Saturday, January 17, 2015

Disney World, you had me at "Hello" and lost me at "I need your credit card!"

We arrived in Orlando at 7:20 pm last night for the Outdoor Living Brands annual meeting. After an excruciating journey on the multi-media Disney Magical Express, we finally got to the Grand Floridian Resort at 11:20 pm.
I was wiped out, hungry and not yet feeling "magical"... at all.

Then, as I hauled my sorry keester off the bus there was this pleasingly plump Disney hostess that meet us on the bus staircase platform and said "Welcome Home" and guided us to the front desk to facilitate our check-in. I could've kissed her.

After submitting a credit card to the desk clerk, we were presented with a branded Disney gift box. Inside there was a printed paper platform with our names printed on it, each under the respective Magic Band payment device (think iWatch with mouse ears).

Are you with me? Personalized gift boxes... and of course our names were emblazoned on the back sides of the Magic Bands also. This made me very happy. I'm strange like that.

So before meeting our Florida family for lunch the next day, we went to Epcot so Laurel could have an eclair in "France."
Knowing that restaurant lines could be a challenge, while en route to Epcot, I used my iPhone Disney Experience app to make a lunch reservation.

But the app wouldn't complete my reservation because it needed to be tied to my credit card -- which was in my resort room safe because I was told my Magic Band would cover "everything."

So, I phoned the restaurant from the Monorail instead (an audible experience in itself) and tried to explain my dilemma to the hostess who could barely hear me.

After explaining that I was wearing my Magic Band and was not carrying a credit card, she said "I need a credit card to complete your reservation."

So heads up Mickey. Call the folks in Cupertino and figure out how to connect your Magic Band to the credit card presented at check-in. Please. And have a magical day, too.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reflections on My Birthday

During one of my recent regular visits to my Richmond office at Outdoor Living Brands, to spend a week with my brilliant team, my CEO Chris Grandpre asked me how I was doing.

"I've never been better," I replied. "In fact, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life."

I have a job that I love, a family that I absolutely adore and such tremendously wonderful friends.

The latter was reinforced this morning when I woke up to see my Facebook, LinkedIn, texts and emails filled with birthday wishes from friends both long-time and very new. It filled my heart.

A little known fact that Laurel reminded me about this morning is that 26 years ago, on this very day, we decided to start Spada Advertising in Western New York.

One outreach to Empire of America Savings Bank yielded us our very first projects during that brief five-minute phone call -- something that I will be forever grateful for, especially to Linda Duch, Mary Ann Lauricella and Antoinette Forth.

Then, after a incredibly exciting ten years in business, again on this very day in 1999, we decided to close our business and move our family to Charlotte, where Laurel and I reinvented ourselves, as we both had no career equity down here.

Then for me came Destiny PC, Personnel Group of America, iXL, Wray Ward, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives and now Outdoor Living Brands.

For Laurel, she found and still enjoys her dream job assisting Allan Tate and Pat Riley at Allen Tate Real Estate.

So here we are, in Charlotte, and I'm jotting jotting all this down to share with my kids and those special to me. And I can honestly say we wouldn't change a thing.

Despite leaving our moms, family and friends up north, although that decision was scary and at times painful, it was one of our best ever.

The proof? Our daughter- and son-in-law and our two precious grandchildren. What a gift.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why Steve Jobs chose Tim Cook to lead Apple.

Steve Jobs and his teams at Apple have literally transformed my life, as I am sure they have to many reading this. Well remembering the days of clunky manual typewriters with inky ribbons and fume-emitting cylindrical fax machines, I will never forget the day I saw a personal demonstration of the first Macintosh computer in 1984 by my friend Mike Beato. Somehow “transformative” doesn’t even seem to be the appropriate word to do it justice. It was a miracle.

So you can imagine how euphoric I was when my son Matt told me that he was going to work for Apple while at the University of Rochester, especially after he visited Cupertino and shared tales of the man behind the brand: Steve Jobs.

Known for his undying pursuit of perfection in every aspect and very short temper when people were not meeting his expectations, Jobs became both respected and feared by those who dedicated their lives to him.

And for my money, I get that.

I understand how someone could become so engrossed in achieving one’s dreams and passion that simple everyday courtesies may fall by the wayside. Especially when you find out that cancer is eating you alive and your days are numbered, which was Jobs' fate.

I remember how deeply saddened I was the day after he passed. I felt as if I had lost a very dear friend. And as I write this, I fondly recall receiving an email of condolence from my friend and business associate Russ Jundt.

When thinking about Steve’s possible successor, I had this very strong feeling that it would by Jonathan Ive, because Jony shared Steve’s passion for design innovation as well as for excellence across the board and unheard of technical advancement.

And then when the announcement was finally made, I remember having dinner with Matt when I said, “Who’s Tim Cook? I never heard of him."

Tim Cook is the man the Steve Jobs personally handpicked to replace him at the helm of Apple, educating him, nurturing him and training him until Jobs' final days.

As for Tim, I never felt the need or desire to become a fan of his. He was just kind of there. He lacked the forceful, electric presence of Jobs.

But yesterday I read a news brief where he was seemingly outed for being gay by CNBC cohost Simon Hobbs, although Cook did not keep it a secret. So when I clicked on the story, I decided to dig a little deeper into who Tim really was. And then I found the YouTube video above, recorded a few months ago.

After viewing it, I’m starting to think that maybe Steve had it right all along and knew exactly what he was doing. Here was a man that could lead Apple into the future, not out of fear and tantrums, but out of those attributes that make Tim who he seems to be: sincere, empathetic, forward-thinking and a true humanitarian who champions human dignity.

Yeah, Steve had it right. That’s the kind of man to move Apple forward. Good job, Steve.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loving Outdoor Living Premiere Issue Debuts Today

Be inspired. Dream. Design. Create. Enjoy your outdoor living spaces like never before. The free premiere issue of Loving Outdoor Living is now online. Explore 44 pages of inspirational ideas, stunning photos and tips on space design, fashion, food and fun. Brought to you by Outdoor Living Brands.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The last straw. I am reporting 31-W Insulation to the BBB.

Talk about business behaving badly. Get a load of this:

Dear Better Business Bureau,

Prior to purchasing our home, we discovered that the builder Cunnane did not insulate a second-floor bedroom properly back in 2004. As the original insulation provider was 31W we contacted them for an estimate to blow insulation under the floor in the attic spaces on both sides of that bedroom.

A sales representative at 31 W Insulation, visited our home to give us a quote and while he was here he suggested that they also add insulated foam board to the attic walls which they originally covered in pink blanket insulation in 2004 to increase the insulation value. I agreed.

As the 31W workers were finishing the installation, the sales rep visited my home to check on the installation and was told by his workers that there was an electrical wire whose outer sheath was “worn” and that should be taped or replaced. I checked the area where he indicated it was and couldn’t find it – only to discover after they left my home that the workman covered it with insulation board – thereby preventing me from even seeing it.  And I have a bigger problem now, as the two ceiling lights in that bedroom which had previously worked fine do not work.

So I contacted an electrician who has now visited my home three times at my expense. After his second visit, I contacted the sales rep and requested that the insulation boards be removed so that the electrician could uncover and solve the problem. However, they only removed one board, to expose the original wire in question, and left the other boards in both sides of the attic untouched.

The electrician then came back for a third time, found the wire in question, repaired it and the lights still did not work. So it appears that the problem is a wire that was damaged in some other part of the attic during the insulation installation, which the electrician cannot access because the insulation boards are still covering the wires in the attic.

I have now called the sales rep three times to request that all boards be removed so that the problem can be uncovered – and I have also called the 31 W main number and left a message as no one answered the phone – and not one call has been returned.

After four telephone calls and not even the courtesy of one response, I do not know where else to turn.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me to get the company to respond and remove the boards so that the electrician can make the proper repair – and then have 31 W reattach the boards after the problem has been fixed. 

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

RIP Microsoft

Being a fan and advocate of Steve Jobs and the Apple brand since the introduction of the Macintosh computer back in 1984, for some reason I felt especially compelled to watch the Apple Fall Product announcement yesterday on Apple TV.

What was unusual for me was that I watched it from beginning to end. And now I am glad that I did.

Little did I know that history might prove that yesterday’s announcement would be as important to Apple as was their breakthrough 1984 Macintosh TV spot. For yesterday Apple introduced a brand new strategy incentivizing people to buy the latest high performance technology hardware by giving the software away for free. iLife and iWork for starters, which is fundamentally all you need: word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, photo software, movie creation and editing software – heck, even music creation and production software.

It began with now CEO Tim Cook announcing that, starting yesterday, Apple is giving away it's newest operating system for all Mac computers: OS X Mavericks. Whether it’s a Mac Pro Desktop, iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, users can update their software for FREE, for operating systems all the way back to 2009 (Snow Leopard) – truly a stroke of brand and marketing genius -- and blowing up Microsoft's Windows 8 strategy.

And that's the Trojan horse: this could be the death nail for Microsoft and its software revenue stream. Slow to advance in Mac-compatible software upgrades, Apple is basically blowing them out of the water by giving “expensive software upgrades” away for free.

Oh, yeah. They also introduced a whole new gaggle of hardware yesterday, including the iPad Air, riding the successful coattails of the MacBook Air marketing strategy.

And that's the truth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shame on you, Restoration Hardware. Business behaving badly.

Over the past 20 years, I have been noticing the decline of the true art of exceptional customer service . But last Friday night took the cake.

After being intrigued by the Restoration Hardware brand for years, my wife and I decided to gift our dining room set to our son and his wife and purchase a new one.

And as the simple, clean designs of the Restoration Hardware furniture line appealed to us, we decide to purchase a dining room table, six side chairs, two end chairs and an apothecary-style china cabinet on October 5, 2012.

As our old dining room set could not be moved out until November 3, we were assured by Restoration Hardware that the new furniture would be delivered last Friday, November 16.

The delivery date was important to us as the old furniture was moved out according to plan on November 3, and our dining room has been empty waiting for the new goods from RH.

On November 15, the day before the delivery, we received a phone call confirming that the delivery would take place the next day, with an alert that one of the six side chairs would not be delivered because it did not pass quality control. Translation: the delivery company broke it.

Okay. Not the end of the world. We'll use a kitchen chair to replace the broken one.

Then November 16 finally came, with a confirming phone call that the delivery truck would be at our home in 20 minutes.

Door bell rings. Door is opened. Delivery agent says "I have good news, and I have bad news."

I reply "What's the bad news?"

"We don't have your dining room table."

My response was an adult version of "Are you kidding me? I have family coming next Thursday for Thanksgiving dinner."

"I don't know. It didn't make it.," he replied.

He and a co-worker then brought into our home the furniture they did have and then said someone from Restoration Hardware would contact us.

Being suckered once, I decided to get in my car pronto and drive down to the Phillips Place store to tell our tale of woe, only to find that at 6:50 on a Friday night they were closing.

"I will check on this first thing tomorrow morning and call you," the clerk promised.

My phone did not ring as promised on Saturday -- nor Sunday for that matter.

So I phoned the store to follow up yesterday and not to my surprise, no one in the store was aware we had a problem, including the two ladies we spoke to in the store three nights ago. In fact -- get this -- their records showed that our dining room table was actually delivered Friday night -- which it was not.

"Did the delivery company steal the table?." I thought at first. "Please hold and I will check into this for you. No, wait. I'll call you back.," the RH clerk promised.

"It turns out the table was damaged in transit and the delivery company did not tell us about it.," she said when she called back minutes later.

"Your missing chair should be delivered in two weeks, and the missing table in four weeks.," she ended the conversation with. Great. Just in time to miss our Christmas family dinner, too. Awesome. Two holidays ruined by Restoration Hardware.

Then, are you ready for this, the clerk closes the conversation with, "Mister Spada, in the future, please remember to call us immediately when you have a problem."

Thanks, Anna. But like the Mayflower, that ship has sailed. And it's not coming back. Ever.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Clean up your act

I've been experiencing all kinds of crazy stuff with my Apple gear that is synced to one another — iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, iMac, Apple TV.

For the past two weeks, syncing takes forever, and certain files are missing in iTunes. I believe that this is especially true for longer term users who are carrying the baggage of multiple old operating systems in their cache — as Apple has been updating protocols for the new stuff that's coming.

Last night I restored by my iPhone and iPad to their original settings and did not auto populate anything. Everything fresh, from scratch.

Today everything works like a charm.

This may not be a bad thing to do for y'alls before the 19th when iOS 6 gets downloaded.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Monetization may well become the death of social media

I remember the first day I heard about Facebook. "How cool," I thought. "Wait a great way to stay in touch with friends and family out of town."

Then the Facebook invitations to “Larry Spada at Home” started asking me to become friends with people who I have never hear of before. “Whaat?” “Who the heck is that?,” I asked everyone in the family. So I went into Privacy Settings and fixed that.

Then the requests started coming to me asking to “Share” my personal information, like my birthday. Now wait a minute. If someone on Facebook doesn't normally remember my birthday, now do I want these folks to start doing so, all of a sudden? I don’t think so.

And then the behavioral preference ads, reinforcing the fact that George Orwell must have been the genius of his time predicting the Big Brother paradigm frenzy we find ourselves in today enveloped by social media and response tracking and analysis.

And now this confluence of never-ending "Likes." Really? Someone actually "Likes" seeing the now defunct Hills® department store sign from Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence, New York? Are you kidding me? It was a hole of a store back then. I wonder if they’ll come to Charlotte to visit the revolting Walmart® store at the Arboretum here? And the even bigger question is do you really care if someone you went to grammar school with – whom you haven’t seen in decades -- "Likes" Walmart®? If you do, you may need more friends.

Fortunately -- or maybe unfortunately -- the legion of Facebook fans have no clue that all of these invitations to these fun-filled and nostalgic ideas, and these “convenient” new features of apps, virtual games and reminders -- are all pathways for Facebook's future financial future growth, or "monetization," as we used to say back in the at ecommerce experience and web development company iXL®.

Obviously because of my chosen career path in branding, I will grudgingly stay connected via Facebook, until it becomes totally obsolete. But I swear on the soul of Steve Jobs, if it wasn't important for me to stay “connected” to observe trends in social media while trying how to figure out how to best leverage them for clients, I would click on that “Delete My Facebook Account” button in a heartbeat.

And now there’s LinkedIn. Recently, I started to join various marketing, branding, creative and social media LinkedIn groups, filled with brilliant minds all across the globe in those respective disciplines. It all makes for stimulating reading and insight -- and more importantly thought-generating new ideas, especially while having leisure time to oneself with Saturday morning coffee.

Then today, while sipping my Trader Joe’s® French Roast cuppa joe in my backyard, trying to glean more commentary and CMO buzz on the future of mobile marketing, I was hoodwinked by some cheesy tech snake oil salesman start-up firm in Los Angeles, who apparently takes great pride in showing video views that they really did have an office (with an electrical gate, no less), and yes, they have a basketball hoop atop their front entrance. And did I mention the pimped-up furniture in their lobby?

Good grief. I've been hornswoggled to buy a “free” report on one of the most important communication pathways of the future: mobile technology.

So what’s the good news? The one saving grace for me personally is still Twitter. I love getting unexpected bits of brain candy from people I respect in technology, marketing, sports, news and food. And if Apple® is successful in forging an alliance with Twitter, maybe, just maybe, it too will not become an infomercial junkyard. I hope.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Larry Spada confirms The Dollar Shave Club is worth the wait

The truth is, with the exception of Apple products, I am typically disappointed with virtually every new product I try – until today.

The Dollar Shave Club is everything it’s hyped to be, and more.

I ordered the new system online on March 10, 2012 and finally received it on May 25, 2012 – 80 days later. Was it worth the wait? Yes. In fact, it's probably the best $6.00 I've ever spent.

The social media campaign says “Our blades are Flippin’ great.” They are.

To make sure that my test was even-steven, I washed my face in the shower like always and used a lubricating shave cream.

What I changed was the way I shave. I normally start with a Bic® disposable razor to first trim my sideburns and then shave my upper and lower lip areas. I then switch to my Gillette Mach 3 system – you know, the one with the replacement cartridges that are so expensive they are housed in the ultra-security bells-and-whistles acrylic drop down cases at Walgreens.

So this morning I only used the The Dollar Shave Club razor for the entire shave, with its thick softer-touch handle (with gripper marks for easy flexibility and generous-sized blade with a thick and durable aloe vera lubricating strip.

Sideburn trim – perfect, and no blade marks when using pressure.
Upper and Lower Lip – an eight out of ten, but with practice I will master it.
Face and Neck – perfect. No nics. No cuts. No styptic pencil needed.

The downside? If you own Gillette or Shick® stock because you were impressed with their men’s shaving systems, sell. The party’s over.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

RIP: The end of the printed business card

When I travel, it's all I can do to remember my shaving gear, Allegra, thumb drives, hard drives, laptop, iPad, iPhone, whatever -- so business cards, forget it. I never remember to bring them.

So you can image my delight to discover in some circles, Twitter has become the new business card.

At a major press event for a restaurant opening lately, I met several folks who were very interesting and with whom I wanted to stay in touch. No one had a business card or pen.

So Andrea who was seated next to me said "Are you on Twitter?"


Like the geek squad, there was a chain reaction of the seven of us connecting with each other in 10 seconds with Twitter.

The bad news?

I just have to remember to bring my iPhone when I leave the house.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Mosquito Squad: the mosquito eliminator looks toward its 200th franchise location, thanks in great part to an integrated branding platform…and an amazing service model

Well, we’re almost halfway there.

Any day now Outdoor Living Brands will welcome its 100th Mosquito Squad franchise location.

“Halfway to what?,” you ask. My $5 bet with Mosquito Squad co-founder and brand leader Boyd Huneycutt. The bet? That our mosquito elimination franchise system will reach a total of 200 locations by the end of this year.

Of all the brands I’ve ever been associated with, Mosquito Squad is the most fun and interesting. When the Outdoor Lighting Perspectives management team launched the concept back in 2005, the vision was simple – address the growing problem of homeowners not being able to enjoy their backyards because of increasing numbers of mosquitoes. Hence, that’s where our slogan of “Take Back Your Yard” came from.

Today, with Lyme disease reaching epidemic proportions in major cities across the Untied States, we’ve taken that battle head on, too. In addition to our highly effective, EPA-registered Barrier Spray that eliminates mosquitoes, we’ve added Intensive Tick Tube Treatments to our home protection model. Cardboard tubes filled with desiccant-treated cotton are strategically placed in area where ticks live – like in tall grassy areas or near fireplace woodpiles.

As for community outreach, our memorable and commended “The 5 T’s” message grows in heightened awareness as homeowners everywhere are now learning from Mosquito Squad how to reduce water sources around their homes to reduce the mosquito population.

So, congratulations Mosquito Squad. The one and only truly original mosquito control brand. Frequently imitated. Never equaled.