Thursday, September 16, 2004

September 16, 2004
When we were in Lake Okoboji last Sunday, Minnesota Mike insisted on stopping at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The building is on the grounds at Arnold’s Park, a legendary theme park that has been around so long I even went to it as a little kid. Melrose was just beside himself when he saw the sign. “Who are they going to have in there besides Tommy Bolin?” he kept yelling like a little kid in a car outside a theme park. After lunch with my cousin Mike and his wife Ann at Maid-Rite ($31.80 cash, I bought) I went down the street to get some gas and Mike started jumping up and down in his seat: “Don’t forget the Iowa Hall of Fame! We have to go there Uncle Bob! You’re going the wrong way, the wrong way! It’s over there!!” When we finally went inside ($1 per person admission fee, Mike paid), he wasn’t disappointed. In addition to Tommy Bolin, who actually played in Deep Purple, and the obligatory crash site newspaper articles on the death of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper after their Clear Lake-Surf Ballroom appearance, there were photos of, well, all the people who have actually played Iowa, or perhaps driven through at some point, like Bruce Springsteen and Elton John. The part I loved was all of the photos of the small-time bands that labored up and down the farm grids in the fifties and sixties, like “The Beach-niks,” and “The Echo’s Five,” and “The Fabulous Flippers” and a group with the unlikely name of “Al, Larry & The New Untouchables Sponsored by George’s Gourmet Pizza” (I swear this is the name on the base drum!). The latter’s photo is just fantastic and I’ll get it posted up here ASAP, because you have to see this Cedar Rapids sextet (I paid $5 for the program with their photo in it just so I could show you).

Speaking of genius names, I’ve been learning quite a bit about “Branding” from the book Wonderful Russ gave me. I finally finished it last night. Here’s an example from the book Becoming A Category of One. The author, Joe Callaway interviewed a honcho from a company that dominates the tractor biz. Here’s what the guy has to say:

“We are in a niche business. If you look at our customer segmentation, they all have something in common, and that’s what makes us unique. They all have a desire for a particular lifestyle. We help enable that lifestyle. We enable that lifestyle through an eclectic collection of products. When I go out and talk about Tractor Supply, I say that you can find everything in our store somewhere else, but you can’t go anywhere else and find everything in our store. It’s this unique, eclectic collection of products that enables people with a common lifestyle, a rural lifestyle, to have fulfillment and enjoyment of that lifestyle, and to live life on their own terms.”

“In America, you have fads, which can turn into trends, which can turn into hobbies, which can turn into lifestyles. As a brand, you want to be serving a lifestyle. You can’t have a sustainable brand around a fad. Our emotional connection with our customers is built around that lifestyle.”

“We want to remove price as an obstacle to shopping. We just don’t want it to be an issue. We want to build the trust that we’re going to have fair, everyday low prices.”

—Blake Bohl, Vice President of marketing and advertising for Tractor Supply

Finished Classic Gunfights this morning and passed it in to Meghan. She had some excellent edit suggestions to make it read like English. Also called a key person at HBO’s Deadwood series. They are filming the second season even as you read this and I may go over in November and do a cover story on them. Kind of exciting.

Actor Bruce Boxleitner just became a True West Maniac. We are up over 700 on the membership list. If you want to get in on the lifetime subscription part of it you’d better hurry. When we hit 1,000 it goes away forever.

“What you get is a living—what you give is a life.”
—Lillian Gish

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