Robby Fowler Articles

Can Curb Cuts Transform Your Brand?

Musings on Top Podcasts from Robby Fowler
Welcome back to Spark: a series of my podcast musings. Here’s how this works.
    Each muse is a “spark” I get while listening to a podcast…any podcastI present them stream of conscious (not over-thought, not over-edited, not intimidating)They’ll hit you when they hit me (IE I post them when I post them)I’ll relate them to marketing, business, life, or the gospel

    Here are the wins for you.

    In each Spark, you can…
      Find inspiration.Hop off the hamster wheel. Consider something new. Noodle for a second.Discover a great podcast episode for your own enrichment.
      To boil it down, I hope what “sparked” for me will ignite something for you—personally or professionally.

      Spark, Issue No. 2: It’s Time to Cut the Curb

      This issue of Spark comes while listening to one of my faves, 99% Invisible. I was enjoying episode 308, Curb Cuts. Less than two minutes in, a spark hit.

      Podcast cover art for 99% Invisible Podcast with Roman Mars
      99% Invisible Podcast with Roman Mars

      If you’re not familiar with the podcast, here’s how 99% Invisible describes itself.
        99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about—the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.

        I love this podcast. It’s like the scratching post to my internal curious cat.

        Meet the Man Behind This Spark, Ed Roberts

        This episode begins with Catherine—a newly appointed curator at the Smithsonian. In her first days on the job, she comes across a junk closet. (Imagine what you could find in a junk closet at the Smithsonian!)

        The item that leaves Catherine the Curator scratching her head is a customized wheelchair. Picture it with go-cart wheels and a Recaro seat—the fancy, race car seat used in Porches.

        The wheelchair also came with a note. This was the wheelchair of none other than, Ed Roberts!

        Let’s cut to the chase.

        Who in the world is Ed Roberts?!?

        Ed Roberts, the man who sat in that wheelchair, started a movement. The host of the podcast says this about him…

        The story of how the first widespread urban curb cuts came [about] started with a movement that demanded society see disabled people in a new way.

        60 years ago, after polio left Ed paralyzed from the neck down, cities were different. Back then, most urban intersections ended with an abrupt curb and a sharp drop off. Ed is the man behind the “curb cut.” A curb cut is where they cut away the curb and replace it with a smooth ramp at crosswalks and intersections.

        Here’s the quick backdrop of Ed and the curb cut.

        Through a story of remarkable inspiration and determination, Ed goes to UC Berkley in the early 1960’s. One newspaper headline chronicling his journey demonstrates how city curbs weren’t the only sharp reality facing Ed. The headline read, “Helpless Cripple Goes to College.”

        I know. You’re cringing at those words. The lawyers in the crowd just passed out.

        But that was reality less than 60 years ago. So Ed started a movement from his wheelchair. The movement brought widespread changes. Necessary changes. Changes we take for granted. Among them, Berkley, California became the first city with curb cuts at every intersection.

        My Spark? What Helpful “Curb Cuts” Do I Need to See (From the 99% Invisible Podcast)

        Honestly, I had a wave of thoughts listening to this episode. The most poignant statement that jumped out to me was…

        [Ed] started a movement that demanded society see disabled people in a new way.

        That last phrase kept ringing in my ears. “…that demanded society see disabled people in a new way.

        The obvious question was, “Who or what do I need to see in a new way?”

        Here are a few things I’m chewing on in light of that question. A few “curb cuts” I’m pondering:
          You would never think about “curb cuts” until you first consider people—namely, people different from you.Assumptions aren’t inherently bad, but neither are they inherently good. Again, real people should be the measuring stick for evaluating those assumptions. (Cough…not SEO or social likes…cough.)What am I not seeing?…in my business, my marketing, the way I serve clients, who my clients serve?
          One thing is clearer to me now having listened to this podcast. Whether in marketing, or business, or just normal life…start by considering people. People come first. In your business or in your marketing, consider people. “Customers” are not a separate species. Customers are people with needs we should never assume or overlook.

          Notable Quotables from this Podcast Episode

          There were several more moments throughout this podcast episode that gave me pause. Each connected back to the original spark.

          Here are few more to chew on. Check out the episode to hear for yourself.

          Ad Campaigns & Subtext…

          At age 5, Lawrence was the literal poster-child for the United Fund Charity. “I was cute and had sarabel palsy,” he notes as an adult. Only later, when looking back, did he wonder…

          Wait, what’s the subtext of those ads? It was, ‘Well, you don’t want to end up like this poor kid, do you? Then give…’

          My Marketing Spark: Read between the lines and pay attention to subtext. Make sure your marketing subtext does not insult your customer or hurt your client.

          Telethons and fundraisers…

          Squeezing money out of people by dramatically playing up the most horrid stereotypes of disability.

          My Marketing Spark: Be careful and responsible with the power of marketing!

          Power of narrative…

          I studied how the disabled were portrayed in movies, television, and the public consciousness. Certain narratives were told often, like ‘disabilities are something we are to be afraid of…’

          My Gospel Spark: People are ‘story-formed.’

          Words hurt…

          I think the Man Upstairs goofed.

          My Human Spark: Ouch! Just ouch. Hurtful words to say the least. I’m particular keen to this because I’m working through a book on feelings > hurt, and how they are a gospel gift showing us our need of a perfect Father. But that’s another post someday ;-)

          What about you? Email me back with your ‘sparks.’
          Branding Personal Brands