Friday, February 29, 2008

"Let's build a micro-site!"

how often does this "differentiating" execution occur? these days, everyone has a micro-site. when micro-sites are on-strategy and communicate a specific idea succinctly, they work. they can engage in ways the mothership site can't. micro-sites can tailor a brand experience or provide a narrative for a new product.

alas, most end up far less strategic and end up heading to the little Internet in the sky to exist in some e-purgatory.

yesterday i was treated to not one but TWO wonderfully done micro-sites.

the first, from Adidas, does a superb job of telling the brand's creation story and putting a face (in claymation!) on its founder without being irrelevant and cheesy...instead, the film and very interactive site evolves nicely in a historical journey to today's products that any sports fan will drool over. (via joshspear)

the second, from Sprint, is titled Waitless. the site entertained the heck out of me, and is extremely strategic in its messaging. "Fast forward through the boring parts of life" is a helluva call to action and is an insightful nod to the power of mobile phones in our daily life. the minute you're bored, you pull out your mobile. why not apply that determination for efficiency and entertainment into other parts of your life? such as peeling bananas quicker. taking off your shirt faster? calming your crying baby? Waitless gives funky video instructions on how to cut time off of the most mundane tasks. my only complaint is the clear influence of will it blend in the look and feel.

both sites do a great job digging deeper and injecting some personality into two mega brands. kudos to those involved. haven't figured out the responsible parties yet, but when i do, i'll make 'em some quick-freeze sorbet. "Thanks Sprint!"

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

three bits of hump-day inspiration

busy day today...gotta be brief. but wanted to point you toward three things that have me all amped up.

first, from the wonderfully insightful Ruby Pseudo Wants a Word, a look at youth tribes and their tatoos. every agency client should have a Ruby Pseudo at their service. i learn so much each time she posts.

This Ain't No Disco gives us an inside look at creative spaces. it's no shock to those of us in the creative industry that space plays a major role. an uninspiring scene often promotes uninspired work. how does your space match up?

i attended the Citizen Cope concert last night with a number of folks (and a lot of stoned college freshmen). a great concert and even better company (stoned freshmen excluded), but the highlight of the evening was Cope's encore when he launched into a cover of Radiohead's Karma Police. as i mistakenly predicted in just hearing the first few chords, it was not UB40 - happily. this is a poor quality video of the song, but you get the idea.

as i told Mark on the drive home, the amount of buzz and chatter Radiohead gets in online trendspotting circles is astounding. its press in mainstream media is even more noteworthy. attention to its music, its cultural impact and its tech/business innovation yields best practices for brands far removed from the music scene. the group has transcended mere "band" status into the arts-equivalent of U2 in my mind. remember the Amplive remix i pointed you toward? here's another well-known cover of Kid A by John Mayer. every artist and their mother has covered Creep.

enjoy, and be inspired.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

a vision of students today

just watched this insightful video by Michael Wesch, Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University, via PSFK. the video was created by Wesch and 200 of his anthropology students to document changes in student learning, while traditional education remains very much intact.

when i talk to college students the biggest change i see is the existence of laptops in class. with wireless networks allowing online perusal during lectures - and many of those lectures being given to enormous classes, tuning out and surfing the 'net become the norm. i'm not sure how this habit has taken hold in the small, private colleges i attended, but i'd imagine where there's a will there's a way in any sized class.

i think the most interesting thing about this video is its relevance to the way many of these college grads act in the workplace. just as education is changing and technology is both positively and negatively affecting the traditional school setting, the workplace is quickly evolving to reflect the same trends.

it's a permeation of multi-tasking and shortened attention spans. it's a heightened sense of urgency, perpetuated by convenience and opportunity to feed and execute any desire/task.

what does it all mean? i look at this video, and look around my own office and see that engagement is king. from the class to the office, technology plays both sides of the sword when it comes to engagement: you can use it to engage an audience in a meaningful way, or technology can be the first suitor to lure a disinterested brain away.

kudos to K-State for exploring this. too bad they couldn't win last night's game (yeah, i was rooting for them) to position the Jayhawks a bit more favorably.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

fashion and culture

while at multisport spin last night, my friend and owner of KAT Clothing, Kate, delivered me an inspiring folder of finds from her various trips to sourcing and fashion shows over the past month. she and Interwoven Threads new shirt printer were my eyes at the shows i couldn't make. i may blog on some of these later on the Do Better Blog, but the various T-shirt companies further underscored the saturated market Interwoven deals in and the importance for maintaining and evolving the compelling social story interwoven (couldn't help myself) into the brand.

later at dinner, got into a discussion about the importance of attending these shows, fashion weeks, etc. not just to gauge style trends related to the fashion industry, but to understand overall cultural trends and cues. fashion, in my opinion, is the most accessible manifestation of personal style. more telling than home design, more on-display than music and entertainment tastes. it is a fascinating way to monitor micro trends that might otherwise go unnoticed.

as Interwoven's spring and summer designs are finalized and i am looking through 2008, i've been inspired by a deeper dive into the fashion chatter online. however, monitoring the weird world of clothing is as relevant to my ad job as to my side project.

here are a few examples of what gets me thinking:

The Sartorialist
: great snapshots of street style (skews toward tailored, high-end threads) and even better on-the-street interviews featuring everyday peeps describing their outfits and personal style.

Rock Racing kits: may be that the Tour of California is on my brain, but ask any cyclist for his or her opinion on Rock & Republic founder Michael Ball's new pro team, and their wild ensemble is the least controversial element of the team's identity. (see below, Michael Cipollini finally at home in an equally-as-edgy-as-he RR kit. note that the TT holder, pictured behind Cipo, rides next to me at spin i don't feel like such a bonker when he's pushing huge gears faster than i'm spinning the small ring.)

Andre 3000 (aka Andre Benjamin)'s new clothing line. Kanye West gets a lot of credit for challenging conventional hip-hop style, but Benjamin's been doing it longer, and in my opinion, much better than the simple West preppy.

international street style roundup, courtesy of the Coolhunter.

street clash. great photo/blog competition.

what fashion info do you follow? i'd love to add more feeds.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is your product essential?

what would you say, if asked "how many products are truly essential to your life?" 2 percent of the market shelves? 1 percent?

few brands are blessed with truly essential products. we marketers may attempt to convince consumers that products are essential and at the very least provide a benefit to one's life. but really, what do you (if you're a marketer) promote that one truly can't live without or might actually be essential to life? the percentage is low.

i was bouldering last night when i decided to take a quick "break" and do some top rope climbing. compare the two above photos, one of an ice climber and the following of a boulderer and you quickly get where i'm going with this post. the ice climber is sporting darn near essential products exclusively. from his crampons to his harness to his helmet and maybe most specifically, each bolt he sets on lead. the woman, however, relies mainly on her own strength, strategy and stamina, as her distance from the ground is not fatal (note the crashpad, a smart idea and in my mind essential).

my point on essential products wasn't realized in the more romantic way of being 30 feet up on a wall while my belay partner picked up the slack from the ground. it came when i was the belayer, carefully pulling slack and lowering the climber and seeing the value in the belay device that held the climber between feat and fall.

and i got to thinking about climbing products' genesis and obviously turned my focus to Yvon Chouinard and Chouinard Equipment - the Patagonia founder's first venture, which revolutionized sport climbing and environmental sustainability. each piton Chouinard forged was a link between life and death. each piece of equipment was relied on by climbers not only to be effective and provide functional benefits, but to ensure safety.

we can't all produce essential products. not every brand is in the business of creating essential friction between a climber and belayer. and i am certainly not advocating marketers bend their bounds to create an essential need when none exists.

but using the concept of essential as a filter surely will make our messages more focused and relevant. surely it can strip the superfluous from strategies and design.

clothing is not essential. organic clothing, however, could have a case made for being essential to the environment.
beef is not essential. naturally-raised, locally-produced beef, however, could be far more essential to consumer health than mass-produced/packed/shipped products that are gaining an unfortunate amount of attention.
cars aren't essential, safety is.

you see where i'm going with this. no, we may not work on the Petzel account, but we can add an element of focus, reason for importance and maybe even a case for essential to the way products work and are produced. this is a conversation far past "marketing." it's about design...which is a conversation that's becoming increasingly essential for marketers to have.

(above photo credit, Jimmy Chin)

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Interwoven Threads update...donations!

donated the last of the 2007 shirts to reStart today! read the Do Better Blog for a recap!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

remixes, collaborations and brand strategy

one little known love of mine is hip hop. yes, you can laugh at the notion. however, in addition to my love for slow geetar tunes and folksy rock, i nod my head to Notorious frequently. i'm working on a little pet project right now, dissecting collaborations between brands and in that process uncovered this video/song from The Pack: Vans.

got me thinking about collaborations and remixes that crossover between two very different brands or cultures. The Pack's video and the buzz that's surrounded it is evidence that a cross-over from one culture to another can have a powerful impact. whodathunk the traditionally white-boy-skater shoes could infiltrate the sneaker-zealot hip hop culture in such a big (billboard topping) way? cross-over of kicks in hip-hop culture aren't new (think Nike SB Dunks and Air Force 1s), but The Pack is suggesting quite a big change in the way people are dressing and that doesn't come around too often. moreover, i think this is an example of a shattered ceiling for some brands that might not have the guts or insight to enter into new markets.

keeping within the remix theme, i downloaded well-known DJ Amp Live's finally-released remix of Radiohead's In Rainbows. wow. brilliant composition and incredibly respectful evolution to a stellar In Rainbows. i ran some errands during lunch today and pumped the album. the Jetta is 10x cooler as a result. the below videos document Amp's attempt to get around a cease and desist from Radiohead's management, then the thank you video once Radiohead let Amp put the remix out (for free download, of course).

not only is the remixed album amazing, but it's a brilliant collab (per Radiohead's OK) across two very differnt musical genres (with equally proud fans) and ends up elevating both artists' brand and work. please download it. your afternoon will be better.

the most notable collaborations are the collabs you wouldn't have thought of, but once you see them materialized, make total sense. so how does one or one's brand get there? i believe the answer resided in an understanding of cultural needs and consumer insight. it's more than brand a looks great with brand b. it's about empowering consumers to crossover to a new style, culture or mindset via a remix of the familiar.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

psycho wyco winter run

The crew beforehand, still clean. Kevin's either following his heart to my shoulder or his hat's stuck on my CamelBak.

i joined a few of my friends to run the psycho wyco winter trail run on saturday. i ran this last year, and then did the summer version in july. the trail conditions this year surely beat the ice we ran on last year, however, the snow pack, slush and mud mixtures made things interesting.

my goal was to break two hours, which i did, coming in at 1:54. yeah - for a 10 miler! crazy slow. i had an average 11:23-per-mile pace. i thought without the ice i'd be much faster than my 2-hour time last year, but this year's mud and slush slowed me did the hilly course.

another very well-run race by the Trail Nerds...great job guys. they took great care of the runners, providing everything from sports drink to lentil soup to coffee and donuts. that, however, wasnt' enough. we hit up Room 39 after the race for some much-deserved food and much-needed bloody Marys. more than anything, it was great to run this tough race with a good crew of people. here's to a nice cap on the winter racing schedule.

this is the second trail run i've done in my new Montrail Highlanders. i swapped them in for the Vasque Velocity kicks and have been really pleased.

parting inspirational shot

and an actually inspirational shot, via the Soiled Chamois. i love this poster for so many reasons.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

what i'm digging

time for another random sampling of the things i'm currently digging.


nada surf, lucky. one of my favorite bands finally releases their much-awaited album. play the first track, See These Bones and tell me it's not the best intro to a song you've heard in a good long while.

jack johnson, sleep through the static. this green advocate put his money and music where his mouth is by creating a "green" studio. his label and its artists are following suit. traditionally mellow surf tunes.

guitar, tokyo. i found this artist via pandora. i love traditional japanese music, especially koto and shamisan instrumentals. guitar blends this with some german techno. seriously. it works.


magnetic curtains. until i realize my dream of living in a warehouse nestled against the Rockies, i'm not sure i have a real need for these, but they look functional for offices or other large spaces in need of division. what a no brainer. (via designverb)

green collar jobs. i'd be more inclined to consider "green collar jobs" as those more in innovation than maintenance, but i do like where this is going and it's obviously one more way "green" is blending into the mainstream.

the kansas democratic caucus. my friend celeste has a good recap of the evening here. you're looking at the Obama line. as reflected in the results, there really wasn't a Clinton line to speak of.

kc multisport spin class. photo via little miss runner pants. this has proved to be well worth its cost of participation. had to miss Tuesday's class due to my participation in the political process, but i'll be back in the saddle tonight.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


i have an entirely online kinship with Olivier Blanchard via his great Brand Builder blog and a few meaningful career conversations over the years. his is a blog i check the minute it goes live with an update in my Bloglines. i link to him frequently, we exchange comments and e-mails. i've failed to link to his business-partner-in-crime Roby's blog and i guess it's just simply time to do that. (and yes, both Olivier and Roby take phenomenal cycling photos and are based in the kick-assery state of SC).

Roby - whom i do not know - is in Afghanistan in defense of our country. did you get that? both Roby and Olivier have served their countries, which gives them bigger cred than i, and i have been absolutely leveled reading Roby's blog posts and looking through his photo galleries. Roby and Olivier both have insane photography skills, in addition to their marketing strategy and implementation abilities, those photography and writing skills are featured in Roby's documentation of his time in the "'Stan."

if you follow Olivier's blog, you'll know he is a no-B.S. guy, who sees marketing and his work through an incredibly clear lens. Roby's blog and gallery are equally frank and feature a look at war in a very human and real way.

give Roby's blog a look - it'll keep you grounded. and make sure you check out Olivier's blog for some in-yo'-face marketing speak.

as an onlooker, it's cheesy for me to wish Roby the best. but i am serious when i say i hope his ability to document the war is disseminated farther so others can benefit from these up-close-and-personal accounts of a life that preserves the lives we lead stateside.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

the problem with trends

wow. this will be worth ten minutes of your life.

i'm not even going to try and summarize or offer too many thoughts, as i want this to sink in to readers. PSFK outlines the trouble with the trends biz and does so in a way that is relevant to everyone: from agency creatives and strategists to CMO's to the armchair trendspotting nerd.

check out the post here. Piers' list here provides a nice gut check for those of us who research, mine and follow trends in the attempt to make brands better.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bob Roll delivers classic Bobke-isms, great night

friday night my buddy Kevin and I headed to Lawrence for the Sunflower Outdoor/Bike Shop's friends/family night with former pro roadie turned mountain biker turned very colorful commentator Bob "bobke/boobke" Roll. Roll perched on the steps of Sunflower's bike side and gave an hour-plus storytelling session including everything from his time riding with Lance Armstrong to his seasonal job as Tour commentator for Versus.

via his bio on the Versus site, Bob's cycling experiences include:
• Member of the Cycling Hall of Fame as part of the original 7-Eleven Cycling Team
• Former member of the Motorola Cycling Team
• Four-time Tour de France, three-time Giro d'Italia, eight-time Paris-Roubaix, and three-time Tour de Suisse racer
• Won stage three of the 1988 Tour de Romandie
• Won stage 11 of the 1985 Coors Classic
• Won the 1997 & 1998 San Franciso Hill Climb
• Raced in eight World Championships

Roll was great - all shaggy from his time off at home in Durango, the guy was extremely entertaining. also fun was the chance to catch up with some old Lawrence friends and empty a few Free State kegs by night's end. here's a nice article from the LJ World.

i could stop here and most would be satisfied, but this can and does tie into the marketing world by showcasing Sunflower's incredibly loyal customer base. there were close to 200 people attending, only told via word of mouth and an e-mail. kudos to Dan Hughes for putting this on and keeping on Bobke to come deliver one of his few speeches per year among middle-of-America flatlanders. Sunflower was set up with 20 percent off discounts for this friends and family group - all loyal cu$tomer$ - and the vibe was that of thankfulness and revelry in what is a strong cycling and outdoor community, much a credit to Dan and the Sunflower folks.

now i'm ready to pull the bike off the indoor trainer and hit the roads. had a long afternoon of climbing at Monster Mountain. not sure i like it as much as Ibex, but certainly appreciate its close proximity to my pad. now, time to crack some beers and watch some commercials.

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