Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's all for the consumer

Yesterday, a co-worker was fancying a new pair of sandals he bought online > "it was such a good deal, how could I pass it up?" The pair was a half size smaller than what he normally wears so he was apprehensive about being 100% sure of his purchase. He paced back and forth, admiring them from time to time and thinking...what to do? The "possibility to return" looming over his decision: "It's so hard to decide," he said. I tried to comfort him with the consumer community he's actively a part of: "It's not easy being a consumer."

And did you know?: Borders will accept returned magazines. Yes, really. "So, I can go home and read this magazine and then return it when I'm done?" The sales associate confirmed it was possible if the magazine was in the exact same condition that I bought it in. At home, after flipping through the magazine, I found it hard to fully enjoy the content because the "possibility to return" was looming over my head. I could get my money back! This magazine could be free! But the convenience factor chimed in: returning it takes time. Yeah, but you could get your money back!

Now, if Borders did the same type of branding spots as Sony did there would be no question. The product would be worth my money and even if it mal-functioned, and I had to inconvenience myself to return it, I wouldn't mind. Any interaction with such an awesome brand would be enjoyed. Over at Only Dead Fish, watch the teaser first and then enjoy Sony's latest addition to the Like.No.Other branding campaign.

And taking the idea of like no other into the plannersphere is Planning for Good (the link will take you to their Facebook page). The latest news from them is a listing of all the new PFG City Groups, Leaders & Participants:
  • 31 city groups globally:

    3 groups in Asia/Oceania
    21 groups in North America
    7 groups in Europe
So start your day with a little consumer love in mind > it's not easy being them. When it comes to branding, strive to be like no other. And Planners, when it's our job to differentiate each brand by identifying a consumer need, each project should be thought of as planning for good. Because it's all for the consumer. Plan on!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

calvin & hobbes

These two are a riot. Each album by Bill Watterson offers up new parodies on everyday life. Me gusta mucho.

And alas, Calvin has something to say about TV advertising:

Look at these TV commercials. Each one is a jumble of lightning quick, unrelated images and film techniques.

It duplicates the effect of rapidly flipping through channels. It's a barrage of non-linear free association.

Hobbes: I guess they're admitting that a 15-second commercial exceeds the American attention span by a good 14 seconds.

Huh? Are you still talking about that?

I've always thought of TV commercials as little movies. Each one setting up a problem for a hero character/product to over come and all the while, vying for our attention with flashy photography and images. Some commercials shouldn't be missed, but I have to agree with Hobbes's wisdom: Americans don't hang out long enough unless there's a reason to. Hmmm, a second. So significant and yet so precious and completely innocent.

Friday, October 26, 2007

i've got a viral

Today was my first "ah ha! Yeah! I gotta spread that" experience. It was with Greenormal, John Grant's (Brand Tarot) new project.

This is what I spread:

I put it on my Facebook and Myspace. Dothegreenthing has a bunch of catchy icons, tips and tools. It's merits rely on two principles: Easy & Creative.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

change the way you see celebrity

In a period where the latest news with Britney Spears and her child custody problems is aired alongside the morning traffic report, Iconoclasts presents a nice alternative context for celebrities.
  • Join twelve of the world's leading visionaries as they share surprising revelations and insights into their creative process and unyielding quest for excellence. Take a journey inside the lives of these remarkable individuals through the eyes of their fellow iconoclasts and forever change the way you see celebrity.
This relatively new series (in its 3rd season) from the Sundance Channel is garnering wonderful brand affiliation too: I was reminded of the series while flipping through Wired Magazine. And Grey Goose Entertainment (yes, the Vodka brand) is behind the show in the spirit of artistry and innovation. It will be a neat counterpoint to Star, Ok, Life&Style, InTouch, UsWeekly that compete for the majority of our attentions while in the checkout line.

Some celebrity pairings that have been celebrated are: Howard Schultz (Starbucks) & Norman Lear (All in the Family); Mike Myers (Austin Powers) & Deepak Chopra (mind-body specialist); Robert Redford & Paul Newman; Sean Penn & Jon Krakauer; etc.

The show will remind us that celebrities are people too; some extraordinary people with visions and goals, who have fallen into an extremely commercial and often times soulless industry. Good people are all around; Sundance is showcasing them and bringing them into our homes. Cool.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Likemind is here to stay

Conversations are happening everywhere; New ones are being inspired. Our questions are getting better. Our people are getting smarter.

Likemind is a present-day practice of these exercises. Noah and Piers have a mission: to inspire conversations worldwide. Just when you think it's working, you discover a pocket of the world where people ask: "what's Likemind?"

Just yesterday, I happened upon Fresh Meet via Gareth's blog Brand New (thanks for the find!). Hall & Partners, a research firm mostly fueled by plannerly types, has been inspired to create its own public, social-networking, inspire-new-thinking gathering. Gareth says it's going to be an evening discussion thing, which is a nice ying to meet the Likemind morning yang. Something for everybody.

I can't tout enough for gatherings of these sorts. Yes, it takes energy and an interest to get yourself there. Yes, you get out of it what you put into it. And if you haven't figured it out - no, it will not be boring.

Think of the conferences you pay for: Account Planning, PSFK, Influx Insights, TED, etc. These are (sometimes) 10x what a Likemind is, but they only come once a year. For those of us interested in more frequent outside-stimulation and networking in general, get yourself to the next Likemind por favor. If not for you, for the sake of conversation and the proliferation of ideas. Most likely, you will get something out of it too.
(intentionally, this post has a lot of links/threads to begin, just an example of a online-conversation that's taking place right here)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

breaking the chains on advertising

Advertising v. marketing v. branding: what's the big idea here? (pun intended)

In a recent post over at Adliterate, Richard develops his idea that branding is getting crammed into advertising. Like, if we just clump the two together, then one equals the other. It's something I've never thought about, but I really like his thinking.

BIG BRAND ideas, he says, are the driving philosophy of the business rather than just a strategy for marketing communications; or short lived creative; or even one-dimensional advertising ideas that just have tactical responses.
  • The desire to communicate the entire brand experience can compromise advertising's ambition to sell.
FREE Advertising! Let it be as ambitious as it can be when attached to a specific business problem. When sales are low (easy example), let advertising focus on increasing them.
  • Advertising is always sharper when it is attached to a specific business problem rather than wafting around conjuring up beautiful brand worlds.
A problem ad agencies are facing these days in the new (brand) world is that of branding being stymied by traditional media: 15, 30 or even 60 seconds is not a lot of time to communicate a brand, and if you're dealing with a banner ad or other digital tactic, it's even less time. So why are we forcing branding into the small confines of advertising? If it's so hard, let's look closely on why it's so hard: maybe Richard has hit on it -- because advertising is just not meant to be the (one and only) branding tool.

It's something to think about. It's here that planners can play the biggest role. For now, let's free up advertising to do what it needs to do: stay close to the product; involve the consumer and his/her attention; and when it comes to real engagement, then (and only then) pull out the branding guns (if the client has the budget).

Plan on.

Friday, October 19, 2007

on the tail of Blog Action Day

Ok, so I missed Blog Action Day, but I'm dedicating this post in its wake.

The Pixel is Mightier Than the Sword over at Get Shouty, took me to threeminds@Organic, which is where i saw this:

and it made me think of when Richard Wolffe of Newsweek asked Bush for his definition of torture:
  • "QUESTION: The word torture, what's your definition?

    "BUSH: That's defined in U.S. law, and we don't torture.

    "QUESTION: Can you give me your version of it, sir?

    "BUSH: No. Whatever the law says."

[via Cliff Schecter]

The issue of Blog Action Day in its inaugural year was the environment (whose issue isn't the environment right now?). My Tail issue is that of Bush's idiocy and the issue of Torture. Errrr! I am pained to be recognized as an American in a country that condones torture as a form of interrogation. The U.S. has a prominent place in interested minds worldwide. Bush needs to get his ducks in a row on this one. The above, wonderful piece for Amnesty International could certainly be applied to Mr. B and his illegitimate definition of "security" for this leading country. Peace.

For Blog's Sake

I was over at Misentropy just now, reading what blogging does to planners. I think it should more accurately be titled: what blogging does FOR planners. Here are some of his highlights:
  • helps us take notes
  • mimics the process of memory formation
  • helps us all grow big but remain small: i.e. we can have a multitude of conversations from one small place online, spreading our brand and our ideas everywhere but remaining in one place at the same time.
He leaves some more reasons unexplored: the 'Sandbox Universe,' the 'Mesh Memory' system, and the 'Free Lunch Cafe'. Send him a note over there if you want to know more, and let me know when you do so I can hop over and read it too. :)

I think blogging is great. I think growing, exploring, enthusiastic planners should be encouraged to blog: to share and develop their ideas. It's also very encouraging to read a blog and be inspired to push an idea further. A blog is a great digital example of how hard people work and how much time they devote to the important things in life (their life). A blog needs attention, it needs to be cultivated, organized and shared.

These are some planning/idea/creative blogs that get top honors for their devoted author and audience participation.
And if you're a TED lover, hop over to Keeping Track to see a list of the 150 posts so far.
Blog on!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

branding at its best

two spots to note for awesome branding:

Dove Onslaught

and Axe Naughty to Nice

Girl Branding and Boy Branding aren't categories yet but I think if they existed, these spots would win awards in each for their brilliance.

convenience, food tech, control and opportunity

The consumption of food is a cultural conundrum. Us Americans just can't figure it all out: diet, convenience, health, family-time, 6 small meals, 3 large ones, no breakfast, Kellogg's flakes for breakfast-lunch-and dinner, etc.
How does one make sense of it all? A recent article in Dallas News, has called it out: Convenience.
  • Restaurants are in a bid to replace Mom as the family's primary chef.
  • Today, consumers are eating more but cooking less. (ouch)
For some examples, look at California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Friday's, Wolfgang Puck and Marie Calendars. More from the article:
  • Food technology has blurred the line between ready-to-eat food from a restaurant and ready-to-heat food from a grocer.
  • Sales of frozen entrees are growing slowly > the challenge has set in.
  • "Companies will be tempted to offer fresh - not frozen - prepared meals. And that will put the competition between grocery and restaurant take-out on more equal footing."
There is something to be said for being the brand on the shelf when the consumer says, I want convenience.
  • "It all goes to the Starbucks strategy of giving the consumer 360-degree exposure to your brand."
Personally, I don't think restaurant take-out can viably compete with ready-to-heat frozen food. Both sound as in-convenient if I'm in a lazy mood. I propose we combine a delivery service with customer-service for a solution. These vehicles could be a chance to exhibit more sides of a brand personality: say an SUV with TGI Friday's comes to your door and a hybrid from California Pizza Kitchen pulls up at the neighbor's. I know some consumers would cringe to hear about advertising creeping into another area of their life but there already is advertising on the road - Billboards.

Delivery = Convenience. Brand that pulls through with the solution = Awesome. Let the races begin. Good lucK!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

NYC's new tourism campaign

this is what it was like...

My Planner 10

inspired by Gretchen over at The Happiness Project, The Ten (absolutely hilarious), and the fact that I'm starting a new gig - these are My Planner Ten:
  1. be creative
  2. focus
  3. enjoy the process
  4. keep it simple
  5. listen
  6. beware of over-thinking
  7. don't be on auto-pilot
  8. show rather than tell
  9. own it
  10. continue learning

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bluetooth: The Borg

A friend emailed the other day: I want a robot.

My first question was: Do you use the voice activation option on your phone or in your car? This was the only robot-esque behavior that came to my mind. I completely forgot about Bluetooth! (This guy to the left looks part-robot, no?)

It seems a design that all futurama enthusiasts and trekkies would love. I can see a fashion show now that molds metal-technology with livable, breathable nowadays comfort: here we have the latest cyborg fashion, technology that fits to your head, etc. Are we really watching two worlds come together? Is there a slow transition happening that some people are a part of and others are oblivious to? ARE WE BECOMING ROBOTS? or rather, ARE WE BUYING INTO ROBOT LIFESTYLES?

Or is technology becoming much "more convenient"? Is convenience really to blame (?) for these tech animals? Telecom is already a category, but have we ever considered one for robots?

Or maybe it's the Robot-Fashion one, like this guy: found via Stumbleupon in hemmy.net's Gadget category.

I need to know more about the positioning strategy of BlueTooth, but currently, I think they are Borg-like: just waiting to assimilate more people.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

consumer responsibility

wanted to share a response I gave at Now in Colour. Andy talks about the choice consumers have to pay what they want for the new Radiohead album and asks: if you decide to be tight, are you cheating the musicians, or yourself?

  • Great post! I love that I don't have an answer. I think this topic comes at a good time in the history of consumer-honesty (with themselves). It's sort of like Planning for Good on Facebook (more here) or All Day Buffet. People want to do the right thing; they'd like to imagine they have good intentions; at the end of the day, they want to be happy and feel good.
  • Planning has a huge role to play here (I think). If we can properly identify what consumers' needs really are, then we're one step closer to making them feel good and happy about themselves and their purchases.
  • When I saw the Radiohead news a while back, I thought Cool! But I think I thought cool, only because it's so unique. Go Radiohead! If we give consumers the responsibility to think for themselves before they're ready to, then we might be opening a huge can of worms. People love to place blame and find fault (is it really human nature?) and this kind of free-for-all sounds like it might have loopholes. Who knows. I don't.
  • Anyway, still don't have an answer. I really liked your thinking process. So keep it up!

consumer reaction time

I was having a G-chat (Gmail) with a family member: Messages are flying back and forth. He's typing, I'm typing, a date & time are entered for reference, etc. etc.

This made me think about a "consumer reaction time" section for briefs. If you think about media and markets, there are different times allotted for messages to attract, sink in and motivate. Not only that, but we all live in different communities, each with its own communication intensity level. New York would be a 10 on this scale, Langlois, Oregon (where?) would be a 1.

Media Planners/Connections Planners/Engagement Planners, whathaveyou, are slowly etching their importance in regards to this communications environment. Time is of the utmost importance in this (American) culture. Time is probably really important to Yugoslavians too, but America exacerbates 24/7 to an exciting (and overwhelming) degree. To stay on the positive side of things, we all want to be happy and give our attention to the things that will give us the most pleasure. Our culture has groomed us to look for the things (all-encompassing term) that will give us gratification quickly, hence the term instant gratification.

G-chat is the perfect example of instant gratification; along with text-messaging, these two environments can quickly make us happy: just like Google or TiVo or redeemable in-store coupons (what's going on here these days?).

Thinking about a consumer-reaction time means we've taken their messaging environment into consideration. And it makes us a bit smarter. I don't know if this has any merit, just an idea I'm hashing out. Time is precious to all of us. Advertising competes for our attention. Attention takes time. I think it's about time (damn play on words) that we consider "reaction time" in our strategizing. Anybody with me?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

kid's advertising: Kandoo

For just $4.69 you can make wiping FuN! Kandoo wipes are flushable and smell like melon; Perfect for the kids!

Was watching the Biggest Loser (more on this later) and a surprising amount of kids' commercials were being aired. (based on audience demographics/psychographics...think about it; kind of interesting to think that the audience watching the biggest loser are parents, and not just parents, they are obese parents: what does that say between the lines?) Kandoo has a cute, playful, brand character that is geared to intrigue and excite children.

[Kandoo makes you think of Kangaroo, but the character is more of a frog creature than anything. I think some creatives were getting high or were tripping on acid; or maybe it was one of those genius word agencies that label themselves Verbal Identity.]

Kandoo is a brand available to help kids through their stage of potty training. On the website, you can click the character to hear songs to help kids master the toilet. And actually, now that I think about it, kids these days in their potty training stage ARE online, clicking around, going to websites, etc. I met a 5 year old who has her own laptop for crying outloud; so suppose this 5 year old is having problems in the lavatory > Presto, she's got a fun brand to access in her own time to help her in a fun way. Wow!

Kandoo maybe for You!

creative inspiration & clues

was researching the new JCPenney Ad with (I believe) Feist as soundtrack vocals, and stumbled across Boards > "the creative edge in commercial production."
  • Boards is a brand focused on bringing the international commercial production industry community together for dialogue, debate and discussion about the global business of commercial production.
kind of cool.

next steps in customer-service

In a USA Today story this morning, it's reported that Concierges go the extra mile in the Internet age:
  • High-end brands are upgrading concierge operations and training staffs to improve their neighborhood knowledge. And other brands are looking for better ways to share information with guests...
I think it's a great way for the consumer review popularity online to mix with a Let's Go/Lonely Planet DIY feel, moving the authenticity of these reviews to a brand experience.
  • Hotels must not only figure how to get local knowledge in the hands of employees and train them to deliver it, but also how to provide local knowledge that is relevant to guests' needs. (Marriott)
  • Guests are looking for whatever it is that makes Detroit Detroit. There's a desire to say, I caught a slice of that. - Michelle Lapierre, Marriott's senior director of customer relationship marketing. COOL!
This could be a push for updating the hiring process when looking for hotel employees. Hire the people who are passionate about their city and enhancing tourists' stays. See the sites! Get out: go to this restaurant, see this offroad place, etc.

Some of the more notable initiatives are:
  • Courtyard by Marriott later this year will roll out its first "Go Board," a flat panel HDTV with local information, including restaurant recommendations, for guests.
  • At Loews, the new "In The Know" program calls on concierges each week to come up with a list of local tips.
  • Marriott's extended-stay brand, TownePlace Suites, plans to put an 8 by 8 feet wide map marked with restaurants and local places of interest on the lobby walls of all 128 hotels.
  • Marriott (clearly the leader in this trend) will also give guests pocket guides and two-sided cards with local information.
  • Hyatt will launch a website that lets members chat with concierges and other travelers.
I'm not sure if recommendations will be tainted with marketing sway...but I'm hoping for a more "consumer review" / authentic approach to the information provided. It could be real easy for money hungry, less-educated advertisers to see this as a marketing jackpot calling their name. Let's hope it stays more honest and real. :)