laid off a huge number of folks. It wasn’t unusual to have several HP folks show up, maybe some IBMers or Sun employees hitting your HR office as a group following a round of downsizing or reorganization or de-funding of some project or another.

I don’t ever remember working with someone who used to work for Apple. I don’t know if they didn’t have lay offs or if people just stop working after leaving Apple.

The movie does not paint Steve Jobs as a very likable fellow. I can’t really venture an opinion about Jobs in terms of his personal warmth or fuzziness rating. It does give him passion, creativity, vision and drive. I have to assume he possessed these traits because they would be necessary to accomplish what he did.

For me, the best aspect of this movie was the realistic portrayal of the ongoing tension that exists between Finance, Marketing and Engineering. In that regard, I think this movie did a superb job of showing just exactly how difficult it is to convert a dream into a product concept and then turn that concept into a market changing (I will not use the word disruptive) product and then selling that product as a profitable business.

During my career, I have had the privilege of working in marketing with some very smart folks, I’ve also worked with some superb financial guys and I would have to say the engineers I’ve been around were some of the best in the business. Getting these three elements in sync and making a buck at the same time is supremely difficult.

So, in that regard, if Steve Jobs lost his temper, lashed out at someone or fired people, I’d have to say so what? Those things happen all the time. Business requires us to occasionally be overt, curt and a bit dispassionate.

During the movie, Jobs mentions the concept of making the PC work like an appliance. He talks about removing it from the box, plugging it in and then, “it just works” was how he put it. That kind of simplicity is almost always impossible to attain.  Almost anything you buy requires tweaking, set up or at least a protracted amount of time reading a manual.

About three years ago, I decided to do something radical. My home PC died. We took it down into the basement where we have a family crypt for our deceased PCs. After placing my PC in its niche of eternal rest, I headed out to Best Buy to replace it.

For some reason or another, I decided that this time I was going to go with a Mac. I picked out the model I wanted and waited for the stock person to bring all the boxes and stuff up to the cash register for me.

They rang up my purchase and then handed me a single brief case sized box with a suitcase type handle. I laughed and told them that I had purchased a desk top machine, not a laptop. They assured me that my entire Mac was indeed in the box.

Once I was home, I opened the box and found the monitor and integrated CPU, the keyboard, a mouse, the stand and a power cord. There was also one very slender, very small booklet.

I put the monitor on the stand and plugged the thing in. A message popped up telling me that a wi-fi signal was detected and it asked if I wanted to connect. I tried the mouse and clicked on the “yes” icon. That was it. My Mac was up and running.

No cables, no manuals, no software loads, no CD-ROM, no download this or that, no learning curve. Nothing. It just worked.

So, thank you Mr. Jobs for understanding the beauty of simplicity but also understanding that the best simplicity allows us to exploit astounding complexity.

Go see the movie.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

Growing up in a small city which sat astride two US Highways and a transcontinental Interstate you can imagine that automobiles were a big part of daily life. We had no need to pile buildings on top of one another because land was cheap. That meant everything was going to be on the first floor including the acres of asphalt required for parking.

Because of our horizontal approach to city planning, things were spread out. If you needed to go next door for a cup of sugar, you hopped in your car and went. We drove everywhere. School, grocery store, barber, movies, you name it, we took the car. I knew folks that drove to the mailbox in their front yard to pick up their mail.

Parking lots were ubiquitous. We had vast open plains of asphalt and concrete. There was always a place to leave your car while you did whatever it was that you were doing.

The car was as embedded in our culture as was the horse in the culture of the Old West.

The first true rite of passage for kids of my era was the driving test. This was what we waited for year after year, long after we had outgrown the pedal cars we used as four-year olds. Until we reached that magic birthday we contented ourselves with bicycles. Of course, we pretended our bicycles were cars.

In Missouri, the driving age was 16. That meant your first beer, your first real kiss and your first encounter with law enforcement was also at age 16. It was thrilling to be 16. Going out was an adventure!

My dad taught me drive on lazy Sunday afternoons in the parking lot of the Shelter Insurance Company headquarters building in my home town. It is one of the most precious memories I have of my father. His quiet, patient manner made him the ideal teacher for this type lesson.

Naturally, most of my friends were all roughly the same age as I, so driving and cars was the primary conversational topic in those days. We dreamed about hot rods, read books and magazines about cars and street racing and in general lived in a culture with the automobile positioned precisely at center stage.

For us, New Years Day has nothing to do with January first. For us, New years was sometime in early fall when the new models were introduced. During the lead up, we would argue about whether Ford would finally abandon dinner plate tail lights, if Chevy would stack headlights or stick with a side by side configuration. Styles changed radically over a very few model years. Fins went away, fastback designs leant cars with a sleek aerodynamic look which likely had little to do with physics.

Marketing folks understood how important cars were. I believe it was no accident that new television shows debuted in the Fall simultaneously with the annual introduction of the new car models. The linkage between visual media and automotive design became firmly entrenched in this era.

I remember the season premier of Bonanza running without commercial interruption so America could spend twenty uninterrupted minutes at the end of the show to see the new Chevys introduced in their TV debut for the coming year. The next day at school, no one talked about Ben, Hoss or Little Joe, the conversation was all about the new Malibu or ‘Vette.

The End of the Era

As with many cultural shifts multiple factors contribute to changing styles, interests and norms. During the late ’60s and early ’70s there was a definite move away from the material orientation that drove our obsession with fins, chrome and high output V8 engines. The ’74 oil shortages did not help matters any.

We still worship cars, but our tastes and approaches to automobiles has greatly changed. We are more utilitarian, more focused on efficiency and mission in our selection processes.

Today, it seems like kids don’t really care much about driving. I’m not saying they are misguided, I just find it amazing that some kids don’t feel any urgency with regard to getting a driver’s license. The prospect of driving a car does not equate to freedom and adventure in the same way it did for my contemporaries.

In fact, the position of the automobile and the importance of driving seem to be diminishing rapidly in this post millennial age. Most recently, the notion of self-driving or autonomous vehicles are becoming real possibilities in the not too distant future.

Horrifying!

I can’t imagine a more depressing development than a car that drives itself. Before you start yelling “Luddite Philistine” at me, consider a few things about autonomous vehicles. These are just a few of the problems I see with this technology.

Designated Driver – Who needs them? No one is going to drive because the car knows the way home. Does this mean we all get to drink all night kong? Someone has to remain sober or no one will remember all the embarrassing stuff that happened.

Parking – I don’t mean parking at the mall, I mean parking after the movie on Saturday night. This is a very subtle art that young guys learn and pass along to other young guys. There are techniques and skills that require practice and honing. There is much more to it than “ . . . . Oh look, we’re out of gas on this deserted country road . . . . What will we do now?” I can’t imagine trusting some software developer at Subaru to get this right.

Drag Racing – Mano-a-Mano, A veritable ocean of testosterone powers the need to dominate the car next to you at a stop light. The revving engines, screeching tires and fishtailing acceleration at the green light. Every high school in America has one kid who has the baddest, meanest drag machine on the street. The cops know him and everybody wants to be him. Unless he’s a complete pizza face, he has pretty good luck in the romance department as well.

Jonesing your Neighbors – Part of the fun of buying a new car is sticking it to your neighbor. They are stuck driving a four-year old Junker while you a cruising around in luxury. How will you brag about a car you don’t even drive? Why would you envy your neighbor when the egg parked in his driveway is suddenly blue instead of green.

The Culture of Yawn

Then there is the other issue. The problem for which there is no solution. An American institution that has its beginnings in that most noble of enterprises, Moonshine distribution. This AV technology threatens a tradition that has grown over the years to become one the greatest spectacles in sport. Of course, I’m talking NASCAR!

Can you imagine the shame we will all feel watching a track with thirty or so driverless cars endlessly circulating around, never bumping, never squeezing or cutting off other cars. They will of course be unable to achieve speeds in excess of fifty-five miles per hour. Their sophisticated anti-collision and safety systems will over ride any attempt to break away from the pack.

What about the drivers? There won’t be any!

No angry young ego maniacs running around in ridiculous jumpsuits. No more rivals to bad mouth each other between races. No more post race fist fights. No poofy haired retired driver TV announcers explaining the action to us in their phony, exaggerated southern drawl voices.

All of this will be replaced by thirty jelly bean shaped vehicles putting around a vast race track forever locked into the formation and order in which they started.

I know autonomous vehicles are likely inevitable. I know they will save lives and probably save us countless hours of commuting time. I know they will save dollars in terms of gasoline or energy costs.

It’s just that they are so damn boring.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

The recent crash on landing of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco brought back a memory from my flying days back in the ‘80s.

Airframe manufacturers are obviously building safer products than in past years. More and more people seem to be walking away from downed airplanes than ever before.  So, I certainly tip my hat to those guys for doing their part in making flying an even safer alternative than in past years.

There is one thing that still disturbs me greatly. Let me briefly tell my story and then you can draw your own conclusions.

One evening back in 1987 I was returning home to the Bay Area after a business trip. I was changing planes in Denver to pick up a flight into San Jose.  Everything went smoothly; I made the connection on time and was seated toward the back of the coach cabin on a DC-8 stretch.

The DC-8 was a single aisle four engine aircraft. It was, even in the mid ‘80s, kind of “long in the tooth” for commercial service by a tier one airline. But, many had been retrofitted with the new generation of jet engines so you saw 8’s with some frequency in those days.

The plane was full that evening and people boarding were bringing with them the usual assortment of carry on stuff.  Laptops were just becoming common but people also still carried boxes of slide carousels and presentation transparencies.  Then there was the usual collection of shopping bags, overnight garment bags and brief cases.

Everyone was seated, the door had been closed and the jet-way had just been pulled back.  I was sitting in a port side window seat, so I could see the ground crew clearly. Inside, I noticed the AC outlets above the overhead compartments were venting something. Anyone who has flown on a humid day has probably seen this and it is invariably condensate, water vapor, cast off by cooling hot humid air.

On that particular evening, it wasn’t condensate, it was smoke.

Within a couple of seconds there were shouts of, “smoke!” and “something’s burning”. The cabin filled with a smell of burning oil.

The DC-8 cabin was a long narrow tube with frequent bulkheads to separate it into a series of smaller cabins. This meant that you could not see the front of the cabin from the rear of the airplane. You could see maybe ten rows before your vision was interrupted by a bulkhead.

The people sitting on the aisles almost immediately were on their feet, flooding the aisle and essentially blocking any view the seated passengers had beyond their immediate vicinity in the cabin. A little bit of panic began to grip the crowed plane as passengers exhorted those seated over the wings to open the emergency exits. Behind me, two flight attendants watched and said nothing.

After the fact, I found out that the DC-8 did not have any communication links from the flight deck or other flight attendant stations  to the aft end of the plane. In other words our flight attendants knew as much about what was happening as I did.

The aft emergency door was opened and by now escape shoots were deployed from the over wing exits and from the doors at the back.

People began to exit the airplane. From my seat (I couldn’t go anywhere because the aisle was filled with people) I could see a man walking along the wing with a garment bag over his shoulder. I remember thinking that he looked remarkably calm.

Almost every person in the aisle was digging through the stuff in the overhead bins trying to retrieve their belongings. Think about that and think about the time it takes to empty an airplane upon arrival at a gate.  We had every reason to believe that the plane was on fire and these guys were worried about their carry-on junk!

My only thought that evening was that I was going to burn to death because some jackass couldn’t get their carry-on bags out of an overhead bin.  That thought made me furious.

This morning, as I watched video shot in the aftermath of the Asiana crash I saw evidence of the same thing had happened there. People were walking around on the ground with their carry on bags! How selfish can people be? Is some souvenir from Korea more important than someone else’s life? Is that really how we think?

I know plenty of folks will hate this, but, the only way to fix this is to ban carry-on items on commercial flights. If all luggage was checked there would be no reason to stop for anything. When an airplane is on fire, time is of the essence. People have to move quickly and not be encumbered by bags, laptops, camera cases etc.

I could be persuaded to allow purses and briefcase size items. But I would remove the overhead bins altogether. Beyond those two items, I would ban it all.

I know people are clutching their chests at the prospect of having to go to baggage claim, but I just don’t see a better alternative.

With Asiana flight 214, we got lucky. We usually don’t get lucky in the world of airplane crashes.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

Social Media has been with us for several years now and its making an impact on many traditional communication and engagement models. Most marketing organizations have considerable resources committed to Social.

Unless you are fortunate enough to work in a marketing environment with unlimited funding, the bucks spent on Social have to come at the expense of some other Marketing program. So, where are those bucks coming from? What are we giving up to pay for Social? What do we get for our money?

Ten years ago, our websites were going to handle almost all engagement with our customers, prospects investors and the general public. The website would be our chief sales outlet, our main customer support facility, our primary marketing instrument. The mission of the web page was to facilitate and hopefully accelerate tire-kicking browser interest into buying action.

Somewhere along the line, that didn’t really happen. Sure, for some retailers with huge investments in brick and mortar, the online point of sale replaced the cash registers in Topeka, Springfield, Chicago and everywhere else. But the traffic in and around malls in our area is still enough to make me break out in a cold sweat and reach for the Mylanta.

Corporate websites became huge sprawling facilities that frequenlty turned into just another power silo within the enterprise.

The problem with web sites is they are not effective tools for interactive communication. All the brainpower that goes into the design and content selection in most web sites is aimed at pushing information out to the frequently disinterested world. Sure, there is the occasional “click here” button to learn more, contact us or talk to an expert.

That is not engagement. Under that model you are still hanging a product catalogue out there with a shopping cart button next to each product.

There is nothing to tell you why people come to your web site, why they stay, why they can’t find you and especially what they really want you to do.

I know, cookies, IP addresses, analytics and traffic stats are supposed to do that for us. But I would submit they don’t really get the job done.

Social on the other hand provides terrific inbound communication, unvarnished truth as your audience perceives it and all manner of opportunities to react and measure the effectiveness of your actions. It also facilitates out bound communication but care must taken because social is a “public place” so you can’t just say it’s true and expect to be believed.

To often, we as marketers take the approach that we know what people want. What could our customers tell us that would be of value? The best answer to that is to ask your customers. Or, approach your social strategy with a large helping of listening.

I think the role of social is clear. This is where we converse with our audience and where our audience can converse with one another. . . .  and we get to listen! We must always remember that listening is where the value is found.

Using Social with maximum effectiveness should make the role of the web site less complex. The web site can then be assigned a more tightly defined role. It may well be that your website is merely a store front. Or perhaps your website serves as a portal to product information and support. I’ve seen some websites that are mostly for investors and regulators. A place to publicly post documents as directed by law or regulation.

But, your web site doesn’t have to carry the burden of advertising, mission statements, executive bios and the rest stuff that no one really cares about. Most importantly, it won’t confuse, lose or anger your customers.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

In the world of marketing we are tasked with presenting people, companies, products and concepts in a way that supports or reinforces an overarching message. Cynical people would call this “spin” while others might call it focusing language to align your message with a desired perception.

Regardless of your point of view about the value marketing provides, you would have to agree that conveyance of a message, any message, is dependent upon using the right words.

If you are in a hotel room and the bed is on fire, you are not going to call the front desk and tell them that you feel a little warm. You are going to yell “Fire!” and then you’re going to get out of the place.

Marketing is nothing more than a refinement of that concept.

Where marketing folks get into trouble is through the use of language to misrepresent truth by using confusing or approximating language.  An example of this would be “capacity optimization” used in reference to the seating arrangements on a commercial aircraft.

“Capacity Optimization” sounds innocuous enough. Who could possibly object to an airline optimizing passenger seating?

The answer is almost every passenger. That’s because in reality capacity optimization is achieved by pushing the seat rows closer together. This reduces the space between rows, meaning less leg room and knees scrunched up against the seat in front of you. For the airline it means five to seven more paying passengers onboard every flight. For the passengers it means discomfort, immobility and deep vein thrombosis.

Capacity optimized aircraft may appeal to stock holders but not to customers. Airlines know this but still they will compound the error by inflating the deception to include some perceived value delivered. They may advertise: Our planes are capacity optimized to assure your flight will feature the lowest fares in the business!  Yeah, right.

We see this in B2B marketing as well. This morning I read an article about the benefits of outsourcing. The writer was proudly throwing around a new word I gather of his own invention. The word was “Right-sourcing” which obviously has none of the negative baggage found with words like, outsourced, off-shored or plant closure.

The use of this type of word is beyond me. Does anyone really think these saccharine sounding terms signify anything other than deception?  Out sourcing is a fact of life. It is, on occasion, a business necessity. That does not mean workers; their families and whole towns don’t pay a terrible price when it comes to pass.

Let us not insult them by trying to dress that up as something that is actually good for them like finishing your vegetables or going to the dentist.

Losing a job sucks. A town losing a major employer is a tragedy. If you are in a position to make those kinds of decisions and affect people that profoundly, you should remember that.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

Yesterday an unusual event took place. Boeing, specifically the Boeing 787 program VP Mike Sinnet and Test Pilot Heather Ross hosted a live interactive webcast.  I was lucky enough to catch about 45 minutes of the event.

I had received an invitation for the program the day before. It was an unrestricted log in and listen type format with Twitter serving as the medium for submitting questions. In a word, it was fascinating. It said a lot about the kind of company Boeing is.

Questions came from aeronautical engineers, business flyers, wannabe pilots and folks who were just curious about some aspect of the 787.  The subjects covered myriad topics from flying in general to specifics about the battery fix put into place by the folks at Boeing.

The 787 program is groundbreaking in so many ways; I guess it should not be a surprise that Boeing would turn to an event like this to open up the lines of communication between itself and the flying public. This is telling in that it supports the idea that Boeing knows who their customer really is. In case you are confused by that statement, let me clue you in. Boeing’s customer is the flying public far more so than the various airlines flying their equipment.

The airline/passenger relationship is totally different from the airframe manufacturer/passenger relationship is. This is not just some high level marketing concept, it is a very real dynamic that has profound effects on the actions all of us involved in the business of air travel.

Airlines select airplanes because they meet some performance criteria in terms of capacity, speed and fuel economy. They look at their mission as one of moving 50, 100 or 600 passengers between point A and point B. They will select and buy the aircraft that handles that job in the most economic fashion.

Airline passengers choose airlines because they offer flights to places they want to get to on a schedule that is convenient to them. Many times, passengers have a choice. That means the passenger will be comparing other factors in order to make a decision. One of those will be the equipment used for the flight.

As a business flyer, this factor is important to me. When I traveled frequently, it was very important to me. I was much less concerned about the paint scheme and logo on the skin of the airplane than I was about what type of airplane it was to begin with.

One of the things Boeing does very well is to bring the passenger into the concept development phase of a new airplane. Then, again and again at each design stage, throughout the development of that aircraft the passenger is consulted. The passenger is part of the design group.

Additionally, Boeing understands that all passengers are not alike, a great example of this is found in the design of the 777. The overhead compartments can be easily reached by persons of short stature.

When the plane is rolled out, takes to the air and finally enters into revenue generating service, everyone has a little stake in that airplane. People want it to do well because in part it is “their” airplane.

During the discussion yesterday, it was apparent that Boeing has earned a huge amount of respect and trust from the flying public. Both Mr. Sinnet and Ms. Ross were clearly excited about a chance to talk with people about their product. The Q&A was not all softball either. But, it was clear these guys knew their stuff. I had the feeling they had picked the right people to handle this event. Both of them made a point of stating how much they loved their jobs and being a part of Boeing.

When was the last time you heard a corporate apologist gush about how much they loved working for their company?

Hats off to Boeing for getting this right!

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