Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Category Archives: Events

The Open Road

We did something a little bit different for Memorial Day weekend this year. We didn’t stay home. Although on Monday, we were back in Chicago and we smoked some 7 lbs of meat. We didn’t hit the beach. Although many of our friends did. We didn’t fly out of town. Although we looked into and it’s something we’ve done before. No, this year, we hopped on the Harley and followed the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, going from Chicago to Milwaukee. I won’t bury the lead; if you get the chance to do this drive, do it. It’s stunning.

Last year, we bought our first motorcycle: a 2014 Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. Unfortunately, we purchased it pretty late in the year and due to 2013 snowpocalypse and 2014 snowmageddon, we really didn’t get an opportunity to take it out very often. But, with the weather finally turning around, we’ve had it out pretty much every week. It’s  a perfect bike for a beginner. With 5 gears and the iconic Harley engine, you can get going pretty fast, but you’ll never go fast enough to put yourself in harm’s way. The 3 gallon tank will get you anywhere between 120 and 150 miles; just long enough to get away.

As we looked at the forecast for the weekend, taking the bike out for our first ride over 20 miles, was a no-brainer. This of course didn’t mean we weren’t nervous. To mitigate some of the risks that were causing the nervousness we made 3 decisions:

  1. We would leave at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Not only would the roads be emptier, but we’d also catch a spectacular sunrise coming over Lake Michigan.
  2. We planned to stop every 40 miles. The first time would be stretch out. The second would be for gas.
  3. We stuck to the Circle Tour route, which eliminated highways.

What a trip. I can see why people, once bitten by the motorcycle bug, are lifelong riders.

Our Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Along Kenosha Beach

The photo above was taken at Kenosha beach, just after sunrise. As we were driving up, the shear beauty of the sand combined with the different hues of blue from the lake and the sky, made for unexpected stop. That’s the thing about riding a bike:

There’s always something waiting at the end of the road. If you’re not willing to see what it is, you probably shouldn’t be out there in the first place.

There was no GPS to listen to. We had no phones to distract us; they were tucked neatly away in our pockets. We even lacked music to sing along with. All we had were each other, the road and the hum of the engine. It was all we needed.

 

At iMedia Summit Old Challenges Become New For Marketers

I love iMedia Summit. It’s on my must attend list, every year. Great locations, great content and great people, make for a valuable experience.

At this year’s summit, it was clear we’re getting closer and closer to dropping “digital” from titles and org structures. We are on the precipice of people across all industries accepting, it’s less about digital marketing and more about marketing in a digital world.

As I connected with marketers across a wide range of industries, there were 3 familiar themes that could not be ignored.

Talent: The conversation about digital talent has evolved. At one of my 1st summits, nearly 10 years ago, the conversation was about getting funding to hire someone…anyone…who could be that digital subject matter expert. While we’re definitely past those days, talent remains a thorn. Today though, it’s a thorn because we need new recruitment models to find the right talent, we need a better talent investment plan to retain talent and we need a better plan for creating leaders in organizations who have a deep and wide grasp of digital.

Content: It’s king, right? Every marketer I talked with identified different challenges in dealing with content. The most consistent pain points were how to produce enough content in a financially viable way, how to safely source and share content (legal and Pinterest apparently are still not good friends) and how to distribute content the right way. With respect to distribution, this is a battle waiting of happen in a very epic way. The old model that classical marketers still adopt where your cost to create content should not be greater than 15% of the media but, is dead and doesn’t apply to digital and social content. You will spend more than $100k to create enough quality content to support a $1M ad but across twitter and facebook. In digital, unlike TV, distribution is cheap, but the content is expensive.

New Operating Models: What should you be doing internally? What should your agency’s role be? When do you bring social in-house…and do you bring it all in-house? We need new models and approaches to building internal capabilities and for setting our partners up for success. This will require our partners to pivot quicker than they ever have before. They will need new offerings, new types of talent and different pricing approaches. We are in a sea of disruption that’s not going to calm down any time soon.

This year’s iMedia summit reaffirmed some thoughts I had and offered new perspective to think about as I lead our Social Media and Content efforts for Walgreens. It’s also fair to say, iMedia once again reminds me of why I’ve stayed in digital for 16 years…the pace of change isn’t for the weak and it’s bloody good fun to try and keep up.

10 Quick Thoughts About The Grammy’s And The State Of Music Today

  1. Today we rarely have musicians. We have entertainers. Sir Paul is a musician. Miley is an entertainer. Few have ever been both. Prince and Michael Jackson are two who come to mind that excelled at both.
  2. To mask the lack of musical talent, these “artists” turn to time honored approaches like amplifying the sex appeal. Take away the backing tracks and post editing, and most of these folks wouldn’t make it in a high school glee club.
  3. To put an exclamation point on #1 and #2, I give you Whitney Houston. At her pinnacle, no one was a finer singer. You never saw her half-naked on a rope, because she didn’t need to.
  4. Music has always been political. Music and politics go hand in hand. I think everyone is entitled to get divorced eventually. Equality for everyone. Though, I wouldn’t have opted for a Grammy Wedding; just a bit too showy for me.
  5. Macklemore is fun, let’s see if he can be more than a one album wonder. I hope he can deliver on that.
  6. I’m over Taylor Swift and I wish she’d just go away.
  7. Sometimes the mashups of musicians work really well. I think when Guns n’ Roses partnered with Elton John for November Rain, it was one of the most amazing musical performances I’ve ever seen. Other times, it’s very forced and just doesn’t work. The Robin Thicke and Chicago mashup, just didn’t work for me. I think on the whole, these forced partnerships fall flat.
  8. The work the Grammy team did in planning, creating and distributing so much behind the scenes content for the “2nd screen” was A-level. They should create a text book for companies to follow.
  9. Building on 6, I’m sorry, but I’m not a Beyonce fan. Never have been. I don’t think what she does is earth shattering. I just don’t. I think Adele has more musical talent in her big toe than Beyonce does in her entire body.
  10. Lastly, I leave you with this about the state of today’s music. And now I’ve dropped the mic.

Beyonce vs. Talent

The Joy Of Christmas

John and Cora at the Christmas Tree

Having kids is a guaranteed recipe for incredible moments that you’ll remember for many years to come. This was intentionally shot out of focus and as a silhouette. John’s on the left. Cora’s on the right. Both are reaching at ornaments on the tree.

A wonderful Christmas to remember, full of food, fun, friends and family. You can’t ask for anything more, can you?

Shot with a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 50mm 1.4 D. Love the bokeh from the lens.

The Next Chapter

I’m excited to announce that I will be joining The Campbell Soup Co. as the Global Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media. In this newly created role, I’ll be working alongside some of the smartest minds in the CPG space to transform Campbell into one of the most digitally fit organizations in the world.

Campbell is based in Camden, NJ, just outside of Philadelphia, which means, yes, the kid who was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey is coming back home to the East Coast. Bring on the pizza, bagels and soft pretzels!

Change is constant. Some people loathe change. I love it. Change brings about new opportunity. Change also offers reason to reflect. As I look forward to all that we can accomplish at Campbell’s, I’d be remiss if didn’t say…

Leaving Walgreens was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I can’t say enough about the leadership and the culture. Both, were key reasons why I joined the company and both are reasons we were able to create an award winning, best in class Social Media organization. If there’s one company that understands the value of social it’s Walgreens. I often say, social is a horizontal proposition, not a vertical fiefdom. Easy to say, much harder to do. Walgreens embraced that concept and afforded me the opportunity to lead our path toward realizing this end state. My only regret is that I won’t be there to see some amazing initiatives launch in the next few months. If you’re serious about social. If you want to “change the world” as one of team members often shares as his goal, Walgreens is where you should be looking. I wish my team, my colleagues and the organization all the best. Thank you for believing in me.

I plan to bring the same fire, passion, and commitment to innovation to Campbell that’s always fueled the successes of the past. As many of you know, being first has always been one of my key strategic pillars. Expect that to continue. Don’t look away, we’ll be planting several flags across the globe, at Campbell’s!

Cora Turns 5

Cora 1 Thru 5

Time flies. It really does. The above are photos taken on each birthday. It’s amazing how grown up she has gotten. It always blows my mind to think that I helped create her. Not to get overly sentimental, but you can really appreciate the concept of kids being a miracle…after you have your own.

At 5 she already has her own personality. We tend to think she takes after me…even though she looks like Cheryl. I’m just peachy with that. She has that great mix of confidence and cockiness that you’ll need to succeed in this world. Add in the fact, she’s a master on her iPad, growing up technologically savvy and is opinionated…and well…you can see why I’m busting at the seams just talking about her.  5 years; they go by in a blink.

I regret the days I don’t get to see her and I so very much enjoy the moments I do get to spend with her.  The distance and time challenges are made every easier, knowing she’s in the ever capable hands of Cheryl. These 5 years went by too fast. Let’s hope the next 5 years are as great to us as the first 5, but that they go by just a bit slower. There’s no rush!

What’s In The Box Doesn’t Matter

One of the truly wonderful things about having kids and becoming a parent is the authenticity you get to experience when engaging with your kids.  Yes, kids lie, that’s true.  But, ask a child if she likes the dinner you’ve plated, that’s based on some new recipe, and you’ll know the truth.  Ask an adult the same question and you’ll be met with a very politically correct answer.  Well, unless of course, you ask me 🙂

Christmas is one of those occasions where we seem to always try and out do one another, keep up with the Jones’ and impress with labels. Labels, you ask? Yes, labels. We’re all guilty of it, even I am. Under the Kmiec tree this year, there was no Louis, Jimmy or Tory.  Nada on the Prada, MK and Hermes.  Sorry, not a single item from Armani, Versace or Gucci – yes, we avoided the holy trinity. No Christian, Coach or Coco. Also, I must confess, there was no Lexus under the tree either.

Now, mind you, this is no assault on the wealthy, chic or stylish.  Without the label segment, we wouldn’t have people to gawk at, velvet ropes to envy and of course nothing to lust for.  And this isn’t me being above such items or brands.  I’m the first person to encourage purchasing 1 quality purse over 50 cheap ones.  Ditto on shoes, watches and umbrellas (trust me on this one).

No, this is more about the observation that kids don’t care what’s in the box, what the label is on the gift or the logo they’ll be displaying. And with good reason…they couldn’t tell you the difference between Coach and and Couch.  If anything they care more about the wrapping paper…or rather the joy of unwrapping their present. They’re equally as satisfied with 1 gift as they are with 100.  Seriously. I’ve watched this up close for 4+ years now.  It’s a really amazing thing to witness.  Honestly, it leaves me wanting to be as genuinely label disinterested as they are.  But, alas, though I’ve witnessed this authenticity and I’m a marketer, even I fall prey to label love…but I’m getting better!

There wasn’t a single present under the tree for me.  That’s what happens when you become a dad!  The likelihood your 4 year old is going to hop in the car, visit the mall and pick you a present that she paid for with her credit card…is…well…unlikely.  But, what I did get this Christmas was something much better than any company could provide:

John, Cora and Dad

I got to see those smiles and feel the real Christmas magic that we yearn for after watching a movie like Love Actually. Besides, if they were wearing a label it would say my name anyhow 🙂

A Magical Disney Adventure

I just got back from spending 6 days in Disney World with the kids and the ex-wife. You might be scratching your head about “ex-wife” so let me explain. Cheryl, my ex, and I get along great. Unlike most divorces, there’s no hate, animosity or awkwardness. We’re two people that are great friends and realized we shouldn’t be married. Believe me, I know I’m blessed. When we were getting divorced we agreed that Disney was something we wanted to do together with the kids. I you’ve ever been to Disney then you know how monumental of an event your first visit is. Visiting Disney isn’t so much a trip or a vacation, as it is an experience. From how you tell the kids they’re going to Disney, to the costumed characters, to the themed rides, to the parades and fireworks…oh yes, it’s an experience.

We were blessed with great weather throughout. The sun was out every single day and the temperature was consistently between 68 and 82 degrees. In short, it was exactly what you’d want it to be. We agonized over when to visit and finally settled on early November. This was definitely the right decision. The parks were rarely crowded which meant the was it times for the rides were short.

Over 6 days we covered Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. I think 6 days was a day too long, but the price for passes was actually cheaper than a 5 day trip. Crazy. We spent most of our trip at Magic Kingdom and Epcot; Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios were each 1/2 day experiences. There’s so much to see and experience; you never felt like you were repeating anything.

John and Cora had a blast. I was so proud of my kids. From how well they were behaved relative to other kids to how adventurous they were. For example, Cora rode the Kilimanjaro roller coaster at Animal Kingdom, TWICE, The Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain and Test Track. Not bad for a 4 year old.

Of course the kids also wanted to see and visit with the characters. Over 6 days they met with: Pluto, Mickey, Minnie, Flick, Pinnochio, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Tigger, Whinnie The Poo, Buzz, Woody, Mike, Sully, Chip and Dale. Crazy, right? John even got a kiss from Tinkerbell!

I can’t say enough about how amazing the Disney staff were. There was always a smile and a bounce in their step. You don’t realize how impressive this is until you head to the airport and interact with the surly and grumpy TSA staff. Disney proves that you can operationalize core values to each and every employee. The only nit I have with the Disney experience is how poor the food was…which could be overlooked if it weren’t so expensive. Hey, no one’s perfect. There’s not much I’d change about the experience. I’m really happy that Cheryl and I were able to give our kids a life time of memories.

Here’s a few photos from the trip all taken with my Nikon D700:

John playing the drums at Animal Kingdom

Cinderella’s Castle

Cora after getting her face painted

John driving a car (I can’t even describe the laughter and pure enjoyment he had driving this car)

A caricature of the kids

Me with Tinkerbell

 

September 11th, Ten Years Later

An earlier version of this post exists here.  I’ve since updated it with new information, perspective and thoughts.

I’m certainly one of the lucky ones.  I’m still here today.  I flew, I landed and made it home.  I went on to get married (eventually divorced), have two amazing children, love again and make a life.  I was fortunate, no one I knew suffered any tragedy that morning.  This has always stopped me in my tracks.  The majority of my family lives in or works in New York.  To escape that horrible day, otherwise unscathed, is a miracle.

Frankly, when I look back on September 11, 2011 I marvel at the events.  That morning, I left the house, kissed my girlfriend (she’d later go on to be my wife) goodbye and got into a cab headed for Midway airport.  I boarded a Southwest flight from Midway airport with my great friend and colleague Reed Roussel. We were both headed to Ft. Knox Kentucky for a full day worth of meetings with our United States Army client. When we landed in Kentucky, the first plane had already met its fate by flying directly into the twin towers.

We were oblivious to everything that had transpired as we hopped into our Enterprise rental car and started the 45 minute trek to Ft. Knox. During the ride over, little did we know, plane #2 had also crashed. This was 2001 and cell phones weren’t exactly in high use or even reaching mass adoption levels. The behavior of having it practically glued to your hand just didn’t exist. I did notice a call from my wife and Reed noticed a call from his mom, but we ignored them both.  Cell reception in the Ft. Knox, Kentucky area was spotty and we didn’t want to incur the wrath of roaming charges.  They were well aware of the tragedy and were trying to reach us to make sure we were both OK.  I’m still amazed that their calls made it through.  If you remember, nearly everyone was receiving the “all circuits are busy” message that morning and throughout the day.

When we arrived at the post, there was something off. The vibe was all wrong. An hour into our visit (55 minutes of which were spent waiting for the client) we finally learned from our client that 2 planes had flown into the twin towers and it was to our “advantage” that we leave the post immediately. Why? Because, in about 10 minutes the post would be on lock down and all non-military personnel would be placed “under suspicion.” To be honest, we were still confused about the situation, but we had no desire to be locked up on the post.

Reed and I hopped in the car, called the airline, learned all flights were canceled, then called Enterprise and explained we would not be returning the car to the airport. Instead, we would be driving to Chicago and returning it there. If I remember correctly, she informed us there would be a incremental $150 charge, or so, since we hadn’t intended to return the vehicle out of state.  The fee was irrelevant, we just wanted to get home to see our families.  So, we hung up the phone and started the journey from Ft. Knox to Chicago. The roads were strangely empty. Keep in mind, at this point, while the rest of the country was transfixed to the television coverage, we hadn’t seen anything. With no smartphones, our only real option was the radio. The irony, was, the only radio station that was coming through was the one carrying Howard Stern. Crazy, right?  There was no XM, no Sirius, no internet streaming, just your FM/AM tuner.  That meant for the next 2 hours we listened to Howard Stern. He was our connection to the outside world and was the one who brought us up to speed on what had happened. It wasn’t till we stopped for lunch, that we saw our first visual. We were awe struck. Stunned. It’s hard to put into words the emotions running thorough me. I’m a born and raised New Yorker; this hit hard.

I’ve always traveled for work.  It’s just part of the job.  But, travel for me changed after 9/11. I paid more attention to my surroundings.  When someone got up to go to the bathroom, I stopped what I was doing and took notice.  Those were simple things. They were things that I think many of us did.  But, what really changed for me was something that I still do to this day.  I make sure to let the ones I love know I’m leaving…I try to call them, just to hear their voice…just in case.  And…I always let those loved ones know I landed…same thing, I try to connect live if I can….though these days, I rely on text messaging because of convenience.  You value the people who matter the most to you, just a little more, when you realize that flights aren’t as routine as we’d like to think they are.

10 years ago, I learned about 9/11 via the radio. I learned about operation Desert Storm via television. When Sadam Hussein was captured, I learned about it via the web. The death of Osama Bin Laden was shared with me via text message first, then Twitter. The text message I received instructed me to check out Twitter, not turn on the TV. After reading the news, I found a TV and saw the president’s speech. As I watched his delivery, I couldn’t help but think about how we’ve evolved as a society…how our sharing has changed…how our means for connection have evolved. We operate in a real time and always on demand society. I think this was the first real moment where that wasn’t just rhetoric, for me, but a truly shared experience.

I’m so thankful for technology and how it’s evolved…how simple it’s made keeping in touch with those who matter most.  Texting, Facebook, foursquare…hell, even the ability to simply make a phone call from anywhere; these are all things we take for granted, not unlike the people in our lives who matter the most.  A good friend of mine shared this with me via twitter last year:

Life is largely fleeting. A series of momentary intersections with other people. It is truly incredible to find someone of permanence.

My experience on 9-11 reminds me of that concept every day.

Hospitality

Webster says “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way” is how to describe the word hospitality. I tend to think of it as making visitors feel like they belong. This isn’t an easy task. I’ve been on the receiving end of some poor hospitality. Have you ever had one of those visits where you just feel like you’re a bother? As if the people hosting you clearly preferred you weren’t there?

Basically, think of that famous scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts walks into the store, armed with cash and ready to shop, but the staff looks down on her and suggests she shop elsewhere. Well I have experienced that kind of hospitality (in-stores and at-homes) and it’s not fun.

Growing up my grandmother, her sister and my mom amazed me with how generous, warm and yes…hospitable they were. Paraphrasing my grandmother’s eulogy, there was always another seat to be had at the table, another glass that could be filled and more rice to be spared. That’s just the way things were and still are, in my family. I’d probably also add, there’s always a floor, bed or couch to sleep on/in and someone to pick you up from the airport. Again, that’s just the way my family does things.

This past July 4th weekend I was given a taste of hospitality that was wonderfully reminiscent of my own family. From the get go I just had a feeling these were “good people” as my dad sometimes says. They offered to pick up and drop off from the airport, asked what I’d like to drink ahead of the trip (lots of pepsi in the fridge!), took me for a tour of the island, provided keys to the house as needed and access to their bikes, took an interest in my interests and even let a friend of mine “crash” the party at the last minute.

That’s all well and good. It makes for a nice list. But, the true testament for how wonderful the hospitality was, is how I felt throughout the weekend. It simply felt like I fit. That’s a hard feeling to create. I’m so thankful to have met these wonderful people.

I know it sounds like I’m gushing and this is a little over the top. But, if you had been here in Ocean City at this house, with these people, you’d be doing the same. Creating a sense of hospitality is not easy. Retailers like Tiffany’s and Barney’s have mastered this art. And, so have these people. I can’t wait to come back.