Sunday, April 30, 2006

Inspiration for the start of the week

In the Reins - Calexico & Iron and Wine - Two great bands, one great album.
Check out: 16 Maybe Less

Exit Music - Songs with Radio Heads - Radiohead covers by hip/hop and soul artists. Amazing.
Check out: Karma Police, Morning Bell and High and Dry

Welcome Convalescence - South San Gabriel - Centro-matic's slower side project.
Check out: Smelling Medicinal and New Brookland.

Gnarls Barkley - This is good. Rumor is the album went on sale today (4.30). Can't find it on iTunes. But the site has streaming music. And here's a video. Kudos to my VP of Cool Sara Nutt for finding this.

How to tell a story

Great piece by Seth Godin, via Ernie Mosteller on how to tell a great story. My key thoughts after reading the piece, from a PR perspective:
  • Marketing initiatives, announcements, egos and promotions don't make good stories.
  • Effective stories match the worldview of a small audience.
  • If you have to create a story, it's not going to be effective.
  • You (marketers) must earn credibility to tell a story.
  • Nothing you can do in telling your story will trump the fact that your audience is either ready to listen, or it's not.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

wake up

I'm tired. Swamped. Scatter brained. Blog reading sometimes has a strange impact on me. Others' words can inspire and overwhelm me at the same time. Cause me comfort and restlessness. Creativity and frustration. Jennifer Rice's What's Your Brand Mantra post today produced the above brain battle and gave me something to think about during my harried day.

Jennifer talks about the difference between complacency and anticipation. Her point has equal value in business and personal life parts.

"How differently would we live, love and work if we were open to all the inevitabilities of life? If we lived in anticipation of change instead of in denial or complacency?"

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hot coffee

I love outdoor advertising for many reasons - one is the huge opportunity to intergrate a brand's personality with daily life. Here's a hot concept, via Tango. Love it. I'm going to get another cup of joe.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wanted, Rolaids for an unfortunate PR person

File this under, "Might want to listen to the band you book before inking the contract."

I went to the Counting Crows concert Saturday, which kicked off the opening of the latest massive commercial development to be added to my fair state. The Crows played for free to open The Legends, which is basically a cookie-cutter "lifestyle center" (think all the other suburban shopping blacktops found across the country) smack dab next to Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabellas, The Kansas Speedway and other large structures my constitution suggests I avoid. Well anyway...a sweet sense of validation and a big laugh on the count of whoever booked the band came midway through the concert.

As most people who have a radio know, the Counting Crows covered the popular Joni Mitchell song, "Big Yellow Taxi," a couple years back. It's a good song, lyrics follow:
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got ‘Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

The irony fairy delivered. Hee hee. As we're standing in a huge parking lot supporting a huge development project, I felt sorry for whoever's job would be up for grabs after the song's last chords.

A former colleague and PR diva turned my way as this happened, both of us horrified by the unfortuante - yet completely predictable - scene.

Crows' lead singer Adam Duritz took some shots at the event organizers, who (LOVE THIS) REQUIRED in the contract that Big Yellow Taxi be played. I was all evil smiles.

I felt that huge burn in the gut that comes from watching a train wreck as Duritz appropriately ribbed the organizers. I'm taking quotation liberties here, but you get the gist: "Anyone think the fact that we're all standing in a huge parking lot is funny?"

Yes, most of those in attendance, other than the few that had anything to do with the event, laughed out loud.

CD to check out

My buddy Kyle Moreland - guitar virtuoso, all around good guy - has released his first album, Build Yourself a Boat. Amazing. His guitar skillz are enough to keep your attention, then he adds smart lyrics and great vocals. You can buy this on CD Baby. Check out his site, buy a shirt, and if you're around the flatlands of Kansas, see him live.

I'm currently diggin' "French Toast and Scrambled Eggs" and "Fully Yours." I do wish he'd included a few of the crazy riffs he played in the early morning hours when the Pepper Boys were geathered at the cabin.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Confidence and Leaps of Faith

One of my favorite bloggers and general minds is Olivier Blanchard. He's brilliant and pretty darn cool - a nice balance. His last two posts really resonated with me and I am better now for having read them.

Leaps of faith

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Visual noise

Garr Reynolds points to examples of visual noise in Japan. I read with interest as a former gaijin (foreigner) consumer in this land of migraine-inducing product display and store design. Garr got me thinking about visual noise and it's translation into other forms of communication. We all experience it. We all have different levels of tolerance for visual noise. And we have different needs when it comes to noise effectively attracting our attention.

Water for sale

We were finishing Easter dinner today, when a few of the children in my parents' neighborhood headed to the street hauling a cooler, table, chairs and other things children need to set up an under-the-IRS'-radar operation. Curious, we went to the corner of the cul-de-sac to buy what we presumed to be Kool-Aid or lemonade.


The temperature was unseasonably warm, yes. But not "I can't make it back to the house without quenching this deadly thirst, so I'm going to buy water from you" hot. We laughed and produced our dollar bills to pad these kids' piggy banks and ordered some water, a little put off that we'd walked all the way for something that came out of our tap.

"One water," one boy said very professionally. I was surprised. He'd eaten in restaurants and studied waiters. The other boy grabbed two more Easter cups with mirrored seriousness. He nagged the other one to let him pour.

"That will be 25 cents," he said, again with professionalism and pride in his product. It was water, it came from his parent's tap, maybe their Brita filter, but these kids found a need for that water and assumed we, the customers, saw every ounce of the product's worth. The boys were excited about selling us water. They believed in what they were selling. And I then believed in their water.

We moved on to the next table, staffed by the two boys' sisters. They had beaded bracelets and necklaces. Also for 25 cents. These products were a steal. The jewelry could pass for store-bought, easy. However, the girls were preoccupied. They weren't interested in selling us on the value of the bracelets, or telling us how they made the jewelery. They were interested only in taking our money. Meh.

The boys surely won out, what with the low overhead to produce water compared to beaded bracelets. But they could have swapped products and sold those same bracelets for 50 bucks. That's how good these two elementary school dudes were. Ice to an eskimo, ketchup to a woman in white gloves, water, your sister's bracelets...whatever. The boys are mastering the most important lesson of selling: believe in the value of your product.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

My buddy Tango points to this amazing movie trailer. Al Gore+climate crisis=One freaky movie.

I'm for the environment - who isn't? I even started devoting a larger portion of my conscious to recycling - thanks to some gentle prodding. But I'm nowhere near understanding the ramifications of the damage we're causing our world.

Watch the trailer and devote some thought to this issue.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Centro-matic and Great Lake Swimmers

Tonight, at the Record Bar: Centro-matic (previous post), Great Lake Swimmers and The String and Return. I love live music, and tonight will feature a band I've been enjoying (Centro-matic), one I just discovered (GLS) and a solid local band with tons of potential. Plus, it's 7 buckaroos to get in. Give me a cake and call it a birthday!

The Record Bar is doing everything right and has found a way to bring unique established and emerging artists to its strip-mall venue, conveniently located between a country-style breakfast joint and hardware store, while upping its cool factor. It's a success story. A start-up bar/grill is a risky venture, but aspiring to host live music in a city with a long-standing circuit of music stops is just plain ballsy. Moreover, the Record Bar is giving its neighbor to the west - Lawrence music must, the Bottleneck - hearty competition. In the short amount of time the Record Bar has been up and running, it has attracted quality artists and more importantly a loyal base of patrons.

Monday, April 10, 2006


I have finally recovered from our company's retreat at Big Cedar. I haven't learned as much relevant/do-it-now or die/change your life/are you doing this yet? info in one day as I did last Thursday when Tony Louw talked to our firm about presentation. Not just PowerPoint, don't say "you know"or "like," don't burp in public presentation stuff. We talked about how to present ideas in all forms: client e-mails and phone calls, conference call meetings, internal strategy, etc.

My top five take aways:
1) think of your audience
2) keeping thinking of your audience
3) present to all the senses
4) organize your thoughts to maximize your time
5) involve and engage your audience - always try to create opportunities for participation and dialogue

Few are the professional development opportunities when you can truly walk away better than you arrived. Thanks to Toni - who is brilliant - for his insight and guidance.

The retreat couldn't have been a retreat without the requisite imbibing. Here's a picture of me, after a few cocktails, reinacting the taxidermy-meets-head collision I had earlier, while attempting to sneak out of the meeting for a bathroom break. I instead had to apologize to Toni, the group and the dead bird.

Also below is a picture of the view of the cabins at Big Cedar. The area is beautiful. The only thing I'd prefer is that the lodge's interior decorators lower their quota for in-room placement of dead stuffed things. Antlers above the mantle make me think of the rustic outdoors. Stuffed squirrels in my bedroom make me think of rabies.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A few days away

Our firm is leaving today for a few days at the Big Cedar Lodge in southwest Missouri. Our fearless leader, Mike, puts it best in this blog post. I look forward to our retreat each year, primarily because I truly enjoy my coworkers and the opportunity this time away from the office affords us to enjoy each other's company.

This year will be especially good because we're concentrating on presentation - something rarely "mastered" and a topic relevant to daily work. Toni Louw will be with us for a full day.

No blogging for the rest of the week. I'm sure I'll have learnings and stories next week.

In the meantime, check out:

Joe Purdy: Only Four Seasons - you can listen to the entire album on the Web site. It's amazing.
Joshua Radin: We Were Here.
Factory People: Very cool.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

More on our changing culture

I've been reading a heck of a lot on trending and culture lately. I'm fascinated especially by Gen Y and the complete lack of interest we show in following our predecessors. It is key to our short-term heartburn, but our long-term success/world domination/kick assery. I think my interest in my own generation was peaked when Risley and I chatted after the New Communications Forum. I've blogged on another New Comm Forum attendee, Jory Des Jardins, before. She's who one of the smartest people I know. And I don't even really know her. But I'd like to and I will continue pushing her ideas because everyone should know what Jory is talking about.

She just blogged on the next generation of job searches and what my generation looks for and expects. She talks about what Gen Xers and Boomers want and more importantly, wish they had. Holy crap, she nails it. As I commented on her blog, give this woman a freakin' hammer.

This is important for companies and individuals alike. Moreover, it's an important reminder that we can't always do the same things over and over again. Maybe we need to cater to people more often than we expect people to cater to us. Us being a company/brand/service/whatever.

Sure, it's important for me personally to understand what I want and need and am challenged by. It's important for me to understand my peers. But it's more important to me as a communicator to understand how the needs of the Gen Y culture shape the future of marketing, branding, living. And respond.

Gearing up to be a "Grup"

Check out this great article on a newly-defined demographic: the "Grups." I'm impressed with the article for three reasons:
1) Provides a catchy name we marketers can toss around in brainstorms to define a powerful demographic.
2) Nails it. This article is smart and quickly outlines sample characteristics of these marturing Gen Xers.
3) This highlight of the "grups" is evidence that the lines between Gen X and Gen Y are blurring fast, making the groups' cultures and interests (read: what they swipe their cards for) even more lucrative and important to understand.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Chevy gives consumers the power of advertising

Just read Mike's blog on the latest from Chevy...yikes. Chevy is hosting a tool to let consumers make their own car again. The tool rocks. Love it and am impressed by the brand interaction and empowerment it's providing consumers. However, just because you come up with a fun marketing tool doesn't mean you should use it.

When a brand decides to provide consumers with the means to possibly bash the brand in slick broadcast production form, it needs to make sure there's not a crowd already waiting to cast stones. Maybe during a time when gas prices aren't front and center...or the role of auto emissions in the environment...or the war in Iraq.... Bottom line, unless you've got a stock of brand loyalists and you are selling a product that doesn't beg controversy, in an industry not on the skids, your corporate communications folks should rethink opening such a box. The outcome isn't pretty and the negative views will spread faster than you can say viral. Such as this ad. Or this one. This one's good too. (thanks to Network-Centric Advocacy blog)

Mike asks if Chevy is naive...I agree. But come on folks, you don't need NORAD to see this response coming. I'm going to go all the way and say the move was stupid. Yes, I believe in all the fancy new media tools that give the consumer power. I think Chevy should be commended for starting a two-way communication channel with the public. But while I believe in engaging consumers in conversation, you have a brand reputation to think about!

I've already said that this tool (in itself) is amazing. I just think it would have been a better fit for brands such as Pearl Izumi or or Greenies. Brands that don't have a ready-supply of baggage to pull insults from, yet have great stories to be told from their consumers' mouths.

Though I'm sure positive user-created ads outweigh the sarcastic, negative ads, the blogs, late night talk shows and newspapers are going to have a field day with such taglines as: "Melting polar ice caps are just a Sunday drive away."

I'm going to go make a video.


I found out last week that a good family friend has a brain tumor. I was driving home from a late night at work and called my family to chat, only to hear the news. I broke down. This is a good woman, with an amazing husband and children. They were my youth group volunteers growing up. Her husband plays a haunting 12-string. Their children glow. There was no reason for this diagnosis.

The news made me think long and hard about my life and my priorities. I've spent most of the week looking at my days and my relationships and my desires and learning a lot about what's important and what is absolutely not. And that's been good. I've done a lot of praying for this woman and her family. And I've thought a lot about her personality and the ways she impacted my youth and hoped she'll recover fully to offer those talents to others.

Last night, as I was leaving a gathering of beers and basketball, I learned that a good friend, just a year younger than I, was disgnosed with a brain tumor. I had just seen him - watched KU lose in the first round! - and he was doing fine (other thank KU losing, which really pissed him off). I am very, very scared. He's got a much better take on this than his buddies, I think. That speaks to his character, and his drive to beat this. He is focusing on the right things. Shoring up his family and friends and his strength. I can't imagine how I'd deal with what he now deals with. I'm proud of him and amazed at his resolve.

Church was emotional this morning. I said a lot of prayers for these two wonderful people. I spent a lot of time thinking of ways I could be strong for them. I meditated on life and appreciated what I have and where I'm headed.

But I can't stop thinking about the sudden nature of these diagnoses. And I can't let myself forget that our days are precious and our priorities must be aligned correctly. While I try to find ways to support these two people, I hope they know that their fights are inspirational to me. The challenges they are facing remind me that I'm blessed and call me to make the most of my minutes.

Living life to the fullest isn't ominous or morbid. It's necessary. And it's something we don't get a second chance to do.