All posts by Gerard McLean

About Gerard McLean

Hello. This will almost always be a boring space. You can best learn about who I am by reading my blog posts more in depth. If you have a more burning desire to know more about me, you should first see a doctor. Or at least read my story. It will tell you all you need to know to make wild assumptions of me that are probably not true.

Bag of crumbs at Tim Hortons

What do you see

What do you see in the photo above? Look very closely before you answer. Really, really closely.

Before I tell you what I see, I need to share a short story with you.

When my son was young, Saturday was grocery-shopping day. My job was to occupy him for the hour or so it took to get groceries. We would immediately head to the bakery counter where they gave us doughnut holes for free.

“Take them, we’re just gonna throw them away!”

Then one Saturday we showed up, headed to the bakery, the clerk handed us each a bag of doughnut holes and asked for $2.00, $1.00 for each bag.

“But they are FREE!” we protested.

The grocery store and every other bakery figured out that there was money in what they were throwing away. Some places even branded their holes as Tim Bits or Munchkins.

As I was waiting for my coffee at a Tim Horton’s drive-through yesterday, I was nibbling on the muffin in the bag. It was crumbling apart as I picked at it. I wondered out loud, “Would someone pay for a bag of crumbs? What does Tim’s do with their muffins that crumble? Throw them away?”

NOW what do you see in the photo above? At worst, you should see a revenue-reclamation product. At best, a branded product.

Basic ad fail

I clicked on a link on the Pure WOW newsletter (don’t judge!) that led me to an ad for a Coach leather briefcase here.

“Wow, I want that,” I thought to myself. So I clicked on the ad, which brought me to this page on After scrolling around a bit on the collection of Father’s Day stuff and not finding the bag, I clicked off. The bag very well have been on the page, but it didn’t look anything like the ad. There was no visual to tie it to the ad that attracted me to the product.

I don’t know how much the bag cost, so I couldn’t even guess what the lost sale cost Coach. A targeted landing page with the same visual elements as the ad would have closed the sale.

Retailers, this is basic merchandising. Don’t build a display and then dump your sold customers into a big ol’ bargain bin. Take them by the hand, directly to the shelf the featured item is on.

Your most impressive accomplishment

As I dig deeper into the world of job-hunting tools on the internet, I ran across the site I’ve known it was there for some time, so this is actually a rediscovery by accident. I was following the fox hole that Secret built and decided to apply for their open Community Manager job.

One of the fields that really caught my eye on the application was to name your greatest accomplishment. I started with “…sold exercise bikes to paralyzed people” but realized I had done much more. Could I rattle them off as a carnival bark?

  • I’ve sold exercise bikes to paralyzed people.
  • I’ve created a community around a thinking, tweeting plate of pastries.
  • I’ve anthropomorphized a dog on the Internet that launched a community and a book.
  • I’ve created a sports event management system from nothing.
  • I’ve written for glory; I’ve hoboed for food.
  • I’ve got more…

Maybe Secret will call me. I doubt it; I’m in Dayton, they are in San Francisco and I want to end up in NYC. There is probably not enough money to make all that happen.

But it was a cool exercise!

The most interesting thing about you — tl;dr

“I chase stray turkeys, catch them and bring them back to their pens,” he answered in the most matter-of-fact way to one of my interview questions. I hired him immediately to assemble and repair bikes, a job he then held for four years, even through the winter. I figured anyone willing to chase down turkeys was willing to learn to do pretty much anything else.

Years later, when I was looking for an artist with some practical skills, I interviewed a young, freshly-minted BFA and asked him what the most interesting thing about him was.

“I worked on a pig farm for six months.”

I hired him on the spot.

Every December, I get the dreaded email from accounting reminding me that the end of the year is coming up, books will be closing, taxes will look like this, etc. Every year, I get that longing to make all of this someone else’s problem by just getting a job.

This year, the PPACA made December worse as I agonized over the health care plan choices, the tax advantages over doing this one versus that, comparing the seemingly endless choices of Gold, Silver…blah, blah, blah.

“If I got a job, all these worries would go away,” I tell myself.

I pull up my usual job-seeking tools; Indeed, LinkedIn, twitter, my résumé… I sigh deeply as I realize that there are many more choices, checkboxes, switches and levers as choosing a healthcare plan. I’m a very talented, smart — dare I say funny — guy with a lot of skills, experiences and a deep body of work. Why are companies not lining up, calling ME? Why do I have to go begging them to interview me, much less hire me?

I start with my résumé. Since I haven’t updated it since last year, I add a few things, edit this line and that so it looks like every other résumé an HR person will see for every other job listing. It is organized into skills, accomplishments, job history, education and awards. It has all the keywords that will be scanned into the ATS (Applicant Tracking System.) I know all this stuff as I used to work in Human Resources.

I know the problem; I look like everyone else. I don’t jump out in any way. But I also know that any wacky way to set myself apart from the pack on my résumé will be met with distain or indifference by the HR department. They don’t like “different” as it indicates an employee who would be hard to manage (guilty!)

I also know my résumé will most likely be scanned into an ATS which ignores formatting and reduces me to a bucket of matchable keywords. I still gotta try.

Since I’m not unemployed and don’t have to land a job (all serious offers will still be considered, though) I have very little to lose by trying some unconventional stuff. I’m experimenting with a tl;dr line at the end of my résumé that sums up the most interesting thing about me.

No replies have yet come back with a burning desire to give me scads of money to do little to nothing every day. A few colleagues have suggested — after taking a long pause — I perhaps work my network a little more and my résumé less.

So far, I have responded to twenty-two job listings, all with my tl;dr résumé and a custom cover letter as they requested. Nineteen days into the new year, I have gotten no replies. I’m still hoping.

We’ll see.

*tl;dr = Too Long; Didn’t Read

You may like the way you look because you may not know any better

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 2.08.34 PM

I remember when my dad taught me how to block a hat; to get that top crease just right. I also remember how he taught me to tie a necktie, to know which side I “dress” in a suit, where the leg breaks and to always make sure the holding stitch in the back flap of a suit coat was removed before wearing it. Today — because of him — I am as comfortable in a suit as I am in a pair of faded jeans and well-worn t-shirt.

I’ve passed these same skills on to my son. At twenty-seven, he still seeks fashion advice from me from time to time, though I suspect he does some fact-checking with his younger sister.
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One degree to the moon

I realize that what is really, really basic stuff to you, me and her is actually quite a complex set of skills as she struggled to explain it all in one video, probably realizing halfway through she had bitten into a cow instead of a burger.

My take-away from that is what many clients see from the outside is actually quite a valuable and complex skill set. As graphic designers, we need to be able to find some way of exhibiting value for that knowledge and skill. Experience actually saves a ton of money as the best designers will work from the press backwards to the desktop. The best ones make it look easy which sometimes works to erode value… and fees 🙂

One degree to the moon….

Trade associations are in big trouble

In a world of Web 2.0 communities where anyone can reach out and interact with anyone else, why would you seek out membership in a trade association?

Up until last year, my company was a member of 12 trade associations from coffee to soccer to event planning to wedding planners. I have since cancelled all my memberships except one and my business has not shrunk one bit. I have not ceased to know about the industries I am in and I spend more time networking using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and our blogs more than I ever did as a member of the trade associations.

In truth, I can’t point to one piece of business I secured as a result of being a member of a trade association nor any network contact that I did not actively seek out myself. Nor can I recall any piece of industry knowledge and research that I couldn’t find on Google.

But, I can tell you I have more money in the bank now that I am not paying association dues and advertising in the trade press at “reduced rates.” I am not going to trade association conferences as an exhibitor any more, but I still attend trade shows and conferences, either by buying a day pass, getting media credentials or volunteering to lead a workshop.

The railroad companies should own the airlines, but they don’t. Why? Because they thought they were in the railroad industry, not in the people and stuff transporting industry. Trade associations are acting the same way. For the most part, they are not using Web 2.0 tools because they believe they are in the “people networking” and conference industry, not in the tech world. They are confusing the tools with the industry they are in.

Trade associations are in the networking industry. Words like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, Alltop and blogs should roll off their tongues as easily as networking and sponsorship. But they don’t

Through their short-sightedness, trade associations have allowed an entire industry of “social networking experts” to crop up, leaving them wondering, “Why do we need trade shows? Why do we need a networking middle-man?”

Young college graduates have always been on Facebook, MySpace and now are joining LinkedIn as they think more about their careers than their social lives. They are reaching as to professionals on LinkedIn for mentorship and each other for career advice through sites like, bypassing the traditional trade groups such as SHRM, and AMA

For trade associations to survive and grow, they need to be the glue that connects people together. They need to be able to provide an answer to the question, “What does my trade association provide that I can’t find using Google?” And they need to do it quicker than I can type 140 characters into my Twitter.

Trade associations need to embrace and push tools like RSS, blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. They need to push out content that is authoritative and readily available. They need to be there to recruit young college graduates where they communicate; on Facebook and blogs.

Without Web 2.0 tools, trade associations have no voice on the Internet, even if they have Web sites. Without a voice on the Internet, you are essentially silenced.

Where the hell are you?

I read a blog post from someone who lives near Boston. He was announcing a partnership with a publishing company doing some exciting things with hybrid digital and traditional publishing. Wicked cool, I thought, so I hopped on over to their website.

The team sounded great, their site was modern and the plan seemed solid. They claimed a lot of experience with traditional publishing so the first thing I wanted to know was their proximity to New York.

After a dozen or so clicks, I realized that they were not going to tell me where they were located. Period. Their home was the wide-open Internet.

Place matters. Place influences how you see the world and how accessible you are to the world. People need anchors and a sense of place. Potential customers need to know you really, really exist beyond a website and email address. Nothing establishes that like place.

Tell people where you are. Me? Englewood, Ohio 45322. Off the corner of Main and Wenger.

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Journalism 2.0

Like most of America yesterday, I was glued to my television, eagerly awaiting the ruling from the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While I had some personal interest in the outcome, discussing the pros and cons of the Act and ruling is best left to other venues. For our purpose here, I am more interested in the process of how the news was revealed and the business/trade groups’ reaction to it.

Later that afternoon, I saw the Cleveland Clinic tweet fly by in my steam. I was curious about what they had to say. Here is President and CEO, Delos M. Cosgrove, MD’s response, complete with video.

Notice the time slugs. The SCOTUS ruling was read at approximately 10:17am EDT. The page on the the clinic’s web site was slugged at 3:19pm EDT, a mere five hours later. If this were a news organization, that would be far from impressive but the Cleveland Clinic is a for-profit company whose primary business unit is in treating patients, not reporting news.

There is some B-roll on the video, but the reporting had a level of specificity to the ruling that tells me this was not pre-prepared. Cosgrove’s interview may have been pre-taped and there may have been two versions depending on the outcome, but for the most part, this appears to have been put together in real time.

As newspapers and television news departments shed reporters, this is where journalists are going — into private companies and trade groups. While Google and Twitter can report the news very quickly, it takes the skills of a quality journalist to analyze it and present it succinctly so that speaks directly to your customers or membership. They want to know what the news means for them. The message is even stronger when accompanied by the strong visual of a chief executive.

Not every news story will have the reach and gravity of a SCOTUS ruling on health care, but not every organization provides the goods and/or services your customers or members need either. Your customers or members can get their news from anywhere or they can get it from you, a trusted source who will work harder to let them know what it all means for them.

Your choice, but I’d look into hiring a journalist. While you still can.