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DAY OF INFAMY; DAY OF HOPE

December 7, 2010

Sixty-nine years ago today, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and changed our world as we knew it.

Thirty-two years ago today, I was in Honolulu, standing in front of the Sheraton Waikiki watching a sea of Japanese – just arriving on the daily 747 from Tokyo-walk to the hotel from Kalakaua where their buses had dropped them.  We joked that we were witnessing the second invasion of the Japanese-this time as tourists, immigrants, and future business leaders whose influence would be more lasting than that day in 1941 when they staged their surprise attack and launched the Pacific Theatre of WWII.

Since today is also my older sister’s birthday, December 7 is a date that does not slip by unnoticed for me; and today is no exception.

As I was reminded of Pearl Harbor (and Pearl City and my favorite hang-out, the Pearl City Tavern) and that day I witnessed the crowd of 300+ Japanese tourists slowly moving en masse up the side street, blocking all traffic, I was suddenly struck with another thought.

I was in Honolulu December 7, 1978 on a site visit with my BFGoodrich client…waiting for Dusty Rhodes to pick us up for a meeting to finalize the BFG incentive program  that included a one day “experiential marketing event “– the first ever BFGoodrich “Buying Opportunity” for dealers.

A new idea; a gamble; a shot in the dark with no knowledge of how it would turn out; simply a gut feel hatched between the client team, our account executive and me…that changed MY world long before Events became an industry.

In February, 1979, as part of the “Great Life” dealer incentive trip, we instinctively engaged the BFG dealers on the lawn between the Sheraton and the Royal Hawaiian and that afternoon, they were motivated to buy sufficient quantities of TA Radials to finance the entire annual incentive program for a year – including the diamonds they won, based on points earned on purchases-as gifts for their spouses!

Back then, it was proof that Motivation 2.0 worked and was the beginning of a reroute in my career from incentives to performance-improvement meetings to interactive product expos that emerged as our point-of-difference in Carlson’s Meetings Division in the 1980s and led to Carlson’s first attempt at Event Marketing in the early 1990s…and eventually led me to leave that corporate world and launch Creative Events in 1993.

The pioneering journey took 15 years of trial and error with no supporting industry to tap into to learn how to do it, why it worked, or how to do it better.  We simply instinctively continued to build on past experience –with results improving little by little throughout the years.

So why then am I surprised that as the industry was born and grows up, it is taking what seems like a lifetime to move from adolescence to adulthood?

It was 37 years between the Day of Infamy and that first BFG inspection trip where we witnessed the “second invasion” of Honolulu by the now-friendly Japanese.  We marveled that day on what a significant change had occurred in such a short period of time!

So, I guess that means, I should have patience – it may take the events world 37 years as well to accept the power of experiential marketing and move forward with us into the 21st century.  Instead of the Day of Infamy, I should look at today as a Day of Hope!

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