Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Text messaging: the next political tech tool?

Very interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor on text-messaging (SMS) technology and mobilizing political action/disseminating information. I wonder if this will be the method of choice for the next presidential campaign? Could it overtake the power of This excerpt hit me directly in the thumbs:

If television helped bring down the Berlin Wall and the fax machine helped protesters organize during the Tiananmen Square protests, cellphone text messaging, also known as SMS (short message services), may be the new political tool for activists. In tech-savvy nations like South Korea, but more so in controlled societies like China and the Middle East, text messaging has been fomenting what some experts call a "mobile democracy." Because it is unmonitored and cheap, it provides an underground channel for succinct uncensored speech.
Demonstrators use it to mobilize protests, dodge authorities, and fire off political spam. It has also enabled them to engineer collective action at unprecedented speed.

Describing more things as "dumb ass"

I love this post by Nick Wreden. He casts the dumb-ass label (which just isn't used enough in my opinion) on the book title The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. I haven't read this book, but as Wreden states, claiming you have "immutable laws" when talking about branding is at face value, absurd. To Wreden's point - and common sense - branding needs and strategy not only change by the minute, but branding requires intimate and unique knowledge of a company's market, goals and products, none of which should ever be described as immutable.

Again, I haven't read the book, but unless these 22 rules each state "start from scratch" or "each situation is unique" I'm not sold. However the book pans out, this is a good reminder that a) we have a long way to go before branding and brands are understood by marketers and b) people should use "dumb ass" more often.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Transparency, reputation and losing your job

As Fast Company ends its print publication, the 'net-and-reputation-savvy magazine is staying its course for its important online audience. The latest FC Blog is about the "purgatory" staffers feel as jobs are cut and their futures/careers are in constant question. I began reading expecting a jab on FC's current situation or a critique of the state of modern journalism.

Instead, I read an honest depiction of worry, stress and devotion to the hand that could at any time, swat the writer out the door. Though this piece brings up important points of evaluating one's job and career path, quality of work, etc., the major takeaway is a greater appreciation for the culture Fast Company created within its employee base to deliver a new angle and culture to its readers.

This post could have been a negative, piss-and-moan rant, but instead acted as a reputation-building buoy for a company that is in need of circling its readership wagons. Another example of transparency's positive power.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Press Release is Dead

Steve Rubel follows up on Sally Saville Hodge's very accurate comments on why the press release is dead with his suggestion that blogs are the new press release. Interesting stuff worth thinking through and moving (and moving clients) toward.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Chipotle chokes with Soulstice viral campaign

I don't like Chipotle. I do not eat there, and find the huge-burrito craze of old to be an artery-clogging annoyance. I was not shocked, but still put off this morning when I saw the Mexican McDonald's new viral campaign promoting a buy-one-get-one-free burrito deal.

Most people who have seen Burger King's Subservient Chicken and now-defunct Angus Diet sites will notice that Chipotle basically combined the two successful ideas to create their own hybrid copycat. Even worse, the site is just dumb.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Creativity is worthless

Creativity is worthless. I'm creative, you're creative. Big deal. Before you freak out and point me to the mission statements of every ad/pr/marketing/design shop in the world, let me put this statement into context. Creativity is worthless unless it creates something. Just as intelligence is useless without application and strength means nothing without movement, creativity is worthless without activity.

Too many companies rely on that watered-down word to represent a differentiating element of their business. The word has become a staple value and a recurring cog in skill sets everywhere. Creativity should not be used to describe a mindset unless that mindset is used to create a solution or fuel a strategy.

I propose a rewrite: creatactivity. Creatactivity is the bridge between idea and activity. To be creatactive is to identify and execute a path to results.

Creativity is just not enough anymore. Profit, benefit and growth come from the activity an idea ignites. Who cares that you're creative? People (and clients and consumers and your grandmother) only truly care about what you create. Go on, get creatactive.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The cure for phone company sap

I've always been annoyed by the "touching" phone company TV ads. Very few major phone companies stray from the sappy creative direction. Sure, with additional means of communication, phone ads have moved toward an edgier tone, but most still are encased in naive amazement that a person can pick up a strange object and immediately talk to a relative four states away.

Design*Sponge posted this commercial for Talk Talk, a British land line company. I love it. Keeps the touching tone in tact, but introduces a much more creative way to show the power of connection.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A small, small world

Seth Godin has posted twice today about small being the new big in business. I love it. I believe it. I've forwarded his posts to many of my freelance friends and small-shop buddies/buddettes.

Godin's best line, and I believe best model for a small biz: "It's no longer about access to cash. Now it's about choosing the right model and being remarkable."

Nike Free commercial connects to running reality

I'm not a fan of Nike shoes. They don't fit my feet and most of my running friends would rather run barefoot than run in Nikes. Ironically, Nike's new shoe Nike Free is a sockless running shoe. I read about this and have seen them on the road, and frankly, didn't care. I figured Nike would cash in on gimmick and marketing and in a year, the shoes would be history. That may well prove to be the case, however, Nike peaked my interest this weekend when I saw its new Run Free TV spot.

The spot features white-clad harriers running barefoot on a beach. This goes on for a little while, then parking meters, pedestrians, and other city-street fixtures pass by. The spot ends with one of the former barefoot runners stopping at city intersection, wearing a pair of Nike Free shoes.

At its strategic core, the commercial hints that when you wear Nike Free shoes, you are transplanted from your normal running route to the beauty of the beach, barefoot, in a different world. Its success comes from the fact that this image hits home to many runners on many levels.

I don't want to run barefoot on the beach. Most people know that I dislike the ocean. I also know I won't purchase a pair of Nikes. However, this morning on my run, as I navigated my boring Kansas City street route, I thought of the commercial and its application to my own often-implemented visualization techniques. Though I don't envision an oceanfront run, I do recall routes in Santa Fe that if I could, I'd drop everything to run on again. Right now. Then later. And repeat. That's just one of the many routes I remember fondly as I run through my suburban stop signs. Those routes hold sights, sounds, smells that if a marketer can recall, turn into powerful purchasing cues.

The Nike spot didn't move me any closer to purchasing a pair of Frees, but it did connect to some core desires I hold as a runner, and in turn, elevated Nike's reputation in my mind. And now, when I envision myself running through the snow in Niigata, Japan, I'll probably think of Nike. That brand association can be just as profitable as a purchase.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The story of a broken mirror

I was having a wonderful Sunday. After a certifiably mediocre weekend, my Sunday took a turn for the better. Breakfast with a good friend. A lunch date on the the Plaza. I headed home to mow the lawn (mowing is not fun for me, but the freshly-shorn rows of grass set a great mood for a Sunday evening on the porch with wine and a cigar). Then, it happened.

I knocked a mirror on my bathroom floor and it cracked into pieces. Seven years bad luck, according to my grandmother. And here's the applicability to the contents of my blog: I do everything I can to steer away from superstition, but my worldview and the stories I've been told since birth are too powerful for me not to get a little freaked out. No matter how level headed I am, the story is under my skin. I'll be 32 before I can shake the bad luck. For seven years, a small part of me will wonder if, during a stroke of bad luck, I charted this course when I busted my mirror.

I pulled out my laptop and tried to stay a safe distance from anything that might harm me and qualify as the first in a string of bad luck instances. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm enjoying All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin. I'm trying to apply it to my current work, and it's paying off. Media relations is made better by first-person storytelling. Client relationships are bettered over the phone or face to face, with an element of personal contact and discourse on non-professional topics.

If the breaking of a bathroom mirror could cause reflection grounded only in years of baseless storytelling, a keener attention to storytelling on a professional level sure couldn't hurt. Might even result in some good luck. Here's to the start of my week.

Friday, June 03, 2005

"Japanese culture remains alive in that meter length of cloth."

I often miss being in Japan. It's been a year, almost to date, that I last headed to one of my favorite places in the world. Sometimes smells, sounds and even the way morning air feels can trigger great longing for Japan's simple pleasures. When this happens, I put some Koto music on, e-mail friends and voraciously read publications that were part of my life while there.

I also miss the interesting cultural trends that permeate Japan. In an attempt to connect with some online Zen, I connected with an article on fundoshi (loincloths) in the Japan Times site that both brought me back to the strange joys of Japan and made me think about trends in undergarments. A good combo, huh? Mark my words: the loincloth with be a staple of high-end designer styles on our side of the pond soon.

Fundoshi used to be adorned only by warlords, laborers, Sumo wrestlers and the elderly. Now, girlfriends are decorating their boyfriends nether regions with the cloth, women are buying them as gifts, corporate salarymen are donning them as power underwear. Even girls are adding fundoshi to their wardrobes. The dang things are moving out of mom and pop shops to the glitz and glamour of Tokyo's Ginza district - known for high-end fashion. Sales are up from 80 a month to 800!

Where am I going with this? Yes, there's a practical point that falls under the marketing umbrella - or cloth. As I continue to read All Marketers Are Liars, I can't help but identify products and services that succeed because of their stories. Marketing that speaks to an audience's worldview. The reintroduction and repopularization of the loincloth in Japan is due in a large part to the story behind it and its ingrained position in a highly homogeneous society's worldview.

Read the headline quote again! "Japanese culture remains alive in that meter length of cloth." That's a lot of responsibility for underwear.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

All the President's Men and my intro to journalism

By typing the title of this blog, I've joined thousands of bloggers across the world that have dedicated a post to W. Mark Felt. Why should I write about Deep Throat and Watergate? Because it was part of my first intro into journalism and I believe, the story of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein formed the way I viewed my journalistic endeavors.

Actually, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford molded my views of journalism with their performance of Woodward and Bernstein in All the President's Men, as I took the helm as editor of The Baker Orange.

Through strategic b.s.-ing and a stroke of luck, I was chosen to be the editor of the now six-time winner of the top weekly college paper in Kansas. I'd never edited an article in my life. I'd only written columns for the local city paper. And some random features. I had to get my crap together quick. I moved to an apartment on campus and spent my summer in the newsroom, teaching myself Quark Express, learning the ins and outs of AP Style and immersing myself in the journalistic craft. I was bored one day and found a VHS copy of All the President's Men in the newsroom.

During my editorship, I chose to protect the anonymity of sources in a story involving campus date rape. I watched All the President's Men frequently during that period, not for inspiration, but because I believed in the responsibility of the media to shine lights in shadows and report the truth. The movie also provided me with a small element of support.

I've never learned more in my life, nor have I been prouder of anything I've ever done than during my work to uncover a string of campus sexual assaults and a culture of reaction. And though my story didn't grow to Watergate magnitude, the story grew, and it affected the campus, the paper and my views of the media's role in society.

I ordered All the President's Men from tonight and look forward to watching it again, in a new light, with a name for Deep Throat in my mind and a few years of experiences under my belt since the last screening.