Sunday, July 30, 2006

Simplicity, a reminder

I read Garr Reynold's post this morning directly after a long run. My marathon training has taken on an earlier-than enjoyable schedule with the crazy heat KC has been baking in. So, with a bottle of Gatorade next to me, I plowed through my Bloglines feeds and my interest was peaked initially by Garr's in-post image of a busted Nike shoe. I completely dislike Nike and do not trust the company's production of technical sportswear/equipment. That aside, I always get a lot out of Garr's thoughts and this post on simplicity - illustrated by the dangerous failure of his Nike Shox during a run - is a great reminder of the attention products and people should place on simplicity.

Listening to: Girls in Hawaii - From Here to There

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Knowledge: the new currency

Josh Spear (well-deserved ink) pointed me to this incredibly accurate, concise and understandable picture of the most sought-after consumer demographic on the planet: mine - I define as a blended Gen X and Y group. Go play with your kids, moms 30-45. Throw another teaspoon of Metamucil in your mug, boomers. :) The future resides in this link.

Engage these people or become irrelevant. Embrace these people or miss out on a population that can make or break a brand. This article truly grasps the idea that brands won't be successful simply relying on monetary currency, but will thrive when traded in the currency of knowledge.

"Apply directly to" your creative director

Great article from Slate on the insanely-popular HeadOn headache gel advertisements. I started seeing buzz around the blogoshpere but since I don't really watch TV, haven't had the privilege of seeing said 10-second spot. I had no idea what this was all about until I started reading more and more posts and seeing spoofs and spin-offs. Catch the original and two spin-off product spots here.

Do these ads suck? I say no. They sure aren't pretty. They aren't going to win awards. Yet that is what makes these ads so good. They are affective precisely because no one mired up the concept with creative b.s. Yup, I said creative b.s. Not saying the creative process is b.s. Not even saying squeezing a little creativity into a boring assignment is b.s. Creative b.s. is the stuff we marketers add to simple assignments for our own eyes (or those eyes of award judges) and subsequently miss the point of the assignment: to get butts in seats, cars off the lot or in this case, magic headache gel on the foreheads of American consumers.

What do we need to do? Launch a product. Check. People are talking about HeadOn. The blogosphere is abuzz.
How will that product be successful? Generate awareness. Check. Headache or no headache, you're going to look for this stuff in the drugstore aisle. Plus, how many spoofs of the repetitive mantra are out there? Everyone knows the name - even if they haven't seen the spot.
How do we generate awareness? TV campaign. Check again. Utilizing the best in annoyingly simple tactics (repetition, example), the spot becomes a perfect channel for memorizing the product, process and result.

In a time when creatives (and many clients) are concerned with developing something "buzz worthy" or orchestrating content that will travel virally at the speed of broadband, this simple, ugly, yet catchy little ditty pulled the pants off a creative process that does not always result in, well, results.

I don't know how many tubes of HeadOn are selling because of this spot, and that's not the point of my post. The point is, when you have an assignment, answer the call. It's sexier to sell than it is to waste everyone's time with an idea that only creates interest among your creative counterparts.

Listening to: Mates of State - Bring it Back. Bleeding Kansas is going to kick so much rumpus.

TED Talks

I've been into the TED talks lately. I recently listened to Rick Warren's talk and again was astounded by the message, inspiration and intellect these audio and video files contain. Granted, Warren (the best-selling author of A Purpose Driven Life) is quite inspirational, his message is as powerful as many of the other speakers and makes you truly think about not only the subject matter, but its relationship to the world around you. And we all need wider worldviews.

Theologically, I'm in line with many of Warren's points and truly enjoyed and benefited from his book. But I got more from his talk because of the way he connected what he knows (Christianity) with the wider themes many of the TED talks seem to encompass: purpose, service, social awareness, innovation and betterment. Warren takes on the elevation of income and fame he's found himself in via his book's success. Great self-analysis and broader debate of net worth vs. self worth.

Scroll through the speakers and find some folks you think you already are interested in or agree with, then find some folks you have no understand of or interest in. These will leave you inspired.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Gypsy Cab Project, and nod yo' head to this

Love this site from Volkswagen. Thanks to Chris Heuer for the point toward. Almost makes up for the stupid "Fast" commercials. I'm diggin' the fact that VW isn't overtly marketing its car (of which i'm a fan), yet creating a brand culture. It's creating an ideal environment in which the Rabbit can show off.

Shortened afternoon - off to Chicago in a bit. Gettin' in the city mood with a little Notorious B.I.G./Gnarls Barkley mashup - thanks to Josh Spear. Start with "Can I Get With Ya Crazy Butt." Yeah, I said it. If you aren't pouring out some coffee for your homies by second measure, you're void-o-soul.

Your weekend iPodding: Girls in Hawaii. Check out their EP "The Winter Album" and the full-length "From Here to There." Then grab a listen to their cover of Nada Surf's "Blizzard of '77."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Are you an explorer? Plus, the best movie soundtrack since Garden State

Great post from Jenne on the types of people she deals with in training sessions. I'd continue the conversation and ask, what type of an employee are you? What type of clients do you have? What about your customers?

Jenne's definitions, which completely apply to many other audience groups.

Hostage: those people who have no other choice but to be in training.
Vacationer: those people who aren’t in class to learn anything, they are simply in class so they don’t have to be at work.
Explorer: the ones who WANT to be in class. They want to investigate. They want to LEARN. They are the ones who ask the most questions. They are the ones who do the hard work because they know it will teach them something.

Listening to: The Last Kiss soundtrack. Holy crap, this is one heck of a lineup. Actually, I'm listening to a pieced-together playlist of as much as I could find from the not-yet-on-iTunes soundtrack. Check out the trailer here. Looks like a great flick - Zach Braff, Casey Affleck, Jacinda "I'm the incredibly beautiful girl from Real World London" Barrett. From the writers of Million Dollar Baby and Crash.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Social Media Club

I'm not sure what the initiation rites are, but I'm willing to take 'em like a new media man. Check out the Social Media Club. Jeff Risley pointed me toward this great group, which is all about "sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media. This is the beginning of a global conversation about building an organization and a community where the many diverse groups of people who care about social media can come together to discover, connect, share, and learn."

I contacted SMC point man Chris Heuer today and am excited to learn more about and get involved in this organization. The more people the merrier.

Additional reading, via Risley's post:
Tom Foremski on the death of the press release. My note: how many lives are we gonna give that damn thing? I do like Tom's take on this often-debated subject because he provides answers - suggestions for PR folks who distribute info to the media. Kudos for going light on the complaints and heavy on the content.
The social media press release template. My note: this is blowing my mind.

I need to keep digging through this. While you're reading, play the following tunes:

Priscilla Ahn. An incredible voice. She also sings with Joshua Radin. I think I've said, "Who is that girl?" about a hundred times, and now I know.
Full concert video of Josh Ritter in Amsterdam. He could make it to Amsterdam, but not Lawrence?
Boards of Canada. My friend Sara - who just reserved the tatami room at Kamehachi for the requisite Chicago sushi dinner, thank you very much - recommended them. Lovin' the groove.

WOM: worthy, worth(y)less?

I have a Word doc on my desktop in which I started to reformat Brains on Fire's Spike Jones' yays/nays on some word-of-mouth-marketing ideas...he wrote these in the comments section of his shop's blog. The post was a reaction to the WOMBAT conference, and its resulting 43 WOM ideas. I agree with most, some I am on the fence, some I disagree with. But Spike's input is an important part of a larger discussion on marketers' roles in WOM. It's a fine line. His reaction to these ideas follows a pattern: yay to the buzz created by a great brand story/product/relationship and nay to fabricated/smoke-and-mirros buzz/WOM. My two cents: It's the difference between saying, "Talk about me" and giving folks something freakin' sweet to talk about. The difference between "at" and "with," "to and "for."

In true blog fashion, someone already did the hard work for me, spreading Spike's take in a much prettier format that I started. Check out John Moore's Brand Autopsy post (well, check out more of Brand Autopsy - always good stuff) to get some insight into what works and what doesn't in the world of WOM marketing. Print this out. Use it as a quick debate when considering your role in WOM marketing.

Listening to (and totally recommending): Do Make Say Think. If you dig Album Leaf, Medeski Martin & Wood, Air, you'll dig DMST.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Concerts and tunes to check out

I've decided the only two things my future children need to worry about in relation to the security of their college funds is my propensity for iTunes and Ticketmaster.

I'm headed to Rusted Root tonight. I haven't seen these granolamiesters live since I was in high school. Check 'em out if you're in KC - tickets are only $24 before Ticketmaster breaks out its 7 iron and beats you upside the wallet.

While I'm in Chicago, the Katie Todd Band will be at the Sheffield Garden Walk. Playing in the afternoon for free - very cool. I've been waiting to see her live for a long time, and am excited by the possibility.

And as if next weekend won't be fun enough, I'm going to cap it off Monday night with Okkervil River at the Jackpot in Lawrence. I'm just getting to know this band and am diggin' their unique sound and storytelling. Sort of a rougher Old 97's, or more polished Arthur Dodge.

Ben Harper will be at Starlight on August 25th. His newest album is one of his best in my opinion - looking forward to this if my concert budget isn't busted by that point. He's playing with Damian "Jr Gong" Marley, so if you're looking to make a few extra bucks, take a backpack of Funyuns to sell at a premium price.

Have a great weekend, and if you're at the Rusted Root show, I'll be the guy not wearing a hemp necklace.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Southwest Airlines: I wish I could quit you

I just booked a flight to Chicago for a little getaway next weekend. I'm so dang excited.

Anyway, I redeemed a Southwest reward for my ticket and it's one of the "new kinds" that adheres to a limited seating policy. Naturally, the return flights available weren't going to work with my schedule, so I called to see if there was any way around the rule. There wasn't. I either had to leave early Sunday (pointless) or stay another night (perfectly fine with me!).

And just as I started thinking: "Wait, there's never anything wrong with SWA, now they go and screw me on seating?! Me! A REWARD member, and thus a good, loyal customer. I have BLOGGED ABOUT THE AIRLINE! This can't happen...." the nice customer service man said something along the lines of: "You know, this rule is bad. We have a lot of access to our senior management and we argued this rule forever...." he was sincere and kept going.

"This is a great company - I love working here, but this issue has been debated. It even messes up the employees' flight perks." And that was nice...whatever...he was being honest and exposing much more than other airline customer service operators would even think to expose...then he said something that reminded me of why I love Southwest.

"This is no good. I'm sorry. I can't do anything for you, but I think you should just stay one more night and have fun after your meetings." (My big story was that I was presenting at a conference all day Sunday and couldn't head out until late - so I lied). And that's all I needed. The rule wasn't his fault. He couldn't do anything, but in the process he made sure I knew two things:
1) The rub behind the rule, i.e. I'm not alone in my frustration and SWA is discussing it.
2) He cared when he didn't have to.

Done. I'm happy. Extra time in Chicago, I'm back in time for work Monday, and I printed my ticket confirmation with the same admiration for the Southwest brand as when I logged on to reserve my tickets.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Comments working again

Some folks have said, "Why the heck aren't my comments appearing on your blog?" Let's go with human (Andy) error. Somehow, the comments were hidden/disabled. I've fixed this.

I just had comment Christmas in my inbox! About 50 comments were just added to various posts! I am feeling the love now, baby!

Sorry for the mistake - comment freely.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Them's conflict'in words

Got conflict? If not, you're missing out. I'm a believer that conflict is good. I started this post last night, after a day of people standing up for their ideas/pride/intentions. It was beautiful. There were arguments. There were frowns. There was passionate discussion. And by the end of the day, the best possible scenario emerged and everyone felt great. Beautiful.

I'm more chilled-out this morning, after a great early run and a bagel. However, I want to continue my train of thought. Conflict is good. Companies need conflict to be out in the open. The fine line between conflict and fighting is the maturity level of those involved, I believe. When adult-minded people disagree on a solution, oftentimes a better one results. When children disagree, feelings are hurt and agression manifests itself.

Two links to illustrate conflict:
Conflict and failure often are linked and I see them as equally important topics. Mason Cole's Vy Blog always inspires me. Last week, I read his post on Wieden and Kennedy's WK12 and was moved by the latest group to go through the "school" and its construction of the mantra "Fail Harder" with 150,000 thumbtacks. Brilliant. There's now a digital sticky note on my desktop in honor of the great creed.

Also check out Olivier Blanchard's post today on the Zinedine Zidane headbutt in the World Cup Finals. Blanchard takes an interesting angle on conflict and more importantly standing up for one's own self. Make sure you read the middle section on business. Good stuff.

Companies that encourage discussion open the door to constructive conflict. By creating an environment of respect and collaboration, conflict can be a normal part of the process toward success.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The power of now

I read a great article in this month's Runner's World (unavailable online) on breathing and the focused meditation controlled breaths can offer prior to, during and after running. Today's been a rainy Sunday in KC (perfect for lots of coffee, a nap and catching up on my newest West Wing DVD set). I attempted to run early this morning, but was washed out and headed to the dry sanctuary of church. The afternoon rain kept foiling my plans, until I was forced to say screw it and headed out for my first long run of my Chicago Marathon training schedule. I'm getting to the point.

The rain prohibited me taking my two running partners (the Monk dog and the iPod), so I was left to get soaked alone. Normally I do a lot of thinking and planning on my runs. Recapping the day, planning the next, solving any problems and thinking of ways to thwart oncoming challenges. But my mind was enjoyably clear today as I headed out for 6. So I decided to think about breathing.

The point of the article was to train your mind to be in touch with the "now." Pay attention to the next step, your body, any aches and odd feelings. Don't worry about the next mile or the next day. The breathing would help control pace, energy levels and stamina. So I breathed. Carefully. And I made an effort to block out all past and present. It's hard to do this, as a runner, because the destination is burned permanently in your mind. Stretches of the route also creep into your future planning altering your pace and challenging your guts.

There's a one mile area on my "flat route" from my house to the Plaza, void of a sidewalk. The need to focus on my footing and not slip down the muddied grass broke my concentration on the way out, but back, I was in full control of my breathing. A funny thing happened.

I had run probably a mile and a half in a total focused zone when a passing car, driven by a friend honked incessantly, waking me up. We said "hi" at the stoplight, then I kept going, thinking, "I have no idea how I got here." It was a great feeling - to be that in tune with the now. I also dug my ability to kill almost two miles without really thinking about the process.

I'm now sitting outside of one of the landmarks along today's route, my "Sunday" coffee shop (Hi-Hat's closed Sundays...), and I'm working on a new client's media relations plan. Prior to the planning deck, I was mapping out a new biz approach that will go into play this week. Thinking about my run, and my newfound power of now (laugh here), got me thinking about how much time marketers spend measuring the past and planning for the future. That's a huge part of our job.

But, our clients and their brands make the biggest impact in the now. The points of sale. The minute-by-minute product interactions. The "Blink" when consumers decide between brand a or b. It's our job to give our clients a little focused breathing now and then. Get in touch with the present and focus on how the brand interacts with the now. Maybe if we do that, we'll suddenly be surprised by arriving at our destination without needing a car horn to announce the present's marriage to the future.

Listening to: Keane, Under the Iron Sea

Thursday, July 06, 2006

American Red Cross and Threadless

Via Josh Spear, I'm loving the partnership between T-shirt site Threadless and the American Red Cross. This is an amazing artistic effort for a great cause, celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Red Cross. Best yet, the partnership makes the Red Cross more relevant to an important demographic.

A call for entries yielded three winning designs. My favorite is "Plus." Threadless' execution of the partnership, as well as its multiple avenues of interacting with site visitors and the Networld is a great example for any brand or cause partnership to follow.

Sit, Andy. Sit.

I sat. For two days. For most who know me, the act of sitting and doing nothing for longer than three minutes is an accomplishment. I'm naturally restless, quickly bored, surely could qualify for attention deficit drugs, always moving.

The long holiday weekend afforded me the opportunity to relax at a friend's cabin and it was one of the best things I've done in a long time. My days went like this:
1) Crack a beer
2) Sit
3) Play Frisbee
4) Sit
5) Swim
6) Crack a beer
7) Shoot Roman candles at whomever was swimming in the pond
8) Sit
9) Repeat

I've been much more at peace lately. Life is balancing out. I think I'm finding my chi or Zen or my fung and shui or whatever you want to call it. The sitting time furthered that feeling. Like icing on the cake.

In the spirit of calm, check out these albums.

Brookville - Life in the Shade: I downloaded this Friday and have enjoyed the album continuously. You'll dig Brookville if you like The Postal Service, Zero 7, The Album Leaf.
Micah P. Hinson - The Baby and the Satellite (EP): Featured yesterday on NPR's Song of the Day. Great writing, unique sound.

Listening to: Interpol, Antics