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By Tom Demerly.

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Thursday, 12 December, 2013. Addendum to this Story: 

On Thursday, December 12 Specialized Bicycles Founder Mike Sinyard traveled to Cafe Roubaix Bicycles to delivery a personal apology and retraction of legal threats against the retailer.  Read the complete story here.

 

 

Saturday, 7 December, 2013.

Bicycle mega-brand Specialized created controversy today when news of legal threats against a small, Canadian veteran-owned bicycle retailer surfaced in the Calgary Herald newspaper. The story reports that Specialized Bicycles has threatened legal action against Dan Richter, owner of Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio, for using the word “Roubaix” in the name of his business. “Roubaix” is a widely recognized word in cycling usage from the famous spring classic bicycle race, Paris-Roubaix. Specialized Bicycles also has a series of bicycles named Roubaix for which they own some naming rights.

The story has gained inertia on social media sites Facebook and Twitter, with thousands of views and an expanding number of “shares” and “retweets”. Comments on social media paint the picture of a bully corporation wielding legal might against a largely defenseless small retailer.

Social media users have created images critical of Specialized Bicycles' heavy threat of litigation against small retailer Dan Richter.

Social media users have created images critical of Specialized Bicycles’ threat of litigation against small retailer Dan Richter.

Public relations problems are common among large brands. Every major brand including Coca-Cola, Exxon, Wal-Mart, General Motors, Firestone Tire, Apple and others have had them. What determines the level of change in consumer perception following the initial incident is how the company responds to the situation.

Taking lessons from government and corporate management of public relations disasters Specialized has an opportunity to not only recover from this incident, but actually benefit from it. Here’s how:

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Dan Richter of Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio in Cochrane, Canada. PHOTO from Facebook posts: Taken by Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald

1. Specialized needs a 24/7 disaster response team. 

Social media is a 24-hour job. Someone always has to be on duty, standing the walls of media outlets and conducting surveillance of media for early warning of impending disasters. This is especially important on weekends and at night in relevant time zones when social media is moving quickly. The Specialized Bicycles story achieved a transmission velocity across social media of hundreds of shares per hour when it began.

2. Specialized needs to own it. 

Specialized Bicycles is a truly great brand with a history of supporting dealers. What happened in Calgary could be termed an “accident”. Specialized needs to take full and unqualified responsibility. They need to use words like “mistake” and “error” in their press releases. There should be no qualifiers, no adjectives, no “reducing language”. The public needs to see them fall heavily and completely on their sword.

3. Specialized should apologize. 

Corporate apologies need to be succinct and clear: “We apologize for our error and for the damage we inflicted upon Cafe’ Roubaix Bicycle Studio and for the difficulties we caused for their owner, Mr. Dan Richter.” Again, no qualifiers, no backpedaling. They need to offer a clear and unqualified, one sentence apology.

4. Specialized needs to show tangible reparations for the mistake.

The check book needs to come out. Specialized needs to re-win the hearts and minds of the cycling public with genuine (read: monetary) actions to “right the wrong”. This includes to the dealer affected and to the local cycling community. Given how quickly this story spread a few free bikes to the local junior cycling team, some cash to local event promoters and a very large “care package” of Specialized Bicycles and accessories to Dan Ricther and Cafe’ Roubaix Bicycle Studio is the start.

5. Specialized needs to work back channels and mainstream media to leverage the story of their damage control and ownership of the problem. 

This is when Specialized needs to call in media favors from all the publications and editors they have supported by issuing timely (under 24 hours) press releases to media about how they owned and fixed the problem. This needs to include the original “victim”, Dan Richter and Specialized. A photo of Richter and Specialized CEO Mike Sinyard or a top brass Specialized Sales Manager shaking hands in front of a row of free Specialized Roubaix’s going to the local cycling club needs to hit social media hard and fast before people forget.

6. Specialized needs to follow up.

This is an opportunity for Specialized to leverage their loyalty to dealers. When they step up and do the right thing the example can be used as branding and sales capital for all their dealers to increase floor space and market share. Sales reps can point to Specialized’s prompt and complete response, reminding their dealers that, “No other bike company acts as quickly or in more complete support of their dealers.” If Specialized manages this incident proactively and wisely it can be converted from a marketing problem to a marketing opportunity.

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By Tom Demerly.

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06:14, Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone (UTC-10:00), 7 December, 1941; 221 miles north of Oahu in the Pacific Ocean.

Navigating through the dark, Pacific morning under strict radio silence the Japanese aircraft carriers Zuikaku, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku and task force flagship flagship Akagi came about into the wind on mild seas. Deck crews stood ready at the wheel chocks of idling attack aircraft with exhaust flame flickering from their cowlings. Dawn would break in minutes.  Communications officers on the high decks changed signal flags to indicate the attack was underway.

Chocks were pulled and throttles advanced as 50 Nakajima Kate dive bombers began their short take off rolls from the carrier decks. They were laden with massive 1,760-pound armor-piercing bombs. Another 40 Kates carrying top-secret long-finned, shallow water torpedoes thundered forward on the flight deck, drowning out the cries of “Bonzai! Bonzai!” from the deck crew.

Secret Operation Z was under way. The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor remains one of the most successful combat operations in history. Achieved with total surprise after maintaining strict security a massive naval armada of over 60 total Japanese vessels crossed 3000+ miles to stage near simultaneous attacks on multiple targets with miraculous precision and minor losses. The American naval capability was compromised to such a degree that it would take months to mount a tangible offensive in the Pacific. That more Americans did not die at Pearl Harbor is likely a function of the attack coming early on a Sunday morning.

Days earlier on November 26 the secret task force had left the covert naval installation at Etorofu Island and sailed over 2100 miles to its “initial point”. On December 2nd they were assembled stealthily under cover of bad weather to begin their final attack run toward the aircraft launch area north of Oahu. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, back on mainland Japan, issued a coded radio message via morse, “新高を登る!” or “Climb Mount Niitaka!”. This signaled the attack was to proceed as planned.

A new U.S. Army SCR-270 mobile radar array mounted high up Opana Point on Oahu detected the Japanese attack force 70 miles away but believed they were friendly aircraft. At 07:40 local the Japanese attack force spotted the Hawaiian coast at Kakuku Point. They had navigated partially by following the radio transmissions of music from the island.

Flight Officer 1st Class Shinpei Sano launches from the flight deck of the Akagi in an A6M2 model 21 Zero after sunrise in the second attack wave. Sano died in the Battle of Midway in June, 1942.

Flight Officer 1st Class Shinpei Sano launches from the flight deck of the Akagi in an A6M2 model 21 Zero after sunrise in the second attack wave on Pearl Harbor. Sano died in the Battle of Midway in June, 1942.

The attack began with total surprise and withering precision. Air superiority over Pearl Harbor was quickly established by lightweight, highly maneuverable Japanese A6M2 Zero fighters, the equivalent of today’s F-16. The Americans were unable to mount an effective air defense. As a result, air-attack commander Mitsuo Fuchida transmitted a famous morse radio message in the clear, “トラ,トラ,トラ…” or “To-ra, to-ra, to-ra!”.

Fuchida’s torpedo and dive bombers destroyed their targets with impunity as the Americans attempted to mount a defense with anti-aircraft guns. Two ships, the USS Nevada and USS Aylwin were able to start their boilers and run for the channel toward open ocean. Only the Aylwin, staffed by four new junior officersmade it to sea. The Nevada ran aground intentionally in Pearl Harbor after its commander was seriously wounded.

My mother, Velma Demerly, was in Lafayette, Indiana on December 7th, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She is 92 now. The video above is a brief interview of her recollections of hearing the news that day. Her response typified the American misunderstanding of the gravity of the attack and the U.S. isolationism at the time.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was an incredible tactical and strategic success for the Japanese. It put the Americans on the back foot at the beginning of WWII. There were 2,402 Americans killed in the attack. By comparison 2,977 people in the U.S. died in the 9/11 terror attacks.

The social effects of the Pearl Harbor attack touched every American for decades. The Pearl Harbor attack lead to the first and only operational use of nuclear weapons five years later when the U.S. launched nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those attacks combined with a protracted and bloody island hopping, sea battle and air campaign across the Pacific finally brought WWII in the Pacific to an end five years later on August 15, 1945.

Remembering the Pearl Harbor attack is critical to our current political and military doctrine. The Pearl Harbor attack along with the 9/11 terror attacks stand as examples of why the U.S. must maintain strategic defensive capabilities and constant surveillance miles from our borders. It has been 72 years ago today since the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbor. The lessons learned from that tragic attack remain as relevant now as today’s headlines. Unless we remember we are condemned to repeat the past.

By Tom Demerly.

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Activist, terrorist, president, communist, freedom fighter, humanitarian, bully, saint and sinner; human. Nelson Mandela’s dossier spans the entire spectrum of social administration and life experience.

Like any complex character, Mandela had many sides. It is tempting to remember him as a great liberator, a fighter for freedom and equality. And, while correct, this would not be a complete accounting of Nelson Mandela’s life.

Mandela won both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Order of Lenin, a seemingly paradoxical set of accolades. That fact alone attests to the complexity of his character, and his political skill. He did prison time and won the Presidency of South Africa. He once quipped to a U.S. president, “In Africa, our leaders go to jail before they become president.”

First, the bad news. Mandela was a terrorist in the strictest sense of the word. He is proof that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. His reign of terror was so conspicuous that in 1965 Amnesty International refused to acknowledge Mandela as a “Prisoner of Conscience” then back-pedaled in 2006 to name him an “Ambassador of Conscience”. Mandela learned and perpetuated the African truth that, “The guys with the guns make the rules.”

But Mandela understood the ends might justify the means in the fallibility of the human experience. He knew the paradoxical meaning of “fighting for peace”. While he is best remembered for his long 27-year prison term it is important to resist romanticizing the violence he brought to bear on South Africa. The victims of his violence bled just as red as the blood coursing through the veins of those he liberated.

And therein lies the reason we should remember Mandela. He was a realist. A man at comfort with the paradoxical cruelty of the human condition. That is also part of the reason why he achieved so much.

It is up to us what we do with Mandela’s legacy and how we decide to remember him. I say we remember Mandela as a common man with titanic burdens thrust upon him. The burdens of, at first, a nation, and then all of mankind. And then we remember that Mandela did not romanticize or philosophize. He set about the untidy ditch digging that “waging peace” truly is on this earth. What made Mandela uncommon was his iron will and tireless endurance to stay the course. And be advised, if you find favor with Nelson Mandela then you ought brush up on your history of Richard Nixon and George Bush. Their dossiers could be argued as roughly analogous.

That is unequivocally part of Mandela’s worth; he verifies that the ends do, indeed, justify the means from the altitude of history.

And as we remember Mandela, we do not abandon the work for a better world, but we embrace the reality of our collective frailty. Because to embrace it is to keep it in close check.

By Tom Demerly.

20100617_poverty_33  Is our lower class truly poor? Or, is there a cultural shift in expectations that create a conspicuously affluent, but fundamentally impoverished lower class?

The answer points to an important idea: We need to re-orient our society to value education, initiative and personal responsibility and de-emphasize conspicuous consumption and government support of basic necessities.

The United States is in an accelerating crisis that is creating more economic distance between an affluent upper class and a growing “lower class”.

Consider these oddly disparate statistics:

  • 88% of Americans own a cell phone, with 56% owning a smart phone.[i]
  • “Nearly 90% of Americans now own a computer, MP3 player, game console, e-book reader, cell phone, or tablet computer.”[ii]
  • “95% of Americans own a car…”[iii]
  • 15.4% of people in the U.S. were uninsured [in 2012].[iv]
  • “75% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover their bills for six months.”[v]

Our lower class is often measured by income and employment statistics. But is our lower class truly poor? Or, is a part of the current crisis a cultural shift in expectations that create a conspicuously affluent but fundamentally impoverished lower class? Does a portion of our lower class spend money on the wrong things? And, if so, how could that change?

There is an argument that the U.S. has the richest- and most underemployed- lower class in the world. Our lower class has privately owned cars, cell phones and non-utilitarian clothing but lacks education, savings and healthcare. They have some of the icing but little of the cake. As a result our society must prop up the foundation of personal financial responsibility by subsidizing necessities like food, medical care, housing, education and retirement.

By contrast Forbes reports that China’s personal savings rate is the highest in the world.[vi] One reason, according to both Forbes and the BBC, is that China subsidizes few truly useful social programs. The Chinese must fund their own retirement. China does not yet have national social security legislation.[vii] And despite numerous other Chinese social programs the emerging Chinese middle class and larger, accelerating lower class still feel the need to save money for a rainy day according to one BBC report.

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On the back of a manufacturing economy bolstered by consumers in the west, Chinese are saving more money than any nation while Americans are saving less.

This is ominous as it puts the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage to China in the economic sector. This also increases U.S. social reliance on government administration of vital programs, a paradigm that has significant risk given the federal government’s weak balance sheet. In short, it weakens our country, not only exclusively, but more dramatically in comparison to our global economic competitors.

“The Affordable Care Act doesn’t provide health care for the poor; it provides financial care for the healthcare industry.”

An additional concern about our current social and governmental direction is that programs like the Affordable Care Act don’t provide health care for the poor; it provides financial care for the healthcare industry. Unlike the federal government’s bailout of the auto industry in 2008-10 there is little provision for a return on investment or any remuneration from the ACA. Its current configuration requires the costs of administration but little revenue stream for administrators. The government becomes a billing agent for private healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

We need to change the direction of America toward valuing the things we’ve discounted over these previous two decades; access to education, quality of education, valuing teachers as pivotal contributors to our nation’s future. We need to teach and reward personal responsibility and initiative. Wealth is not measured by possessions but by capability, output and income.

By Tom Demerly.

Like a modern James Dean, Paul Walker starred in hot rod movies, lived his character and tragically died as his character.

Like a modern James Dean, Paul Walker starred in hot rod movies, lived his character and tragically died as his character.

Paul Walker, a modern day James Dean, died tragically in a fiery car accident Saturday in Valencia, California at age 40. The parallels between his life and predecessor “B” movie film icon James Dean are uncanny.

The “B” movie hot rod genre and male heartthrob is as much a cliche as the tragic, too early death of both Walker and Dean.

Walker was a modern day James Dean.

Walker was a modern day James Dean.

Walker stared in the Fast and Furious series of action movies that brought back hot rodding in the form of modern “tuner” cars and introduced a generation to the bad-boy car movie. The poodle skirts and drive-ins have been replaced by yoga pants and Uggs at the local megaplex, but the theme of hot cars, hot boys and hot girls has stayed rock solid. Now the ending is even the same.

Walker was oddly perfect in his roles. In Into The Blue Walker was perfect as the buff beach and dive bum who courted a ravishing Jessica Alba and found a fortune in lost drug money under the waves. The cute little movie is fun and captivating. It’s cheesy appeal spans all age categories and melts the heart of even the snootiest critic. Walker’s movies are a guilty pleasure.

"Into the Blue" was sexy, adventurous and romantic. A perfect role for Walker.

“Into the Blue” was sexy, adventurous and romantic. A perfect role for Walker.

Walker created an aspirational look that included natural handsomeness, an easy surf-dude persona and an incredible build. His acting was convincing and real in the roles he played best, the hot-guy hard man who was an outward bad-boy come hero.

His loss is a significant one as he showed promise and versatility that may have suited new roles well. It is a sad, tragic loss that cements him as legend, will vault his films into recirculation but tragically takes his niche’ talent from us way too soon and way before he was able to share more of his gifts for character and drama.