Thoughts from the Executive Office

Maestro PR Blog: “Winning the Future” – Happening at a Conference Near You

In late January, when President Obama was exhorting the nation to ‘win the future’ during his state-of-the-union address, approximately 18,000 people were doing just that at the SPIE Photonics West conference and show in San Francisco (  This event, like numerous others that take place, are all about the future. Companies, universities, R&D organizations, government laboratories – even individuals – are busy exploring new ways for technology to improve all aspects of life.   

The SPIE Photonics West conference and IEEE’s International Solid State Circuits Conference ( are two of the year’s most intriguing events.  Both featured biomedical topics, and ISSCC went so far as to theme the entire conference, “Electronics for Healthy Living”.  I’m not sure if there was a correlation between the biomedical theme and the aging of our industry colleagues, but both events had their best attendance this year.

I don’t think that the remarkable research behind the papers got the recognition they deserve outside the conference.  In fact, due to the shortage of engineering- and technology-minded journalists, many papers probably went unnoticed even for industry review. 

Here are two topics to think about. The Photonics paper naturally addresses the use of light in a biomedical application, while the IEEE ISSCC paper addresses the use of advanced sensor technology.   The correlation I see is that these papers, like others presented at the conferences, demonstrates how relatively low-cost technologies – light and sensors – can be utilized in a myriad of ways.   I’ve taken some text directly from the SPIE Photonics West news release.  For the full text, go to  For a list of SPIE events this year, go to 

SPIE Photonics “Paper of Note:BiOS Session 7886-16:  “Photodynamic therapy and treatment of head and neck malignancies”. Author: Merrill A. Biel, M.D., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

This invited paper described a photodynamic therapy (PDT) used to treat cancers of the head and neck.  The paper describes treatment of 469 patients with primary or recurrent carcinoma in situ and T1 carcinomas. Bottom-line results: 88% remained disease-free.   

IEEE ISSCCSession 2, Paper 2.3: “A 3uW wirelessly powered CMOS glucose sensor for an active contact lens”. Yu-Te Liao, Huanfen Yao, Babak Parvis, Brian Otis, University of Washington, Seattle.

Before summarizing this paper, consider the massive medical challenges created by diabetes:   According to January 2011 data from American Diabetes Association (, 25.8 million Americans have diabetes.  The World Diabetes Foundation ( put the global number of known diabetics at 285 million.  Millions have not even been diagnosed yet, let alone treated.  Not only is diabetes rampant, with diagnosed cases rapidly increasing, the American Diabetes Association puts medical costs associated with the disease at a whopping $174 billion. 

Lifestyle changes and research can address prevention and potential cures, but the University of Washington team focused on care with their amazing work.  They developed a “an integrated wirelessly powered glucose sensor allowing a functional active system on a contact lens.”  The team explained that amongst the body’s various natural fluids, tear fluid provides reliable data on glucose concentration in the body. The result is a contact-lens device that can provide a continuous, reliable means to measure data essential to diabetic health. 

Industry conferences and government programs are each necessary for winning the future.  The conversation starts at events like SPIE Photonics and IEEE.  These forums nurture the sharing of invention, discovery and the sheer genius of investigative research.  Events provide the forum for the discussion needed to create the future we want for ourselves.  The select attendees are the brilliant minds that are making it happen.  

Transforming laboratory discovery into practical products is the business of companies, as well as government programs that provide the funding, incentives, awareness and policies.  “Winning the future” belongs to all of us. 

The above are views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR(sm), March 2011.


Maestro PR Blog: IC Insights Takes on SIA’s 2010-2012 Forecast

Bill McClean of IC Insights has taken on the Semiconductor Industry Association’s (SIA) revenue forecasts for 2010, 2011, and 2012.   (See the story on EETimes’ website at


Not only does Bill McClean think the SIA’s numbers are too low, he points out that the data lacks what he calls “assumptions” about semiconductor demand from the new China, India and Latin America markets.


What I like best about this story, however, has nothing to do with the market data. Rather, it’s that Bill McClean filled a sorely needed gap in our industry:  He’s stirred up conversation and debate at an industry level.  We used to see this kind of debate in the trade press all the time.  Now we see dozens of polite announcements, self-congratulatory messages about successful events, and other topics that carefully avoid any debate, conversation, or insight about the real story behind the carefully written, heavily approved news release.


I am a firm believer in news releases.  But news without discussion doesn’t move our industry forward or spur new ideas or improve the industry as a whole.   Bill’s rebuttal to the SIA is an excellent first step toward making us all think about the data presented to us and to start thinking about the implications of what he’s said.  In my mind, this is what leadership and a thriving industry are all about.


~Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR(sm)

Maestro PR Blog: Boy Scout Marketing and Popcorn Sales Need Help

It’s my view that the Boy Scouts just can’t seem to get their marketing act together.  Last Saturday, the Boy Scouts and their leaders were stationed at the entrance and exit of a local supermarket selling boxes of popcorn.  I always love a good marketing situation, so stopped my bike to take a look at how the ‘Four P’s of marketing --  product, promotion, place (distribution), and price --  were being implemented.   

In terms of location, the Scouts had a perfect situation:  The parking lot was crowded and shoppers were scurrying into the store and leaving with bags of groceries.  It was a good sign:  lots of business and lots of purchases mean people have money to spend, and food is obviously on their minds if they’re at the supermarket.   While I didn’t know about the annual sale, the boys were promoting their popcorn by engaging shoppers with the direct approach:  “Would you like to buy some popcorn?”  Simple, but obviously, they innately understood the concept of asking for the order. 

The Boy Scouts also seemed to have a hit with their fundraiser product -- popcorn.  Geez, everyone likes popcorn.  It doesn’t rank up there with mom, apple pie, and Girl Scout cookies, but it’s certainly got a respectable ranking, especially if you’re watching home movies. So, it seemed that three of the “Four P’s” -- product, place, and some good old-fashioned promotion were in action and success was in hand.  What could go wrong?  Just one thing: the price.  

All Four Marketing “P’s” Are Essential to Success 

Always happy to help the Scouts and local kids make money in their fundraisers, I stopped by the table to hear the sales pitch, prepared to buy a box of popcorn.   After all, I remember selling Girl Scout cookies and the generosity of neighbors who helped me meet the goals of selling cookies by the truckloads to satisfy our competitive leader. 

Two kids and a Dad gave me the pitch.  Friendly, cheerful, persistent but not obnoxious, eminently polite, and looking honorable in their Scout uniforms  -- the trio had all the right attributes of a sales person.  So, I took a look at the varieties of popcorn.  Each box had butter or caramel included.  Yuck.  Hadn’t the Boy Scouts heard about people watching their cholesterol and salt? But, more on that in a minute. Okay, I’d buy the popcorn and give it to the neighbors.  I reached in my waist-pack and started to pull out the wallet.  Suddenly, the kid tells me that I owe him $18.  HUH???? For popcorn???    Seeing my amazed look and deciding the kid is out of his depth to my reaction, the Dad assured me there are 6 packets of popcorn in each packet.  

Meanwhile, I’m mentally thinking of my Costco-sized jars of Jolly Time and Orville Redenbacher popcorn sitting untouched on a shelf in the cupboard at home.  “$18???” I squeaked.  

Goodbye, Charity. Hello, Business Deal. 

In an instant, my charitable disposition vanished, and my marketing mentality took over.  Are the Boy Scouts crazy?   Who is willing to pay $18 for an obscure popcorn brand, when they can get a 5-pound bag of Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn at a local store or via email from Chester’s for $7.69? (See )   Forget the brand. Who’s willing to pay $18 for any impulse product while shopping.  Haven’t the Boy Scouts heard about the economy and people out of work?  I can sympathize with their need to raise money, but asking an outrageous price is just bad marketing.   

At that price, the target market for popcorn is slashed, reducing the kids’ chances of selling to a broad customer base.  We’re not talking customized product here, we’re talking about a crop that grows all over the country and is listed as the top major crop of Iowa ( , Nebraska (, and Missouri (, and maybe other states, but who’s got the time to research this? 

The Boy Scouts need to take a marketing lesson from the Girl Scouts. 

The Girl Scouts also need money to fund their wonderful activities.  Every February-March, the Girl Scouts sell all kinds of cookies.  It’s a great marketing strategy from a product perspective.  Everyone loves cookies. It ranks right up there with Mom and apple pie, and well ahead of popcorn.  So, the Girl Scouts’ marketing plan has an ace in terms of the first marketing “P”, product. 

Like the boys’ popcorn sale, I don’t ever notice a formal campaign promotion.  Typically, I just remember it’s cookie time when one of the neighbor’s daughters knocks on the door and reminds me.  They also sell in front of stores, so the second and third  “P’s”, promotion and place, are covered. 

Pricing.  Here’s the marketing clincher.  I can order one box of cookies for $3.75.   I can order more than one box, but that’s not the point, this is: Their price point allows the Girl Scouts to sell to as broad a market as possible, from kids to seniors on a fixed income.  I see elementary-school kids at Starbucks buying Frappaccino’s. If they can afford $3.75 for a frappe, they can afford the same price for a box of cookies.  

Further, the Girl Scouts have a cookie to suit just about every taste.  This reinforces their marketing strategy to appeal to as broad an audience as possible.  There are lots of varieties of cookies – chocolate, sandwiches, coconut, mint, lemon, plain shortbreads, and the list goes on. For $18.75, I can buy 5 boxes of cookies – all different flavors, and have enough cookies to eat, share and even (yuck) freeze.  This is smart marketing.   

How to Rescue the Boy Scout Fundraiser and Marketing Campaign 

Next year, I recommend that the Boy Scouts sell popcorn that appeals to a broader customer base.  In addition to butter and flavored popcorn, include  plain, no-salt, no-butter popcorn to appeal to older purchasers.  Sell packages that can be purchased as singles, so that shoppers can buy just one kind of popcorn, or mix-and-match different varieties.  And, for pete’s sake, put a reasonable price tag on it!!   

As consumers and marketers, we’re barraged by sales pitches and marketing campaigns aimed at getting us to buy.   You can read endless books and articles on new ways to market and nuances to sell products more successfully. But the bottom line of marketing and the four “P’s” of marketing never go out of style. And in these tough economic times, they hold the biggest mindshare in what I consider the “fifth P” of marketing:  The Purchaser 

-The above are personal views of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro PR. 

Maestro PR Blog: President Obama Signs Manufacturing Enhancement Act

President Obama signed the Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 into law today.  This legislation is important for all US-based companies because it bolsters our national economy, our role as a producer of goods – not just a consumer, and our ability to price goods competitively in global markets.  For consumers, the new legislation offers an option to buy goods made here in the USA. 

In his press statement, the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) president and CEO, John Engler, said the legislation benefits large and small companies, adding, “This legislation will also cut the costs of doing business in the United States and boost American manufacturing exports. In fact, studies show that these provisions can increase production by $4.6 billion and support almost 90,000 jobs.”(See 

The impact on jobs and production revenue was noted in the Associated Press coverage (,  and our own industry media, Manufacturing.Net at 

Returning the economy to full strength will take time; however, this kind of incentive legislation is like giving the ball to the best player on any team:  Give them the ball, and they will run with it. 

Kudos to the bipartisan cooperation of Congress in supporting this bill.  And kudos to NAM for its outreach to federal officials.  In their outreach to Congress, they’ve been the united voice of all manufacturers and the country, not just their membership. 

-Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Maestro PR Blog: Semiconductor and Smart Grid Events Worth Noting

Innovative technologies seem to be popping up and blossoming into new, potentially lucrative markets almost overnight.   Some – like the biotech advancements – still seem to be off the consumer radar screen.  But others, like alternative energy sources, lighting, and the smart grid are morphing into a national discussion that even politicians are including in their election platforms.  (And, if they aren’t, they should be.) 

Even my 95-year-old dad has an opinion about wind energy along with, or instead of, solar-PV.  LEDs are obsoleting older forms of lighting and finding their way beyond the automotive industry to retailers’ shelves in the form of bike lights and even lighted caps. (My bike seat has LEDs embedded into the back for a bigger, brighter signal to autos, and I have a baseball cap with LEDs on the visor, making it brighter than my ‘old’ LED headlamp.)  

The problem with every new technology is keeping up with it -- not just to talk about it, but to include it in your company’s strategy for staying ahead of your competitive pack.  This is where trade shows and conferences lead the way for our industry.  By devoting a couple of days to your own education, career, and your company’s future, you can immerse yourself in a technology and leave with understanding,  knowledge, and a competitive overview of what others are doing and why.  Industry events also give us a very clear picture of what other nations are doing to build their own technology prowess. 

Competition is not just between companies, its between nations. And the relationships that we have as businesses goes far beyond any geographical border. 

With that in mind, here are three upcoming conferences for you to consider: 25th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition; 5th World Conference on PV Energy Conversion.  Or, PVSEC.  This show takes place in Valencia, Spain, on 06 – 10 September.  The world conference portion of this event includes the 36th US IEEE PV Specialists Conference, and the  20th Asia-Pacific PV Science and Engineering Conference.  You can find more information at 

Interested in the latest developments in the biomedical arena?  MEPTEC has teamed up with SMTA to host the 2010 Medical Electronics Symposium titled “Successful Strategies for the Medical Electronics Sector: Steady Growth Keeps the Momentum Moving Forward”.  You can attend this event at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus on 22 – 23 September.  Go to the MEPTEC or SMTA websites (, to learn more. 

Darnell Group, the California-based market research firm is launching its first annual Smart Grid Electronics Forum on 18- 20 October. This one takes place in San Jose.  Session topics will be clustered under issues relating to communications, control and security.  According to Darnell, attendees will include electric utility providers, regulatory bodies, government agencies, and relevant standards organizations.  The event URl is  Looking ahead to next 01 – 03 May,

Semico Research will once again host their Summit meeting for executives.  They are seeking c-level executives to share their vision and strategy for what Semico calls “the new frontier” of markets enabled by the connectivity of new devices and technologies.  You can contact Semico president, Jim Feldhan, directly at, if your company has a compelling story to share with other corporate leaders.  Obviously, you can stay on the road attending conferences nearly every day of the week. 

This is not an exhaustive list, just some that I’ve found to be compelling by their scope, audience reach, and content. There’s an old saying the race belongs to the swiftest.  Actually, today, I’d change that for marketers and say the race belongs to the smartest.   

-Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)   

Maestro PR Blog: Marketing the Apple iPhone One User at a Time

Trade shows intensify many perspectives about product marketing. One reason for this is that if you are working a booth, you spend the day talking to people. The more you talk with them, the more you understand what kind of conversation works and what doesn't.  It's an intense education in selling.  When you're not in the booth, there's time to see what other companies are doing and checking out their marketing/selling methods. 

 Now that I'm back from NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) and ESC Silicon Valley (Embedded Systems Conference), I realize that these two shows offered another lesson in marketing.  At both shows, acquaintances mentioned their new phones.  Three people told me that they had just purchased a new Blackberry and that they were very pleased with it.  One person told me that he purchased a new iPhone and that he loved it.  He then gave me a demo!  He showed me his photo album, including a Christmas party 10 years ago!   He showed me the free apps, how he schedules meetings, how he calls his wife and kids, how he checks the weather, shows, restaurants and their menus.  On and on he went.

 As I sat captive to his monologue, I realized that the Apple iPhone was more important to him than our conversation. More importantly, I realized that he was a better salesman for the iPhone than any TV commercial or news story.  Then I realized that my niece, nephew, and other friends and acquaintances who have iPhones, all spend time demonstrating how it works and what they like best about it. 

 And then I realized that not one Blackberry owner - including the ones I met at the shows - ever gave me a demo of their Blackberry.  I wonder why?

My takeawy is that Apple has forever changed the way consumers use their phones  and how they perceive them.  The phone is no longer a tool.  It's information, communication and --- a PASTIME!  The Apple iPhone is adult entertainment  at its best.  Congratulations to Apple for creating a product that their customers are selling for them, and doing it in a most effective way.

 -Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Maestro PR Blog: NAB NOTES: Devilcar’s Marketing Strategy

No, you haven’t heard of these guys – yet.  But if their budding talent can match their marketing success, they’re going to be known by every rock aficionado in the country.  

 Devilcar ( played the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall area during lunch time during NAB ( this week.  A great gig to capture since those of us exhibiting were on short breaks and living on the (bad) fast food that the LVCC is known for.  Thus, it came about as I was scouting for the shortest food line, I happened to hear the lively rock-n-roll beat of the band playing in the piece of territory claimed by HD Radio (  Forgetting lunch, I watched this group perform and promote themselves in a way that left many of the actual exhibitors in the shade.  

Marketing – Devilcar Style Devilcar entertained with a variety of songs to show their breadth of talent.  In between songs they were handing out free CDs, buttons with their signature “D”, stickers, and pocket-sized 4-color cards promoting their gig at the Beauty Bar in Las Vegas. (They’re playing live every Wednesday night in April, for those who will be in town.)  They had their own banner – with their website posted. A young woman was shooting video of them and the audience for their website and other promotion.  They were selling tee-shirts.  When they ran out of CDs, one of the singers said they’d send free CDs to anyone who gave them a business card.  A dozen hands shot out with business cards faster than any customer I’d seen at a booth.  It was like watching a quick-draw duel in an Western movie.  

Devilcar’s show was as thrilling to watch as it was to listen to their music.  These guys were energetic, upbeat, friendly, interested in their audience, and happy to tell their story to everyone in their impromptu audience.   The HD Radio rep told me that they found the group through their channel, Last.FM.  That’s what real marketing success is about. 

Marketing – NAB Style Inside the NAB halls were huge pavilions staffed by professionals and glib employees repeating canned pitches every hour on the hour.  Think of the old Comdex show or CES and you get the picture.   Some of these giants were like bee hives, with attendees buzzing in and out.  To have a small booth bordering one of these behemoths meant that you could capture some of the ‘bees’ as they made their way in, out or around the hive.   Many other large companies had glitzy exhibits, but their staffs constantly looked busy or bored or pre-occupied on their laptops. 

Many exhibitors were too busy texting to ever look up to see who was passing by.  And, in many cases, they didn’t even seem to care. This isn’t anything new.  It’s common at every show.  After a few events, we all know the badge names to look for.  But in any show, if you’re spending the money to exhibit, you should make the time to market your presence ahead of the show, at the show and after the show. If Devilcar had learned marketing from the exhibitors, they would not have given their CDs to anyone with a non-US company badge, or someone older who might not be a rocker, or someone in a suit, or someone with a company name that didn’t sound relevant, or  --  you get the picture:  Sometimes, you don’t know who your customers are.  I have the Devilcar CD, button and postcard to prove it. -Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm) 

Maestro PR Blog: NAB Notes: The Gabzebo Video Booth

The National Association of Broadcasters ( knows that their members are actors and speakers, so they tapped into that skill base to get attendee feedback at this week’s NAB show in Las Vegas. NAB hired Gabzebo (, an interactive video recording company, to host a recording ‘cube’ to gather comments about the show. 

Here’s how it works:  You enter a booth that looks like an upscale mall-photography booth.  The Gabzebo has French doors and is hard-sided all the way around.  You sit down, sign in with your name, company and email address,  read a permission statement, then digitally sign your agreement and on to the survey you go.   

The survey consists of three questions.  You select one or all to answer.  You are given a 5-second countdown, and then you have 60 seconds to answer the question.  If you had fun with that question, you could answer two other questions about the show…again in 60 seconds’ time and then leave the booth, knowing the NAB had your feedback.   

I wished I had had the time to go through the booth a couple of times. As you’ll see from my video, even PR people – who love to gab – need to practice before getting in front of a camera… 

Think of the advantages of this technology:  It’s easier to talk than to write or tap out a message.  In three minutes, you can get feedback on three questions, or six questions, or nine – all by limiting the answer time.  You can post the answers you want, and you have real commentary from real people. 

Gabzebo says their clients include every sector, from multinationals to trade shows like NAB to private events.   Like much of the really, really neat stuff at NAB, the gems weren’t in the gigantic exhibits that looked like small planets.  The diamonds were “packaged” into small spaces, like the Gabzebo. -Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm) 

Maestro PR Blog: NAB NOTES: Marketing, Hollywood Style

NAB wrapped up this week in Las Vegas. As the National Association of Broadcasters’ ( premier show, it is a smorgasbord of audio and video technologies and equipment – everything from connectors and cables to technologies that will deliver 360-degree viewing angles, 3D, and realistic images that seem to pop off the screen.  In short, everything that happens behind the screen and microphones is collected into one space.  As one happy traveler on my flight said, “NAB is the best vacation I have all year.”  No offense to the wife and twins, of course.


NAB’s serious side is to safeguard mass media as a free-speech platform and to act as our watchdog in Washington.  They keep the government in tune with your rights to information access – a lofty goal.


Geeks, gurus, stars, wannabes, marketers wearing everything from Dockers to designer suits, and the occasional retirees in electric carts built for two roamed the floor.  Every hemisphere on the globe was represented, making this an interenational one-stop shop for the broadcasting industry.


Brazil was well represented. As hosts of the World Cup and the Olympic Games, they were on the prowl for new technologies to wow the global audience that will participate in the games from their livingroom sofas.  That same reason brought in groups from Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela – because all of Latin America wants a stake in the attention of these two sports showcases. 


If you want to know what the Consumer Electronics Show will feature on the floor next year or the year after and, in some cases, the year after that… NAB is the place to be.


-Barbara  Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR  


Maestro PR Blog: E Products’ and Popular Mechanics’ Innovative Combo News Alliance

The semiconductor industry has two “holy grails”. The first is to make chips smaller, faster, smarter, cheaper.  We’ve accomplished this in aces.  We’ve done this so well that if Lamborghinis were made by semiconductor companies they’d probably be priced in dollar amounts for quantities over 1,000 units.  On the practical side, consider that your pocket-sized mobile phone has more functionality than the notebook computers of the “old days”; ie, 5 years ago.


The second “holy grail” is more abstract.  We constantly strive to remind people that the advanced technologies created by semiconductor designers actually does relate to end products used by real consumers.  Yes, all those cool features on your cell phone are enabled by the chips smaller than your fingernail and lots smarter than a fifth grader which run the software that shows the pictures that you just took with the built-in camera feature and which you just emailed to your friends around the world.


For years, we’ve listed all the products that run on semiconductor circuitry:  everything from space shuttles to UAVs to HD cameras and microwave ovens.  Somehow, telling people about the link between electronics and equipment just hasn’t seem to penetrate the mass-market psyche.  But that’s about to change.

 The Hearst Electronics Group announced last week that its flagship semiconductor industry publication, Electronic Products, has teamed up with sister publication, PopularMechanics, to provide nine channels of content for site visitors.  Now, when you go to, you’ll see content from  The URL is <>. 

The newly combined sites will offer the design-to-development-to-delivery view of technology.  Other semi industry publications do this effectively for semiconductor and technical audiences, but Popular Mechanics draws on its longtime reputation of showing how things work at a level that the mass market can understand and relate to – and get excited about. 


This is an innovative relationship that can draw consumers into our world of technology and bring technologists out into the world of real market possibilities – along with some sci-fi vision stuff, of course.    


The semiconductor industry is not ready for prime-time mass media yet, but this news venture brings us one step closer.

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR.