A Brand New Recipe For Branding

In a recent article, I told the story of when I was a young whippersnapper, attaining classes at what was then and still is called "one of the more famous hotel schools in North America", the marketing professor gave us an interesting, but quite challenging assignment.

We were to find a hospitality business that marketed itself by using the participation of the owner as part of the "distinctiveness" of the business. At the time, this seemed like a most difficult assignment, because in those days, it seemed that not too many people really stood out in this field. At least that what it seemed like to me in my youth. Or maybe it was just that they did not want to either make a fool of themselves. There seemed little need to drive the world to their door. I chose a very different restaurant enclosed within an old 19th century Mansion in this very cosmopolitan city. It was called Julie's Mansion and was owned and operated by a very eccentric, but wonderful showman who knew that he had to differentiate his restaurant from all the rest. He knew that the best way to do that – after the assumption of great food, entertainment and service – was to turn himself into the "brand."

My job, as a young hospitality student, was to watch him carefully and learn as much as I could. One Saturday night I showed up and Julie was trying to 'insert' himself into the home team's pro hockey uniform. It was immediately obvious that Julie had never played hockey. To see a middle-aged man struggling to get into and then have to have me extricate him from the jersey, equipment, elbow pads et al, was hilarious for a young guy like me, who had been on skates and playing the game since age four. He certainly was not afraid to make a fool of himself. When I showed up that night, he had less than no idea what piece of equipment went where, and was struggling with the shin guards. He had got himself all tangled up with what he thought were hip guards, when in fact they were shoulder pads, worn over the shoulders. It was indeed the first time I had ever seen a 'player' wearing shoulder pads, stretched around his butt.

I helped him get 'dressed'. Next came the taping of the hockey stick. This was really hilarious, watching this fellow trying to figure out the right way to tape a hockey stick without making a mess of it and looking foolish to his customers. He had a special plan for that stick.

I taped his stick and now he was ready. He had on his uniform, equipment and helmet, borrowed from one of the local NHL players who were a frequent guest at the mansion. Now, he actually looked like a real NHL hockey player … in black and white running shoes, sans skates!

Then Julie 'flew through' the different alcoves and floors of the restaurant with a big ball of foodservice aluminum foil as his 'puck'. He stick-handled in and out and between tables, took shots with the aluminum ball off the walls, cross-checked his own waiters trying to serve tables, all the while yelling cheers and the phrase made famous' round the world, by Foster Hewitt : "he shoots …. he scores!" All this, at the top of his lungs. Then he had planned for a horn to sound loudly indicating that the 'period of play' in his imaginary 'game' was over. It was now time to go to the dressing room. In a flash, just like an on-stage magician, he quickly disappeared into thin air, hidden in his office.

My face was covered in tears. I could not stop laughing! The restaurant was in an uproar. Guests were laughing so hard … one guy literally fell off his chair. The waiters were laughing, the guests were laughing, I was laughing and all the while Julie was having a ball too. Here was a restaurateur who made his work fun.

I had not met one of these types before. I really liked and respected this fellow. But I figured then, and still today, that anyone who had that much fun … and made that much money … must know something the others did not. And he did. He became his own brand. 'Distinctive. 'Differentiated. 'There is attractive to people who are sick of seeing the same old, same old every day. People are attracted to differences not similarities. Take a look at what you can do with yours. It's right under your own nose.

© Copyright, Roy W. MacNaughton, 2006

What Makes a Fine Wedding Portrait?

Your wedding is bound to be one of the most memorable days in your life. Even when the privilege of having a portrait made was reserved only for the very wealthy, people often did their best to have some sort of reminder of their big day, even if it was a simple daguerreotype, sketch or miniature. Today, couples are far luckier. They can have a wedding portrait made quite easily, and even have it customized to suit their fancy.

Having a wedding portrait painted in oil is one great way to ensure that your wedding is immortalized in a medium that is more lasting than paper. It is also an excellent piece of interior decor that you will be proud to display in your living room for many years to come.

But what exactly are the ingredients for a fine wedding portrait? The answer, of course, can simply be a matter of personal taste. It often depends heavily on how the couple perceives themselves. For some people who have no-fuss, happy-go-lucky personalities, a good portrait painting can be one that shows them in a relaxed, casual pose that is imbued with a little humor.

Meanwhile, some couples would prefer a wedding portrait painting that is more classic and formal. This is a sensible option, because people do not stay twenty-five forever. The day is bound to come when you're older and more serious, and when it does, a formal portrait makes a better display piece than a casual one.

Whether you prefer a casual wedding portrait or a formal one however, a good portrait painting should tell a story about who you are as a couple as well as be a faithful likeness of you and your partner. It is always a good idea to make sure that your artist documents your clothes, jewelery and flowers. This is especially important if you're wearing family heirlooms or designer pieces. Of course, the artist should also be able to capture the looks on your faces – these expressions are priceless reflections of the pride and joy you and your partner feel at finally being committed to each other for the rest of your lives.

A fine wedding portrait painting should also tell a story. The artist can accomplish this by the composition he chooses for your picture, the lighting, the poses and even the props and backgrounds he uses in the picture.

Vacations Are Possible When You Plan For It

With the spring and summer months right around the corner and summer break right on its heels, most people's thoughts turn towards vacation! My family is no different. In fact, we've been planning all of our vacation time for the past twelve months.

Our goal is to take three trips a year. Two short ones; maybe a weekend trip to another city in our state or a bordering state. And one nice, relaxing, long trip that we have to pack our bags and head for the airport for that lasts seven to ten indulgent days!

For example, about the time our son's April birthday rolls around, we plan a weekend trip somewhere in our state. His favorite is always San Antonio because he likes to visit the theme parks and gorgeous Riverwalk that they have there. Since we live in Dallas, it's less than a four hour drive; and it's usually the precursor to kicking off our year of getting away.

This year, the longer trip will be in the summertime, a week after school is out. We are planning a vacation to Florida to visit Walt Disney World. We will be gone for ten glorious days for fun in the sun.

And then, in October, my husband and I are planning a three to four day getaway to celebrate our anniversary in beautiful Mexico. And that will give us our three getaways for the year! It's as simple as that.

Now, we have not always been able to do this. Why? Because of poor planning on our part. But, that is no longer the case. We've wised up, and if you have not been getting away for a little rest and relaxation because of the same problem, here's how you can guarantee that that will not be the case next year … or the year after that – forever !

My husband, Muri, and I have created what we call a "Battery Recharge" account, or in regular terms, a travel account. All monies that go into it ensure that we'll be able to get away with our ten-year old son, Jordan, or for a romantic weekend on our own!

Have a family discussion and decide where each of you would like to go. Narrow it down, and vote on three locations. One that's far away and two that are within a reasonable driving distance.

Once you've done that, do your research. There are a number of online resources. Thanks to technology, finding attractions in the city of your destination is no more than a click away! You can build an itinerary of what your family will do, as well as get the costs of each show or attraction you'd like to attend.

Then, one-by-one, you begin to fund your "Batter Recharge" account until you have the money to do each trip! What's so great about the two short trips, most can be done for less than five hundred dollars. The key is not extravagance. It's just getting away with your family to bond and re-energize yourself.

You work hard, everyday. Take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor with the ones you love and cherish. Your mental, physical and relational well-being will be all the better for it!

Happy vacationing!

What is an Art Collector?

A collector would be someone very wealthy, collecting for love or money or both. It is sometimes someone who purchases on impulse. Collectors buy art because they enjoy beauty as a part of their life style. Sometimes collectors buy art to fill a void in their life.

What makes a great art collector? Having an unlimited amount of money helps but it is not essential. Some collectors treat it as a hobby: an intellectual and emotional joy which served the additional purpose of decorating one's private home. Since the end of WWII there is a different type of collector. They pursue their own passions however with an awareness that the whole world is watching. Their collections are a matter of public record and their prized possessions are on loan to other museums and companies for the entire world to see.

There are as many types of collectors as there are collections. To the avid collector, knowledge about art is far more important than money. Collecting art desires desires, passions and emotions. It speaks of addictions, obsessions and instincts. A collector can be someone who does not have huge resources of money. It could be someone who has a minimum wage income, and goes to local thrift stores looking for baby bottles to add to his bottle and glass collection.

A collector is also someone who has the courage to buy the work of an artist early in their career; when the artist is still virtually unknown. Anyone can buy the work of a known artist if they have the money. Some collectors are in love with their collections and say good night and good morning to their favorite painting. This is probably a little sentimental and extreme; however it is this passion that creates a great collector. Collectors treat their collections and take the same measures as a museum would do to protect its art. In some cases ceramics and marble statues are bolted down to protect against earthquakes. Certain collectors have high standards when buying a work of art. A work has to be museum quality.

The artist and the collector create a partnership or sometimes a whole; two people coming together to create one organism almost like a marriage.