Finding Value in Creativity


Copyright Tonia Allen Gould, All Rights Reserved
Copyright Tonia Allen Gould, All Rights Reserved

 What’s an idea? The mere concept of an idea is difficult, maybe even impossible to perfectly define. Even notable philosophers couldn’t seem to agree on what an idea truly means. The Free Dictionary Online indicates that according to the philosophy of Plato, the definition of an idea “is an archetype of which a corresponding being in phenomenal reality is an imperfect replica.” The web source goes on to say that according to the philosophy of Kant, “an idea is a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempiral.” But, even Hagel said it differently. He claimed that an idea means “absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.” In the dictionary, the definition of an idea reads “something, such as a thought or conception that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity.”

To me, an idea is something that begins as a glimmer; a mere flicker in the mind that can suddenly grab hold, and unfold through any period of time, like the single root of the ivy plant that grounds itself deeply into the soil before it grows upwards, clinging to a wall with its tiny tentacles, reaching out and hanging on, until it forms its own shape and dimension. The ivy grows and grows, like no other ivy plant in existence, and reaches for the sun in a way that suits itself in order to flourish. Like an idea, the ivy didn’t plant itself. Someone had to place it there. The gardener of the ivy had to have foresight to buy or rent the house, invest in the fertilizer and the soil and the tools; he had to invest in the plant and spend his time digging the hole and planting it in the hopes that it would grow.

Like the gardener; creative professionals must make an investment in time, be committed to the outcome, and diligently work to understand and meet the project objectives.  That’s a lot of footwork and fancy dancing already.  But, what about the ideas you generate…those tiny seedlings of thought, that grew and took shape and added a dimension to the project that were unlike every other idea before it…those absolute truths…those nonempiral transcendent concepts of reason…those imperfect replicas…what about those? Those ideas, my friends, have value and they are your greatest asset. Sometimes, we forget that and give them away too freely, as if they have no value.  So if you’re questioning your creative worth, maybe you should start looking first at your assets.  #yourideashaveworth

Remember Who You Are


ImageOriginally Written by Tonia Allen Gould for PromoKitchen.com.

Simba: Father?!
Mufasa’s ghost: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No! How could I?
Mufasa’s ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.
Simba: How can I go back!? I’m not who I used be!
Mufasa’s ghost: Remember who you are.
©Disney

My father was a salesman. I don’t think I realized it when I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, but, still he was one, even though he worked as a foreman for the Indiana State Highway Department. Back then, I’d spend time with my dad who was always looking to supplement his income to make an honest living. On weekends, Dad would drive me around in one of his old, beat-up cars or trucks he fixed-up himself. My family and I wouldn’t get too used to whatever vehicle he was driving at the moment, as it generally wouldn’t stay around long. The car merely served as a short-term means of transportation, and a roving billboard that advertised its own sale. While he didn’t have any long term relationship with the vehicle, he did have a certain attachment to it that came from having pride in his work, through his mechanical abilities, which enabled him to fix things that were broken.

On any given Sunday, Dad and I would be out on a mission, looking for other “For Sale” signs on tractors, lawn mowers, cars, trucks, boats or trailers parked haphazardly in some stranger’s yard. We’d spend hours-on-end in search of whatever we could find that suited Dad’s liking and matched his mechanical skills to buy, fix-up and sell again for a profit.

On any one of those days, my handsome dad would pull our car into some random driveway, climb out, smooth back his hair, hoist his pants and walk confidently up to knock on the stranger’s door as I stayed lingering, paces behind. “I’m here about the lawnmower you’ve got for sale out front,” he’d say, and then he’d follow the owner out to the yard to look the product over, while I stood quietly nearby. I learned a thing or two about the basics of selling alongside my dad back then. After all, he was the master of the “wheel and deal,” and one of the best negotiators I’ve ever met. But while my father would sometimes negotiate the terms of the sale or offer a barter or trade when he didn’t have just enough money, the biggest lesson I learned back then was that my father didn’t mind paying a fair price for something he wanted.

Part of my father’s “business plan” included his self-reliance on his mechanical knowledge and his ability to fix-up something that was broken, while still keeping in mind its full potential or value. This is what differentiated him from other buyers and sellers in the local area. He understood the cost of parts and labor as well as what was involved in buying something that needed to be fixed for resale. He’d buy it, if he felt he could breathe new life into it and if he was guaranteed a profit for it when he turned the product.

Looking back on all this now, I realize my father would have made an amazing entrepreneur/business owner. He had the right mindset and business acumen. He never compromised who he was or deviated from his goal of turning a profit to put food on the table or to simply provide for his family. He’d buy something. He’d fix it up. He’d resell it. And, then he’d start that process over and over again, honestly and fairly, always being mindful of his profit margins along the way. If he were still around today, and if he had an actual business, I know that he wouldn’t have wavered from his business approach much along the way. After all, he was in the business of making money.

While all of this may be nothing more than simple lessons I learned early on in life, they made a fairly significant impact on me, nonetheless. In this crazy, mixed-up economy we are experiencing today, it’s so easy to become desperate and to sell yourself, your qualifications and your talents short. If you devise the perfect formula for success, it should include differentiating yourself to create value, to make an impact and to stand out, while still minding those margins to make sure you get fairly compensated in the process of all of that hard work and steadfast determination. Rely more heavily on what you know: Buy a product, fix it up with your client’s brand and sell it–at a fair and honest price. Showcase your skills and knowledge, and this will differentiate you from the masses. “Remember who you are,” but most importantly, don’t compromise yourself along the way.

Tonia Allen Gould is President/CEO of TAG! The Creative Source, a consumer promotions and marketing agency headquartered in California.

Life is a Balancing Act


Photo gleaned from E-how Article By Ma Wen Jie, eHow Contributor

The idea for this post, started with a Tweet. “Balancing work & life is like being on a teeter-totter. I’m the fulcrum w/ kids on 1 end & a biz, the other. I’ve got 2 hold ’em both up.” The idea for the Tweet started with my first day back in the office after being out-of-town in Dallas for several days. When I returned, both my family and my job needed me, and like every other time I’ve been away, I immediately started the balancing act I like to call, “My Life.”

A fulcrum, quite simply, balances two similar weights. If you are a working mother too, I know you can appreciate the analogy. At home, I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who is a junior in high school and has begun SAT prepping. She’s starting to think about where she wants to go to college. My daughter, is a smart kid, but is struggling in pre-calculus. Leading up to this point, absolutely everything in her life has gone her way. She’s good at everything she touches and could, quite frankly, skate through life on that notion alone. While she sometimes pushes me away, as teenagers who are getting ready to fly the coop often do; I know she needs me now, more than ever, to help her to figure out how to begin to orchestrate the rest of her life.

My son is equally gifted, or I think he is, from a completely biased mother’s perspective. He’s almost nine and spends hours on end making origami, drawing finite pictures, building rockets, making his own science experiments and looking-up answers that his parents aren’t smart enough to answer. He wants to be a rocket scientist and one day, go to work at NASA. Athletics only interests him slightly (which is a good thing, because he’s only slightly athletic) and my husband and I have to prepare to raise a true scholar.

Both of my children need me in very different ways, and every day, those needs change as sure as the shifting tides. But, I have a third child and one that I’m a single parent to, my company, TAG! The Creative Source. TAG! is my sixteen-year-old, thriving, teenaged marketing company that wants to grow, and I have to review strategies that will take my company through to its adulthood. At TAG! I’m truly on my own with no partner in place.

If you were to ask me, why I do it, why do I carry the weight of two separate worlds on my shoulders; I’m sure my answer would relate to some and probably differ from most. I work, not because I have to, but because I want to. I also require personal security; I don’t want to have to worry about what to do if something ever happened to my husband. In addition, I want to raise my children to believe that they can grow up to be absolutely anything they want to be. My son may well want to walk on the moon someday, and I know we are raising him to do exactly that, if he wants to. My husband and I are blessed with two incredibly independent children who can now think on their own two feet and who are able to contribute to the world with or without us.  Because my husband and I both work, our two children have learned to function on their own when necessary. 

So, this is how teeter totters are made. Mothers like me, sometimes root themselves firmly into the ground, and allow massive weights to be placed on their shoulders while two separate forces rise and fall despite the needs of the other. Sometimes, we falter, but we try to never crumble, for if we do, we know the weight of two worlds will come colliding down upon us.

When you came across this post, you were probably looking for some great article to build your own teeter totter at home. If that’s the case, I don’t want to disappoint. Check out this great article on e-How, “DIY Teeter-Totter.” However, back in Indiana, where I was raised, all you needed to make a teeter-totter was a log and a piece of plywood.

Playing with Promos


So, I’m sitting in my office and my assistant brings me a small package addressed specifically to me.  (A package with my name on it always intrigues me more than a letter or an envelope, and I allow it to disrupt my day.)  Just as curiosity killed the cat, I open the box, and discover a complimentary product sample from a supplier.  “Woohoo!   A gift!  I like gifts!”  I say to myself.   I pull out the plastic cylinder delicately wrapped in Kraft paper, and twirl it around a few times with my fingers.  Inside the packaging I can see a pen that looks somewhat nondescript.  The packaging is branded with the word “SMENS” with a tagline that read:  Gourmet Scented Pens.  Gourmet, huh?  Let me be the judge of that.

As a promotional product, brand marketing professional; I’m required by unspoken promo law to give a product a chance before making any real judgments.   I begin to play with the packaging to see if it “works” for me, which is difficult for me since patience is not a virtue of mine.  (Intrinsically, I want to rip off the top of the tube and smell the yummy goodness inside, but I wait for it.)  I twirl the tube around with my fingers a few times and note that the supplier thoughtfully labeled and marked the imprint area for my client’s logo; it features a whopping 2.638″ x 1.42″ imprint area!  Then, I notice the tube is made of 100% Biodegradable plastic, and it is not only marked with a point of origin, but also a safety notice indicating the product is a choking hazard and it’s not suitable for children under the age of three.   Wow!  I conclude that this supplier “gets it” right out of the starting gate; and I haven’t even opened the tube yet to unveil whatever delightful “gourmet scent” wafts from it. 

Slowly and with much anticipation, I twist off the cap and…HOLY MOTHER of recycled products…YUCK!  It’s LICORICE!  Black licorice!   I detest black licorice!  I dislike the smell, the taste, and the mere thought of it.  The area around my desk is now consumed with the authentic, albeit gourmet, scent of pure, ground, black licorice.  The pen is plain and made from recycled newspapers and I’m no longer quite as “engaged” as a targeted recipient.  One quite savvy marketer missed the mark, by just that much.
In defense of SMENS (who also sells SMENCILS); we’ve all done it.  How would SMENS have known that I strongly dislike black licorice?  Even the savviest of marketing professionals miss their marks when it comes to reaching their targeted audiences.  So, in all fairness, I went to www.smens.com and noticed the company sells a host of gourmet scents, some of which would appeal to a mass audience.  If I were SMENS; I might steer clear of introducing their product initially by way of black licorice and vanilla, two scents that might offend certain people.  All in all, for a scented, completely environmentally-friendly pen; I think they are right on the money with their mission.   The robust quality of the scent also makes me want to give them another chance with one of my client’s orders.  I think I’ll check out the Ninja Berry, Carmel Corn or Mocha and get back to you on that.

Ramblings from the Car Wash


I’m sitting in a massage chair at a car wash, cleaning out my purse, where I have once again discovered over ten dollars worth of change. Lugging coin of this amount, along with two bottles of perfume, four tubes of lipstick, an iPad, a wallet, a make-up bag (with more lipstick), and legions of my sons Lego parts, may very well be the reason my lower back hurts. How do I let things get so messy in there?

I have the option of putting a hard-earned dollar bill into the chair for a five-minute massage, but I think I’ll save all of them to tip the guys outside. (The chair doesn’t take coins, or I would, for sure, indulge.) Besides, those guys outside deserve my money, because my car has been on two road trips in fourteen days and my kids seem to think that my floor boards are the nearest recycling center.

I’d have more money in my wallet, if I had a free moment before now, to run by the ATM, which I haven’t. So, here I sit, my purse is now rid of receipts and random, unnecessary stuff, and I’m reveling in a few moments to myself, listening to piped-in music from a car wash on a massage chair that isn’t on, taking a few moments to blog. Oh, the guilty pleasures of a mother and business owner who runs on a battery that needs a constant recharge. Was I really just on vacation?

Like most working mothers, we’ll take our guilty pleasures wherever we can find them. For me today, its at the car wash finding a moment to blog. Tomorrow, it may be in a twenty-minute bath with dimmed lights and a glass of wine. Sometimes, it’s standing in my kitchen creating a new recipe, while the rest of my family watches TV. Like a bounty hunter finds it’s felon; I’ll continue to seek out these moments to myself and revel in them when I can find them, twenty minutes at a time.

It’s a new year and there’s much I want to accomplish both personally and professionally. I know my head will be in the right place, if I continue to find moments away from the fray, to concentrate on me.

If you’re a stay at home mom, or a working mom like me, make sure your head is screwed on tight. What’s more important than finding them, those moments, is to revel in them when you do. More than likely you’ll be a better wife, mother and contribution at work, as a result.

Budget vs. Per Unit Costs in Determining Promotional Marketing Spend


Finding the right promotional product that enforces a brand, while delivering the right message under budgetary restrictions are some of the biggest challenges that a promotional products sales rep faces with their client.  Too often in this economy, salespeople inadvertently  compromise brand integrity due to a client’s budgetary constraints, by delivering sub-standard product that meets those budgetary constraints.  Too often, the buyer is convinced since they’re working on a shoestring budget, they are limited in the products in which they can choose.  Sometimes, this might be the case, but in most circumstances it is not.  Even with a sizable budget, it’s imperative that salespeople don’t get too focused on per unit costs of the products that they are selling, but rather a client’s overall marketing spend.  

Instead of thinking about per unit costs which limits the customer’s choices, learn how to get an overall understanding of the client’s total marketing spend for the event, trade show, promotion, product launch or campaign.  Then, begin to  understand where the products you present fit into that bigger picture.  I like to think about all of this in terms of a pie.  I’ll fraction my client’s trade show budget pie off into five pieces, after we’ve discussed and learned some of her projected trade show expenditures.  Her first “spend”, or piece of the pie, goes to her exhibitor company who makes her booth and graphics; the next piece to her transportation company; the next piece to her fulfillment house; the next piece for exhibition costs; and then finally, the last piece of the pie went to her marketing budget for uniforms and trade show giveaways.  

In discussing my client’s exhibition costs, or the first piece of the pie; we learned that her exhibitor company outsourced table cloths, banners, graphics and the like, but specialized in the  booth hardware.  By asking questions, we learned that we could save our client money through our own promotional resources, trimming her booth design costs.  Through this process, we also learned that our client’s transportation costs included a handling fee from her fulfillment house for holding  the goods as we shipped them, and that she was also charged by the day.  In addition, we knew she would be charged both shipping and handling fees for transporting the goods to the show.  From that discussion, we worked to save our client money by shipping our products as close to the event date as possible and in some cases we shipped product directly to the trade show, cutting out fulfillment costs altogether.  Due to this big picture planning, we were able to trim from the client’s overall trade show budget and shift that spend to promotions that our buyer could use to generate booth traffic, develop leads and promote sales.  In my client’s eyes, I shifted from being a product salesperson to my client’s on-call consultant.

Now that the budget was finally determined; I started to break down my client’s needs for their uniforms and promotional giveaways for all attendees.   We determined that the uniforms had to be  top-notch and SCREAM quality.  Next, we realized that we had different levels of needs for the attendees of the trade show.  Those attendees were placed into into A, B, and C categories.  All attendees who stopped by my client’s booth received an “C” level gift.  (We needed lots of under $5.00 items that our client could hand out at will to anyone that stopped by.)  Mid-level managers in attendance received a “B” gift with a higher spend and lower distribution, and executives were given a “A” level gift with an even higher budget and much lower distribution.  We had four pieces of the pie this time, and determined our giveaways by focusing on the client’s total budget and not the client’s initial per unit cost directives. Inevitably, the client spent more on promotional product used or distributed at the trade show to promote company awareness and goodwill.

Tonia Allen Gould
Tagsource (Founder)
BrandHuddle (Founder)