Yes I Like Minivans

If you were to ask me a few years ago if I liked minivans, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.  There was no way you’d catch me in the stereotypical family vehicle of choice.  That was until I had 4 kids of my own and a wife that extolled the benefits of said minivan.

As luck would have it, my good friends Charlie and Elena Wollborg suggested The Suburban Collection and I connect for another one of their test drives.  Charlie and Elena drove a Cadillac SRX earlier this summer through this program and they were kind enough suggest me to Dan Boismier, head of all things digital at Suburban Collection.  I picked up the keys on Friday to a 2012 Chrysler Town and Country and had the van for our weekend trip to northern Michigan.

First things first.
The van completely suits our family’s needs.  I posted on Facebook that I liked it.  I had a friend tell me that there are other vehicles that seat 8 comfortably.  True, but what makes a van desirable for us are automatic sliding doors so the kids can easily get in and out and easily putting my 3 year old in his car seat.  The sliding doors ease the worry of my  7 year old throwing doors open without a care for the car that happens to be right next to me.  The other basic need…CARGO ROOM.  Chrysler has always had fold flat seats which also allows for more cargo room than most vans.  A family of 6 (plus a dog) is no small task to pack for and when you do, you end up bringing everything!  Being able to pack everything in the back and leave the passenger area free and clear was fantastic.

It’s the simple things.
Chrysler thought of everything.  The pull up shades on the sliding doors and rear windows.  How great it would have been to have those this summer when the sun was shining right on my kids faces on our many drives up north.  The power windows on the sliding doors!  When we went to the dancing light show near our house, it was great to be able to put down the rear windows so the kids could check it out!  And the dual DVDs.  My how those came in handy on the drive home!  Instead of all 4 kids trying to watch a single small screen, each row had a 9″ screen to watch Mary Poppins!  Even Buddy, pulled up a chair in the back and caught some of the show.

Gadgets Galore.
I like gadgets.  I like technology.  The van had both.  It’s UConnect system, synced my iPhone contacts quickly and made hands free driving easy.  I could also play the music from my phone and stream through the speakers.  Included on this vehicle was its blind zone warning system integrated into the outside rearview mirrors, a common safety function offered on many vehicles but new to me.  It made passing other cars a breeze.  We also had a navigation system to play with and SiriusXM satellite radio.  So many things to make this Town and Country a wonderful ride for 5 days.

What I think I appreciated the most was the program that Dan has started at The Suburban Collection.  This is a great social media platform for dealers to engage in the community and for those participating, a great way for them to meet local dealers in their area.  Dan Wiebelhaus and his team at Suburban Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Troy were fantastic.  They made sure I understood the vehicle before taking it for the weekend and were very welcoming when I returned it this morning.  Kudos to them and their social media test drive platform.

As for Julianne and I, Town and Country will certainly be on our consideration list when we are in market.  We had one before and loved it and I know we’d love it again.  Thanks to Dan, Dan and The Suburban Collection.  Merry Christmas!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post.  The Suburban Collection did provide me use of the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country you see above for a 5 day test drive.  The opinions expressed here are mine and do not represent the opinions of my employer.

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@TEDxDetroit 2010 Relived…Stephen Clark (@SClarkWXYZ)

Today’s TEDx Detroit 2010 moment is from birthday boy, Stephen Clark.  If you’ve been around Detroit over the last year, you’ve hopefuly heard about the #backchannel.  What simply started as a dare by Charlie Wollborg to Stephen Clark via Twitter has turned into a truly interactive newscast on WXYZ.  Stephen has changed the landscape of news by asking us, his audience, to help create the stories he covers.

As we continue to get closer to September 28th and TEDx Detroit 2011, take a look at Stephen’s talk from last year.  While you’re at it, make sure you wish him a happy birthday too!

If you haven’t applied to attend yet, make sure you do so soon!  Seats are filling up quickly!  You can apply by CLICKING HERE.

TEDx Detroit 2010 Relived…@nullfear

If you’re a fan of TED and the local TEDx events, you’ll appreciate this.  As TEDx Detroit approaches on September 28th, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite talks from last year.  First up is Will Smidlein also known as @nullfear on Twitter.  I affectionately refer to this 14 year old as “boy genius” because he is.  Bryan Willmert first introduced me to will last year and it’s been awesome getting to know him ever since.  Enjoy his interview with Charlie Wollborg from last year and if you haven’t signed up yet, do it soon!  We’d love to have you there and meet some of the most talented and creative minds the Detroit area has to offer.

Hello! Hello! from fellow dad, @charliecurve

What makes a good dad?  I certainly think that I will always be learning something new especially as all 4 of my kids get another year older.  As I continue my journey as a parent, I thought I’d ask some of my friends that are dads to jump in and give me their thoughts on fatherhood.  First up is Charlie Wollborg.  Charlie and I have become good friends over the last year.  He is a great marketer, entrepreneur and all around joy to have a conversation with.  You can follow him on Twitter at @charliecurve or visit him at “Hello Hello”.  You can also check out the great work happening at Curve Detroit.  Charlie is also one of the organizers for TedX Detroit, one of my favorite conferences to attend locally in Michigan.

Everyone, say “hello hello” to Charlie!

Becoming a Kid Again

SNOWPOCALYPSE DETROIT 2011 is finally behind us!  Have you dug yourself out yet?  After hearing the plows come through last night push the snow on to the end of my driveway, I had to make sure I could get my car out so I could go to work.  When I finished shoveling, I took a moment to listen.  Quiet.  I heard nothing and I loved it!  I looked around and just saw a blanket of white covering my neighborhood.  Everything looked clean and pure.  I remembered how much I actually do like winter and didn’t realize it was only 11 degrees at 6am when I was shoveling.  It brought me back to my days as a kid and how much I enjoyed being outside in the white stuff!

I really started thinking about this last week when I was with my son at the Rochester Fire and Ice Fest.  We just hung out and played in the snow.  More than anything, watching him reminded me that the things we often become disenchanted with as we get older (winter) aren’t really all that bad.  It’s like we forget how much fun things can be as we mature, have more responsibilities and demands on our time.  Joshua and I went tubing and had a snowball fight.  I watched him climb a huge mountain of snow and slide down it and yes, I joined him too!

King of the Mountain!

This post is more than just a reminder to make time with our families.  It really is a post to remind you to not take life so seriously that you forget to have fun.  Think back to when you were young and become a kid again.  It’s an all too often told reminder but one that needs constant repetition.  Heck, I even forget and I’m sooo glad I have my kids there to remind me!  Now, where are my boots?  I have some sledding to do with my kids!  Maybe I’ll even do a snow angel like Charlie Wollborg!

Why I Think Foursquare Matters

Over the past week, I’ve seen quite a few blogs and articles on the relevance of Foursquare and any other location based service.  Titles like Why Most Marketers Should Forgo Foursquare and The Time for Foursquare Marketing is…Later? might lead you to believe companies should wait to see if there is any benefit to these services.

These articles go on to provide statistics on the usage.  “Only 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used location-based mobile apps.”  That percentage might seem small but I would argue that although small the opportunity to lead is greater with limited risk.  My friend Gini Dietrich broke it down this way in her blog post about the location based technologies:

Worldwide, nearly 2 billion people use the Internet and, in North America, there are more than 265 million. If 4 percent use Foursquare, that’s 80 million people worldwide and nearly 11 million people in North America. If you break it down even further and say you only want to reach the 1 percent who check in at least once a week, that’s still 800,000 worldwide and 106,000 people in North America.

If it were up to me, I think a test market with the sample size of 106,000 is enough to get learnings on the best way to use these services.  There are enough ideas to test and the brand or marketer that can figure it out first (congratulate Starbucks on being one of the first) will be a step ahead of those just starting to think about it.

So why am I writing another blog post about the location-based services?  I have a personal example of why these can be an extension of a company’s marketing efforts.  Last week, I was in the process of getting a loan to buy a car at Cornerstone Community Financial.  I was there a couple of times and checked in on Foursquare eventually getting the mayorship of that branch.  As I went through my day yesterday, I received this tweet from Cornerstone telling me because I was mayor, I won a $5 gift card to Blockbuster!

This isn’t a huge deal but this is what it told me:

  • Cornerstone was paying attention to who visited their business by using the social web
  • They value their customers by rewarding them for repeat business

I’m now impressed with them and am thinking about changing banks as I listen to Julianne complain about PNC as she does our monthly budget.  (As a side note, if you go to PNC’s Twitter page, they clearly state the account is “intended for distribution only.”)  I think most of us as consumers might find even this little token of appreciation enough to think about a switch.  All this for just a check in!

The final thing I’ll leave you with is this video from Charlie Wollborg.  He talks about how Foursquare can be used to encourage others to vote.

Imagine the possibilities if you take advantage of a minuscule 4% of the online adult population.  Does it matter to you?  Is it worth the risk?