Welcome to HEADWAY, the all-new official publication of 2 Heads Communications.
HEADS UP!, as you know, is dead. For one thing, we both developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome–not from the copious copy we offered, but from repeatedly poking corporate America in the ribs and milking old jokes. Furthermore, we grew weary of cynicism and satire. Heck, even fighting over that silly Employee of the Month trophy began to take its toll!
The fact is, since our move to the islands, we’ve changed: our attitude, our outlook, our office attire. And so, necessarily, has our newsletter. In retrospect–with the clarity and perspective that only a winter in the tropics can provide–we realize that the high-pressure, cutthroat, dog-eat-dog agency world may have turned us into bitter, vindictive creatures. We have since discovered that without the daily pressure, wailing sirens, and obscene phone calls, we have become more earnest, optimistic, and productive. In short, we are a kinder, gentler company.
That said, we are pleased to present to you the first issue of HEADWAY, which we believe to be the verbal and visual embodiment of our where our heads are at these days. But before you dive in, allow us to mention a few facts and features.
We have, in our isolation, been unable to utilize the services of certain graphic arts professionals in the production of this periodical–most notably designers and printers. We trust that the wit and sophistication of the contents will compensate for the rawness of its form. We never claimed to be designers. Now you see why.
We plan (God and technology willing) to publish another issue or two of HEADWAY in the year ahead–from wherever we can pull it off. (See elsewhere for our itinerary for the rest of the year.) However, as our sage writing teacher Carol Bly once said, “There are no guarantees.”
Any resemblance to HEADS UP! or any other newsletter is strictly coincidental.
Two months into our stay here, we feel at home, and at work. Oh sure, there are too many bug bites, phone problems, and drunk tourists. But home is never perfect, and neither is doing business.
Working long-distance has occasionally proven to be a challenge–we’d be practicing dizzying spin control to say otherwise–but the squalls are calming now. We’ve learned many things about long-distance business and technology, only to conclude that the information highway is passable, but still under construction. Suffice it to say that one learns to hitchhike, try side roads, or whatever it takes to get a job done. The future looks radiant, though; soon we’ll all be travelling together through a macrocosm many call cyberspace.
About 180 degrees from there, the microcosm of St. John could provide an MBA student a fascinating study of an isolated economic environment. Of our relationship to the U.S. despite a severe lack of media and information (and interest). Of our ways of getting by without an office supply store, supermarket, or movie theater. Of the way transactions are made (in person–after waiting patiently and chanting “Good afternoon” to those who line up after you). Of the pace with which things move (or don’t): Mail carriers here–and everyone else–need neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night to stay them from their appointed rounds. “Doitomorrow” is reduced to one word, while “tomorrow” can be expanded by days or weeks. Indeed, the only thing that seems to happen on time is the too-early ringing of the Moravian Church bells on Sunday morning, and the elementary school’s steel drum lessons bright and early on weekdays. Both, of course, lie directly across acoustically perfect Coral Bay.
There are no chain stores here, really. So the promotional gimmickry is decidedly downscale, but rarely uncreative. (See Marketing, Island Style) The big news recently, in fact, was that the only franchise on the island–Wendy’s–bit the big burger, despite their desirable on-the-beach, by-the-ferry-dock location. (They have been replaced by a foo-foo restaurant named Saychelles who should have hired us for naming help.)
It could be that Wendy’s St. John numbers weren’t up to mainland standards, or perhaps that people who just walk off the ferry don’t yet know that it costs twice as much to subsist here. Could be that Wendy’s couldn’t count on the deliveries critical to a fast food business. Indeed, despite that cement blocks and bottled beer arrive by the boatload, it seems that anything contingent on regular and timely shipping won’t make it. Those hamburger buns probably got hung up in the storm out east. Or stuck on St. Thomas during one of that island’s private holidays. You hear it all here. But no doubt Wendy’s sales trainers wouldn’t advocate asking, “You don’t want that on a bun, do you?”
Elsewhere on the commercial front, the really big news is the arrival of K-Mart on St. Thomas. Definitely K-Mart. They’re talking about it from here to St. Kitts. Finally, somewhere to buy wooden spoons, fishing lures, and furry toilet seat covers–should you want them. You have to pay a quarter for your cart there, but at least they have them; apparently, many stores don’t, or so one is led to believe by the grocery store radio commercials boasting enough carts for everyone (when the station comes in, that is). On our island, there are no grocery carts, simply because there is no grocery (or other) store large enough to accommodate them. Besides, you’d need a home equity loan if you actually filled the cart–although at that point it may be tax deductible; ask your tax advisor.
Speaking of financial services, there does remain at least one chain in a little building with a big franchise on St. John: Chase Bank. We qualified to give them money, we’re proud to report. Now if we could only get it back. These people give a new definition to the term “Banker’s Hours,” and clarify without question the reason they’re named “Chase.”
So after a while here, you adopt the native survival mantra, “Don’t worry about it.” (Not to be confused with, “Don’t worry, be happy.”) The main reason, of course, is that there is typically nothing you can do. When your power goes out. When your Jeep breaks down and Charlie the mechanic is stateside for two weeks. When you want a Wall Street Journal (for $3.50) which requires a trip across the island –if they have it–if they’re open–if the power’s on–if, if, if. (No use calling; the odds of the answer being right are about 50/50. Or they’ll just suggest you come in.) It’s called Island Time; it’s more visible than Minnesota’s Northern lights in August. And it moves more slowly.
It can drive you crazy, of course, and there are many loonies long landed here to prove it. Characters saltier than the Morton’s girl. While frightful at first, they eventually become models in how to chill (and check) out, and take a hike–however temporary–from reality.
Like the Reef Bay Trail, which winds through the rain forest, past Danish ruins from a bygone era, then past even older petroglyphs. You land on a long beach not accessible by car, where Caribbean blue sparkles infinitely before you like the world’s most precious gem. You stare, take your shoes off, squeeze the sand between your toes, and gaze at eternity. Then you do what the pelican does, what YOU must do: Dive in. When you emerge from the water, it’s all still there; this wasn’t a dream.
|Things We Miss||Things We Don’t Miss|
When we moved the business here, our intention was not to enter the competitive fray for island clients. And indeed, it quickly became apparent that there is very little demand for our services here. There are no multinational corporations based in St. John. The big bucks resorts (all two of them) use national agencies. And most island business owners long ago gleefully accepted responsibility for their own marketing efforts. (And repairs, and cleaning, and accounting, and on and on.) They tend to favor a low-budget, hands-on, guerilla approach that leaves little room for specialists or professionals. We have, however, amused ourselves by studying the tactics they use to spread the word. To wit:
Pusser’s, a popular retail outlet and watering hole, has hooked up with the local ferry company for an unusual–and ingenious–promotional gimmick. On the stub of every ferry ticket (for passage between St. Thomas and St. John) there is a Pusser’s coupon for $1 off a drink in their bar, located just a stone’s throw from the ferry dock. Since thousands of these tickets change hands each day, the rum drinks practically walk out of there.
A few of the local Jeep rental places have copped an edge on the competition by painting their logo, name, and phone number on the canvas cover that protects the spare tire on the back of the vehicle. Others have painted it on the removable canvas roof (marketing for the birds, perhaps?).
One or two management companies representing vacation rental properties decided to splash their name all over the beach chairs their guests schlep to the shore. Meanwhile, other renters (whose houses didn’t provide chairs) sit on their wet, sandy towels and ogle with envy–perhaps noting the agency’s name for their next trip.
Do you envision us lounging on a beach sipping fruit drinks?
Or tethered to our telephone and laptop?
Well, the reality, of course, is somewhere in between.
Here’s the real scoop on what we’ve been up to.