Friday, June 30, 2006

Music for a holiday weekend

I've got a great holiday weekend planned...even better, I have some great music to accompany my activities. Here are some rec's for your vacationing ears.

Reed Foehl, Spark: Holy crap, this is good. My shop's Creative Director had this on his iTunes - have to attribute credit - and I have been listening to it all week. This is going to be my "driving to the cabin" soundtrack. I'm guessing this will also fill the "sitting on the deck of the cabin" and "swimming in the pond" and "drinking around the fire" soundtracks as well. His songwriting is incredible. The mellow beats are perfect for a relaxing holiday weekend.

Keane, Under the Iron Sea: Even better than "Hopes and Fears," which was hard to beat. They'll be at Bleeding Kansas, which I'm looking forward to. If you're anywhere near Lawrence that weekend, go to the festival.

And if you're stuck inside for the weekend, pass the time with a library of 1980's videos. My buddy Dave just sent this my way, and they are a riot. I remember some of this a child of the 80's who flipped the cable box between MTV and Disney Channel. I forgot how weird these videos were. Here a few real gems. All I can say, is thank God I have a door to my office - let the mullet-banging commence:
Toto, Africa
Journey, Separate Ways
Falco, Amadeus
Edie Brickell, What I am
Eddie Money, Take Me Home Tonight
And the best one so far...Bon Jovi, Livin' on a Prayer ( I still have the vinyl)

Have a safe, fun weekend as you're blowing up your checking account.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


My friend Sara passed this my way today. My first reaction was, what the eff is this? My main arguement being, "That's it? Nothing happens? Just an e-mail?" But then I read this article and started thinking about it...well, as the best boy band of all time bopped, "I'm a believer."

What a concept. What an example of how a little simplicity can break through the cluttered Web. For another great, simply engaging site, go here. Then buy the album.

I'm draggin' this afternoon, which made the website even more relevant and, well, quaint in its wholesomeness. Maybe if my iced latte and hip hop mix don't wake me up in the next hour or so I'll decide to send an e-mail.

Listening to: Usher - Yeah! (I realize my music-recommendation credibility is taking a severe hit...but Yeeeeeah! it wakes me up)

Monday, June 26, 2006

WOMBAT Recap, and agencies' roles in WOM

Brand Builder's Olivier Blanchard has kept me and his other readers informed on topics discussed at last week's Word of Mouth Marketing Association Basic Training. This post has been my favorite so far. Great info and ideas on agencies' roles in the WOM world. Here's one of my favorite lines, a quote from Ryan Berger of Euro RSCG: "PR is about activating media. Buzz is about activating people." Read more in Blanchard's post.

Listening to: John Coltrane - Lush Life

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Better than you

One of my favorite ad blogs/podcasts, American Copywriter, posted on the debate surrounding the "niceness" of Apple's new PC/Mac spots. The comments are great. My two cents: Apple's product is so much better than its competitors' products it's darn time the average Joe knew he could enter into world domination by paying an extra chunk of change for a laptop.

I know, because I've experienced the switch. I've sniffed the opportunity of conquering creative lands formerly unreachable. I'm Andy Woolard, and this is my story.

Seriously, I have a personal testimonial that justifies why I think Apple is dead on in its "I'm better than you" position. One of the perks of my new job is the MacBook Pro on which I am typing. Even more perky is Garage Band, which came standard on this machine (which, as the new "out of the box" spot claims, I set up in about five fun minutes). Garage Band is my new best friend. It's completely replaced my need for sleep, food and human interaction. And though I played guitar and wrote my own songs prior to owning a Mac, this great program (technical, yet intuitive) has allowed me to do things with my limited skills I never thought possible.

I'm currently about halfway to having a two-track (vocal and guitar) recording of my own songs. And I have about five covers recorded.
I've added piano (which I don't know how to play), drums and a fretless electric bass tracks to a couple songs.
I've saved these songs into my iTunes library and iPod. I listened to myself while walking my dog last night. Freaky.

It blows my mind that a mere month ago, I was finding torn-out sheets of half-written songs under my couch and now I could, in an afternoon, put together a CD (albeit an extremely rough CD that only my mother would enjoy).

But this is the power of what Apple has done. It's created programs such as iMovie, Garage Band, iPhoto on a platform that graphic designers, musicians, artists already prefer and offered an opportunity for a first-time filmmaker to a professional post-production guru to further (or discover!) what they love. That's worth the extra cost of Mac machines. It's worth some cockiness.

Listening to: Aidan Hawken - Pillows and Records

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

True marketers

I'm tired today. But probably not as tired as these guys, and these guys. I go to a lot of concerts - big and small. It's something I absolutely love. Last night's Rogue Wave/The Stills show at one of my favorite venues - Lawrence's Bottleneck - was amazing. High energy, big talent. I've seen Rogue Wave before, and was impressed, but last night both bands brought a level of energy that truly impressed me. More than their playing, I realized what great, energetic, devoted marketers they are. And have to be.

Today I've been thinking about how up and coming bands are a wonderful marketing model for companies to emulate. Here are my observations from watching two great bands work their marketing magic, which was secondary, mind you, to their true purpose for showing up.

Be early: Band members were sitting at the bar, selling T-shirts, walking around, talking. They were ready to play, but spent time to build relationships.
Be energetic: Though the Bottleneck wasn't close to capacity, both bands performed as if it was their last show on earth.
Be humble: Rogue Wave is on its way to open for Ray Lamontagne and Guster in large arenas later this year. Still, they sell their own products, strike their set and spend time talking to the audience. This humility offers an accessibility that builds relationships.
Be relentless: Up and coming bands live and die by ticket and record sales. Thus, they have to generate buzz, then build loyalty. There is no better example of that relentless pursuit for fans than a small-venue gig where every song, chord, eye roll or handshake can make or break interest. They can't stop. They can't afford to be backstage.

If you get a chance to see either of these bands, do. I should add a couple more concert notes, if for no other reason than to put a smile on the faces of my friends in attendance.

You know it's going to be a good night when a girl with a tatooed chest buys you a drink.
Joel, you should have learned that betting me to do something will result in you losing money.
Nicolletta, it was so good to catch up. I'm coming by for coffee.

Listening to: The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blog v. Blog Roll

Great post from the Strategic Public Relations blog on the difference between (and power of) an executive blog vs. an executive's blog roll. In addition to - or instead of - reading the thoughts of a CEO or company leader (even a great thinker like Seth Godin) why not know exactly what that person reads for inspiration. Merchandise it. Share it. Love it.

The example given is BusinessWeek blogger Bruce Nussbaum's post on P&G's Claudia Kotchka's blog roll. Very, very cool.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Music for the weekend

I've had a wonderful Friday. Had breakfast at the coffee shop this morning. A coworker gave me a bike rack for my car (ends the frustrating routine of me twisting my fat tires into the Jetta). Just won a new piece of business with an exciting brand. Had lunch with a good friend.

I'm headed out in a bit for a reunion of sorts - the good kind. And although the weather is supposed to be horrible this weekend, I'm going into Lawrence tomorrow to hit the bike trails and visit former watering holes with some friends.

So, new music recommendations - download and enjoy this weekend.

Aidan Hawken - Pillows and Records - darn good mellow tunes, great songwriting.
Alexi Murdoch - Time Without Consequence - I've been waiting for this album since I played his "Four Songs" EP non-stop during a business trip last year. Go ahead and calculate that...four songs, for about four days straight. Worth the wait and more.
Jack's Mannequin - Everything in Transit - This is very, very "Poppy" for me. I'm almost scared to recommend it...but it's pretty fun to listen to. I guess it would be a good soundtrack to my college-town escapades tomorrow night, as I feel like I'm back in my fraternity days every time I listen to the album.
The Stills - Without Feathers - They'll be playing with Rogue Wave in Lawrence next Tuesday, very excited. Nice upbeat album, without the O.C.-ish pop of Jack's Mannequin.

Have a great weekend, all.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Campaigns v. Movements

Brains on Fire's Spike Jones penned a nice piece on the difference between advertising and word of mouth models. Quick read that stays in your head for hours.

Listening to: Josh Ritter - Monster Ballads (song)

Father's Day and a new feature

First - new Woolard Speak blog feature idea: "Listening to." I'll start the post with the song/album/overheard conversation in the background during posting.

Listening to: Ed Harcourt "Here Be Monsters" (exciting features must be italicized!)

I celebrated an early Father's Day with my dad yesterday evening. He came into KC for a quick five-mile run and dinner at Pizza 51. Pizza 51 is becoming my new favorite KC spot. Situated right between the Plaza and UMKC, the old gas station eatery serves a great selection of beer/wine and killer pizza. It's also right off the Trolley Trail and one of my running routes through the Plaza, which makes it a perfect place to end a run.

Anyway, Pa Woolard will be recovering in Minnesota after Grandma's Marathon on the real Father's Day, so we decided to hang out in advance. The run was great. It's one of my favorite things to do with my dad and I always end runs with him feeling like all is right with the world. I love running with people - there's a bond that forms as extra miles are added and hills are ascended with a running partner. Having my dad as part of that experience is great.

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's a marathon, not a sprint

I just got back from a run around a local park. The park has a 1.5-ish loop and attracts everyone from hardcore runners to speed walkers to dog walkers. A friend and I did a few loops and talked about how we used to jump into the park as a quick soft-track respite during longer winter runs while training for a marathon. I decided that I don't really care for running in circles. It feels small. It feels short and pointless.

As I drove home, I got to thinking about the cliche, "It's a marathon, not a sprint" and how I felt like my run tonight was more of a sprint than an achievement of distance. The drive home is a brief 10 minutes, but I started thinking hard about a couple companies I'm working with, both gearing up for a big push.

My day was filled with planning for these respective brand bursts and much of what we've discussed are ways to make the burst (whether it's an event, product launch, announcement, whatever) be the point b in an a-to-c scale. Not the Holy Grail. Not the big story. Surely it could be the peak, but it shouldn't be the end point. It should be a water stop on the marathon route. The one-of-many things that create momentum for the brand, but do not define the brand. A marathon, not a sprint.

PR is guilty of being rather sprint-oriented. We love events. We love "Today announced." And it's not something to be ashamed of - journalists desire sprints. The public wants the relay team instead of the pace group. But the sprints shouldn't define the brand. They should be but a burst in the overall plan to raise brand awareness and create brand relationships. Long-term relationships. Not one-night stands...OK. I'm done with the analogies here. You get the point.

It's a marathon, not a sprint. Or, Olivier Blanchard might push a triathlon comparison. Whatever, just go long. And in the spirit of distance, here's my newest running mix. I don't want to brag, but it clocks in at exactly an hour.

Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand (a number one must - gets you out the door)
Good Man - Josh Ritter (one of the best from his new album)
Soul Meets Body - Death Cab for Cutie (If "I do believe it's true, there are roads left in both of our shoes" doesn't inspire you...)
FuGeeLa - The Fugees
Evil - Interpol
Big Pimpin - Jay Z with the Roots (Yeah, it's on here)
Do It Again - Nada Surf (my favorite Nada song)
Down - 311
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers (top 10 songs of all time)
Every Moment - Rogue Wave
White Shadows - Coldplay (inspiring song to start the cool down)
When it Flows - Great Lake Swimmers
Fight Test - The Flaming Lips (this song always makes me want to kick some ass, in a mellow emo way)
The Sea - Morcheeba (this song says, "you're about done and there's a bottle of wine at the end")

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Recommendations to start the week

Think there's no hope for generation Y? Think again.

I heard Magnet for the first time Friday night. The setting - a wine bar - was perfect for his sound. Grab some vino and give him a spin. You'll dig Magnet if you like Josh Rouse, Elliot Smith, the like.

Get on and buy tickets for these shows:
Rogue Wave and the Stills @ the Bottleneck June 20. (sorry for the earlier June 2 mistake...add a zero and it works better with your calendar)
Bleeding Kansas Festival on August 5th - featuring Death Cab for Cutie, Keane, Broken Social Scene, Mates of State...set in Lawrence, KS. This is a steal.

My new addiction is the Garage Band program on my MacBook Pro. I spent most of Saturday afternoon sitting in a coffee shop putting tracks together with such fine musical friends as Trumpet and Fretless Bass. Also spent a good portion of my latte adding a flute part to many of the songs in my iTunes library. Pretty nice little Saturday. If you can get to your Apple Store, check it out.

Friday, June 09, 2006

High school, all over again

If you were placing bets on how long it would take for my car to be TP'ed at my new job, the wait is over. It took 9 days. After a long day of pranks...I concede defeat...until next week.

Why can't you be more like my hair cutting person?

...or "stylist" or "barberette." Many know I'm a little obsessive about the frequency of my visits to the Spy Agency. But lunch appointments, whether for a haircut, trim or just to sit and talk with the staff are high points of my weeks. Bottom line, if more companies did business like the Spy Agency, clients would be happier and business relationships would be stronger.

Three Spy secrets to model your customer service after:
1) Allow appropriate time for interaction - Spy schedules a block of time regardless of whether my sideburns are crooked or I need a full haircut. When the shearing is finished, time to talk ensues with no one needing to be anywhere else.
2) Go above and beyond to put the client in a new environment. Neck massage. Complimentary wine/beer. Well-programed iPod. Nice interior design and modern furniture.
3) Don't be afraid of free. Set your prices so some services can be comped - nothing says, "come back" like "Don't worry about it this time."

These examples can be applied to any company. They require employee empowerment and a clear understanding - from the receptionist to the top stylist - of what customer service means to the brand.

In turn, companies get loyal customers who don't worry about the fact that they paid a little more than other places. They get customers who go back to their coworkers and talk at length about where they've been.

Bringing a personal touch to e-mail

My buddy Aaron and I got into a long conversation yesterday about how to personalize web-based communications. It went into greater detail than that, but the threads each dealt with how to add some personality/warmth/emotion to e-mail and other web communications. He sent me a Fuzzmail e-mail and I now am totally diggin' this unique form of "e-mail."

In short, you get on, type an address in, and hack away. Love letter, simple hello, whatever - Fuzzmail records the method in which you type - typoes, backspaces, pined-over phrases in real time. Then, when you send, the recipeint has the e-mail flow out to him or her in the exact method you typed it.

Fuzzmail feels like someone's reading the e-mail to you. Think Doogie Howser. Great concept. Free. Why not pepper a few of these into your regular web-based communication.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"I've been from here to Lawrence, KS."

Josh Ritter is one of my favorite songwriters. His new album, The Animal Years, is brilliant. You can stream it from his site. Ritter's soulful ballads have fit well in my playlist recently, and my increased listening was justified by preparation for his concert in Lawrence next week. Until I sat down to write and tried to link to the Bottleneck's schedule and found this. Are you kidding me? I wonder if the 6:45 a.m. woman had anything to do with this. I won't lament the newest eraser mark on my calendar, but I will mention the irony in him canceling a Lawrence, KS concert, as the city is the subject of one of his best songs.

Some songs to check out from the new album:
One More Mouth, Wolves, Girl in the War, Lillian, Egypt.

If you're a Runner's World subscriber, Josh is this month's featured personality in the I'm a, Runner section.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Thinking ahead, and why I got a call at 6 a.m.

I’ve been in two meetings this week when the power of foresight led to the best kind of ideas for clients: the ones they’ve yet to think of, but jar some sort of aha moment that ignites the idea and provides an opportunity to truly move the needle. If I, as a marketer, could be great at one thing it would be to generate those unexpected ideas (outside the scope of work, in addition to the plan, etc.) before my clients think they need such an idea.

Call it proactive ideation, call it being insightful, tuned in, whatever…it’s more about service. It’s a mindset of always staying one step ahead and not being afraid to throw the unexpected on the table.

Ironically, I experienced two very different types of customer service this morning and think they are hilariously polar and relevant.

Bad: 6:45 a.m., my phone rings. Normally this means one thing: something bad happened and someone needs to tell me immediately. Can’t wait till a civilized hour or the business day. Turns out it was the owner of a business with which I placed a reservation. I had to cancel the reservation via voicemail earlier in the week and asked her to call me back to confirm. Two things that will shape this story: She lives in Kansas and thus the same time zone, and there was no urgency in confirming the cancellation – just a courtesy I requested to refund a deposit. But she calls and wakes me up and is chipper as all hell. And I say maybe three words “uh huh, thanks” and go back to bed wondering why anyone in the service industry thinks that’s an appropriate thing to do.

Good: 8: 15 a.m. (now awake), I arrive at my little coffee shop. I walk in, am greeted by both baristas by name and my drink is started and we’re talking about the weekend and music. Through their customer service, they’ve identified my consumer need before I had to ask, then got down to the important and real reason I get coffee there each morning: because they know me and we have good conversation.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Continuing the tradition

I've attended Dave Matthews Band concerts since I was in high school. My attendance is a summer tradition, and one that Mother Nature almost derailed last night through inclement weather. Luckily, the stars aligned and the evening was wonderful. I'm always amazed at who I run into at such a large venue, for such a popular concert. It has nothing to do with my vast social network, mind you. My buddy and I ended up standing with a former co-worker and her roommate (heck of a time, gals). I saw a former intern. A gang of friends from college. An amazing young woman who spoke at an event I worked last year, providing me the chance to finally tell her how much of an impact her words had on me. All the while, I got to see one of my favorite bands (albeit on the jumbotron).

You see, last year my good friend (and Dave fanatic) got tickets in the front section. As in, "I can see what chords Dave is playing." I was spoiled, and unsure that being relegated to steerage would be nearly as enjoyable. But beer, friends and a setlist of old favorites ensured a great evening and reminded me of the importance of tradition. It's important, dang it, that I see Dave. And I'm sure I'll be that strange old dude rocking out in years to come. Maybe turn into that cool dad who "volunteers" to take his children's friends to the Dave concert many years from now..