Friday, September 30, 2005

Japanese Anti-Smoking Campaign is Hot

Adrants alerted me of a new Japanese campaign, which extols the virtues of being careful with cigarettes. Cigarette spatial awareness, they should call it. However you say it, the campaign is partially humorous in its detail, but extremely relevant in its application to the mass-appeal of smoking in Japan. While in Japan, I was always amazed by the dichotomy of Japanese smokers' anywhere-and-everywhere-all-the-time attitudes and their awareness of disposing butts properly (even in personal disposal containers!).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How messages spread

Caught up on Seth Godin's blog this morning and found a recent post that is a great follow up to my last post on word of mouth.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Word of mouth as a reality, not a strategy

Nick Wreden of Fusion Brand made a debatable statement on the state of word of mouth by writing that the often-used marketing buzzword "underscores the fact that today it is customers, not companies, who define brands." Here's the quote in context:

"I still see advertising agency sites talking about “positioning.” If you understand nothing else, understand this: “positioning” is dead. In fact, word-of-mouth has been one of the nails in the coffin of the 30-year-old theory, first developed in a world when advertising on one of three channels could establish a brand. Today, word-of-mouth underscores the fact that today it is customers, not companies, who define brands. This definition is not based on corporate-driven “positioning,” or even by advertising, but rather by the emotional, experiential and economic value that brands deliver. "

I believe the idea that customers define brands doesn't mean companies - or even marketers - should cancel all strategic brainstorms, but should instead think of WOM as a marketplace reality rather than a strategy-driven outcome. Instead of spending time developing marketing tactics to ignite WOM, companies should ensure the brand's story, product, service and reputation are in tact and worth talking about.

Through my lens, Wreden's idea doesn't mean brand reputation and the market conversation that surrounds it are out of the company's hands. The idea rightly shifts attention away from the company and toward the consumer.

At the least, Wreden's got me thinking of consumer-defined brands. As I pull examples from the files in my mind, those consumer-defined brands are highly successful and inherently innovative.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Staying on massage

I traded messaging for massage over lunch today. Stress had resided in my shoulders and neck for too many weeks without relief and I needed a little respite. Today was the first time I've ever had a real, paid for massage, but as I walked out of Jinsei Center for Integrative Health and headed back to the office, I knew the 25 bucks I'd spent on a 20 minute massage, herbal tonic and tip for a wonderful masseuse was going to be returned ten fold in relaxation.

I can already move my neck in distances I wouldn't have thought to go. My arms are hanging about two inches lower. Plus, the tonic is pretty good, though we'll see if its promised "elation" and "creativity" powers pan out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I love to be inspired. That flash of cold that makes my thoughts clear and my creativity spike. I had a very inspiring moment yesterday, as I spent a day wandering around Chicago. I was in the city for business and stayed for a day of pleasure.

I immediately stopped by the Art Institute of Chicago for the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre exhibit. I'd have visited the museum regardless of Toulouse-Lautrec, as it holds some of my favorites by Rothko, O'Keefe and Pollock, as well as a great Japanese selection in the Asian Art collection.

If seeing Montmartre interpreted by Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas wasn't inspiring enough, I was amazed at the power of standing inches away from famous paintings that I'd previously viewed in art books or through plastic frames on my college dorm walls. Amazing.

To be that close to such integral parts of art history - and in many cases, famous interpretations of history period - was as inspiring as standing feet away from a concert stage. The rush of inspiration, storytelling, insight and appreciation was proof to me that relying on one medium or neglecting to find inspiration and creativity in multiple places is a loss.

I left the museum wanting to create. I left with all of my senses heightened. I got to thinking about what makes something inspiring and how divining inspiration applies to marketing. Marketers rely too often on traditional paths of delivering our message. We glean "inspiration" from the same people, information or trends. If that's not bad enough, we expect our audiences - from reporters to consumers - to be satisfied and inspired by the same means of communication.

I realized that Toulouse-Lautrec is famous not only because he is a talented artist, but because he found a new way to use his talents to tell a story for a specific audience. He is the father of the modern concert poster. Through sketching the Moulin Rouge, for instance, he found a new way to advertise the dance hall. Instead of printing "Debauchery starts at 10 p.m." he provided an emotional visual. By capturing and cataloging the inhabitants, dancers, working class and night life in Montmartre, he told a story in his own way - a way that was both practical to the subject and relevant to the audience.

It's an example of the larger reason why things work and work well: someone found a different way of doing something. Regardless of the scale or subject, this philosophy works in any situation. For those in the business of telling stories - through paint or press releases - our stories can't inspire until we find a new way of telling them.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Defining labor

This afternoon, while enjoying my Monday off on the porch of a coffee shop, I overheard a conversation that changed my definition of labor. I'd spent this Labor Day Weekend doing soul-labor: painting, writing, playing fetch with my dog. These are all good things, however these things seem to be the first casualties of the work week. I was proud of the way I spent my reward for working through a busy summer. Then the conversation started.

I'd originally noticed one of the two men while ordering. He was the catalog model for wealth. Everything from his shoes to his triple latte. The second man looked as though luck had beaten him, spit on him and repeated. Then, I watched both men shake hands, sit down together and begin talking. The conversation started out with small talk about the weekend and just as I was trying to figure out how these polar opposites knew each other, I learned that they'd both just been at the same meeting for the same problem.

I drifted away from their conversation and wondered what those meetings are like. I was brought back to the porch when the wealthier man stated that "this is the hardest and most important work I do." He talked about how planning for retirement at work is much different than planning for a good life without the worries and troubles addiction brings. He mentored the other man and encouraged him.

I continued to listen, not only because I was nosey, but because I was lucky to overhear such an inspirational and important exchange. They both talked about how hard it is, just getting through the week. Much harder than I could ever know. They talked about stress and disappointment and God and I realized I stress about and am disappointed by all the wrong things. And I realized these two men, whose first impressions were nowhere near reality, knew more about faith than I ever could. I was humbled. Flattened to the point of hope.

Their conversation (at least my eavesdropping) ended when triple-latte man offered his friend a ride home.

I couldn't have asked for better labor for my soul on a Monday off. And overhearing these two men speak - bookended by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - I am reminded how much true work is done nowhere near a desk.