Thursday, March 29, 2007

which comes first: the blog or the brand?

i should make my point/start the conversation on the front end of this post, as i'm guessing i'll lose you to the following link (coming later, keep reading). patagonia started a company blog, "the cleanest line" (still not linking). as with most things patagonia, it's darn near perfect from an execution and brand standpoint. i find very little to not like about patagonia and am continously impressed with the company's commitment to its socially-conscious roots of environmentalism and sustainable growth. so when i got the e-alert that the company was blogging, i was stoked.

after reading the blog, i got to thinking about the classic chicken or egg argument. more specifically, which comes first, the brand or the blog? you can argue successfully either way. many blogs have launched/solidified brands. many brands have beget wonderful blogs. i think we've seen that more often than not, having your brand's house in order yields better communication all around. very rarely is it the other way around.

with social media becoming a mainstream aspect of brand communication, many re-branding campaigns, product launches and company changes are introduced at least in part with a new blog. we marketers are almost conditioned to at least throw "blog" out in a brainstorm nowadays. with so many newer companies blogging about newish issues to help define the brand, the patagonia blog came well after the company has already established its brand identity and voice. and i think that's why the blog reads so well. seems darn natural and nowhere near a corporate communications tool.

i think the issue is worth addition to the "what came first," thread, the cleanest line (still not linking) proves what many branding/communication folks have always known and seldom have the guts to tell clients: if you have nothing worth talking about, nothing we can do for you will start a meaningful conversation. patagonia proves this by its ability to first be focused on a wonderful product, innovative company and tried-and-true culture. then blog. then hold a press conference. then....

check out the cleanest line to learn more about patagonia. i can see this blog quickly occupying new media presentations as a blog/company that gets it. the byproduct of this blog is a more enthusiastic consumer base, more loyal evangelists and proud employees. who wouldn't want to work with a boss like this:

(posted on the cleanest line, e-mail from patagonia founder yvon chouinard's wife malinda)

Subject: Surf 3-4ft hot and glassy

Go now 245pm

Listening to - KCUR 89.3 FM - it's Fund Drive time in public radio! Donate.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

file under, "brilliant"

you know those ideas you just wish you'd have been part of? next to the slinky, here are a couple beautiful executions i just came across.

in the age of exploiting patriotism to sell goods with backwards spots, i was excited to find a website that ties its product into its country of origin in a creative, proud and strategic way.

since living in japan i've been fascinated with onitsuka tiger shoes. the pre-asics brand has a deep history and some very cool designs. it's also a rather quintessential japanese company. i found the company's new website - "made of japan" - yesterday and have been transfixed by the experience. kudos all around for the execution...i can't find a single flaw in the strategy or product of this creative thought.

and if you've got five minutes to spare, watching this video in its entirety will be worth your time. via citizen brand, the spoof video to publicize ricky gervais' red nose day. as i said, watch this to its conclusion...the pay-off is poignant and hilarious. i'm a huge ricky gervais fan and have always admired his subtlety and intellect, both of which are front and center here. the video is a hilarious, needed commentary on our culture, marketing and commerce, with a powerful message for doing actual, real good for people who are truly less fortunate.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

I want these clothes Nau.

i first heard about nau clothing in good magazine. since, i've read a number of blogs, cool hunters and press on this amazing company. nau blends outdoor clothing functionality with urban style. organic cotton, recycled materials, i could go on and on, but you best just read the website. or, visit their "webfronts."

companies like this make me smile. they make me excited about commerce. they make me confident about the future.

listening to - Bright Eyes, Four Winds (EP)

Monday, March 19, 2007

What do you want to do before you die?

via josh spear, check out the trailer for the buried life, then dig into the project information. this gave me goosebumps and got me all energized about the power of people doing good. so what's on your list? even though i haven't written a to-do-before-i-die list, i write a list of goals for the year on each birthday. it's been a powerful form of empowerment for the year and has kept me accountable to the things that truly matter in my life.

listening to - joshua james, the sun is always brighter.

Don't underestimate your audience's intelligence

i love great copywriting. i'm talkin' real whiz-bang turns of phrase. there's a fine art to all forms of writing, but copywriters often must create miracles of language under tremendous pressure.

i'm equally passionate in my hatred for advertising that underestimates my intelligence, or, spoon feeds me the "joke" or "idea" as if i'm not smart enough to figure it out on my own.

i was in chicago last week and saw this sign in my hotel. now, without the emphasis, it's pretty darn punny for a hotel bar ad. not bad. but really, did they think i wouldn't get the joke? did they think i'd walk away saying, "morons spelled 'ails' wrong."??? come on.

listening to - Amy Winehouse, Back to Black

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


the beautiful Kansas City weather has done a number on my ability to focus. so, here are some random things seen, eaten, read that may help you divert your attention from the office window and back to your computer screen.

1) one of my favorite things about living in japan was the sheer randomness of japanese culture. saw this today, via Tokyo Times (a blog that identifies such randomness). yeah, it's a dead-body picker-upper.

2) ze frank on brands. if you don't mind the "f-word," you'll get a lot out of this rant.
3) andrew the planner and i walked to souperman for lunch today. it was pretty good. i've heard rave reviews of the soups, but the pre-made sandwiches proved to be about par (even though they're wrapped in a cool sorta-sandwich, sorta-burrito way). i know having pre-made sandwiches is a speed/service decision, but if i'm a) paying for my meal and b) not in jail, i want the freakin' onions taken off my sandwich. is it "below par" or "above par" when something isn't as good as it could have been? overall, great food. friendly service, nice location. and with an extensive menu of fresh soups, i'll enjoy going back.
4) i keep going back to jonathan harris' work, from his "universe" to "we feel fine." via josh spear, this is just incredible.
5) is anyone else having technical trouble (linking, publishing) with blogger lately? i mean, in addition to the normal frustrations (such as blogger catching the word "blog" in spell check)?

OK. Back to work. Carpe diem!

Listening to - Band of Horses, Everything all the Time

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Favorite Kansas City Coffee House Poll

The KC Biz Journal is conducting a poll for its readers favorite coffee shops. I'm excited to see how they report this. My vote was Hi-Hat.

What makes a good coffee shop in your mind?

via Shake Gently.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More on Project Red

Update: Mike shot me an e-mail with an update to his blog. He, as I hoped for the other day, analyzed Product Red in a great way. And I'm happy to push his phrase "marketing cause" into the lexicon. It's a serious statement and one that should make marketers and consumers think twice about messages.

The wonders of medicine

Alright...I'm getting some heat for my Beatles comments...but nothing from fans of the ocean. So a change of subject. I'm sitting at home reflecting on a conversation I had tonight with my grandmother, who broke her hip yesterday morning. She is recovering well from a surgery today that repaired the break and has left her even more mushy and sweet than she was before the pain meds kicked in.

It's absolutely amazing to me that doctors can go in and repair something in an hour. Something as serious as a break in the hip! We - as in the majority of Americans - are so lucky to have such a luxury. The opportunity for health and more importantly recovery. And it's something I'm sure we all take for granted. I was reminded of this luxury the other day when I went to get a dental cleaning. I walked over to the front desk to presumably pay, and the receptionist told me it was all covered by my insurance. Now, my insurance has covered check ups for years, but it did strike me as a luxury and now, even more, I'm appreciative.

So my grandmother, whom I absolutely love, is doing well. She's groggy, but understood the events of my day and was interested in Kansas City's weather (which in her mind is much different from Lawrence's weather).

There's not a huge point to this post other than to think about the little things that really are quite big. The insurance. The quality health care. The opportunity to recover.

Listening to - Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

99 cents is far too much to spend on a Beatles' song

Most of my close friends know that I wholeheartedly dislike two things: the Beatles and the ocean. Admittedly, I have no real solid reason for disliking either and have relied on hollow justifications and a sarcastic smile.

The Beatles:
Annoy me
Have lyrics either written by a stoned 16 year old or a poetic four year old
Stick in my head and make me drink
Had no real identity
Yielded the Monkeys

The ocean:
Is a giant toilet
Is where the dinosaurs went
Will takeover Florida
Creates a subculture of disobedience and sloth
Enables sunburns and shark attacks

And now, I find out that one of my favorite brands, Apple, which has - in its iTunes store - been wonderfully void of Yoko's Boys may make amends with the Beatles' corporate entity (Apple Corps) and create on big fruit-filled love fest.

My idea of hell, which currently consists of being trapped on a cruise ship in the middle of the sea with a continuous soundtrack of the White Album blaring throughout, has now been amended. Instead of speakers piping in Sgt. Pepper, the annoying psychedelic pap is delivered from my iPod...and I can't make it stop...and the waves are crashing...and someone whispers "perfect storm," and I find myself lost in a swirling, bobbing, leaking yellow submarine.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I guess soup kitchens just have crappy lighting

And this may be the reason why Bono spent 100 million buckaroos in well-lighted marketing/promotion on his RED campaign. Now, I was a fan at the start, even blogging here and here, but now I'm pissed. His 100 million spent kissing Oprah's wallet, taking beautiful shots of beautiful people, sponsoring everything under the sun, and saturating consumers with what is at heart a great idea, ONLY YIELDED 18 MILLION IN DONATIONS. For those of you in marketing, or just into budgeting in general, you'll see that the ROI on this is horrid.

The result? Well, partner brand reputation is going to suffer. Companies that signed on to raise awareness for AIDS in Africa are now going to have to mess with damage control. The public will get wind of this and probably stop and think harder about buying RED products. Non-profits are going to kick their dwindling buckets of donations in anger. One heckuva parody effort, Buy (LESS) CRAP! launched.

But the biggest fear I have? a young consumer...I'm worried an opportunity at a new kind of consumerism was botched and will create yet more cynicism among a demographic that could, for years to come, change the donation model through better buying decisions.

Whew. That was a rant. But I'm mad. Cause marketing already walks an incredibly thin line and this doesn't help cause-based campaigns that are truly doing great work and watching their costs. They're out there. Find them. And they're getting great, positive press. I guess this might be a lesson to me, and others. Maybe I should have waited before jumping on the Bono bandwagon. Maybe I should have been more critical. But you know what, I hate to. I like trusting that people/companies are just plain being nice. I like thinking I'm part of something new and different.

In the end, the nearly 40 bucks I spent on a RED shirt might have better been spent as a donation to Aids Walk Kansas City. Or gas money from my house to a soup kitchen. I guess it's all relative, but it's certainly a wake up call to assess how each of us, as individuals, want to contribute to the greater good.

I'd love to hear from Mike (a former boss and cause thought leader) on this, at Citizen Brand. He's been at the helm of some great cause efforts that found the positive balance between marketing and impact. And others. Especially people in my generation. Those that accompanied me to the Hotel Cafe Tour and raved about its RED partnership, maybe.

Anyway...I'm done. Time for more coffee and a few deep breaths.

Listening to - Great Lake Swimmers, Ongiara

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 02, 2007

Week-end randomness

Alright, kiddos. Some Friday randomness.

It's midnight and I'm trying to stay up late so I have a real, biological need for Coffee Mornings today....

It's First Fridays in Kansas City! Gotta love working in the Crossroads.I recently met a heck of an entrepreneur, one whom you should know. First off, I don't wear panties, and this is sort of a stretch for Woolard Speak. But I can certainly appreciate Sunny Dawn Summers' Solo Jones line. You KC women can get them at Birdies in the Crossroads. Sunny makes great stuff, from a style/quality standpoint. For all brands, pay heed (via Spike, at Brains on Fire): How to Kill Your Brand.

I have yet to talk about this re-branding, but I think it's just fantastic. And I am biased, as I worked with this organization and keep good friends there. But check it out, and check yourselves. Kudos, Komen, for staying relevant and reinventing your brand to reflect its essence.
The Monk dog, pictured below, has deemed it time to go to sleep. Have a good weekend, all.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Consumer-generated concert film

Wow. So two dudes, Alex Simmons and Douglas Caballero get an idea to edit together over 200 video clips shot by fans' cell phones and digital cameras at the Shins' ACL Fest concert. The dudes approached the Shins, got them to cue up the audience, then collected the uploads to produce a very original look and feel. Check it. (if the below embedded video doesn't show up, click here:

One thing that this shows, is that an audience, when incited only by the opportunity to interact with a killer product (The Shins) will gladly take the time to engage in a conversation. Kudos to Simmons and Caballero, and the Shins, for starting something surely to be replicated.

Listening to - Mates of State, Team Boo