Tuesday, January 8, 2013


One of the basic principles of marketing success is momentum. I think here, for example, of a giant concrete wheel with a tiny handle. To get the wheel turning takes a great effort. At first, it takes all your strength to simply get it to budge. But then, once you get it started, it takes less effort with each revolution until it seems to have a life of its own. To keep it spinning at a high velocity then requires a minimal effort on your part. You can't neglect it, of course, because it will eventually slow to a stop and you are back to where you started.

Well, companies have momentum, too. As do careers. It seems to take an inordinate amount of energy to get a brand established. The power and value that accrues can become startling to the one who initially invested so much to get that wheel turning.

Football players understand the psychological power of momentum. Last night when Alabama routed Notre Dame to take the national championship in college football, the Notre Dame head coach had one task at halftime, and that was to turn the tide, to reverse the momentum somehow. They failed and the outcome became a given. Likewise in football, the ability to assemble long drives can be more devastating than a chance long ball touchdown pass. Those drives show dominance, and instill respect. In baseball, a series of base hits can do more to damage the competition than a home run. The thrill of the rally ripples through the whole stadium. An error, or a fumble or a stupid penalty can upset the momentum and make the team wonder, "Uh, oh, what next?" The psychological edge it blunted.

Cities can have momentum, too. While watching leaders in our Twin Ports towns of Duluth and Superior these past few years, I have observed that there are a lot of people working hard behind the scenes to bring about change for the good in these communities. All cities have their tidal ebb and flow, but some towns have a more challenging time dealing with change. When a major employer leaves many small towns end up as ghost towns.

In 2005 a group of community leaders here in Duluth began a process of re-defining its vision for the future. One piece of that vision, based on the Richard Florida model, included the leadership role that the arts would play.

When I was a young artist in college I had a very political friend who wished me to become more politically aware and would tell me that "the artist is the vanguard of the revolution." In our cities here we're not seeking revolution, but we are seeking to strengthen our future, and the artists here have been on the vanguard of that change.

For a brief summary of activities in the arts in 2012 read my recent Reader column The Twin Ports Arts Scene: 2012. Let's work together to keep the momentum going in 2013.

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