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
4. Stonyfield Farm $61 Maintained organic street cred despite sale to Danone
5. Samsung $4,282 Created communities for fans of its TVs and
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

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.

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, 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

Join Full Speed Ahead...a weekly insight to harness the power of speed click

“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
. 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 fiancĂ© 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.