It’s Time to Go

By: Clark Swanson

Last week, OrangeBoy duties took me to Kansas City, Missouri, where we work in close contact with Kansas City Public Libraries to help improve literacy services in their community. The trip was expected to last a few days; just down and back. There was a chance of snow in the forecast, but based on meteorological accuracy, I wasn’t exceptionally concerned… Until the storm came early, and I tried to make it out of town before it arrived.

I have seen news footage of such moments, but last week, I found myself living it. As I attempted to make my way to the airport, the I-435 – I-29 split was littered with abandoned and stalled cars. Their drivers, at least those who hadn’t walked way, were at a complete loss. We could see the road ahead was clear. Yet we were frozen, literally and figuratively. There seemed no way out.


Then I saw a man, who unlike me and the others was well dressed for the weather. As he walked by my window, I rolled it down, and he asked, “Do you have four-wheel-drive?” The Escape I was driving had all-wheel drive, but it wasn’t the time to debate the point. “If we can clear a few of these people out of the way,” he said, “I think we can get through.”

He went to the mini-van blocking me and asked her to pull in front of me; requiring her to move headlong toward the berm. We formed a “T” at this moment. At the same time, a thought came into my head, “Do you really want to do this? This is how you got here in the first place.” Three hours earlier I had taken a calculated risk. If I could get to the airport before the storm grew to full strength, Southwest promised I might make it home to my wife Sandy. Although I got within eight miles; I lost.

The thought didn’t last long. I didn’t even answer it. I put the Ford Escape into reverse, backed-up, and then pulled around the mini-van. I squeezed between a semi and another car, twisting and turning between two others. A small pick-up was the last obstacle. He sat between an abandoned car and another semi. I stopped the Escape, and with the help of four others, the truck was manhandled. We moved it maybe 12 to 18 inches. I got back into the Escape, pointed it toward the gap, and drove through. It didn’t fishtail, drift, or slide.

I plowed through the gap, heading to the open road. The gentleman who started the chain of events waved as I passed through, but I had no intention of stopping or going back.

That evening, as I stared out my hotel window, it came to me that this was the metaphor for our business and the opportunities ahead. When the opportunity presents itself, we have to take it without much thought or fear, regardless of previous failures.

If those three days showed me anything, it’s that a golden gap lies before us. We just need to drive through it. Yes, sometimes it takes a little help from others and a bit of luck, but it’s out there.

It’s time to go. I hope you’ll come along with us.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2013

Photo from


I’ve Been Everywhere, Man…

By: Sandy Swanson

As the Rihanna song “Where Have You Been?” starts, “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man,” and so has OrangeBoy.

As we’ve grown, so have our frequent flier accounts, with clients in more than 20 states across the country. In just the first six weeks of this year alone, team members have been in Illinois, Washington, Maryland, New York, Michigan, and of course, Ohio.

Last year, as people came off the road, we started dropping our hotel key cards in a bowl near the coffee machine. It was fun watching the pile grow throughout the year, and we informally voted on who had the most colorful and best designs (I personally like the Hyatt Place cards the best).
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The cards in the bowl continued to grow and we had accumulated about 200 cards at the end of the year. I wondered what I could do with the cards to display them in an artistic way. I ended up sorting them by color, and then gluing them on a canvas in a criss-cross design. The final piece resembles a colorful, patchwork quilt.

Now, besides having a cool new piece of artwork for the office, the key card mosaic is a symbol for our work, our values, and our commitment to clients. Travelling these days is no easy feat, with airport security, cancelled flights, weather delays. These cards are our badge of honor. We do a lot of our work virtually; utilizing cloud computing services and tele-conferencing to provide a positive customer experience. But sometimes nothing beats being there in person.

The bowl is starting to fill up again, and I can’t wait to see what we do with this year’s collection. If you have any ideas, let me know!

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2013

Opting in to Consumer-Driven Strategy


How Disney Changes the Theme Park Business

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

A new year brings new opportunities. For our clients, that means a new level of understanding of how consumers’ desires for convenience and personalization continually drive business strategy. A recent New York Times article about Disney’s new MyMagic+ technology is a perfect example of this.


MyMagic+ utilizes radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology embedded in rubber bracelets (called MagicBands), which when worn by park visitors simplifies the daunting task of keeping track of paper tickets, fumbling with credit cards, and tracking room keys, while watching small children in a theme park. Customers (at their own discretion) can also encode personal data on the bands which park employees can access. This makes it possible for me or my sister to opt in and personalize my niece’s first visit to Walt Disney World where Minnie Mouse greets her saying, “Nice to meet you, Hailey!”

For a place that brings fairy tales to life, the adoption of MyMagic+ not only delivers convenience and personalization, but also brings Disney one step closer to its mission and brand promise to make “Dreams come true.”

As a consumer and business person, I can appreciate all of the possibilities. Sure, it raises the hot debate about collecting personal data, but it really is a win-win for both the customer and the organization. For instance, it not only enhances the customer experience leading to greater customer satisfaction, but also allows the organization to gain valuable insight into consumption habits to streamline processes and enhance productivity.

I believe 2013 is the year for both consumers and company leaders to truly embrace the opportunities that technology and data bring. There are numerous possibilities to satisfy our convenience-driven culture, and several ways our organizations and customers benefit—one of which is the option to opt out entirely.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2013

Photo from

The Glass Half Full

By: Sandy Swanson

Half empty or half full? A classic example used in numerous articles and self-help books asks us to identify how we see the glass. The thought is that if we see the glass half empty, we are pessimists. We have a client, Wadsworth Public Library, who chose to see their financial situation quite the opposite way. With their optimistic attitude and determination, they passed a levy that had failed just eight months earlier. You can also read a related article about the Wadsworth Public Library on the Library Journal blog, The Digital Shift.

Glass half fullOrangeBoy provided the Wadsworth Public Library, located in Medina County, Ohio, analytics about its customers and community to pass a crucial operating levy. This time, armed with optimism, dedicated volunteers, and good data, it worked. Here’s how they did it.

The library is anchored between the Akron and Cleveland metropolitan areas and it serves a community of approximately 25,000. The community had seen steady declines in state library funding since 2001, but it reached a critical point from 2008 through 2010, after sharp cuts to library funding due to the recession. This resulted in immediate budget reductions of $500,000 for the library (nearly 20 percent of its overall budget), and cumulative losses of $2 million over the previous 10 years. These cuts reduced operating hours, staff and programs.

The library went to the voters in March 2012 and attempted to pass a 1.25 mill levy. Despite a valiant effort from community volunteers and the library, the levy did not pass.

A ‘half-empty’ mind-set could have overcome the library and they might have just given up, cutting library services even further. But they didn’t. They decided to re-group and try a different approach. This time, they adjusted the desired levy to 1 mill, formed another dedicated volunteer committee, and hired OrangeBoy to understand the market dynamics at play.

OrangeBoy helped the library with a comprehensive market analysis. Our study identified where their cardholders lived and displayed geographic trends visually with GIS maps, in addition to identifying other demographic characteristics of their customers and the overall market. We also incorporated voter registration information to add deeper insights about voting patterns in their community.

After presenting our research, the library decided to play to its strength and focus its levy efforts on known supporters. They believed they would have a better chance at passing the levy if they could encourage loyal users to get to the polls. Their strategy worked, and the levy passed with 55 percent of the vote, a nine point swing from the election just eight months earlier.

Our role in this effort is extremely rewarding, but it is their ‘half full’ optimism that inspires me. When I have a day that didn’t go as planned or am greeted with disappointing news, I remember the Wadsworth Public Library and look at that glass a whole new way.

Here’s to an optimistic and rewarding new year.

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2013

Just the Facts…

By: Andy Minister

As we were driving from LAX into the city last week for the Library Journal Director’s Summit, my colleague Clark quoted the opening line from a famous TV show – Dragnet. After the Summit concluded, I imagined how the opening voiceover would sound at the conference…

“This is the city. Los Angeles, California. I work here. I carry a badge. My name’s Friday – I’m a cop. My partner is Frank Smith. It was November 29th. It was raining in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of the Library Security Division. A steady stream of disruptions had been finding its way into the city’s library system. We’d gotten a lead on some of the sources of those disruptions – We had to check it out.”

Joe Friday was no-nonsense, straightforward, diligent and paid attention to detail. Those characteristics led to solving crimes. But Friday was also a man set in his ways about how police work was done.

The Director’s Summit’s theme was Disruptions and Opportunities: Libraries Welcome Change. Many libraries find change difficult. The summit showed that libraries are getting out of their comfort zone and realizing a new way of thinking is necessary.

The positive energy from all the directors at the summit was truly exciting to see, and change is certainly coming. Like Friday, today’s libraries are diligent and pay attention to detail. Many have already begun to find opportunities in the pile of disruptions they face in order to make their library more effective and efficient.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” This is thought to be the most recognizable catchphrase from the show. But I learned while writing this, the actual phrase is “all we know are the facts, ma’am.” Think about the difference of these two phrases. In the former, Friday is asking for the facts, in the latter, he is telling her the facts are all that matter.

In our work at OrangeBoy, we have been evangelizing this approach for years, touting the benefits of customer segmentation and data-driven approaches to allocate resources, retain customers and build library support. We believe the facts are what matter, and we truly enjoy working with libraries to uncover those facts. When the facts are all that matter, libraries are able to make decisions that are not only easy to defend, but bring opportunities that result in outcomes that benefit the community.

It was refreshing listening to the thought leaders that participated in the Summit. All of the presentations were excellent and educational, but a few in particular stood out.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. The names have (not) been changed to protect the innocent.”

Corrine Hill and Nate Hill (no relation) put on a show outlining a whole new way of thinking about how a library operates and serves its community. When Corrine’s vision becomes reality, the future Chattanooga Public Library will look more like an Apple Store than a Barnes and Noble. Nate has literally turned the library into a virtual playground. He has taken the fourth floor and turned it into a laboratory of library experiments. When those experiments are successful and validated, they find a way to implement them throughout the library…when they aren’t successful, they throw them out and move onto the next. I for one cannot wait to pay a visit to Chattanooga, a.k.a., Gig City because of the city’s commitment to high-speed Internet for all residents.

Admittedly, I may have some bias since he is from my fair city and a client, but Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, shared how he views his effectiveness having served for 11 years in that role. He discussed ways for long-tenured directors to stay focused, keep enthusiasm high, and determine when it is time to make changes. One of his success stories in Columbus is inviting local CEO’s to his office for lunch. He claims that he has eaten more turkey sandwiches than anyone in the city, but the relationships he has made, and the advice he has received in those lunches, has enhanced Patrick’s skills as a leader, and in turn made the library more successful.

It was a pleasure meeting so many directors and hearing about their challenges, but more so hearing their ideas and opportunities to meet those challenges.

As I left That City. Los Angeles, California. All we knew were the facts. Not all the facts are positive. But they do provide opportunities to grow. Growth is positive. And that’s a fact, Jack (uh-oh, I think that’s a line from one of my other favorite movies – Stripes.)

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Tips from the Obama Campaign to Make Data Work for You

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

Since the presidential election, discussions have been popping up on the Internet and in the media about how each candidate used data-driven campaigns to target voters. Many agree that Obama’s analytics were far more sophisticated than Romney’s.

I believe the success of the Obama campaign attributed to three simple rules. Apply these to make data work for you.

  1. Merge multiple sources of data. A single dataset consisting of all of your constituents (customers, donors, volunteers, etc.) linked to transactional data is a valuable asset. Data merged across departments and an entire organization can provide powerful insights about constituent relationships, needs, consumption behavior and other knowledge. Data crunchers for the Obama campaign amassed data (voter files, field data, consumer databases, and more) to form one “megafile.”
  2. Behavioral modeling. Using the variables from the “megafile,” the Obama campaign built complex behavioral models. The advantage: predictability and measurability. As Time Magazine reported, statistical models allowed the campaign to target voters efficiently and effectively, using data to determine how and where to reach voters–either by phone, knocking on doors, sending direct mail or social media. The campaign then processed polling and voter-contact data “66,000 times every night,” providing the campaign with instant results about Obama’s odds of winning swing states to help allocate campaign resources (also reported by Time).
  3. Retain data. Some organizations purge data on a regular basis, the Obama campaign did not. The campaign team quickly learned this was a benefit. Analysts discovered that people who had unsubscribed from the campaign’s 2008 e-mail lists were among the easiest to re-engage for support. It’s much easier to retain or re-engage past constituents than win new ones. (Sound familiar?) At some point, you’ll want feedback from customers who don’t (currently) use your products or services. Keep your data. You will want it someday.

We know that careful statistical analysis can provide remarkable precision and results. Follow the rules outlined above to get you started, and next time you have a data question just ask us. OrangeBoy has been helping clients gain customer insights from data for the past 16 years. We’re happy to help.

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Here I Am… Rock You Like A Hurricane

By: Sandy Swanson

The 80s song by the Scorpions says it best. Hurricane Sandy rocked our worlds this week with a little bit of everything—wind, rain, snow, fire, floods, and massive power outages.

Last week when weather experts were predicting this ‘perfect storm,’ a late season hurricane mixed with a good old-fashioned nor’easter, I found out the name was mine: Sandy.

I must admit, I was somewhat excited. After all, who doesn’t yearn for the spotlight at some point? My 15 minutes of fame were to share a name with this super storm, also dubbed “Frankenstorm” because of its timing with Halloween. Quickly, however, my excitement turned to dread as events unfolded. Headline after headline highlighted the hurricane’s wrath: Sandy Shuts Down NYC Subway, Sandy to Cost Billions, and Sandy Causes 108 Storm-Related Deaths.

(Photo: NOAA)

Every time I would hear one of these stories, it would catch me off-guard. Seeing and hearing my name associated with such devastation made me appreciate the value of names.

I remember in the early 1990s, I worked with a woman who had the misfortune of sharing a name with a newsmaker. Do you remember Joey Buttafuoco and his girlfriend Amy Fisher? Fisher shot Joey’s wife in the face in the midst of an affair with Buttafuoco and resulting scandal. My colleague’s name was Amy Fischer. The last name was spelled differently, but it didn’t matter. I could hear her repeatedly answer, “No, I don’t know where Joey is!” to people over the phone and in person. To them, it was funny, but for her it was a nightmare.*

Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot and we desire to be associated with a famous name. I had a recent conversation with a fellow team member whose mother named her after a 80s sitcom star. I also recently read that celebrities Beyonce and Jay-Z made an unsuccessful attempt to trademark their daughter’s name (Blue Ivy) to avoid derogatory use.

Hurricane Sandy is a good reminder that names (whether personal, company, or product) are important. They are our identities, our brand, and help differentiate us from others. To the best of our abilities, we have to protect them. Certainly, there was nothing I could do to prevent sharing my name with Hurricane Sandy. So, guess I will take my place in history and wait for next season’s hurricane to give someone else the limelight. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to set up a Google Alert to monitor your name. You never know how might be used.

Share your stories with us about names. Write us below.

* As an interesting side note, the infamous Amy Fisher known as the “Long Island Lolita” has since changed her name, according to Wikipedia. I guess she did not like the notoriety either.