Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Subliminal Advertising...the tables turned

I just learned of Derren Brown this morning, over coffee and a CLIF bar. Both still are untouched, as I have been watching his videos, combing through his website and jotting down ideas that have popped into my head (maybe from my subconscious to my conscious?). Via designverb, check out this video:

I am not for duping folks. This is quite different in my opinion. The example made in the video is about acknowledging the way environment influences the mind. Marketers have engaged in "subliminal advertising" for decades. Product placement is a rather overt form of this practice. However, colors, taglines and even spokespeople can be far removed from the brand display, yet still resonate within consumers - as a representation of the brand - when part of consumers' environs.

The best brands deftly interweave into our subconscious simply through organic proliferation. Some brands are navigated by marketing strategies that intentionally interweave. Either way, the outcome is a strong mark on consumers' minds...even if those consumers aren't aware they are being influenced.

I'll be saving this video for future presentations. I can already see its benefit in a proposal or as a leave-behind to a big, environmental campaign. I think this falls under the "use for good, not evil" mantra.

Listening to - Imogen Heap, Speak for Yourself.

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 27, 2006

Simple talk

Presentation, public speaking and everyday interpersonal communication are incredibly important parts of a marketer's job. From client communication to new business, the way we communicators communicate can make or break an idea. Too often, we who write for, train and strategize others' communication have difficulty when we're in the spotlight. To that end, I've tried to consistently improve my yapping skills.

I've read Garr Reynold's blog religiously for tips on presentation, speaking and organization. His recent take on John Maeda's book and accompanying The Laws of Simplicity blog was intriguing, and extremely helpful. And, well...simple. Garr illustrates some of Maeda's points, but check out the blog (and its sidebar resources) and book to learn more about each of the "steps" as well as great real-world business examples.

My biggest takeaway was the oft-forgotten law that simplicity can always benefit communication. From taglines to talking points.

Listening to - Josh Rouse, Under Cold Blue Stars.

Labels: , ,

Peace Oil

With the holiday onslaught of food product marketing, placement and embellishment in full swing, I was pleased to see a normal product produced in a new way by a company that is truly changing its culture to do better.

Peace Oil is an olive oil made in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouins.
"Profits from Peace Oil are used to support peace and reconciliation work in the Middle East."

Doesn't look like we state-siders can purchase this olive oil, but it's worth acknowledging the company's effort. I'm always looking for companies that have incited change from their core. Finding such companies and products is especially important this time of year. Tis the season for consumers to utilize their purchasing power, which can help companies like Peace Oil thrive. And who knows, we could actually make the world a better place.

Thanks to Josh Spear for the heads up. His blog is a great resource for finding better products and innovative companies...not to mention dang cool gift ideas.

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shred the marketing menu

I might have done a little Arsenio Hall fist pumping while reading John Wagner's commentary on the requirements for media relations v. other forms of marketing. This is refreshing. And highlights one of my pet peeves - the perpetuation of the marketing menu.

Good for John, a PR practitioner and OWNER of a PR firm for coming out and saying this. I know I’ve been guilty of not taking the stand I’m obligated to take – as counsel – and executing a client’s request without full buy-in that what I’m doing will truly move the needle. We've all done it. More often than not this is caused by us perpetuating the idea that marketing be made up of discipline boxes instead of:
a) integrated solutions (not just services...real solutions)
b) imagined, constructed and delivered in a new or well-tailored way

Glory can be found – and great relationships forged – when we get more comfortable taking away the marketing menu (“I’ll have some media relations and direct mail campaign please!”) and bringing out the blank specials board ("What can I make you?").

Thanks to Mason for the tip.

Listening to - Joe Purdy, Paris in the Morning

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Doing the little things differently...and why I'm weird.

I've been sort of obsessed lately. Obsessed with finding different ways to do, represent, create or describe things. Finding not only a new, but relevant path is why clients pay marketers. Whether a designer labors over developing a color palette that sets the client's brand apart at first glance or a PR practitioner delivering new angles and information, the marketing profession lives and dies by the different.

Sure, it's overwhelming at times...the pressure to discover is large and demanded. This is an exciting time for ideas because technology allows almost any pipe dream to be realized. This morning I was on one of my favorite sites for inspiration - Lifehacker - and found the following tools to create messages using letters formed by buildings across the globe or bits of signage/graffiti/art:

Google's GeoGreeting

Spell with Flickr

These are fun to play with, but also represent a launchpad for opportunities to communicate differently. We live in an exciting time. Could my father have imagined sending a greeting pieced together entirely out of satellite images? Did my grandmother think pictures of signs, taken across the globe, could be compiled to form patchwork words? No. How weird would these now-simple opportunities seem to generations past?

The hard part isn't the realization of dreams...it's having the ability to dream.

Speaking of weird...my friend Jenne "tagged" me today, challenging me to answer the following:

List 5 things weird about yourself or your pets.

Well that's pretty darn easy. Here goes.
1) I do not like the Beatles...as in, I'll leave the room if the mop-tops are playing.
2) I love airplane turbulence. Sometimes I laugh when it happens. Also seems like airplane liqour - beer to wine, whatever - tastes better than terrestrial libations. Weird sub-point: for much of my young life I thought Ginger Ale was only served on airplanes.
3) I get sort of freaked out about the ocean. I'm not scared of the ocean. I think the ocean has some sort of role to play in our ecosystem, but I don't want anything to do with it. I especially do not want to be on a cruise ship.
4) I don't drink tap water.
5) I hate chewing gum: seeing people chew it, seeing it chewed, the packaging, chewing it myself, etc. I only chew gum in dire situations, such as just walking out of a Thai restaurant and seeing a beautiful woman with a sign that reads: "Will totally make out with someone named Andy."

My personal hell looks something like this: piped-in Beatles music, force feeding of DoubleMint, while stuck on a boat in the ocean.

Listening to - The Jayhawks, Rainy Day Music

Labels: , , ,

Monday, November 13, 2006

Evening coolness

For your DIY-inclined hands: My buddy Tango's paint chip card holders. After posting a how-to for these great accessories, Josh Spear, Lifehacker, and Craftzine have already picked it up. He nailed del.icio.us' top ten most popular today. Tango and I had a conversation this afternoon on how quickly good things spread...as opposed to the PR-pushed, artificial seeding so many products/people must rely on. Tango's thoughts and goods are a great example of how easily great ideas ignite. Check out his Web site/portfolio.

For your eyes and ears: Lasse Gjertsen's amazing video. His follow up to "Hyperactive." All I can say is wow. And just for fun, play Lasse again, then start playing some Ben Folds (I suggest the intro to "not the same")...the comparison is creepy.

For the tech geek in each of us: I'm working on a project with some folks and tonight we were spread across the country. I couldn't explain how I needed something to look. And void of drawing software on my computer, a scanner or fax machine, I went to GE's Imagination Cubed site and drew my thoughts, sent them on and in minutes we were discussing. I'm going to continue using this as a communication tool. Here's a special note to you, reader.

Listening to - Old 97's, Fight Songs.

Labels: , ,

Does this (further) devalue the Starbucks brand?

I'm all over the map on my opinion of Starbucks as a brand. I don't trade there. Only if I'm in a place like Emporia, KS and am in dire need of a drink do I partake. Although when I'm in Japan, Starbucks is one of the only places I can get soy milk. And I don't have to use my Japanese to order. The point is, I go out of my way to frequent local coffee shops. Better beans, better service and rarely do I have to put up with something like this:

Via CC Chapman over at Crayon, this partnership between Wrigley and Starbucks places extremely creepy white teeth on the bottom of the cup. "Yay, I came up with a non-traditional advertising idea!" Reasons why I find this campaign difficult to swallow (I had to do it).

1) This is intrusive. It's bad enough that consumers (though some very willingly) pimp the Starbucks logo like beverage bling. I have a problem with brands asking consumers to both purchase and display. I mean, does anyone really want to have this on the bottom of his cup?
2) Horse teeth. Pretty white horse teeth, but horse teeth nonetheless.
3) What happens if someone rotates the cup? Are the baristas given a graphic cue on the cup to place the lid in the right spot? What happens after the customer hits the milk station?
4) I get the co-branding opportunity. Coffee stains. Gross teeth. Whitening gum. "We know you're going to keep drinking our coffee, so here's a way to chase the stain." But I'd love to have heard the discussion in the boardroom regarding calling attention to coffee's negative results.
5) Did I already say I don't like paying to be a brand's billboard?
6) Some friends and I argue over Starbucks current on-cup "The way I see it" quotes. I like them. Some people find them rather uppity. A graphic design purist friend hates the clutter. I'm sure she would say these cups are getting close to being NASCAR-like displays.
7) I worked with a coffee company once and we developed some ideas for bottom-cup messaging. It was all text-based and about the drink in hand. I think that works.
8) Why didn't Wrigley partner with Phillip Morris?
9) In that vein, what brand manager from a large teeth-staining winery would allow messaging on the cork?

Final vote? This afternoon I'm going, as always, to Broadway Cafe, which is right next door to the Westport Starbucks, for my joe jolt. They have plain white cups. And better coffee. Maybe I'll draw something on the bottom of the cup just to spite the campaign.

I wonder if Wrigley's could have spent nearly the same amount of money to send a stick of gum sampler to be included with each coffee purchase. That I could get behind. This looks too much like I'm drinking a Triple Grande Carmel Mr. Ed Skinny Capp.

Listening to - The Rentals, Return of the Rentals

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"Is that Sufjan Stevens?"

This Sunday ranks among the best Sundays ever. For me at least. Here's a rundown.
  • 11:00 wake up with Monk sprawled out on a good 3/4 of the bed. Winter is approaching, which means he starts feeling entitled to share the bed. This is not good.
  • 11:30 Toast, coffee and a protein shake, read various papers online.
  • 1:00 Met a group of friends at You Say Tomato. This could easily be my new favorite Kansas City restaurant. YST is one of those businesses you just know will make it. They haven't advertised, but have filled the chairs from extremely positive word of mouth and some well-earned press.
  • 3:00 Sat outside and played guitar, then read The History of Love. One of the most well-written books I've ever read. My friend Sara sent this my way on Friday and I've been reading it since.
  • 5:30 Went to church, which is always great. Tonight I served communion - one of my favorite things to do - and as I found my place up front, our band started playing what I thought was Sufjan Stevens' "To Be Alone With You." I looked up on the screen and yes, it was Sufjan. This is a pretty artsy, musical church, but Sufjan during communion? Then I listened to the words - of a song I'd played numerous times - and realized it was a very non-secular song. It was one of those experiences that seemed perfect.
  • 8:00 I joined four friends to run a very cold and wet 11 miles. We're getting ready for the Gobbler Grind and this was our peak in preparation for next weekend's half. I love these people and we knocked out a quick 11, filled with a ton of hills, in no time, laughing the entire way.
Excuse the self-absorbed lack-of-a-point post. I guess I'm allotted one every once in a while. It's my blog and all.

Oh - Blogger has a new Beta version up...I'm using it now. Allows for some better templates and labels. It's alright...forces you to log out of Gmail when you're in Blogger though. That's a not-so-well-thought-out process.

Here are the lyrics I spoke of. You really need to hear the song to appreciate the meaning.

Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Album: Seven Swans
Year: 2004
Title: To Be Alone With You

I'd swim across lake Michigan
I'd sell my shoes
I'd give my body to be back again
In the rest of the room

To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you

You gave your body to the lonely
They took your clothes
You gave up a wife and a family
You gave your goals

To be alone with me
To be alone with me
To be alone with me
You went up on a tree

To be alone with me you went up on the tree

I'll never know the man who loved me

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"What's going on?"

Those three words annoy me. As does the phrase, "How are you doing?" Both are vey sincere questions that our culture has turned into shallow greetings. That bothers me.

Last night I ran into a girl who asked, "What's going on with you?" She said this with the same amount of interest as, "Hey!" We hadn't seen each other in nearly six months and while I was going, she was coming...it was a brief encounter that warranted only me saying, "Tons. Work. Running. Monk's doing well." And in those few words I lamely summed up my existence. Morover, I didn't even return the question...just left. The truth is there's a lot going on, but the conversation and her expectations of the info we'd exchange fell short of any real substance. I can imagine her response being equally vague - "Work, thinking of grad school, you know."

This morning I grabbed a cup of coffee from a local shop and the barista engaged me (and darn near everyone else in line) in conversation about our Saturday plans. Not only was it a great way to communicate with a customer, but she formed a community with the five or six of us waiting for our drinks. We began talking about the activities each had planned for the day.

My thoughts quickly turned to marketing and brand relations, realizing this was a great example of the difference between brand conversations. Does your brand encourage conversation? Do your people set expectations during communication that allow real, meaningful dialogue to occur? Or are you saying, "What's going on?" when you really mean, "Hello and goodbye"?

Here's an example of a brand that incites tons of meaningful conversation, showcased in a customer's blog. Be careful, you'll get hooked on the posts and entries from users.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What's wrong with our country?

It's election day. This morning my vote dove from an electronic touch-screen in Roeland Park into a series of tubes that end, I can only guess, near Al Gore's house, which I think is where he invented the Internet.

I will say, I am a little uncomfortable with our democratic process when a sweet 80-year-old woman is trying to position her bifocals correctly just to find my name, then ask me to repeat the spelling louder, then spend five minutes SHOUTING my name to the next woman who then stumbles me through the electronic voting process. And it made perfect sense to me that the 20-something volunteer (who I'd imagine dabbled in electricity once or twice) was in charge of peeling the "I Voted" stickers off the reel.

But what disturbs me more about the state of our nation, is that today, election day, when both the House and Senate could be drastically changed, when electronic voting is causing worry and disruption throughout polling places, when we're at war in two countries, the following qualifies as breaking news on CNN.com:

Monday, November 06, 2006

How bad do you want it?

If this darn cheapo Blogger platform had a "Categories" option for posting, I'd have a category called, Stuff Olivier Blanchard Says That Makes Me Say "Damn!" Here's his latest homerun.

Friday, November 03, 2006


This site is incredibly smart and could very well live up to its title.

Great info and links to dig through as you end your week.

Diggin' these rings.

I don't wear jewelry. But I really like unique stuff, and I'm always a fan of handmade goods, especially goods made by friends. My buddy Tango is making these. I like them. Thoughts of how to personalize? I want one, but would prefer it personalized somehow.

Listening to - Bitter Sweet, The Mating Game

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Justin Marable and your Saturday night

Justin Marable's show, "Golden Maps, Roadside Treasures" opens at The Olive in Lawrence on Saturday. I was at The Olive last night helping Justin prepare for the opening and again was amazed by his talent. Those of us there to help with the installation frequently had to be called back to task after wandering around staring at his work.

You can check him out from 6-10 p.m. Saturday, or through the month. If you're in L-town Saturday, head over to the Jackpot Saloon to hear KC's The New Tragedies. Then go to Tellers. Then you can go home. Should be a great night.