Friday, March 31, 2006

Recommendations for the weekend

Seriously. I have no idea where my week went - actually, i have a very good idea - and want it back. Luckily, the weekend is here. I've been sparse with my blogging and have little time to draft profound prose right, I'll give some recommendations for your weekend.

For your ears:
Centro Matic - Fort Recovery
Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Gun
Jenny Lewis - Rabbit Fur Coat: listen to Handle with Care, featuring, M. Ward, Ben Gibbard and Conor Oberst (bright eyes). I had this song on repeat so freakin' often this week. I'd contest my generation hasn't seen such a lineup on one song since "We are the World." And I think we've improved.

For your eyes:
Check out this week's installment of Death Cab for Cutie's "Directions" video series. It's good - as they all have been.
United Visual Artists - this is beautiful. Check out the work they did for one of my favorite bands, Massive Attack.

For your wallet:
This weekend will feature the first mow of spring at my humble abode. I'm taking bids from interested laborers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Real creativity

Ernie Mosteller's post on his Tangelo Ideas blog was a great way to start my day. He refers to this post by Seth Godin. The overall message (as well as the examples Ernie and Seth provide) are transferable to any industry/job/workplace/relationship, "creative" or "not."

Break the rules, don't bend them. Love it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Smaaaart kids

I had the most enlightening pizza dinner in a long time. On Friday night, outside of Harvard Square in Boston. Cambridge 1. The pizza was great. The conversation and company were even better. I met my friend Tango – known this guy since junior high – for a tour of the mensa section of Boston. Tango is smarter than I. Much. His resume is impressive. His network reads like a Vanity Fair-married-Fast Company family reunion. After about ten minutes with this guy, I realized he’s going to change the world. Soon.

Tango led me on a tour of Harvard, most notably taking me into his old design building haunt. This place could make a 2x4 creative.

We talked about ideas. Products. Business models. People. Social trends. Cultural influences on the success or failure of products and services. Junior high. We ordered more pizza. We drank the darn-finest beer I’ve had in a long time. Check it out. Dogfish Head. We went to John Harvard’s for beers and the disappointing end of the BC/Villanova game. Then I got on the wrong subway and had a hell of a lot of time to think before getting to my hotel. It was good for me.

Some thoughts from the subway:

1) There is nothing wrong with idealism.
2) I am consistently restless. But that might just be my best quality.
3) I miss riding public transportation.
4) I wish I heard more languages I don’t understand.
5) I hate text messaging.
6) I miss writing. A lot.
7) The disparity that exists in American education is possibly our country’s worst homeland security threat.
8) The fact that I’m not very book smart isn’t the reason I didn’t get into Harvard. Or Stanford.
9) I believe there’s a direct correlation between the presence of mountains and happiness.
10) There's an even more powerful correlation between risk and reward.
11) Coldplay makes the Beatles sound like a garage band. A no-talent garage band.
12) The American dream is getting harder to realize.
13) Pursuing the American dream now means doing exactly the opposite of what your father did.
14) I have a favorite sweater that I look really good in. The problem is I wear it too much. The upside: logic would yield that I look good a lot. (Out of pure coincidence, the majority of photos of me on this blog are taken when I’m wearing said sweater.)

(Harvard design building, student workspace)

(Tango and me before I got lost)

Friday, March 24, 2006

New marketing needs new research

As we marketers/communicators talk ourselves to death about the importance of new marketing and new media, we also have to talk about the new ways to do other aspects of our jobs. One that has peeved me for a long time now is the prehistoric way companies research and gather market insight.

Last week I saw Wilco at the Uptown Theatre. Wilco's a perfect example of a long-tail band. I can confidently say I had a majority of values, interests and brand preferences in common with 90 percent of the concert attendees. The concertgoers represented an important market demo. One sought out by many young brands, yet difficult to infiltrate through traditional communication and research. This is a great example of the importance of companies being part of the conversation and part of the community.

I can think of ten products/services that would have reaped tons of insight from simply purchasing a $25 ticket to Wilco. Instead, they are putting down $25,000 to gather traditional research by interrupting the market conversation and capturing only a fraction of the insight available if the company would just take time to truly get to know its market. No spreadsheets. No PowerPoint. No catchy names that translate simply into "People you need to be friends with."

Here are some very cool - no pun intended - "influentials" (couldn't help but throw that in) that big companies are taking notice of and talking to. Call them the new market researches. Call 'em whatever. But you should call them. They are also a great example of the NEW media relations that PR folks such as myself must realize and practice. Five years ago, the PR dudette at X product or Y service would have announced a new product/service by sending a press release and pitching major media outlets. Now, that dudette is much better served by sending a sample or an e-mail - even an INSTANT MESSAGE! - to one of the folks below.

Cool Hunting
Design Sponge
Josh Spear
Owen Mack/coBRANDIT

Monday, March 20, 2006

Why blog?

Jory Des Jardins posted a great, inspirational bit on careers and more importantly, blogging. Many people wonder why bloggers blog. What's the point? What's the return on our investment? Bloggers understand the reward and the importance. Jory outlines some of blogging's better benefits.

Jory spoke at the New Communications Forum and is one of the founders of Blogher, a savvy entrprenuer and an established writer. More words of wisdom from Jory can be found in her very cool SXSW video here.

Why do I blog? - got me thinking. Top five reasons:

1) Keeps me relevant
2) Creative outlet
3) Connects me to a larger world filled with smart people and big ideas
4) Furthers the carving out of my own little neck of the woods
5) Reminds me to constantly think, opine, react


Brandbuilder blogman Olivier Blanchard tagged me in his recent post. I'm honored. Here are the topics and my responses.

Four jobs I've had (past lives and all):
1) Pretty sure I was the "Woolard" in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
2) Barista
3) Journalist
4) Tennis instructor

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1) Lost in Translation
2) High Fidelity
3) Garden State
4) Serendipity - cinematic genius

Four places I have lived:
1) Salina, KS
2) Lawrence, KS
3) Nakajo, Japan
4) Kansas City

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1) West Wing
2) Family Guy
3) Televised tennis or golf
4) Reliable Sources

Four places I've been on holiday:
1) Israel
2) Santa Fe, NM
3) Katsurahama, Japan
4) London

Four Web sites I visit daily:
1) Gapingvoid
2) Slate Magazine
3) Inform
4) Seth Godin

Four of my favorite foods:
1) Annie's Mac and Cheese
2) Sushi
3) Koshihikari rice
4) sporting-event hotdogs

Four places I would rather be right now:
1) On a train in Japan
2) Trail running in Colorado
3) On top of a mountain
4) In a fishing boat with my late grandfather

Four bloggers I am tagging:
1) Jeff Risley
2) Mason Cole
3) Tango
4) Mike Swenson

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Monitoring WOM

Sam Flemming, author of the China Word of Mouth Blog has this great post on monitoring WOM and the different types of WOM to monitor. Links to an Economist article that provides some great meausrement info all PR pros should consider. If you don't read Sam's blog, you should - great WOM insight and a needed perspective on marketing in China.

On the Economist article - if you read this and don't laugh out loud at the use of "abreast" in the discussion of ConAgra's (Butterball turkey) online monitoring, the you have no sense of humor.

On the use of the term "PR pro": I hate that term. It's used all the time in our inner industry circle. Of course we're pros. It's short for professionals. One doesn't say "nurse pro" or "programmer pro." I guess the alternative is flack. Ad pros get to be "creatives." That in itself is a reason PR and advertising don't always get along - comes down to title jealousy.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Understanding the how

Check out this relevant reminder from the Tangelo Ideas blog on the importance of understanding the how (technology) behind new communications. Ernie Mosteller is so dead-on in his approach to advertising as a conversation and his post (above) on understanding the importance of content and engagement in interactive channels should be read by everyone from creatives to clients.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Another reason to love NPR

I had a hectic morning. Calls and e-mails to the eastern part of my continent had me up early. My coffee pot (along with half of my kitchen) was still in the sink, unwashed. I was out of EmergenC. None of my morning comforts were available, and I was running late.

Luckily, my steadfast bathroom radio allowed me to enjoy one of my more important morning elements: NPR. Stephen Thompson was on, talking about his trip south to South By Southwest and providing some music recommendations. My ears perked up. I love NPR's Song of the Day feature - its RSS feed is in my Bloglines.

I went to my iTunes music store this morning and downloaded a couple of Thompson's suggestions:

Headlights - The Enemies. This EP is incredible. Maybe the best thing I've downloaded all month. I was obviously hooked by the title of the first track, "Tokyo," which starts out with these beautifully slow lyrics that would provide a perfect soundtrack for the first steps out of Shinjuku Station. Now, I just need to get back to Japan. The easy part will be enjoying this song.
You're walkin', walkin' slow/but you gotta move fast/in Tokyo
You can't believe your eyes/you finally got here/so many little red lights/it's so alive here

David Meade - Wherever You Are. You'll dig this if you like Josh Rouse. Great songwriting.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Haven't been in a blogging mood this week. Maybe because I'm swamped. Maybe I can't think of anything relevant to say. That would be scary.

In place of my words, the words of someone wiser. I keep this quote on my desk and was especially moved by its message this morning:

Seize the very first opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain.
-William James

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Darn good design blog

My buddy Tango has a super-relevant design blog. If you have any desire to be ahead of the design/marketing/product curve, check him out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Maslow and branding

Jennifer Rice of Mantra Brand Consulting has been wowing me with her series of posts on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and those needs' relationship to branding. This is a must-read for anyone dealing with brands or (gasp) PEOPLE! Jennifer is dead-on in her assesment of how basic needs can drive brand relationships.

Check out her work on the Corante blog:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

For your ears

It's been too long since I posted some music recommendations. So here we go:

The Magic Numbers - can't take full credit for this one, as my friend Sara alerted me to this band made up of two sets of siblings - take that Jack and Meg. TMN's Web site is great. They'll be at SXSW - along with everyone else in the world except me.

Josh Rouse - I already recommended Nashville, but I've been really into Under Cold Blue Stars.

Matisyahu has a new album, and I do not like it. However, I'm getting my reggae fix lately with some Burning Spear.

Feeling adventurous? Try Mi and L'au. I missed them when they came through Lawrence, but do enjoy their stuff. Finnish model Mi and French music industry dude L'au hook up, find a cabin in the woods and write music. Love it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Communications Forum Recap

Constantin Basturea has a great all-in-one-place rundown of NewCommForum bloggers' reports/thoughts. Must be good because he mentions me and Risley...and you know how much clout I carry.


As anyone in the Kansas City area who slept without ear plugs or outside of their bunkers last night can confirm, the insane thunderstorm that hit us briefly in the wee small hours was amazing. I was in the first stages of sleep and woke up thinking the house was hurtling across Roeland Park en route to Nebraska. The relentlessness of the rain and lightning show were incredible testaments to nature's strength.

Not really sleeping well leading up to the storm, I decided to grab my guitar and join the chorus. I strummed some great, mellow tunes and battled the storm sound for sound. It was incredibly peaceful and acted as a reminder of the connection between all that lives on earth. The yellow tornado was hunkered under my legs and for the 10 minutes or so that the brunt of the storm lasted, we were pretty dang content. I enjoyed the connection to the world around me - from the dog at my feet to the storm outside my windows.

This morning my lawn chairs were against the neighbor's fence and a few limbs were scattered. But I'm thankful for the awakening and opportunity to do something new (my Lenten focus - doing something brand new each day).

It was fitting to read Mike Swenson's post this morning, which illustrated another great example of connectivity, whether that be mine with the storm or two trees (pictured below) that joined limbs to provide strength and promote health. Amazing. Further proof that people need each other and things need things and people need things. We need connectedness. We need to provide strength, support, love. In turn, we reap the benefits of love, strong relationships and a sustainable world. It's simple, but profound in result.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The importance of old communications

The New Communications Forum is over. Bloggers are back to their laptops. The world still is turning. One of the biggest learnings I had from last week's conference came about 30 miles away from our hotel in Palo Alto, unconnected from our hotel Internet, where Risley and I held a very low-tech forum of our own.

We headed to City Lights Books in San Francisco to check out the literary bachelor pad for some of the best thinkers, writers and activists. Ginsberg. Kerouac. Ferlinghetti. As a teenager, I read a lot of Kerouac and Burroughs. Their commitment to their art and the real, harsh reality of their times drew me in. Being at City Lights Books was a field trip into a long-pondered world. As Risley said, it's one of those places people should visit before death.

After absorbing City Lights, we headed next door to Vesuvio for some liqour and discussion. Over beers and bourbon we talked, face to face, about the state of the world. We talked about art and literature and where our industry is going. We talked about our respective generations and the economy.

Risley and I sit about 15 feet from each other and pass each other on the way in and out the door. But most of what I really know about Jeff, I've learned through his blog. Sitting down and shooting the shoot was long overdue and evidence that in this age of "new communications" there is a valuable element of relationships at risk.

The New Communications Forum solidified the power of new media and online communication, however, those forms can only take us so far. At some point, you have to hear the clink of ice in a glass and listen to a person's tone change during conversation. You have to be humbled by bound books and black and white photographs of authors who would kick the cyber ass of most bloggers on the 'Net. You have to change your chatroom url to a local bar address. You have to unplug.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A few thoughts to start the day

I'm reading some of the blogs I've found by New Comm Forum attendees this morning and have the following reflections:

This isn't just a gathering of Marcom/Tech/Biz nerds, this is a gathering of people who already are living the future all of us (Marcom/Tech/Biz) will soon realize.

Risley and I talked about this earlier, but it's been on my mind: why does everyone feel the need to name things? "New media" "New marketing" "cooperation marketing." Let's just call it marketing. The new is old - this model, this attention to consumer generated material and social media is not what we need to look toward or name, it's what we need to embrace and engage. Now. Yesterday.

Good blogs are different. They have a voice. They sound like a conversation.

I have a long way to go before hitting my blogging stride. Reading others' blogs and hearing commentary on successful blogs reminds me that I always can be more transparent, informal and engaging in the way I write my blog.

Ideas are powerful. Creativity is even more powerful. I've met so many people this week who are light years ahead of their peers in creativity and idea generation. They are succeeding because they can think, then produce.

OK - time for more coffee and the rest of the Weekend Journal. There's a great article on Japanese baseball - how often do I get that without going online?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Live, late-breaking blogging

Alright - I'm going to try something different during this session (Blogging and Word of Mouth). Instead of taking notes and saving them in my fun New Communications Folder, I'm going to do a little stream of conciousness and hit publish over and over again so you can get my thoughts on this great topic as I'm thinking them.
Max Kalehoff, VP Marketing of Neilson Buzzmetrics
Matt Galloway, blogger, IT dude, The Basement
Cydni Tetro, VP Product and Corporate Marketing of Next Page

Kickoff - brown and bubbly isn't good (Pepsi). This is going to be good.

WOM - increasingly loud discussion about WOM marketing. What is the difference between WOM and WOMM?

WOM: people talking outside of your company, about your product, brand.
WOMM: how marketers leverage WOM - powerful listening component, and how to amplify WOM. (MG)

Traditional marketing is not going away, but understanding how consumers are changing the way they interact with trad. marketing can help tailor the effort to start relevant conversations. (MG)

Find your people. Find your audience. If they aren't talking, create a venue for them to have a voice. (MG)

How do we deal with online detractors? Negative influentials. How? Engage them.

60 years ago, WOM was the way consumers learned about and were persuaded to purchase products (CT).

If you tell someone you are listening (even if they are detractors), the amount of good WOM they generate will grow. Detraction will change. (MG)

Dealing with detractors: Listen, find the psychographics, reach out to that group.

There is sometimes some mass trends that go on, but you have to take a broader sweep to realize if that trend/WOM/detraction is even relevant to your core audience. (MK)

Paid media is never going to go away, but it's changing and the system is broken. We have to mix things up, and WOM is at the top of the list. Various disciplines bring in various strengths and weaknesses.

PR firms: get the WOM concept better than anyone else - the downside? PR has never worked with huge budgets, don't get the research element. Do get unpaid media benefits.

New titles within corporations related to WOM.

1) understand what people are saying and who they are saying it to.
2) WOM isn't about "making" people say things about you.
3) If orgs aren't prepared to listen to feedback (positive and negative) and then DO SOMETHING about it, WOM isn't for that org. Are your learnings going to change your products? Marketing efforts? Communications strategies? Yes, yes, yes? Good. (MG)

Everyone owns WOM initiatives (PR, Marketing, R&D). Integration has to happen, people have to be in sync. (MG)

Consumer-generated content will be the story of 2006. YouTube gets more hits than (MK)

Even the big media will be forced to change. Get up to pace or be overrun by new media companies. In 2006 the ad model will start to get figured out. We don't know what those models will look like (Google has a good model). (CT)

Large companies will have to find ways to bypass traditional outlets and involve consumers in a more direct way. (MG)

Where we're at right now: there's an inequity between consumer voice and company voice. They have the same abilities to go out and market, but companies are shackled by what they can say and how they can say it.
Consumers can say whatever, whenever and two whomever. (MG)

Andy note: this was great. Check these guys/girl out - they are insightful and have their finger on the pulse of the market. Great stuff to end the day with.

A noteworthy keynote

Rebecca Blood opened our conference this morning with an amazing view and analysis of the "writable Web." Keynotes are tough - especially her first-slot space. We were eating muffins, craving more coffee and then doing the too-much-coffee dance in our chairs. But she nailed it.

Great reminders:

  • "Listen first."
  • Consider all options for Web involvement - blogs aren't the holy grail.
  • Map, follow, engage with your consumer groups - online communities are powerful focus groups and barometers for people as passionate (or not) about your brand as you are.
  • Salesmen: sell ideas//Connectors: engaged in social groups//Mavens: (sweet spot) Collect information, when they get online or begin interacting with others, they become connectors.
  • Perceived popularity is powerful.
  • Are we in an age of mass amateurism?

Getting ready to participate in the Cooperation Marketing. More later.

Higher education

The great thing about running is that you're never really "lost." You can not know your way back to the start, but add a couple miles and you're just on a longer run. It's almost a sign of accomplishment.

This morning, however, I was in somewhat of a time crunch. Needed to run, shower then do some work before the Forum begins. I ran through, around, between and I think under Stanford University and still couldn't find my way out...which is probably one of the many reasons I never found my way into Stanford as a student.

Great minds converge - and let me in

Helluva night at the New Communications Forum. Had a great conversation with Owen Mack, the brilliant mind behind Co-BRANDiT. Finally met Matt Galloway, of the Basement fame. Risley snapped a picture of us with Katie Paine, a very insightful woman who seems to have an equally amazing residence - I need to go to the next lobster feed!

I couldn't help but be inspired and energized by the discussions I was part of tonight - great minds thinking alike, challenging each other and pushing traditional marketing toward the next great adventure. Looking forward to tomorrow's conversations.

In the meantime, here's the latest iTunes mix:

Sunrise - Norah Jones
Places - Blue Merle
Broken - Jack Johnson
The City - Joe Purdy
Saturday - Josh Rouse
Leaving New York - R.E.M.
Why You'd Want to Live Here - Death Cab for Cutie
A Voice at the End of the Line - M. Ward
Tampa to Tulsa - The Jayhawks
Where are You Going - Dave Matthews Band
The World Ain't Slowing Down - Ellis Paul
Hiding Behind the Moon - Jeff Hanson
City Song - Matt Pond PA
The Only Living Boy in New York - Simon and Garfunkle
To Be Alone With You - Sufjan Stevens
Half a World Away - R.E.M.
Till Kingdom Come - Coldplay

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

e-mail v. blog addresses

i'm sitting in a videoblog bootcamp, led by Zadi Diaz - check out her vlog. More later, but a thought I just had:

when will - or do - people provide blog/vlog urls instead of e-mail addresses? We just exchanged biz cards, might have been more comprehensive to exchange blog urls....

Aboard the new communications train.

Er, airplane, maybe. Risley and I are in the Las Vegas Airport, en route to the New Communications Forum. Why do I feel I need a) a shower and b) a confessional whenever I land here? The flight to San Jose is interrupted by this stop in Vegas, which means we were on a plane filled with people – a majority – who are headed to the Sin City to do whatever they feel the desire to do. The anticipation of lights and shiny objects was palpable and as anyone who has flown to Vegas can recall, this anticipation creates a flight that I can relate only to the following personal experiences:
the frat room pre-party
pre-game tailgates
the half-bottle of wine you down before a blind date

There is one goal: get a buzz going, leave your inhibitions behind.

And witnessing those around us (namely the three girls behind us - Risley snapped a photo fosociologicalal record) the only sin to trump the house would be to land sober.

Anyway, we are flying Southwest Airlines. Many statements are made about Southwest's culture of customer service and lighthearted determination. That culture is best observed on the way to Vegas. Drinks frequently are comped, jokes flow and the crew fills the fuselage with fun. It’s a great example of Southwest’s ability to know its audience.

With each flight, I become a stronger advocate for the Southwest brand. Southwest brand learnings froliquorqour-whiffed flight to Vegas?

Knowing your audience isn't enough - know how to interact with that audience.
One free drink (insert product, service) will yield multiple opportunities for profit.
Pick your battles - is it important to tell people to quiet down, or is it important to join their conversation (in turn controlling the volume) and cause them to leave the jetway singing your praises?
Be funny - people are more likely to forgive when they're smiling.

I'm going to grab another cup of bad coffee - more later.