Friday, December 28, 2007

The innovations of December

Sometimes it is good to look back in time to remember how we got to where we are today. Here are some notable Brand Innovations from Decembers past.

Dec 16, 1773 – Brand Evangelism heard ‘round the world: Colonists threw 342 crates of tea into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party

Dec 3, 1818 – Brand of Lincoln in the making: Illinois became the 21st state

Dec 17, 1903 – Brand in Flight: Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first controlled, powered flight in history

Dec 21, 1937 – Brand Entertainment dominance begins: The film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was first shown

Dec 2, 2001 – Brand Gone Bad: Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Innovations of 2007 -- Brands on the Run

Fortune Magazine has published a study of breakaway brands for 2007. After analyzing over 2,500 brands, here’s what they came up with as the top 10:

Brands Value gained (in millions) 2003-06 How they did it
1. T.J. Maxx $697 Expanded clientele with higher-end jewelry offerings
2. iPod $7,842 Kept the hits coming with sleek new video models
3. BlackBerry $4,933 Transformed glitchy business tool into must-have
device
4. Stonyfield Farm $61 Maintained organic street cred despite sale to Danone
5. Samsung $4,282 Created communities for fans of its TVs and
cellphones
6. Costco $3,409 Took treasure-hunt shopping experience to the web
7. Propel $249 Fitness water brand added calcium-enhanced line
8. Barnes & Noble $283 Lured families with play areas and Starbucks coffee
9. General Electric $7,579 Eco-friendly product push started to pay dividends
10. Microsoft $5,462 Xbox gave the company valuable consumer buzz

The research was conducted by Landor Associates, a strategic branding and design firm.

For more information on this survey, visit http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/31/magazines/fortune/microsoft_ge.fortune/index.htm

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Virtual Store Aisle

New technology is leading retail store designers to create a more efficient shopping experience. By sending a test subject through a virtual store simulation and tracking eye movements, designers are learning how customers shop. But as computer interfaces become more and more visual, and more and more realistic, perhaps going on a virtual shopping trip will be the way we shop for everything in the future.

We already do a lot of online shopping, purchasing everything from books to groceries. Imagine if you could handle all of your shopping online, not through difficult, text-based lists but through an interface more like the way you shop in person. You could browse through the virtual aisles, select virtual products, and put them in your virtual cart. When you are done, your check-out is instant and painless, and the items will be delivered to you, free of charge, at whatever time you select.

All of this from the comfort of your own home, without the hassle of parking, crowds, or screaming kids.

It may sound far fetched, but at least one company is already trying to change the way we use computers – Linden Labs, makers of Second Life, have produced an interactive, immersive, virtual world where your avatar interacts with others, sharing ideas, buying products, and creating virtual islands (you can actually buy an island and customize it however you want). One of the goals of Second Life, according to Linen Labs, is to create a new interface for the Internet – instead of text-based searches where you jump to your end location, you will walk to where you want to go, experiencing the stuff you skipped over before.

Welcome to the future.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sharing "The Gratitude Campaign"

My mom forwards me lots of emails – jokes, political jabs, hoaxes, weather news, and occasional family gossip. But today she sent an important link – one I felt shared a cause worthy of your attention.

http://www.gratitudecampaign.org/shortmovie.php

The story that accompanies the film is one I’m sure we can all relate to.

“For the past several years as I've been traveling around the country, I've been approaching soldiers in the airports and thanking them for serving for us. On several occasions I have noticed that it felt a little awkward for both of us. There are several reasons, some of which I am even just now learning as I produce this film and talk to more soldiers. But they have always appreciated being thanked, and I have always felt better having expressed my gratitude.”

As the film states, this is not about politics. We would say it’s about ETHOS.

When you’re shopping or traveling this holiday season, I'm sure you'll see lots of military men and women who deserve recognition. If you appreciate their service, give them a sign. Say "thank you."

(And if you’re moved to do so, share this with your friends and family.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's in a name? A heck of a lot!

Naming is a huge part of branding. What are your thoughts on silly brand names? Are they effective? Are they necessary to get the public's attention? Leave a comment with your ideas.

Check out this article from Brandweek on December 3.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Who is Ron Paul?



Set your Tivo now!

For Lexus, “the pursuit of perfection” extends to its magazine

A recent article in Lexus magazine began, “Owners of the impressive new Lexus hybrid — the upcoming LS 600h L — will have a tough daily decision to make: Be a driver and enjoy the power of the world’s first V8 hybrid vehicle, or be a back-seat passenger and enjoy the optional shiatsu massage?”

Whichever experience they choose, they will also be able to enjoy another brand experience – the Lexus magazine itself.

Lexus magazine is an award-winning quarterly print publication (and companion interactive site) created especially for Lexus owners. Like its vehicles, Lexus magazine reflects a sophisticated nature and understated elegance, with rich editorial content and photography.

Editors say, “Ultimately, we strive to lead our readers on memorable journeys. It’s a rewarding experience that reflects the dreams and aspirations of our highly discerning audience. In addition to profiling our vehicles, from their advanced engineering and luxurious amenities to the role they play in readers’ lives, the magazine feature articles that whet the appetite for savory cuisine, innovative culture, and intriguing destinations.”

You can sample the publication here.

Then, read the media case study.

Friday, December 14, 2007

New technology offers potentials for customer evangelism

One of the latest direct marketing innovations is the text-blast. This technology sends text messages directly to the target audience’s mobile phone. This is an innovative way to address a new technology, and as our portable devices give us greater and greater connectivity between the real and the virtual, we will see more.

Already there are technologies (mostly in beta testing), such as Socialight, that are GPS-based advertisements. The program allows users to place virtual sticky notes at physical locations. So when friends walk by that location, the message will pop up on their screen.



How can this technology be tapped to maximize the marketing potential (and the Evangelist Effect®)? Post a comment with your ideas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A mirror or a vehicle – is there a line?

Here’s a thought-provoking art review written by Jason Foumberg in a recent issue of the New City paper:

“The line separating advertisements and visual art barely exists anymore. Today, graphic artists are to branding as court painters were to monarchs several centuries ago. The visual language of advertising not only co-opts and mirrors much of today’s visual art, but many artists are finding their mature voice as advertisers.

“Cody Hudson, or struggle inc, and Chuck Anderson, aka NoPattern, are both graphics artists with current exhibits in Chicago. In both cases the context is the contemporary art gallery – white walls, clean presentation, explanatory labels – elevating the designer’s practice to a meaningful endeavor where it is elsewhere a vehicle for delivering product.

“Both Chicago-based graphics artists have made designs for t-shirts that retail at Threadless.com, and now Anderson’s wall art hangs in Threadless’ inaugural exhibition in their gallery and new store in Lakeview. Anderson has created ads for Reebok shoes and an album cover for Fall Out Boy, and now exhibits product-less landscapes and designs. On view at Threadless is a wide range of the artist’s output, from drawings and prints to printed ads, or from play to work.

“Seemingly, the range of media exposes Anderson’s artistic process and his scope, including subject matter such as landscapes that are trying to appear too beautiful and an armless shopping zombie with a dollar sign imprinted on his forehead.”

When I read this, I wondered about a line between art and advertising. Has there ever been one? Aren’t we all artists expressing our craft to win over audiences?

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How to move Foward. Fast. -- instead of just coping with a 24/7, Crackberry, more-faster-now culture

In a business like ours (especially with a fast-forward logo), we put a high value on the speed of thinking and responding.

So, when we might be feeling trampled by the speed of life and business, author Vince Poscente reveals why harnessing the power of speed is the ultimate solution for our time-starved era. The Age of Speed shows this and other groundbreaking revelations at work with case studies drawn from renegade companies such as Netflix, Geico, and Nintendo. With smart personal revelations, addictively clever pop science, practical case studies, and a fresh voice, The Age of Speed is a fast, fun read.

Here's an excerpt from The Age of Speed By Vince Poscente:

"The new world of change assembled itself within a decade. And in the next ten years, the same thing will happen again—only this time the revolution is speed. Culture, business, and the individual experience are undergoing another major shift—one that is equally powerful and has the potential to be equally positive. If we can accept the positive potential that speed offers, we can do more, be more, live more. The change movement is a template that can guide us through the Age of Speed: rather than bucking speed, vowing to find solutions for moderating it, we should embrace it and find ways to create more of it.

"Our resistance to speed was motivated by forces that have undergone dramatic change in recent years. Not all the values we once had to apply to the concept of speed are relevant. Though we have been taught that if we embrace speed, we will be forced to compromise quality, cost, our values, and our peace of mind, those rules don’t necessarily apply in the Age of Speed. And when they do apply, we don’t have to reject speed outright, we simply have to be more mindful of the value of our experiences. We no longer have to assume that we will always have to make compromises when we make speed a priority. We don’t have to assume that if we embrace speed, our lives will just get busier and busier. We’re in a new environment, a new game, and we need to play by different rules. We need to adapt, evolve, and shed our outdated or misguided perceptions of speed. We need to reshape the way we define, manage, and categorize our time."

The Age of Speed , Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World (NY Times Bestselling Book) click http://www.vinceposcente.com/special-offer.cfm

Join Full Speed Ahead...a weekly insight to harness the power of speed click http://www.vinceposcente.com/full-speed-ahead-archive.cfm

“Seek out speed and celebrate it as your most powerful tool in the global race for better business, a better life, and a better world.” — Michael Lister, Chairman and CEO, JACKSON HEWITT, INC.

“In a very fun, engaging, and information style, Vince Poscente illuminates how to navigate our new world of more, faster, now. His counterintuitive notion of embracing speed rather than coping with it will change the way people live and work.” —Stephen M.R. Covey, Author, THE SPEED OF TRUST

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Top 10 reasons I don’t use Yahoo (or eBay)

If you look at the Top 10 searches of 2007, you can only make this diagnosis: people who use Yahoo can’t seem to help but type “Britney Spears” into every search box they come across.

The top queries of the year on Yahoo are:
. Britney Spears
. WWE
. Paris Hilton
. Naruto
. Beyonce
. Lindsay Lohan
. Rune Scape
. Fantasy Football
. Fergie
. Jessica Alba

It doesn’t get much better on eBay. The number of Britney-related items sold at the online auction site totaled 34,345, compared with 27,377 items associated with Paris Hilton. Items associated with Britney ranged from signed CDs to disposable lighters featuring her likeness. Among the Paris Hilton-related items sold: a toothbrush claimed to have been found in the hotel heiress' trash.

I'm staying off these sites just in case it's contagious.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Marshmallows or no?

After you read this, surf on over to Stinson Brand Innovation and answer the mini poll!

Did you know that there is a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate? Cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which is chocolate with the cocoa butter removed. Hot chocolate is made by melting chocolate into cream. The word cocoa comes from the Aztec word cacahuatl; chocolate derives from the Mayan word xocoatl. The Mexican Indian word chocolat comes from a combination of the terms choco ("foam") and atl ("water"). Chocolate has been drunk as a beverage for thousands of years, and originally it was only consumed as a beverage.

Chocolate has a rich history, and numerous books and articles detail this amazing product (check out The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie and Michael Coe). Here are the highlights from the early period of chocolate’s sorted past:

1502 – Christopher Columbus brought the cocoa bean to Europe for the first time. No one knew what to do with this bitter product.
1519 – Hernan Cortes was introduced to chocolatl, the favored beverage of Emperor Montezuma of the Aztec Empire. Cortes was so enamored with the drink that he filled his ships with cocoa beans.
Late 1500s – Europeans finally get into the game. By this time, chocolate is being used for culinary and medicinal purposes throughout Spain, England, France, and elsewhere in Western Europe and Northern America.
1631 – Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, an Andalusian physician, publishes the first recipe for a chocolate drink. The recipe was a concoction of cocoa bens, chiles, anise, vanilla, cinnamon, almonds, hazelnuts, and sugar, and it was prized as a health drink and aphrodisiac. It was originally served cold, but soon became a hot drink.
1643 – When the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa, was betrothed to Louis XIV of France, she gave her fiancé an engagement gift of chocolate, packaged in an elegantly ornate chest. A royal chocolate maker was appointed and chocolate drinking became the rage.
1648 – Because the women of Chiapas, Mexico were so fond of sipping their chocolate drinks in church, the Bishop of Chiapas tried to ban the drink. He was found dead, supposedly of poisoned chocolate.
1700s – "Chocolate Houses" were all the rage, as popular as coffee houses. These places were precursors of our present day cafes and bars, and they were frequented by politicians, writers, and socialites.

So whether you drink hot cocoa or hot chocolate, whether you like yours with chiles or marshmallows, you now know some of the early history of this wonderful drink!

Share your favorite hot chocolate recipes in a comment!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Book Review: The Art of Thank You

Because gratitude is one of our company's most important ethos, there should be no surprise that "The Art of Thank You" by Connie Leas is a book that I find quite instructive. So I wanted to share a review and highlights that might lead you to want to enjoy it, too.

Sometimes the simplest topics make for the most impressive work. The idea of writing this guide on how to say thank you is just such a topic. Few other two-word phrases hold as much power as thank you. And yet it is something we often forget to do or shy away from.

Leas' book begins with a simple explication on why we should write thank-you notes. She moves on to explain when thank you notes are appropriate - when they are socially required, when they are socially suggested, and when they are completely gratuitous. Next, Leas tackles the form of the note itself. Whether it should be on stationery, in a card, hand written, typed, etc. matter - but not that much, Leas says. However, things she suggests to avoid are email and ecards - she feels they may be considered overly simply or cheap and not very thoughtful. She feels so strongly about it that she says, "It is almost better to not send a thank you at all than to resort to these measures."

The next several chapters are how-to's. Leas goes through conventions for writing social and business thank you's, talks about how to tackle those huge thank-you lists you are likely to face in your life, and how to get kids to get on the thank-you writing bandwagon. Leas ends the book with a chapter about how writing thank-you notes can enlarge the soul.

A lot of people help us out every day. Sometimes it is big help, sometimes it is small. Remembering to say "thank you" makes a difference -- for ourselves and for those we thank. Saying it makes us remember to help others out. And it makes the day of the person we thank.

One tip that is an easy way to remind yourself - setup a gratitude day by putting a repeating note in your calendar. Once a week, once a month, or whatever you need. It gives you that extra encouragement to say those two little words that mean so much.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

MCA Art Rock and Roll

A couple of weekends ago, Melanie and I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967.




It was billed as an examination of “the dynamic relationship between rock music and contemporary visual art, a relationship that crosses continents, generations, and cultures.”



One of my favorite displays was a kind of combination family tree and timeline, charting influences of musicians from the late 1950s, including rhythm-and-blues and country artists.



Overall, this exhibition was an intense look at the sometimes gritty, often disturbing, always provocative works of art, album covers, music videos, and other materials. It certainly showed the impact of this work on our society as a whole.
As always, the MCA offered a unique experience, with a different kind of energy and sense of expression than other museums.

(Another display invited observers to interact with the art – by becoming the pearl in an oyster. Who could resist? Not me.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Connecting with customers through media brands

“Ink and paper are manufactured in factories, but magazine brands are manufactured in readers’ minds, one at a time,” says Raili Mäkinen, CEO of Sanoma Magazines-Finland.

When it comes to media planning, you can take that quote a step further and change “reader” to “customers.” I believe readers relate to content, but customers go beyond the reading material and connect to the media brand.

That why we apply our C.H.E.M. ® tool to media planning as well as to creative development. It means a media selection is made and a plan is powered by media brands with which customer finds connect with them, provide honest information, provide easy interaction, and motivate them.

In short, I’ve always believed media plans must analyze reach, frequency, AND impact. And perhaps more impact can be gained by a medium that is more relevant.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It doesn't take "Forward.Fast." model to know why this got the Stop button

Perfectly Marketed TV Show Somehow Fails

The Onion

Perfectly Marketed TV Show Somehow Fails

NEW YORK—Executives found it "inconceivable" that a television program supported by 1.25 million promotional coffee-cup sleeves could perform so poorly.

Friday, November 30, 2007

No more keyboards?

This is some pretty amazing technology, and it really seems like we are on the cusp of being able to make this work.

video

I will leave you with a number of questions this video raises. How will this new technology merge with the workplace? Will it change the way we use computers in business? What are the impacts to graphic designers? How will word-processing work? How will this play against the recent boom in laptops? Is this a return to the home computer? Will this technology be available in a laptop version?

Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where to use customized content in a media mix

As proven with our Evangelist Effect® tool, customers would rather get their information from an article than an ad. And now a recent survey of Chief Marketing Officers confirms that they agree on the positive effect on readers’ attitudes.

The survey of CMOs by Roper Public Affairs and reported in this month’s CONTENT magazine revealed the level of use of customized content in the following media:

87% -- Web content and websites
68% -- Print newsletters
67% -- E-newsletters
63% -- Conferences
56% -- Print magazines
46% -- Advertorials
30% -- Webcasts/podcasts
28% -- Webinars
18% -- Digital magazines
14% -- Blogs
10% -- Infomercials

There was an important caveat, however: fluff doesn’t work.

If it is useful, solid information on practical things, that’s what is important to people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tell me a story

Worried about the increasing number of people who love theories more than stories, filmmaker Ken Burns recently told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We are experiencing the death of the narrative. We are all so opinionated that we don’t actually submit to narrative anymore. That’s the essence of YouTube: Abbreviate everything into a digestible capsule that then become the conventional wisdom, which belies the experience of art.”

Stories are always more persuasive than beliefs. Which makes sense – wouldn’t you rather someone delight you with tales of their experiences than listen to them recite dogma.

Our assignment, dear reader, is to help reverse this damaging trend. Gush fewer opinions and share more stories. And let’s encourage others to do the same.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Creating abundance from a seedling of an idea

On Wednesday, November 28 Indonesia is aiming to plant some 79 million trees in a day-long event ahead of a global climate change conference it will host.

The nation's 71,000 villages, plus some 8,000 other administrative areas, will each plant 1,000 trees.

Officials say they want to show the world that it's not true that Indonesia is only a country that carries out forest destruction

Indonesia has been criticized for failure to stop widespread illegal logging that, according to Greenpeace, cost almost 5 million acres of forests per year between 2000 and 2005. It has one of the fastest rates of deforestation on the planet and is one of the top 3 producers of greenhouse gas pollution.

The event is part of a campaign spearheaded by the UN Environment Program to plant a billion trees around the world in 2007 in a bid to help avert climate change.

This might inspire you to plant a tree in your own neighborhood. Even more, consider any undertaking of massive impact – something that might create abundance from just a seedling of an idea. What you plant could be extraordinary, too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

“Pass the Cheer” Starbucks TV Ad

Thought I’d share a posting from another blog I enjoy, Brand Autopsy. Let’s ask our neighbors across the street what they think.

“Lots of c-h-a-t-t-e-r about the television spots Starbucks is running. I haven't seen them on the tele, but Starbucks has posted one spot online.

“Hmm ... okay. Starbucks waited 36-years for this? It's nice. It's benign. It's subtle. Can't see how this spot will drive in new customers, nor drive current customers to come in more often during the Holidays. (And yeah, I know this is just one component to the overall Starbucks Holiday promotion.)

“The missing ingredient of Starbucks first national television commercial is brand identity. This spot feels more appropriate for Caribou Coffee than it does Starbucks.

“Caribou's brand identity is wrapped around the cozy ski lodge concept as well as the leaping deer in its logo. The in-store décor of a Caribou Coffee location is reminiscent of a ski lodge, complete with exposed weathered wood and comfy chairs around a fireplace. The leaping deer, which easily passes for a reindeer during the Holidays, is as iconic to Caribou as the Siren is to Starbucks.

“Additionally, Caribou uses a pastel aqua-blue color as part of its brand identity.
So upon further review, this commercial from Starbucks works better for Caribou Coffee than it does for Starbucks. Ski scenes are more associated with Caribou than Starbucks. A deer is more linked to the Caribou brand than the Starbucks brand. Caribou’s color scheme has always been drenched in an aqua-blue color, while Starbucks color scheme hasn’t.

“Upon even further review, this Starbucks commercial fails the “Logo Test.” If we were to swap out the Starbucks Christmas Blend bag at the end of the spot and replace it with Caribou’s Reindeer Blend, the commercial would still work just fine. Anytime you can swap out your logo for a competitor’s logo in any piece of marketing collateral and it looks fine, you have a problem.

“So ... Starbucks, with its first national television commercial, has made a great ad for Caribou Coffee.”

What's your take? Does this television ad make you feel any different about Starbucks? Does it make you want to visit a Starbucks and buy some Christmas Blend?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"How to push pills"

Advertising Age recently published work from IAG Research under this headline. An editor must have thought was a clever way to set up a list of pharma advertising tips. Though the goal in this article is to elucidate on the difficult marketing job pharma ads represent, they continue to disparage the industry as a gang of snake-oil peddlers.

With that out of my system, let's look at the findings of the IAG Research.

Finding #1: Get Creative - Develop a clever marketing idea.

Finding #2: Make Sure Your Campaign Has Legs - Customers remember brands when they are repeated in a series of ads Finding #3: Find Your Inner Abe Lincoln - Choose an icon that is meaningful for your customers.

Finding #4: Keep It Relevant - The ad and the product should relate to each other

Finding #5: Dare To Be Distinct

(Maybe they haven't read that the "Abe Lincoln & The Beaver" campaign is not working.)

But the bottom line is -- drug ads should be creative, repetitive, and should relate to your customers through a relevant visual.

We should continue to refine and apply our C.H.E.M.(r) tool for more effective creative ads.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Style is as style does

Few books had as much impact on my early writing career as The Elements of Style. This book, along with a professor who believed that clarity of communication was in choosing exactly the right word, helped form not only my writing, but also my attitude toward good writing.

Strunk and White's book is probably on every college student's bookshelf. No doubt it is a good seller, as freshman comp classes require it. But how widely is it read? How much is it taken in? Is it referred to on a day-to-day basis?

From what I see in a lot of writing, we could use more style.

Read more.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A novel concept: food should taste good

What do Multigrain, Jalapeno, Olive, and Chocolate have in common? They are all flavors of tortilla chips from newcomer to the snack industry FoodShouldTasteGood.

(Thanks to Brandy in our office who brought in a few bags for a recent chip tasting.)

Who would've thought that innovation would be found even in a brand of tortilla chips? But in a saturated snack market that is clamoring for more healthy snack options, these no trans fat, no cholesterol, no preservatives, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors chips are doing more.

FTTG ties in three core values into everything they do - honesty, creativity, and fun. They are filling a customer demand, but have not lost their identity in the process.

Check out their chip portfolio at their website. What's your favorite? Leave a comment.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mark's Trip to Mexico - Part 8, Cell Phone

As a footnote to the Mexico trip, here’s my experience with cell phone coverage.






I had “more bars in more places” with TelCel – even in the middle of the Sonora desert – than I get in Chicago with AT&T.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mark's Trip to Mexico - Part 7, Bautista

On the way back to the States, we took the back road highway through some small, historic towns. We stopped in Arizpe to see the Spanish mission of “Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.”

It was founded by the Jesuits and constructed around the 1740s with fired brick, stone, and lime mortar. It is one of few such structures with a separate bell tower and the pyramid that caps it was added sometime between 1879 and 1910.

In 1775 an expedition of settlers was formed, headed by captain Juan Bautista de Anza, which explored and opened one of the routes to present-day California, establishing the city of San Francisco. We saw the remains of Juan Bautista in a glass-covered tomb in the floor of the church.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mark's Trip to Mexico - Part 6, Institute


Our friend and host, Jorge Gastelum, is the head of a new institute that offers technical training for Sonora’s workers to meet the demands of economic growth – and help create a better quality of life.

The ICATSON offers its students a unique combination of improved human, social, and economic development.

Starting with just 3 staff last year, they have grown rapidly. So far in 2007, the ICATSON has qualified more than 300 students through its regular courses that promote enterprising characteristics and operation of business, including:
• Auto Maintenance
• Beauty Services
• Carpentry
• Clothes
• Electrical
• English
• Industrial Control Systems
• Microcomputers
• Welding

A key factor in the institute’s success is the collaboration of social, private, and public sectors. And it’s Jorge who passionately works to bring them all together.

Check out their website...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mark's Trip to Mexico - Part 5, Mariachis


On Saturday night, we had a surprise visit from a local mariachi group.
These mariachis consisted of two Spanish guitars, two trumpets, one vihuela (a high-pitched, five-string guitar) and one guitarrón (an oversized acoustic bass guitar).


One of our travel companions, Rosita, reminded us what musicologists and folklorists say is the origin of mariachi. It is a variation of the French word “mariage” (meaning wedding or marriage) and comes from the time in the nineteenth century when Maximillian of Habsburg, was Emperor of Mexico. According to this theory, the French named the Mariachi after the celebration with which it was most commonly associated.


All of this heady conversation occurred before the dancing started (I wonder who got that going? Yes, you should’ve seen some of my moves. Loco in any language.) They played my favorite ballad, “Alla En El Rancho Grande,” and it just kept getting better.



Monday, November 12, 2007

Mark's Mexico Trip - Part 4, Horses

A major highlight of the trip was horseback riding around the ranch.


If you ever wondered it a picture really could say 1000 words, check out the several thousand words in these shots.





Friday, November 09, 2007

Mark's Trip to Mexico - Part 3, Food

Our friend, Mayte, was a creative cook and untiring hostess. We enjoyed the most amazing food morning, noon, and night.

Fresh fruits and juices, healthy yogurt, and wonderful machaca started our day. For dinner, it was lamb and beef grilled on the open fire, along with homemade bread baked in the brick oven on the patio. One evening, we had homemade pork tamales. Delicious cheeses accompanied each meal.

Everything was made with fresh and natural ingredients.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mark's Trip to Mexico - Artifacts

During our stay at the Hacienda El Labrador, art and artifacts in every corner and hallway surrounded us.




The hacienda is located on the outskirts of Ures, a little old village often referred to as the "Sonoran Athens" because of its historical and cultural heritage dating back to 1636.






So it’s fitting that the sonoran architecture is complemented with fine antiques to create an atmosphere of elegance and good taste. Here are just a few of the pieces.








Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mark's Trip to Mexico, Part 1 - Turismo

Travel like this certainly makes us even more aware of the diversity of our planet’s ecosystems. What’s more, it also makes good tourism business sense.




Both the federal government of Mexico and the state government of Sonora have created a “Turismo Rural” campaign to promote the region’s precious natural beauty and agricultural richness. In its simplicity and often barrenness, the terrain is “green”, engaging, dynamic, and fun.


By supporting the concept of sustainable tourism, you can travel to see the world, while also joining those who want to preserve it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Give one, get one

Mark your calendars and go to laptopgiving.org to signup for an email reminder. November 12 is the day you can get your hands on the new XO laptop designed for the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

Through their "Give One, Get One" program, you can donate $399 which will provide one laptop for a child in a third-world country. One of these new machines will also be sent to you. So for $400, you can not only help bring technology to those who need it (the first will likely go out to Peru), but you can get an innovative machine for yourself.

The XO is a tough, solar-powered (battery recharge) machine with a 7.5" screen. It is designed to withstand consistent 140-degree temperatures, be viewable under direct sunlight, and has a swiveling monitor that turns it into an e-book reader. It has an appealing design and has ultra-sensitive wi-fi antennae. It also features an innovative operating system designed specifically for the children of developing nations.

http://www.laptop.org/