Sunday, July 27, 2008

the argument for polarization

polarization is a touchy word among brand folks. it's either a black or white or a very, very aspirational gray. you can't be both. and then add into the equation, the actual brand, which may be as vanilla as Wonderbread or steeped in niche and controversy. i, for a vote of one, believe brands must work as hard to have loyalists as they do to define for whom they are not.

that doesn't mean i'm advocating for an "If you're not with us, you're against us" strategy, but a firm stance in what the brand means and stands for. at the end of the day, much to the hopeful brand manager's dismay, you can't be everything to all people.

which leads me to one of the more inspiring brands i interact with - and, possibly uncharacteristically - am for. SWOBO bikes, one of which I ride, is a no-b.s., take-it-or-leave-it, this-is-who-we-are brand. the brand's blog, How to Avoid the Bummer Life is an often hilarious link farm, thought-provoking narration of cycling culture and counter-culture and just a darn fun read. sometimes the blog links to bicycle safety news, sometimes to YouTube's latest. but, in step with the overall brand, it has a distinct personality that you either love or don't.

i was catching up on SWOBO's blog this morning and ran across a great example of this polarization debate: Friday Heroes. the post leads with a blurb (below) from Bicycle Retailer containing a quote from a prospective buyer who loved the SWOBO Dixon, but didn't buy because after researching the brand, realized SWOBO is 100 percent against the Bush Administration. yup.

two things i love here: the consumer made a choice based on personal preference, which is the cost of doing business with a brand that has an actual personality. secondly, i believe it to be true that for every one person who is offended by the SWOBO ethos or its honest blog posts, five more find kinship, and that's a ratio as a marketer, I'm fine with promoting.

for those that know me, they know i'm not an alleycat-racing fixie-nerd. hell, i have a yellow lab and a Volkswagen. but being part of the SWOBO brand is as much a decision to ride a supple, solid bike as it is to connect to a side of cycling that is much different from my road riding and mountain biking. it's what i take to Man Date at McCoy's. it's what I ride to the store. it's what i ride when i put in the earbuds and ride aimlessly at night. it's not what i get kitted up for. it's not what i mix Hammer Nutrition in the water bottles's what I dump the rest of a beer into a bottle for. it's one of many poles in my life and it fills a great place in my heart.

the funny thing about the above blurb is that i love Trek bikes. and i got to thinking - you don't have to be one or the other! i've owned two and admired many more. i love the Trek company. and you know, though the brand gets a bit of the short end in the above post, Trek's also worked hard to form a personality. it's done so successfully enough that it was included as the other pole in the post. and i think that's just as important.

i get the business risk, the brand reputation fears, and the sweaty marketing manager who is trying like heck to hold onto his or her job. but this post made me remember, whether you're known for tattoos on your knuckles and playing cards in your spokes or you're known as the Tour de France winning bike, you have to be known for something.

SWOBO, through both its online and offline communication has found itself a place in a specific culture, one of which customers and loyalists can relate to, and maybe more importantly, one of which prospects can aspire to get just a little piece of.

and by creating that sturdy brand image, and pitting your brand against something WHILE you define yourself in relevant contexts (social, cultural, usage) you can make friends or at least gain perimeter admirers who one day might, as i did, find your brand among others and buy on pure joyful impulse.

kudos SWOBO. that's good press.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lunar Trek Ultramarathon Done

so it started during one of the weekly "Man Dates" that a core group of us men gather for each Monday. there was beer, there was much talking and boasting and at the end of the night, there was my dad with a pen in one hand and a registration sheet in the other. i signed it, didn't think much of what i was doing and set about to recycle the damage of the evening.

what i signed was my reg for the Lunar Trek 50 K (31 mile) ultramarathon in Scandia, Kansas. i've never run farther than marathon distance, so tackling 31 miles was daunting. then throw in the fact that the race starts at 11 p.m. and you're not only battling mileage, but the fact that your body wants to be asleep. then, throw in mud - lots of good, slow, ankle-pranking mud - and you've got a heckuva race.

dad and i completed the Lunar Trek this morning...around 5:30, just as the sun was coming up. to say that was a weird experience is not doing it justice. i am, however, so pleased with our time (6:28 total - this included long stops at aid stations and some walking) and even more appreciative of the great couple of days I could spend with my parents.

i couldn't have done this without my dad's support. moreover, neither of us could have been so well prepared and taken care of without Ma Woo, who, as always, met us every five miles with everything from fruit to candy to a suite of Hammer Nutrition products to crazy stories of her own adventures throughout the night (see the state of the family SUV below).

the organizers deserve an incredible amount of praise. they did such a nice job not only welcoming us to their small Kansas town, but laying out a challenging course with ample support and fun. big thanks to the families along the route who opened their farms/barns/drives to us and provided everything from boiled potatoes to booming hip-hop to keep us going. i will be back next year.

the support vehicle. i used Hammer Perpeteum, Heed, Gel, Endurolytes, Gatorade, Sport Legs and some Twizzlers Nibs for my fueling regimen.

members of the Kansas City Trail Nerds showed up in force. we took a quick group shot before the start and then enjoyed seeing familiar faces at the aid stations and dark roads during the race.

sitting down at the mile-10 aid station. started the race with my Montrail trail shoes and Injinji socks. after completely caking the shoes with mud they were just too heavy and I opted for my Brooks road shoes. made all the difference. i also (again) cursed the Injinji's and threw them away. these socks have never performed for me, and now i'm done with them.

we came up to mile 25 feeling really good - we knew the end was in sight - but we were tired. seeing the evidence of mom's "muddin'" adventure was enough to keep our conversation going for the next six miles. she's truly amazing. got the car stuck, laughed it off and deftly maneuvered out of a pit to the rejoicing of the watching aid station crew. in all my 28 years, this is a top-5 moment on her cool meter.

I'm not sure where this is...late in the game I believe. headlamps were required, as was a reflective vest. i didn't like my vest, so it did not participate. finally got Dad to rock the do-rag.

i just noshed on a cheeseburger and am one Pale Ale into the "recovery" process. i feel great - not sore and just a bit tired. the blessing of running dirt and gravel roads is their forgiveness of joints.

here's a quick breakdown of my mental/physical state during the race...a bunch of folks have asked what parts were the hardest, etc. keep in mind this was an out and back, we made up our extra one mile at the turn-around point. thanks to all who provided encouraging Facebook posts/texts/e-mails/calls. really meant a lot to me.

Mile 1-5
Felt super tired, almost instantly. My body's way of saying, "It's midnight, dumbsh#t. What is this?" Rolling hills, lots of mud.

Mile 5-10
My favorite stretch of the race. Beautiful run near tree lines and on small dirt roads.

Mile 10-15.5
This was hard. We easily felt the extra half mile and the long, straight stretches were mind numbing. This was about 3 a.m. and my head was wandering and i got sleep-tired again.

Mile 15.5-21
After maybe my favorite aid station (mmm, boiled salted potatoes and hip-hop echoing through a barn), we booked it on this stretch. Felt great, but sort of stupid, as we hit the next aid station pretty beat. I got a good second wind here, but felt out of sorts.

Mile 21-25
Nothing sounded good at the last aid station, so I ate a peach and drank some water. this was a great stretch - we got our pace back and put our heads down. was seeing the end in sight and enjoying the upcoming ability to say, "This is the farthest distance I've ever run."

Mile 25-31
It was clear that at this point, we just wanted to finish. We kept up a good conversation, as we had the entire way, but our pace and our speed up hills increased slightly. We battled the mud pit again, which slowed us down and wore us out, but the focus was on the faint light of the Pike Valley High School on the horizon.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

why i'm optimistic, part 1



Monday, July 14, 2008

sitting at the dealership...

...a couple observations. - let's debate: nice execution to Absolut Vodka's "In An Absolut World"campaign, or a new high/low for Kanye's arrogance?

i was reading SPIN's interview with Coldplay. this line popped: (context is Coldplay's manager wanting a 30 second promo to its full-length music video, which MTV will be running)

"...The guys worry this could steal the thunder from a viral video they're preparing to put online, a mash-up of clips of dancing politicians...and they're not convinced the MTV premier will do much to help the song's success."

Well that pretty much sums up so many things.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tour de France "Brand New Start" spot

if you're watching the Tour de France (and why the heck wouldn't you?) you've surely seen an emotional spot in which everything moves in reverse. the peleton retreats. a time-trial goes backwards. the traditional look-ma-no-hands kiss to the crowd in reverse, a winner steps down from the podium and, if you haven't yet caught on, Floyd Landis' jersey is removed.

this is one of the powerful anti-doping, clean-slate advertisements Versus created for this year's Tour. it's the only commercial i'm not sick of watching during three rounds of recaps today.

check it:

Tour de France - Brand New Start

you see the laundry list of accused dopers (and from quite a while back). a quick message board search will reveal a lot of mixed emotions on whether this strategy is a) moving the tour forward or b) holding it back and beating a doped-dead horse. the spot comes in :60's and :30's and i love it.

my vote is that it is the emotional accompaniment to the Take Back the Tour campaign and is strategically brilliant. Why? Because the Tour and the overall racing community has been blamed repeatedly for NOT closing the book on even banned athletes. sure, Landis loses his appeal, and Millar ate crow and came back clean to be a leader. but, we've yet to have someone say, "They are dead to us." "They are not winners." this is a way of drawing a line in the sand. those tour victories don't matter. the stage wins are empty. the last-minutes sprints meant nothing. i believe it's ballsy and brilliant.

at Barkley, we have a strong position on cause branding. that when you stand for something greater than your bottom line, people stand with you. Versus is standing for something huge here. sure, its advertisers might have hoped the doping would have been talked about briefly, then swept back under the rug. sure, its viewers might have mixed feelings about repeated dialog on this sore subject. but this campaign stands for something, and i believe it's a much-needed step.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 03, 2008

reaching into the back seat

blogging's taken the back seat to an incredibly busy and enjoyable period in my life. i really have nothing important to say, but felt i was neglectful in my blog posts.

why is it that during the times you have the most to talk about, blogging lightens?

in short:

Work is incredibly gratifying and just plain fun
Interwoven is about to launch two new shirts online (more soon)
Interwoven shirts can now be purchased at boutiques in Kansas City and Chicago
The Floyd Landises of tennis are meeting in the women's finals of Wimbledon
Tour de France starts Saturday
Sleeping under the stars in honor of our nation's independence
Running, riding, repeat
Running the Psycho Summer 15 mile trail run this weekend
Running my first ultra the following week
Finally discovered Mad Men
Have a splinter in my foot that won't come out.