Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Innovative Music Pairing is A Creative Gem

Robert Plant really got the Led out when he paired with my favorite bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss. And O Brother is the result a creative gem.

I agree with what Chicago Sun-Times music reviewer Mary Houlihan said, “Plant is the real revelation here. He leaves his hard-rock howling behind for a much more nuanced turn as a quieter rootsy crooner. On tunes like "Please Read the Letter," as well as in gentle duets with Krauss, you can almost feel his delight in discovering this new creative side.... But the connecting force is producer T Bone Burnett, who manages to coax the duo out of their comfort zones and into a new stripped down landscape that is austere and beautiful.”

I like the upbeat swing sounds of “Gone Gone Gone” and “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson”. For the smoother sound you expect from Alison, try “Through the Morning, Through the Night” and “Your Long Journey.”

See the review I posted on the iTunes Music Store.

And check out a little video (with some sounds from the CD) here!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Be A Great Part

Every day we see examples of teams of organizations that are obvious underdogs, but which are still out-playing, out-thinking and out-distancing their most formidable competitors. The lesson is simple and powerful, and can be found on virtually every page of excellent little book entitled TEAMWORKS.

You can go it alone if you want to, but life and work are a lot more fun, and far more productive, when we’re pulling together as a winning team.

It’s true. Everyone in a company or team should believe that he or she has something to give the organization which cannot otherwise be given. And, as Hugh Hanels put it, “You make others better by being so good yourself.”

How much better? That’s the exciting part.

Great people don’t necessarily equal great teams. A star team usually beats a team of stars.

At STINSON Brand Innovation, we are intentionally and enthusiastically forming a band of winners that is greater than the sum of the individuals. If you're looking to be a "great part," join us -- as one of our team members, as a client, or as a creative supporter.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The future may be “CW Now”

With television advertisers facing the ad-zapping power of the DVR, the CW Network has created a rather creative plan. Instead of worrying about losing audiences during commercial breaks, they have turned an entire 30-minute newsmagazine-type program into one long ad called “CW Now”. Since the entire show is sponsored by only a handful of advertisers, they don’t have to break for commercials - the show is about the sponsors’ products.

This is the latest in a history of sponsored programs. From the variety shows of television’s earliest days to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and today the Acura Half-Time Report and Heroes presented with limited commercials all by Mazda.

Even infomercials are whole programs from one sponsor.

Some may complain that “CW Now” is a commercial masquerading as a news program. To that I ask, have you ever watched the Today Show, on which they spend most of the program cross-promoting NBC/Universal stars, movies, and shows.

I will be keeping an eye on the CW Network to see where they go with this idea. And because the CW is jointly owned by CBS and Time Warner, will the idea move to other media, too?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Customer-determined value based on quality offering & quality experience

Amid all of the talk of music downloads, we were bound to get some kind of real innovation. And it has come from a legendary rock band, Radiohead. Their new album out now, is being offered for download at a “you name it” price.

You read that right - you pay what you think the product is worth. You could get it for free. You could pay $100. Whatever you decide.

This new plan is certainly an interesting one, being touted as a social experiment. I doubt it will affect profit margins much - a tour and traditional CD for sale will come out later. But it is a clever test in new media, one in which illegal downloads seem inevitable and unenforceable. Why not leverage that if you can, and in a way that customers can get behind.

You’ve heard of voting with your dollar? What a great application of that concept.

Read more here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Gift to Inspire And Celebrate Your Commitment To Excellence

Because you share the spirit behind our company’s ETHOS, I’d like to share a book dedicated to people like you who seek to know, be, and do more. The book is WHATEVER IT TAKES: A Journey Into the Heart of Human Achievement.

In the introduction, Bob Moawad writes positively:

“Long before the sun has risen or the people who deliver your morning newspaper have completed their rounds, millions of people are already wide-awake. Perhaps like you, they restlessly and relentlessly pursuing their dreams.

“Some are corporate executives, well-known celebrities, athletes, coaches, officials, or leaders. But most are our neighbors, friends, relatives, employees or co-workers: The carpenter checking his tools; the sales manager packing her bags; the small buisness owner running spreadsheets on the kitchen computer; the teacher creating banner for the school assembly; the student athlete doing push-ups by his bed. The light is on in their windows, minds, and hearts.

“These are the first-rate people in action; excellence, plain and simple. By doing whatever it takes to become the best they are capable of becoming, they lift our spirits. They stretch our boundaries. They energize our communities. And they bring new meaning to the terms ‘job well-done’ and ‘life well-led.’”

That is my wish for the people, clients, and friends of STINSON Brand Innovation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way

Back in 1957, West Side Story had all the elements of a Change Agent®:
• Relevance for audiences of all backgrounds and ages;
• Risks by stretching the existing bounds artistic imagination;
• Roadblocks overcome with determination for sure, but also support for collaborators;
• Rewards achieved through a mulitude of awards for the Broadway show, the movie, and the music;
• Repitition over many media, many actors, many venues, and many years.

Today, it celebrates 50 years as a Change Agent® musical -- and proves it can sustain its brand in productions all over the country.

Link to news about WSS.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

6 suggestions that would be manageable and improvable

Below is a letter I sent to United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton. I felt it was time for action, not just complaints. (Those who work with me will recognize the Action Shoes® being applied.)

Of course, I feared what the response would be and I've attached a copy of the letter just in case you are curious. Read on…

August 21, 2007

Glenn F. Tilton
Chairman, President and CEO
2 N. LaSalle St,
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Glenn,

Despite all the pressures that are out of your control,
United continues to strive to be the best at what you do.

As a business owner myself, I can understand all the difficult business decisions you must be facing. Dealing with weather, fuel prices, labor costs, healthcare coverage, increased airline security, and many other factors must consume a large amount of your time.

In order to help you in your task of making United the best airline it can be, I’m sharing 6 suggestions that would be manageable and improvable if your company would dedicate itself to them.

1. “Airline employee privileges” at the TSA screening area. I find it difficult to understand why the United Airlines staff always cuts in front of everyone who has been standing patiently in line. They proceed to pass you up without even an “excuse me” or a “thank you”. They assume it’s a privilege and disregard all the paying customers. Wouldn’t it be easier to get a dedicated line for the staff to accommodate them, instead if accommodating the customers?

2. Communication to customers at the gate. Airports are noisy, crowded places, and when your staff announces anything over the intercom, it is almost impossible to hear/understand what they are saying. Second, the crowd control interaction of your staff comes across like they are herding the passengers, which is very demeaning. They also call out the customer’s names and personal information over the intercom, which strikes me as a security issue. As a personal example, I went to the counter and asked the attendant to please let me know if my colleague had checked in for the flight and she informed me that she was unable to release that information for security purposes. Shortly after my request was turned down, the attendant announced another customer’s personal information over the intercom. How does that announcement not contradict what your agent had just told me about protecting the security of the customer?

3. Understanding the true needs of the frequent flyer. I have been a Mileage Plus® member for over a dozen years and have achieved 1K and executive status for nearly 10 years, and yet I have never been asked what would make my flying experience better. I do value the miles, I enjoy the benefits of the Red Carpet Club, and I love getting flight status alerts. But there are more things that a frequent flyer could benefit from. I would think that your market research personnel would want to know that or do a better job at tracking.

4. The personal interaction of customer service. What I appreciate most is when someone from your staff greets me with a smile or calls me by my name, either “Hi Mr. Stinson” or “Hi Mark” is nice. They might even be able to look on a screen and see that I have spent a large amount of money traveling with United this year. I have certainly enjoyed this kind treatment from a select few of your employees, but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

5. Dealing with contingencies. As I stated previously, I know many situations can arise to alter, delay or even cancel a flight. While these things may be out of your airline’s control. There is one thing you can always do for your customers-TELL THE TRUTH! If it is going to be a three-hour wait, inform us it is going to be three hours. I am sure we would much rather hear this up front rather than being told to wait thirty minutes, then another thirty minutes, then another thirty minutes. If there is a time window or deadline by which the flight must be boarded or leave the gate, just say that. Do not wait until the it’s already too late to tell us. If were waiting for a plane from Denver, tell us the truth on whether or not the plane has left Denver. THE TRUTH will help us make the decision needed to affect changes to our original plans.

6. Assemble a blue ribbon panel of customer service experts. That will signal to the rest of us that you understand this as a crisis, not a marketing challenge to be sugar coated! I could suggest any number of names of companies that have done this to great effect from the auto industry: Honda or Saturn; retail: Nordstrom’s or Starbucks; or entertainment: Disney or ESPN.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your listening and I hope this letter is taken as a piece of productive criticism for a good company that could be even greater by taking the time to care.

Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Mark Stinson

Cc: Dennis M. Cary
Todd Arkenberg
Randy Johnson

And here is the response...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Irrational Exubera…

Perhaps an even more shocking part of the Exubera withdrawal story is how this went down. Apparently, Nektar Therapeutics, the company that created Exubera, was blind-sided by this announcement by Pfizer to drop the drug. They’re literally left holding the bag – according to CNN, they still have several million doses of Exubera, and no real sales or marketing capability of their own.

On the other hand, Nektar may ultimately benefit from cutting ties with Pfizer. The company probably already has other companies calling to be a new marketing partner.

In the end, Pfizer suffers most from the Exubera debacle because of the knock on its reputation as a licensing partner. Small companies and biotechs may think twice about dealing with Pfizer, particularly involving lucrative specialty treatments.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A lesson in best efforts. Exubera dropped from Pfizer portfolio.

“Despite our best efforts,” Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler said in a statement Friday, “Exubera has failed to gain the acceptance of patients and physicians.”

When Pfizer says “best efforts”, our industry has a certain expectation for what that means. Pfizer mostly sets industry standard, and they know their marketing. But if we run the Exubra case through our company’s Forward. Fast.® branding model, it would easy to predict this outcome. Here’s where it broke down:

Likeability - According to Dr. John Murray, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and associate professor of Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program, “the whole concept of nebulized, or airway-delivered, insulin has been around for 75 years. In addition to insulin delivered by injection, insulin was originally delivered by inhalation shortly after its discovery back in the 1920s. There was a lot of variation in delivery, such as not being able to control the dose back then, so it never went anywhere.” The notion of eliminating injection is a BIG IDEA! Highly likeable, but no one had made it work yet.

Association – What does inhaled medicine relate to? Asthma, right? Or maybe a nasal spray? Pfizer was marketing Exubera as an “Inhaled Insulin System,” which, while technically true, creates an expectation far from the reality. This thing is not a handy, pocket-sized device. It’s really a nebulizer, but it looks like a hookah pipe!

Brand Experience – The whole experience as linked to the claim of being an inhaler leaves a gap of expectations. Putting some potential lung problems aside, the use of Exubera became a trade-off between injections and using this massive insulin delivery device. This would inevitably lead to dissatisfied patients.

Attitude – Pfizer took this product on with all intentions of making it work. They had a great name and no doubt tested the heck out of the concept. But perhaps they approached it with the attitude of “We’re Pfizer,” and failed to listen to the marketing research on the total experience.

This isn’t going to take down Pfizer, of course. It is merely a lesson learned. But it does prove not everything that Pfizer touches turns to gold. The company will move on – they are a great marketer and despite this failure, they are still at the top of the field.

Read more here at the Exubera website.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Hyphen-wars!

After years of ground-standing, the hyphen is now losing its hard-fought edge. The would-be villain is none other than international terrorist-of-the-English-language-extraordinaire: email.

Indeed, the once-peaceful lands of hyphenation have fallen to the onslaught of high-speed emailing. Leading the charge is email itself (once e-mail). Figleaf, leapfrog, potbelly, and test tube have also been reduced by that one little character that makes a difference.

This is not a threat we should take lightly. We should fight in personal correspondence, we should fight on the Internet and blogosphere, we should fight with growing confidence and growing strength in email, we should defend our language, whatever the cost may be; we should never give up, never surrender!

All joking aside, I may not be a language purist, but I am a writer still. And while language changes over time, isn’t there a difference between natural evolution and laziness?

Perhaps the hyphen is a small thing to lose, but are we going to make it okay to leave out capital letters as well (another loss in the high-speed emailing world)?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ode to the unsung innovators

Dr. Edmund Sonnenblick died recently. You may not have heard of him, which is the point of writing this blog.

Sonnenblick, a cardiologist, is a researcher whose work was instrumental in the creation of modern heart failure treatment. He may not have been the primary inventor of some breakthrough therapy or device, but he did indeed create a trail of discoveries so that others could.

Read about his significant contributions, and what other medical thought-leaders say about him.

It is the path of innovation to follow in the footsteps of others, to be able to build on what others have done and step higher and higher. Sonnenblick was one of those trailblazers that set the stage for the roads to be built.

We are apt to forget about the people who went before the big conclusion, but science is an act that takes many players.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The future is sending back good wishes and waiting with open arms.

You’ll find lots of good advice in the pages of WHAT’S NEXT: Creating The Future Now.

And some of it you may have even heard before: Stay ahead of the curve. Anticipate the next step. Always have your next idea waiting in the wings. Stay light on our feet, not entrenched. Champion change and innovation. And always be willing to give up the good to go for the great.

Dan Zadra writes in his introduction to the book, “In the past these little axioms were fun to read, but today they are crucial keys to survival. We are living and working in a time of unprecedented change. Overnight, changes in technology can fundamentally imperil not only what a company makes, but how the product is made and delivered. The rate of change will get faster, not slower. That spells great opportunity or potential disaster, depending on how you and your company choose to handle it. ‘A company must be willing to change faster than the world around it,’ warns a report from General Electric. ‘You either do what’s necessary to remain the best of what you do, or you don’t get to do it for very long.’”

The truth is, most companies die prematurely, and the number one killer is resistance to change, otherwise known as hardening of the attitudes.

I want STINSON Brand Innovation to be a company that thrives. I encourage you to be a Change Agent® rather than a victim of change. Relax, have fun, and welcome what comes next with open arms.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How big is your carbon footprint?

Continuing with the environmental theme of yesterday...

As a branding guy, I’m intrigued by the new coined term of “carbon footprint,” but even more what one can actually do to change it.

You can do all sorts of things to reduce your footprint, but if you are a frequent flier, you’re really limited. You are contributing to the demise of the planet. To calculate your footprint, go to

If you don’t like your score, you can buy your way out of CF debt! Simply go to any of a number of new CF offsetting sites and send a payment. They will make sure your money goes to reducing the carbon impact somewhere else in the world.

At last, you can put that “I’m Carbon Neutral” bumper sticker on your SUV without feeling guilty. Just send your check (payable by price per metric ton of CO2 as listed) to:
AtmosClear Climate Club $3.96 - $25.00 $4.30 - $5.50
e-BlueHorizons $5.00 $6.93 & up
DrivingGreen $8.00
Terrapass $8.26 - $11.00
Native Energy $13.20
The CarbonNeutral Company $14.00 - $18.00
Cleaner Climate $15.00 - $18.00
Sustainable travel International $15.25
Climate Friendly $16.00 - $19.00
Uncook the Planet $19.45
Bonneville Environmental Foundation $29.00
Myclimate $33.00 - $99.00
Global Cool $39.48

Do I get a Carbon Footprint discount for posting this blog?

Monday, October 15, 2007

How green is green?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (sponsored by the US Green Building Council) is the organization that rates buildings for environmentally efficiency.

Now, some environmental groups are saying the rating system isn’t tight enough. LEED claims that they had to allow some “gimmes” to encourage businesses to get on board.

But why should businesses need the incentive of some flashy rating system. The environmental movement should focus its efforts on informing companies of how much money they can save by designing an efficient building. The bottom line (which is what ultimately matters) is that building green makes sense.

Recycling building water within a building, solar panels, green roofing, rainwater collection, high R-factor windows, and bamboo flooring are just a few green building techniques that also save money.

The most important thing to remember is that the goal with green buildings is energy efficiency. That translates, for a business, to lower operating costs. The US Department of Energy has set a strategic goal of net-zero energy buildings by 2025. They may cost slightly more to build, but at a zero-cost energy bill, that means huge savings.

It comes down to the A2U® (Attitude, Awareness, Usage) of green. The communication about green building has not captured the proper attitude or usage to motivate businesses properly.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The best 2-minutes of your day...

Talk about WOM Marketing! This 2-minute commercial by Honda is reported to be the most displayed ad on the Internet. I don't know about that, but it is making the rounds, and that translates to free advertising for Honda. So here's me, doing my part to help out on their campaign...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Send a message from Bob Dylan to your closest friends

I recall that when Snakes on a Plane came out, one of the word-of-mouth marketing tricks was to create a system for Samuel L. Jackson leave a message on people’s voicemails. This became a sort of viral marketing plan that was fun, cheap, and generated a lot of buzz and grassroots involvement.

Now comes the latest from Legacy Recordings to support the new Bob Dylan album.

You can send a message to a friend, changing the text of the message on the cards Dylan holds.

Very cool technology, and it will probably be another bridge between generations -- those that grew up with Bob and those just discovering him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Idaho’s brand of wine-making

With some 18 wineries in Idaho, the gem state is considered part of the new frontier of wine-growing areas in the US.

From a purely geographical standpoint, Idaho vintners it offers ideal growing conditions because wine grapes actually thrive in this distinctly four-season climate. The region's fairly long growing season includes an extended fall that lets grapes ripen slowly for a more intense concentration of varietal characteristics. And, the Snake River not only provides a valuable water source, it also tempers the hostile desert -- drawing cold air away from the vineyards and thus creating its own microclimate.

Jenny and I recently took a Saturday drive through the wine country just outside Boise.

We visited and toured Ste. Chapelle Winery, the largest and perhaps best known. Named for the 13th-century Paris chapel built by Louis IX, the twenty-year-old winery rests on Winery Hill in the rich agricultural area known as Sunny Slope, in Caldwell. Grapes grown on Ste. Chapelle's 209-acre vineyard include Johannisberg riesling (the largest of the winery's plantings), chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, Gew├╝rztraminer, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, merlot and most recently, syrah. While the majority of Ste. Chapelle's 175,000 cases are sold in the Pacific Northwest, the winery distributes in 35 states, Canada, Taiwan, Switzerland and Sweden. All wines are made on the premises, and many have won coveted national and international awards —such as the 1998 Johannisberg Riesling Special Harvest and the 1999 Collectors' Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

We also enjoyed tastings and conversation at Bill Stowe's Indian Creek Winery. In contrast, it’s very much a family operation; we talked with the owner’s daughter and label designer, Tammy. They are producing pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, cabernet sauvignon and occasional Gew├╝rztraminer and ice wines. Well-respected among industry peers, Stowe is a retired Air Force major whose interest in wine was fostered during the time he spent stationed in Germany near the French border during the 1960s. He brings to his growing enterprise a chemistry degree, a master's in business, and a wine education from the highly regarded University of California-Davis. Since Indian Creek's opening in 1987, its wines have enjoyed increasing popularity, and the winery has many national and international awards, including "Best Red" at the San Diego National Wine Competition for the 1988 Pinot Noir and gold and silver medals at the 1996 World Wine Championships for its 1994 White Riesling and its 1995 White Pinot Noir (a popular pink varietal born of the winery's one-time surplus of the red grape).

With just over a million residents in the entire state (and about half of the population being Mormon), Idaho wineries are continuing to look elsewhere for commercial success. They also want to improve their brand naming, label design, marketing, and word-of-mouth advertising. What’s more, today the number of acres planted with Vinifera totals a mere 750 -- the potential is nearly 50,000 acres.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Stadiums of the future

Now that the Cubs are out of the playoffs, I turn my attention to the fan experience. How does the experience of the typical ballpark affect the brand of watching baseball live?

Consider, if you will, a new trend in baseball – the Ballpark of the Future. Offering state-of-the-art amenities, these new parks are vying to become destination locations. These technological wonders will create the ultimate fan experience from the moment you walk through the turn styles:
• Provide faster access throughout the park
• Offer you any available seat upgrades
• Inform you about special offers
• Indicate the fastest way to your seat

And from the comfort of your seat, you can:
• Access the Internet, league and fantasy sites, games, and social networking applications that let you interact with other fans inside and outside the park.
• Watch personal instant replays and keep track of games in other cities in real time.
• Order food and souvenirs and have them delivered to you. No more waiting in line when you could be watching the next home run!

Other available options will include:
• Cisco TelePresence technology will enable you to have a "face to face" meeting with your favorite players and coaches after the game. Life-size images, ultra-high-definition video, CD-quality audio, and interactive capabilities create a unique, live experience, making you feel like you are in the same room with your favorite player or coach. This same technology can be used at the ballpark to connect with business colleagues, family and friends, and fellow fans anywhere in the world.
• Interactive digital signs will tell you where the shortest lines are at concessions, team stores, and restrooms; show information about special offers, ticket upgrades, and upcoming events; and display traffic conditions and the fastest exits out of the parking lot when you leave the stadium.
• Social networking applications capture the emotion of game day by letting you interact with other fans inside and outside the park. Chat with other fans anywhere in the world, blog, and add to wikis right from your seat while the game is still in progress. You can also share memorable photos, video, and other files instantly.

Check out some video of a few proposed new ballparks here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Cubs do it! They’re in the playoffs! At least for a little while…

I wouldn’t be doing my Chicagoly duty if I did not write a bit about the Cubs making it to the playoffs. But alas, the Cubbies couldn’t make it past the Diamondbacks.

The whole excitement got me thinking about what people are calling a new trend in baseball – corporate sponsorship and naming rights. This goes well beyond corporate naming – this is brand identification. Afterall, Wrigley Field is named after a corporation, Wrigley Gum, or at least named after the owner. Could Wrigley Field ever be renamed without a major uproar? I doubt it so much that I’m worried to talk about it in this neighborhood (don’t mess with a Cubs fan).

So what are the 10 key drivers of stadium naming value? In other words, what are the driving factors when deciding on spending 10’s or 100’s of millions of dollars to have your name on a stadium? Here’s what I think:

1. Team Record: Obviously a stadium associated with a winning team is more valuable than a not so winning one.
2. Attendance: “If you build it, they will come.” And if they come, it might make sense to buy the name.
3. Fan Demographics: How well does your product touch the lives of the fans?
4. Location, Location, Location: Buying the name in your company’s hometown is going to be more valuable than some place not associated with your company.
5. Political Backlash: Consider the political ramifications (and damage to the brand) that renaming might bring.
6. Perennial Favorites: Sponsoring an old favorite like the Cubs conveys a company's enduring commitment to a genuine classic all-American sport.
7. Investment Awareness: Buying a stadium name is expensive, but it is also a long-term investment. Where will your money best be spent?
8. Ch-ch-changes: Your company name will be difficult and confusing to change once it is associated with the stadium. Consider this before writing your check.
9. Sport Popularity: Consider the value of your company name on the Chicago Competitive Underwater Basket Weaving Nadatorium.
10. Contents of the Deal: What else do you get with the deal, and where else does your name go. In Chicago, for example, the United Center's employee uniforms, napkins, plates, trash cans, letterhead and drinking cups are adorned with United's name. That enhances value.

Given all of these considerations, I think I will hold off on my bid to turn Wrigley Field into Stinson Brand Innovation Park. This isn’t an option for everyone, but it does have some kind of potential.

Take a listen to an NPR piece on the subject…

Friday, October 05, 2007

After the game, head over and get a salad – at McDonald’s

Maybe it is not what Marshall McLuhan meant when he said “the medium is the message,” but McDonald’s new Wrigleyville billboard is sprouting talk of the company’s new healthy menu.

The billboard, featuring the words “Fresh Salads” on a plain grey background, is specially designed such that the words are spelled out by growing bunches of lettuce.

While I’m all for healthiness, I question the validity of McDonald’s claims. And I have to say I am not sure the Wrigleyville crowd is going to appreciate the push for healthiness anyway. But this happens to have been great timing – with the Cubs in the playoffs, a lot of people will see the new billboard.

Ronald knows placement. This in not the first time an innovative billboard has appeared at this location. In fact, the “Fresh Salads” board is replacing a sundial that cast the McDonald’s arches to point to different breakfast items.

Could all this healthy marketing be an attempt at making an association with a healthy lifestyle? What if McDonald’s converted its play area to setup a local healthclub to give aerobics classes? They could offer Met-X protein boosts to the shakes.

Got another McDonald’s health association idea? Send me a comment!

And to think it all started with a Ford in any color (as long as it was black)

Closing out this week of car-related blogs, I thought I’d share some of the recent brand innovations in the car design world.

1. Merecdes-Benz Smart Car – started in 1994, the Smart Car has taken Europe by storm. Mercedes is going to try pushing this two-seater, fuel efficient (and down-right cute) mini-car for 2008. Should be a big seller for urban singles.
2. Ford Sync – this is actually a feature rather than a car, but it is transformative. An onboard computer allows you to sync your music player and cell phone with the car. Through an audio interface, you can have complete hands-free control of your gadgets. The car will even read back text messages from your cell phone!
3. Mazda Needle – this sleek concept sports-car is designed for 3 or 4 people. The driver sits in the middle of the front, taking up the entire “cockpit” area, while the back seat features an expandable set of seats, allowing either two buckets or a single “couch”.
4. Buick Super – bringing back a brand after 50 years can be a risky endeavor, but Buick is making the gamble anyway. For now, the Super name will be applied to redesigned versions of the LaCrosse and Lucerne sedans. But who knows how this old name might reach new heights.
5. Infinity LDP – another feature. The Lane Departure System is designed to keep people from straying lanes. Safety may not be sexy, but it is an important selling feature nonetheless.
6. Suzuki Flix - based on the all-new 2007 XL7, as the ultimate mobile movie experience for film and entertainment enthusiasts. Once parked, the Flix's clamshell roof can be opened, revealing a maximum-size moonroof that serves as a 40-inch movie screen. Additionally, the front roof panel opens for a high-density digital projection system to display movies. For a traditional drive-in movie experience, Flix's projection system can be positioned to display movies on the side of a building, a billboard or almost any wall.
7. India’s Tata Motors, Ltd – they’re teaming up with France’s MDI to create an air-powered, plastic car for sale under $3000. Talk about green!
8. GM Mini cars – Trax, Beat, and Groove: The Groove has a retro style, the Beat is a futuristic three-door hatchback, and the Trax looks like a rugged SUV after being put through the shrink ray. As an innovation, GM is allowing the public to vote for their favorite designs, with the winner having the best chance of making it to production. Rock the car brand vote here!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

BMW is trading in secrets to save some bucks

Beyond just “MPGs”, car companies are starting to be judged on their total carbon footprints. With all of the pressure to reduce emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and still deliver a quality vehicle, margins have gotten slim. Now, even more expense is going to research and development.

With large-scale mergers falling out of favor, BMW has found a more creative approach to reduce R&D costs – actually sharing technical information. These tech alliances with GM, DaimlerChrysler, and Peugeot will help spread the costs for technologies that all can share.

It is an innovative solution to a monetary challenge, but I wonder how this might ultimately affect the “ultimate driving machine” brand.

Or can reducing their negative footprint actually increase their positive impression?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

If you’re gonna do special edition, make it really special

Providing special edition colors continues to be used as a marketing lever in automobiles. Liquid metal, cocoa metallic, Fahrenheit orange, blazing copper, dark amethyst, kiwi green, and Jay-Z blue are just a few of the new color options from across the industry.

While I have always admired the snazzy, often branded names for colors, I like the co-branded packages even better.

These brand Associations are powerful tools. That’s why selling a King Ranch package or a Harley-Davidson edition on a car taps into an opportunity that is also linked with product Likeability.

How about:
- an iPod edition on your next VW -- something that links the styling and multimedia savvy of the music device?
- a Starbucks package that applies the design sense of the store, and comes with unique coffee cup warming holder?
- a PGA edition with specially designed storage for your clubs and shoes?

Click the comment link below to share your idea for a special edition car that would incorporate another of your favorite brands.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Chicago…now the Porsche of the advertising world

The very word “Porsche” brings thoughts of nimble, fast, and hip power. The sexy sports car is unpretentious compared to Lamborghini or Ferrari, but still completely confident in its own abilities.

Apropos when you think about Chicago, which in recent years has been dogged with an industry perception of creating second-rate advertising. But now, we’ve brought home the lucrative Porsche advertising account. Beating out 19 other agencies, the independently owned mid-sized firm Cramer-Krasselt won the $40 million account.

Like the positioning of the legendary sportscar, Chicago knows it is not New York City or Los Angeles. But the Second City has never been second-rate, and we know that with pride.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Finding an emotional appeal to the next big buying generation

Now, the generation that brought us grunge rock, apathy, and teen angst is prepared to take over the reins of commerce.

The infamous Generation X, the first brood of the Boomers, is coming of age. And marketers are now seeking methods to create emotional appeal for the group.

Gen Xers are now in the 30-44 age bracket, which puts them in a prime car-buying demographic. Honda is on the front lines, trying to market the Accord (normally popular to 50-somethings) through a well-researched emotional connection.

What Honda has discovered is that Gen X buyers need greater emotional ties to products. They also want practical purchases that they don’t need to save up for. And finally, they are trying to signal others that they are successful. Honda thinks the Accord fits into these categories (Accord is affordable, reliable, and its appeal to the older generation signals it as a mark of success).

The key for Honda will be to create an Evangelist Effect®. The general idea is to create loyal brand enthusiasts out of marquee customers. What happens after that is that these customers become brand evangelists, spreading the word of the brand to others and bringing them into the fold.

The Evangelist Effect® results in:
• Increased credibility of messages because they are delivered by experts, friends, or news media
• Strong two-way connectivity as evangelists share information using new tools and technology
• Increased brand "market" and "emotional" share
Honda is targeting the right sources for its advertising to create this effect, such as select internet and television sites. They hope to create some non-product related features that will appeal to the loyalty factor. Then Honda can sit back and say “we made it simple” for Gen Xers, too.

Here's a new Accord ad to watch...