Frost's passing a loss for Chicago tech

November 21, 2005

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

The Chicago tech community lost an amazing resource last week with the sudden passing of Geoffrey Frost, Motorola executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

The family hasn't disclosed the cause of death, and when he was alive, Frost himself refused to reveal his age.

Frost was the marketing visionary who helped Motorola CEO Ed Zander turn the once stodgy engineering company into a tech marketing powerhouse.

If the RAZR phone is the product most emblematic of Motorola's renaissance, Frost was the cerebral and intuitive brand stylist whose hand guided the revitalization of the public face of Motorola.

Frost joined Motorola in 1999 following a highly successful tour at Nike. He reinvigorated the Motorola brand, making the batwing logo cool again. Frost's enthusiasm and energy resounded across the Motorola product line and across the globe. Frost understood success for Motorola was as much about brand image and iconic product design as "best in class" product engineering. Frost brought much needed balance to Motorola's engineering-dominated culture.

Frost spoke recently to a packed house at a Business Marketing Association luncheon. He reminded the audience, "You can't simply declare your brand cool. It is a title that others bestow upon you." He talked about the importance of taking risks, and not walking away from controversy. He understood trends and popular culture. He knew that "cell phones are the new running shoes." His ads and product promotions for Motorola were bold, creative and imaginative.

While Frost reinvigorated Motorola's brand, making it powerful again, he was also a highly analytical technology marketer who never lost sight of Motorola's roots. Frost called the 77-year-old Motorola "the world's first high-tech startup."

Frost was as comfortable talking about the genius of Motorola founder Paul Galvin as he was the latest pop star. Frost seemed to glow with energy when he described Galvin's "bet-the-company idea of miniaturizing a radio to fit in the dashboard of a car."

Frost also was a Chicago tech revolutionary. His vision and his insight will be deeply missed.

Technology leadership award

Accenture, Microsoft and the IT Resource Center are teaming up to honor technology excellence in Chicago's nonprofit community. Today, IT Resource Center Executive Director Deborah Strauss announces creation of the IT Resource Center Technology Leadership Award.

"Nonprofits are expected to be accountable for the dollars they receive," says Strauss, who worries spending often lags on tech infrastructure that would support accountability. "We want to recognize organizations who think through the role of technology in furthering their mission."

Chicago area nonprofits that are leading the way in the application of technology are eligible for the award. Applications will be taken online until Dec. 20 at www.ITresourcecenter.org/tla. The award winner and the runner up will receive grants of cash, software and services totaling more than $15,000 and $10,000 respectively, according to Strauss. The winners will be feted at the IT Resource Center's annual bash in March 2006.

Judging the nonprofit's nominations is an all star panel of five Chicago notables: Allstate CIO Cathy Brune; Chicago Board of Trade CIO Bill Farrow; United Way CEO Janet Froetscher; Exelon CIO Dan Hill, and Accenture CIO Frank Modruson.

"We want to encourage and recognize technology leadership in the nonprofit community through this award," said Dean Teglia, managing director of Accenture's Chicago office, which put up the cash to fund the award.

Over 300 local nonprofit organizations benefit from Chicago's IT Resource Center, which provides technology training and consulting for local organizations. The center was founded in 1984 with major support from the Chicago Community Trust.

Don't forget the Boilermakers

The Association of University Research Parks recognized Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Ind., for Excellence in Technology Transfer. There are 19 start-ups in residence at the park.

Purdue spokeswoman Jeanine Phipps wants to strengthen the connection with Chicago.

"You've got to look at the triangle of Purdue, the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign and Chicago as another emerging biotech triangle," says Phipps. "West Lafayette is just a two-hour drive from the Loop."

Plus the University has a satellite incubator in Merrillville.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.

 

 

 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners