I am confident that most of us are in the same boat. Every morning we put on a brave face and step out to meet a new day that is unlike any day ever experienced before. We hide our frustrations, fears and concerns behind false bravado. We desperately cling to the illusion of normal and avoid the reality by surrounding ourselves with people who won’t challenge us to think and who will affirm what we believe. We try to avoid asking the question what now, especially if we are an old timer that will have to fully reinvent themselves as a matter of survival.
And that takes me to the next project. I am currently working on a serious of programs to share what has been learned in recent months about changing direction after a persons 60th birthday. I will be sharing ideas, educational opportunities, networking suggestions and other ways to ensure continued survival. This is not to say I have all of the answers. However, I have more than I did several months ago, and really believe some inspiration can be provided.
At Jim Hinckley’s Americathis year started with such promise. I had a new book to promote and a slate of speaking engagements in three countries that stretched out to October. An interview for a British publication had given me a new moniker – “America’s storyteller.” Together with our tag line – Telling People Where to Go Since 1990 – I had marketing and promotional ideas that were only limited by the imagination.
On February 7, I kicked off the speaking tour to a packed house at a museum fund raiser in the historic El Garces Hotel in Needles, California. I was pleasantly surprised to find people had traveled from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix for the presentation. Even better, the reviews were favorable, the audience engaged and the positive comments flowed freely.
The next four weeks were a blur. My pa passed away, I picked up three new advertising partners, confirmed two more speaking engagements (one in Spokane), revamped the entire website, finalized a partial sponsor for attendance of the European Route 66 Festival in Zlin, Czechia, resolved a dental issue and received notice that my new book, Murder and Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66 was being nominated for recognition at the Independent Publishers Award. And then it all started to unravel.
First there was a steady trickle of tour company cancellations that quickly became a torrent. Then I got sick but didn’t meet testing requirements for COVID 19 even though my temperature was ranging from 101 to 103.9 degrees and I could breathe. Then the speaking engagement cancellations began coming in, and as businesses closed, I suspended arrangements with advertising sponsors as a means of providing what assistance I could. To subsidize their continued promotion I began pushing the crowdfunding initiative and developing unique exclusive content to add value to the commitment of support.
And that takes us to today. The Sunday morning live stream Coffee With Jim program continues to grow in popularity, and generates a bit of income; tips, crowdfunding and small business advertisers. I am writing feature articles on automotive history for MotoringNZ, a New Zealand publication. These are linked to the 5 Minutes With Jim audio podcast. On line book sales have been anemic (issues courtesy COVID 19). In short, I am having to almost completely abandon my work with tour companies and the live speaking engagements. An online presence has never been more important, for survival for the author, photographer, artist or small business owner with e-commerce opportunity.
What now? The hardest part of answering that question is facing cold hard facts, casting off preconceived ideas and seeking real information. For me this has required an honest evaluation of tourism trends. First, international tourism to the United States will take more than a year or two to recover, largely resultant of our inability to get a handle on the COVID 19 pandemic. Staycations are the foreseeable future. But even these will be restricted because of the ongoing pandemic. So, again, developing an online presence is crucial.
Stay tuned. This old dog is learning new tricks. And I plan on sharing those with you, and perhaps, you can share a few with me. Mi amigos, we are in this together. Aside from on online presence, the next most important item for survival in the brave new world is partnerships.
We are living through one of the most fascinating, most unnerving, most trans-formative periods the world has seen since at least WWII. To be honest I would rather be reading about it in history books rather than watching it unfold. I would like to skip to the end of this book or even wait for the movie. I would bet my bottom dollar that I am not the only one thinking these type of thoughts.
I can only imagine how the people living through the triple upset – WWI, the Spanish flu pandemic and the deep economic recession that followed on the heels of these two disasters – must have felt. For those folks, however, it was five tumultuous years that forever transformed the world. The current crisis that is still unfolding has changed the world in less than four months and nothing will ever be the same when we return to normal, whatever that may look like.
Since launching Jim Hinckley’s America my life has revolved around tourism (telling people where to go) and bringing history to life. This storm will pass but until then tourism is as extinct as the woolly mammoth. And after the storm passes, what will tourism be like? With this thought in mind I have been working to develop a short term and long term strategy for me as well as for some of my clients such as the City of Cuba. And I have also been working on developing as well as expanding current programs in a manner that provides maximum entertainment and inspirational value for fans, that gives sponsors and advertising partners the best return on their investment, and that provides support for the Route 66 community.
First there is 5 Minutes With Jim, our weekly audio podcast that is made available every Sunday morning. We keep it simple and fun with a blending of history, trivia and travel tips. As an example on our first program for April, I tell the story of an amazing Old West shootout in Holbrook, Arizona, and give directions to the historic homestead associated with the incident. Previous programs told the story of the Cactus Derby, a race that featured the best racers of the day including Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield. There have also been programs about my favorite places for pie on Route 66 (Grand Canyon Caverns and Victoria’s Sugar Shack to name two), infamous and overlooked murders, and automotive history.
On the crowdfunding site using the Patreon platform I have been sharing my autobiography in serial format as exclusive content. In light of the current Coronavirus induced economic situation this funding source is more important than ever as I am suspending fees charged to some advertising sponsors. I will continue to keep their name in front of people but if they are closed it just doesn’t seem right to be charging them. I have also discounted advertising packages by 50%, and am offering free listing for businesses with online stores across all platforms in the Jim Hinckley’s America network. And so to keep things going, to be able to support the Route 66 community and small businesses that are its life blood I am more dependent than ever on crowdfunding.
As so may people are in self quarantine and restricted on travel, I am providing short live stream programs on our Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. This are being shot from various locations around Kingman, Arizona during my walkabouts. As I always say, shared adventures are the best adventures. A hearty thank you to the City of Cuba for their support of this project.
One project that I am quite excited about is the new Coffee With Jim program that is live streamed to our Facebook page on Saturday mornings from the offices of Jim Hinckley’s America. As book and movie reviews are a part of the weekly format, this will provide authors with a promotional platform. The fast paced half hour program features things like excerpts from the 1901 travel journal of Alexander Winton, travel related news and updates, product reviews and much, more. So, it also serves as a promotional platform for small businesses as well as communities that submit items for review or coupons. After the broadcast the video is added to our YouTube and Vimeo channels.
A 1914 guide to roads and highways in Arizona
I have also dramatically adjusted the format of the weekly newsletter that is published every Friday morning. This is offered free with registration through our Facebook page. It too features reviews, travel tips and news, and information on communities, events and new products.
The website is getting some much needed improvements as well. Much of the information will need to be upgraded or modified resultant of current travel restrictions and the economic climate.
Bottom line. Like everyone else in the world right now I am sailing into uncharted waters through an impenetrable fog. And like everyone else I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Still, the show must go on. And so I will continue using Jim Hinckley’s America as my platform for telling people where to go.
Organized in early 1927, the U.S. Highway 66 Association was similar in nature to many organizations and businesses established before the creation of the federal highway system to promote roads such as the Lincoln Highway and the National Old Trails Highway. The association had two primary goals; lobby to have U.S. 66 fully paved from Chicago to its western terminus at Seventh and Broadway in Los Angeles, California and the development of marketing initiatives to promote tourism on the highway. The organizations marketing endeavors were so successful, U.S. 66, iconic Route 66, is arguably the most famous highway in America even though it hasn’t officially existed for more than three decades.
A key component in the organizations success was the development of cooperative partnerships with businesses and communities. Many of the challenges faced by the Route 66 community today are the same as those addressed by that pioneering organization more than nine decades ago. So, isn’t it logical to assume that development of a community of partners would resolve issues that range from preservation to marketing, and ensure that the old highway remains vibrant into the centennial and beyond?
The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, a stop on our fall tour.
Jim Hinckley’s America is about, well, America. Still at the center of all that we do is Route 66, the Main Street of America. It was never my intent to replicate the original U.S. Highway 66 Association. However, I have volunteered my services to every reputable effort to create a modern incarnation of this entity. And I have developed a multifaceted promotional platform that promotes Route 66 as a destination, a distinct difference from early marketing designed to promote U.S. 66 as a preferred highway for those making a cross country jaunt.
Have no doubts. Today Route 66 is no mere highway. It is a destination. It is, to borrow an adage from author Michael Wallis, a linear community. The problem is that with the exception of passionate travelers affectionately referred to as roadies, few communities or businesses along the highway corridor see Route 66 as a destination.
And so I launched the development of community educational initiatives. Linked with this was creation of a marketing network designed to provide businesses, and communities, with an opportunity to magnify their promotional initiatives regardless of budget. One component was the crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform. If five hundred followers of the Jim Hinckley’s America travel programs each contributed as little as $1 or $5 per month, I could purchase needed equipment, keep necessary subscriptions updated, cover some travel expenses and dedicate time for the creation of programs such as the recent Adventurers Club in which I interviewed the president of Route 66 Association of New Mexicoand Texas Old Route 66 Association.
As the concept of creating a pooled resource cooperative evolved I began providing businesses with advertising opportunities for as little as $12.50 per week. With each and every step of development my focus has been on using Jim Hinckley’s America as a venue for the promotion of Route 66 as a destination. I am quite pleased by the comments received from advertising sponsors, major sponsors including the City of Cuba and Grand Canyon Caverns, and most importantly, travelers.
Promotional materials distributed along Route 66
Together, one partnership at a time, we can transform Route 66 into a linear community of partners. Together we can market and promote the most famous highway in America as a destination. So, with that said, can your community or business use a promotional boost?
One of the overlooked chapters from the story about the dawning of the American auto industry is how it went from being a circus sideshow curiosity to multi-million dollar industry in less than two decades.
“Take the children to see the fad before it passes.” Even astute entrepreneurs with vision can be wrong when it comes to predicting the future. These words were spoken by Montgomery Ward, the pioneering department store tycoon, in 1896 when the circus came to town with promotional posters that gave a Duryea Motor Wagon top billing over the albino, bearded lady and dog boy. It was the dawn of a new era, a time of such dramatic transition that within 20 years every aspect of American society had been transformed.
Buffalo Bill Cody at the tiler of a 1903 Michigan. Photo Jim Hinckley collection.
Within seven years of Ward’s recommendation, shorty after the turn of the century, an automobile had been driven from coast to coast. David Buick, Henry Ford, Ransom E. Olds, and dozens of swashbuckling captains of industry were establishing automotive manufacturing empires worth tens of millions of dollars. By 1906 a steamer built by the Stanley brothers had been driven to nearly 150 miles per hour, a new record, on Ormond Beach in Florida. In 1909, 828,000 horse drawn vehicles and 125,000 automobiles rolled from American factories. Two decades later a mere 4,000 horse drawn vehicles were manufactured.
What fueled such a dramatic societal evolution? Marketing. Advertisement. Promotion. An advertisement for the 1900 Porter Stanhope featured a small lithograph type print of the car and a heading in bold print, The Only Perfect Automobile.” Several hundred words of descriptive prose followed. It was groundbreaking, after all in the May 1897 issue of Motorcycle, editor Edward Goff said, “The manufacture of a motorcycle (or automobile) is in a position to take advantage of more free advertisement than any other industry.”
As early as 1903, even though the automobile was still somewhat of a novelty, a tsunami of competition in the industry necessitated advertisement, marketing, and promotion if an automotive manufacturer was to survive. Enter Ernest Elmo Calkins, owner of an advertising agency that chose artistic standards that showcased cars in attention getting scenes rather than lengthy word pictures. Within a few years Calkins & Holden, with the luxury auto manufacturer Pierce Arrow as a primary client, had become the first company to exclusively develop automotive advertising campaigns.
As automotive technologies were being advanced with stunning speed, it was appropriate that the next stage in advertising and marketing would utilize something new as well as exciting. Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey, Cal to his friends, launched his career in automotive marketing with Maxwell-Briscoe. His promotional stunts were worthy of P.T. Barnum. Then in 1907 he contracted with Lubin Film Studios, a pioneering cinematography company that specialized in the making of nickelodeon films for theaters in the northeast, to film his stunts. The automotive commercial was born.
Automobile manufacturers sold dreams made manifest in steel and glass. Automobile marketing companies simply sold the dream. They transformed the automobile from sideshow curiosity to necessity. They replaced the horse by instilling a hunger for horsepower. The art of selling the sizzle rather the steak, that is the fuel that drove the evolution transformed America, and the world.
Some people fear death and obsess about diet, exercise, and
face lifts as they make valiant but futile attempts to stave off the inevitable. As a result, to borrow a slogan from Belmont Winery in Leasburg, Missouri, they don’t have time to enjoy the simple taste of life. Work alcoholics suffer a similar malady. One of the greatest challenges in this life is to strike a balance. We need to work to live and not live to work. We need to avoid the trap that is killing time and never forget that time is finite.
I will be the first to admit that often in the rush to meet a deadline, these are simple lessons that are forgotten. This is in spite of the fact that on a daily basis, as I write about lives cut short, I am reminded about the brevity of life, the futility of myopically focusing on work with the hope that at some point in the distant future there will be time to enjoy life. (more…)