There are so many valuable business and personal lessons to learn from this story, regardless of your opinion of Al Gore ("Al Gore's $100 Million Makeover," July/August). But I do not see in any way that he has "engineered" a brand makeover. His makeover is a by-product of his obsession with environmental causes. He has been rallying behind these causes most of his life. It just so happens that when he left the political arena, people started to pay attention to his message, were inspired by his cause, and rallied behind him. You don't "engineer" that kind of branding.
It always brings a smile to my face (and hope for mankind) when I read about an "against all odds" comeback like Gore's. I really hope that he does not return to politics. It's a brutal business. Many business leaders are picking up the mantle and achieving greater success in driving important social, environmental, and economic programs.
Johannesburg, South Africa
I find it interesting that Gore—environmental and technological visionary that he is—requires a house in Virginia, a house in Tennessee, and a condo in California. Doesn't technology and the Internet allow us to work from anywhere at any time? No worries, Al. It's all about you, baby.
I often wonder if Gore genuinely has vision or whether he is simply privileged enough to run with the visionary crowd and sponsor their ambitious agendas and businesses. Frankly, it doesn't matter. Possessing and recognizing genius are one and the same when it comes to providing leadership.
This recent issue regarding Gore came very close to being tossed in the wastebasket.... Thankfully, I read the article. It was not only compelling and well written, but also provided solid content.
Not So Fast Now ...
The notion that the St. Louis area—which has produced countless icons such as Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, T.S. Eliot, Sheryl Crow, and Yogi Berra, among others—is choking on Midwestern blandness ("Fast Cities 2007," July/August) is belied by so much evidence to the contrary that we issue a challenge: We invite your editors and hipsters of all varieties to take a firsthand look at this city. If they're not impressed by our cultural ferment—and by the quality and profusion of the arts and the way they permeate life in this city—we'll eat a baloney sandwich for them, on white bread, of course, with mayonnaise. Then maybe we'll wash it down with a nice glass of milk and some apple pie with vanilla ice cream. While they're here, we hope they'll note our economic turnaround, including a nationally lauded $4 billion—plus center-city revitalization. Be brave. Dare to experience at close range what you've been flying over. We promise that confronting outworn stereotypes will be weird and wonderful.
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Artistic director, playwright, director
That Uppity Theatre Co.
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
In "Fast Cities 2007," you say that Mayor Rocky Anderson is "radically redesigning Salt Lake City's downtown [for] more green space and the return of the City Creek." The mayor is merely benefiting from a plan designed, funded, and actioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church is funding the redevelopment of the city center, all through private funding—no public money, no tithing from church members.
Salt Lake City, Utah
What About Dad?
It's incredible that two educated women debating the child-care issue (Open Debate, July/August) had the gall to ignore the role of men in helping resolve that issue.
It's long past time to recognize that the care of young children should be a shared male-female responsibility.
Fremont, New Hampshire
I know design is a hot topic these days. After all, I am a brand consultant and a designer. But I am also a consumer. For months now, I have been meaning to write Mario Tricoci Salons (owned by Elizabeth Arden) to complain about its packaging because it doesn't work (Sketch Pad, July/August). Good design should solve problems, not just decorate. I loved the comment, "We explored using different colors for different items, but decided to keep it consistent." Why? Have you ever been in the shower with wet hair and tried to tell which bottle is the shampoo and which is the conditioner? The subtle color/pattern difference doesn't work there. The type size that tells which is which is too small. I believe in "minimal and confident," but in the end, this is just decoration.
Lake Forest, Illinois
Congratulations to the three companies you profiled for recognizing the email problem ("Email Is Dead ...," July/August). However, I believe Capital One is the only company of those three that's on the right track when confronting the problem of declining message quality. The move to a different technology would be missing the point altogether. The only real solution is for workers to learn (or relearn) such practices as time management, advanced writing skills, and critical thinking.
Editors' note: We received a phenomenal response to our story on bottled water ("Message in a Bottle," July/August). Many readers took it as inspiration for action, including one who found ways to reduce waste at refillnotlandfill.org. Here's a sampling of reader comments.
Fast Company's comprehensive, well-researched, and balanced story inspired me to persuade my husband, four stepkids, and more than a dozen friends to quit purchasing bottled water. In order to convince others that they should do the same and help spread the knowledge in your story, I also started a Facebook group, Pledge to Ban Buying Bottled Water, which I hope your readers will consider joining on facebook.com.
Kansas City, Missouri
Your article brings to light many issues about which few people know. Very well done!
William M. Bowers III
Crown Water Treatment Plant
Tap water free? Not exactly. Not only do utilities charge for tap water, that charge is only a fraction of its true cost. Federal and state governments spend millions to protect sources of our tap water—costs we bear through taxes and deficit spending. What's more, they should probably be spending millions more, especially to protect the aquifers that supply half the drinking water in this country. Perhaps if people were asked to pay the true cost of tap water, they would value it more. Currently, we treat it the same way we price it: cheaply.
The only place you're going to get cold, healthy water when you're exercising is a store. Yeah, I'll pay $1.50 for that when I'm cycling the length and breadth of the state I live in. Particularly when the water in my bottle is hot. And I am, too. I'm worth it.
Ask a dentist about bottled water. They're doing bang-up business because of all the kids who aren't getting fluoride. Luckily, some bottled-water companies are coming out with fluoridated versions, but not enough. It's amazing how many suckers there are—"This water is so much better than that water." What a crock.
In "Email Is Dead ..." (July/August), Akonix is a security and compliance solution that Reuters recommends to its customers; it is not built into Reuters messaging.
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A version of this article appeared in the October 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.