Prohibition in El Paso

Houston and Texas Central Railroad Map

Happy 21st Amendment Day (or the Repeal of Prohibition). 79 years ago today, Congress ratified the 21st amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment banning the manufacturing, sale or transport of alcohol in the United States.

Here’s a fun story.

In 1918, when the 18th Amendment was ratified, there was a healthy bar and saloon scene in the western railroad town of El Paso, Texas. On March 5, 1918 (when Prohibition was ratified), El Paso, along with the rest of the country, turned out the lights and closed their doors for, what seemed like, the final time ever.

The next morning, across the border in Juárez, Mexico, these bars and saloons re-opened a mere few miles away from their original location. This actually served to be a boost in the economy for both El Paso and Juárez, which was wracked with crime (still is, just cartel crime now!).

Houston and Texas Central Railroad Map
Houston and Texas Central Railroad Map. Source:
For El Paso, it suddenly meant that the railroad that went through town and stopped there as a breaking point would actually develop into a tourism line. More people making the journey from east to west, or vica versa, took the Union Pacific railroad that took a northerly route through Kansas and Colorado. The El Paso line was less-used… until Prohibition.

Tourists and travelers could take a night off on the El Paso train line and head over into Mexico to get their drink on and get back on the train to continue their journey the next day.

See? Told you it was a fun story. And a fun Texas story at that.

SEO and Personal Brand is not dead. If you innovate.

Two very close friends of mine have made blanket statements stating that SEO is Dead and that, in essence, so is personal brand.

Though I understand the sentiment expressed in both posts, it is still misinformation and very debunk-able. Micah Baldwin, who thinks SEO is dead, also happens to be my boss at Lijit. Geoff Livingston, happens to be my roommate. So I tread lightly in both cases.

Let’s go back to prohibition where, unlike today, companies were not simply told to adjust how they do things or risk a failure – they were told that they could not do their business.

Big beer companies like Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch were faced with traumatic decisions that demanded them to adjust to a changed landscape. Much like the SEO business and Personal Brand in a down economy, people can either fail or adapt.

In the case of Yuengling, they brewed near-beers (beers under the minimum alcohol by volume (ABV) levels that would be considered non-alcoholic beer today) and provided ingredients and instructions for mail-order home brews. When prohibition was repealed by the 24th Amendment, these companies who adapted were positioned best to move in and dominate the landscape.

While personal brand can certainly be a bugaboo and is certainly not something that anyone should assume will be an easy coat-tail ride, personal brand does not guarantee anything.

However, the reputation that someone with personal brand can leverage is extremely important. That ability to negotiate, converse, discuss and work on deals on an individual level is something that can position a person to rebound fairly quickly in a down economy.

As in any market, there are corrections. Maybe the personal branding “market” or the SEO industry as it is today is a little hyperinflated. A correction is certainly in order. However, that correction brings out the best in those areas and those who survive are positioned best at the end.

I will agree with Geoff that having intrinsic value to backup personal brand is extremely important for survival. Talkers are important though, as they are the ideas people. Eliminating talkers is a sure fire way to squelch innovation during a down economy – exactly the wrong thing to do.

Intrinsically, there is still a high premium on personal brand. Likewise, SEO is very important for marketing. In both cases, these things probably need a correction to procure a more pure form of business though. Those who adapt will survive. Those who do not and continue to try to live life as normal… Well, see ya later, alligator.