Saturday, February 28, 2009

#1 brand experience award for low-cost carrier goes to Jetstar Asia

While I’m at the Asia-Pacific sales meeting in Cebu, I’m still seeing regional brand news. Here’s an item from today’s Philippines Star newspaper.

Jetstar Asia has been named “Best Brand Experience for Low-cost Carrier” in the biennial Asia Travel and Tourism Creative Awards given by Ad Asia Magazine.

Jetstar is Australia's and Singapore's low-fares airline for Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

“Our aim is to provide consistent low fares to Australian, New Zealand and Asian leisure travelers,” says the CEO Chong Phit Lian. “We started flying in 2004 offering customers a simple and fresh travel experience. Our bold and distinctive brand is indicative of the fresh and vibrant approach toward low cost travel in the region.”

Read the full article at

Friday, February 27, 2009

10 lines of poetry on why I fly

As I prepared to fly to Asia this week, some friends and family expressed concern about traveling to parts of the world the news portrays as unstable.

But I actually believe that the more we know each other’s cultures – and get to know the real people around the world – the better we’ll all live together on the tiny planet.

A poem in the Korean Air magazine spoke to me in this regard:

(by Chung Dong-muk)

So I am not tamed
by loneliness,
I fly and fly again.

So I am freer
than instinct,
I fly and fly again.

After all we learned
that we can never make it alone,
so together
We fly and fly again.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

3 Picks for Top Tech Websites

Looking for a website to feed the tech side of your brain?

Kevin Periera, host of Attack of the Show! gave Spirit magazine his top 3 picks for best tech-oriented websites:

Best How-to Site:

Learn how to turn your digital Olympus into a time-lapse camera at this site, the blog for Make magazine. As the name suggest, the blog offers instructional articles on making tech-related projects and other creations, like a set of wind chimes constructed out of your old removable hardware drives.

Best Companion Site:

Apple has built a considerable fan base for their products, and many of those Macophiles flock to Tuaw, the “unofficial Apple weblog.” You can find rumors on the latest Apple gadgets and apps, tips on how to use your products, and software reviews posted with a professional, yet fun, slant.

Best News Site:

Get the inside scoop at this blog, run by Michael Arrington, named one of the 25 most influential people on the Web by BusinessWeek. TechCrunch profiles new Internet products and companies, offering everything from news on site launches to CEO gossip to tutorials on useful services like Del.izzy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1 Brain Runneth Over

When I finished reading Torkel Klingberg’s The Overflowing Brain, my brain was running over. At least now, I know why.

The book is described by one reviewer as “the day in the mental life of a typical corporate manager.” It points out how the average business person is forever trying to focus on too many things at once. For example, how many computer windows can you count open on your screen right now? How about the average amount of mail in your inbox when you open it in the morning?

We are constantly being interrupted before we can even begin to start a task let alone finish it. Klingberg, a cognitive neuroscientist is Stockholm, gives a brief tour of what science has discovered about our brains, especially what their limits are and what we can do to improve their functioning:

“When we must return to a task after interruption or delay our brain’s working memory tries to retain the necessary information. We use this form of memory, say, to keep a telephone number in mind just long enough to dial it. But working memory has a short life and limited capacity. About four items is the most it can hold. If we start a conversation before we dial the phone number, the number will disappear.”

The book explores how our modern lives may be too much for our simple brains—that have not developed much from ancient times.

You can find this book on our link called “Innovative Content”.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

5 Steps to Marketing in the World of the Web

A business contact of mine, Tom Hayes, released a book last year entitled Jump Point. He also sent me a copy of an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal regarding the crucial question facing the industry today: How to leverage the social networking phenomenon into actual profits?

Hayes said, “There isn’t a smart company today that isn’t implementing some kind of online community, wiki or blog strategy.” But where should we be moving? Here are Hayes’ five steps to marketing in the world of the web, Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, and more.

1. From loyalty to attention

Before you can win consumer loyalty, you have to capture and reward consumer attention.
Example: Virgin Mobile gives a minute of free phone time for every minute of advertising a customer accepts

2. From crowds to clouds

Once you get that attention-once you generate heavy traffic to your site, gather a large league of “friends” on MySpace, or span a dedicated following on Twitter.

3. From places to spaces

Consumers are increasingly organizing themselves into new communities-not just the big generic social communities, but myriad idiosyncratic slices of narrow, passionate interest. When efficiently targeted, they can be highly responsive, lucrative, and loyal.

4. From memes to bemes

In the Age of Broadcast, good advertising could occasionally manufacture memes of tremendous social impact. Now we call them bemes. Bemes are sent by members of social communities to each other and typically contain a reward or exclusive offer, which, when redeemed, also results in a reward coupon for the sender.

5. From silos to simultaneity

Too many retailers today persist in believing that online shopping is merely a virtual extension of real world shopping. That is a big mistake. Rather, online and offline need to coexist, and we need to rethink how they relate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

6 insights on clinical R&D in India

We at STINSON Brand Innovation continue to view India as an emerging strategic market – including as a location for pharmaceutical and biotech clinical research and development. Working closely with our partner agency BrandCare in Mumbai, we’re staying up to date on relevant developments there.

In our fact-finding, we’ve gathered these six insights from Max Neeman International, a leading Contract Research Organization based out of India. This CRO provides full range of clinical research services to global pharmaceutical, biotech and devices companies.

1. Emerging markets shine as mature markets stagnate

During 2007, the Asia-Pacific markets grew collectively by 13.3% (excluding Japan) and now represent 11% of the total global market, which during the same period grew 6.4% to reach $712bn.

The removal of service tax for CROs and customs duty on all imported drugs used in clinical trials has and will continue to help give the India based CRO industry a boost and compete even better on a cost basis, to other emerging countries.

"Robust economic growth and expansion of access to healthcare remains the primary driver of these markets," said the market intelligence firm report.

2. India tapped for 15% share of clinical sector by 2011

The Indian market for clinical research outsourcing was valued at around $200m in 2007, according to KPMG, nearly three times its value in 2001-02. It is predicted to reach a value of $500-$600m by 2010, with a 15% share of the global clinical trials market in the following year.

That growth trend is expected to continue thanks to the fact that India is among the least expensive of all the other emerging markets, roughly on a par with Russia, and can command the highest patient recruitment rates, says KPMG, citing data from this year's World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

3. India winning race with China for Asia's top clinical spot

At present India appears to be beating China in the race for Asia's top clinical spot, according to new figures published by India's Planning Commission.

As it continues to attract new business from large pharma players, the market value of India's clinical research organization (CRO) industry is blossoming - currently estimated at $300m and projected to rocket to $1.5b-$2bn by 2010.

"India has a vibrant pharmaceutical market and with patient protection in place since 2005", and this effectively means that companies can introduce drugs in India at the same time as other countries, said chairman of India's Institute of Clinical Research, S. R. Dugal, adding that compared with China, India "strictly follows" ethical guidelines.

4. Asian CROs poised for substantial growth in specific therapeutic areas

Over the next two years, urology and musculoskeletal/arthritis are expected to be the most outsourced researched areas.

While cardiovascular, central nervous system (CNS) and metabolic diseases are the research areas that are currently the most outsourced, oncology is likely to show an increase in outsourcing in the next two years, predicted Research and Markets.

5. Phase I outsourcing to India by 2010?

The outsourcing of Phase I trials to India may be allowed by 2009-10 after the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) said it is considering changing its stance.

Currently Phase I trials are only allowed if the compound was discovered in India or if data from other markets is submitted, which has restricted the outsourcing of early stage research in India.

The CDSCO's proposals would overturn this and also allow foreign companies to conduct Phase 0 and 1 trials in India.

6. Growth continues for Indian CMOs

India's contract manufacturing market is expected to rocket forward over the next couple of years to reach a value of $2.46bn in 2010, according to a just-released report from KPMG.

That represents an annual growth rate of more than 40 percent, according to the figures, which come from Cygnus Industry InSight.

With 75 facilities inspected by the US FDA, the highest number of any country outside the US, the country now accounts for 46% of all the drug master files (DMF's) submitted to the agency.

Here are some highlights of Max Neeman capabilities:

- Its MD and PhD trained teams maintain the expertise to assist the pharmaceutical, biotech and device industries in conducting complex clinical trials
- Able to serve the needs of 'Top 10' pharmaceutical firms, as well as small to midsize biotechnology and device companies.
- Based out of 5 regional offices, with access to hospitals and health care facilities across India.
- Operational since 2001, awarded 126 trials for global sponsors across wide range of therapeutic areas.
- Received ISO 9001:2000 certification by United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) for Site Management, Monitoring and Data Management.
- Active in 102 sites in 22 cities with access to 800 ICH-GCP trained Investigators.
- Maintains a patient retention rate between 98.1 to 98.4% across different therapeutic areas.
- Successfully completed 4 US FDA GCP Audits for highest enrollment globally.

To learn more about its experience in clinical research. visit

And for brand strategies to enter the dynamic market of India, contact me at

Saturday, February 21, 2009

27.33 Miles to Greater Creativity

We've been exploring various ways to further expand our innovative thinking. One way is to breakout of routine driving directions and try new routes.

Recently I was returning from business meetings in Valley Forge, PA to the Philadelphia Airport. So I went on MapQuest, and click "Avoid Highways." The result was a wonderful drive on back-roads and through old suburbs. The photos below show a few things I saw along the way.

It certainly expanded my C.O.R.E.

-- Curiosity
-- Openness
-- Risk-taking
-- Energy

As my favorite radio station says, "Turn up the volume...and enjoy the Drive."

Friday, February 20, 2009

5 Tips to Cope – even Thrive – in a Downturn

I found some encouraging news in our industry trade journal last month.

Advertising Age was founded less than 90 days after the crash of 1929 and has reported on every downturn since the Great Depression. Innovation in marketing and media can be at its best in the worst of times.

With that realization, Ad Age dug into their archives to find some motivational and helpful tips on how to cope or better yet-thrive-through economic downturn.

Here are five tips they shared:

Launching a magazine might not sound smart in the midst of the Depression, but it worked for Time Inc, which launched Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, People, and Entertainment Weekly in recession years.

No one has a crystal ball, but if there is clear potential in a market, starting new ventures could be very profitable.

Promotions have shown to help with brand loyalty and keep customers through economic down times.

Even in rotten times, there’s a market for trading up.

New cars weren’t selling in 1930, but the industry spotted an expanding revenue opportunity: service-which led to the ad campaign with the slogan “Care will save your car.”

For Ad Age’s full analysis go to
and click on Downtime Opportunity.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

4 Ideas to Simplify HR

When we at STINSON Brand Innovation, rolled out our 2009 StrategicGPS, it included attracting fresh new talent.

For the new people we bring on, we have to appreciate that starting a new job can be intimidating. Think about how daunting it can be (for both parties) to familiarize new employees with company policies, practices, routines, and systems.

I like to see new employees feel comfortable taking action when joining our team. For a smooth transition and to encourage new hires to take a proactive approach to their new position, here’s a four ideas to prepare them – excerpted from a recent issue of Advertising Age:

1. Prepare a "Launch Document”

People like security; they don't like wondering if they're meeting expectations. Prepare overviews regarding the projects and tasks for which they will be responsible. It helps them prioritize and get a feel for a new position-and it strips them of excuses if they fail to make deadlines. A launch document can also give you insight to their work ethic. Did they set off on a mission to learn the task processes? If so, you probably made a good choice in your hiring.

2. Provide Resources for Information

Give your new hire a list of resources for finding information. Folders on company drives, frequently used websites, other staff members with exceptional knowledge – the list is endless. Giving newbies such lists gives them the confidence to ask questions of the right people and takes the burden off you. If they know where to find the information, there's less need to ask you.

3. Do a Full Tour, Complete With Introductions

Would you walk up to a random stranger and ask them for favor? (I might, but most people wouldn't.) Make sure to tour your new hire around the office and introduce him or her to everyone. It will allow the new hire to gain a sense of confidence and camaraderie more quickly.

4. Institute Frequent Status Checks

The most important thing we can do for a new hire is to be available. Granted your time is often limited. Be certain to schedule newbies some one-on-one time in which they can ask questions and receive your feedback. These meetings should be short, 10 or 15 minutes at most, and might decrease in frequency as your employee gets more comfortable.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

53% of senior marketing execs say event marketing is "the discipline that best accelerates and deepens relationships" with customers

While marketers are getting more tech-savvy, it seems they still have a soft spot for good old-fashioned event marketing.

According to the EventView 2009 survey, more than half (53 percent) of 300 senior marketing executives say event marketing is the discipline that best accelerates and deepens relationships with target audiences.

The survey was completed earlier this month by George P. Johnson, The MPI Foundation and the Event Marketing Institute. It included a healthy swath (41 percent) of marketers whose companies pull in revenues in excess of $1 billion.

This is reported today on

More than a quarter (26 percent) of those surveyed said event marketing is the discipline that drives the greatest return-on-investment. "The economy is forcing marketers to elevate their game to survive, specifically in regard to deploying direct response marketing such as events to drive top-line performance," said Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI.

Twenty-nine percent of marketers will transition their strategy from event marketing to experience marketing in the next 12 months. The difference being that experience marketing "involves integrated live and online experiences that drive deep brand interaction through highly relevant story telling and brand immersion," per the study. A third of those polled said they already made the switch.

The findings underline two trends coming together at the same time, said David Rich, SVP of Strategic Marketing/Worldwide for experience marketing agency George P. Johnson. "First, a downward economic spiral that is forcing brands to invest in channels like events that demonstrate measurable ROI; and secondly the maturation of strategic event and experience marketing, which takes the strategic, creative, media and digital capabilities of above-the-line marketing and activates them through the on-the-ground execution of an event portfolio made up of different types of internal and external events."

Despite the need to watch spending, marketers are increasingly ponying up to green their events. Sixty-six percent of those polled said they plan on implementing or have already added green initiative-up from 32 percent in 2007.

Of that group, 44 percent are doing so because of a corporate mandate. Green spending makes up 13 percent of their events budget.

Overall, "the real challenge for brands in 2009 will be how to best balance their traditional budget allocations against these trends to drive measurable results," said Rich.

My company, STINSON Brand Innovation, recently released a new white paper for pharma and medical brand marketers entitled, Creating a Quality Brand Experience Through Event Marketing.”

This newest white paper features case studies from the 2008 Experiential Marketing Summit and applications of key learnings for health, science, and technology brands. The white paper covers the following areas for creating a brand experience through event marketing:

· Top 6 Steps to a Successful Event
· Building Brands One Touchpoint at a Time
· Creating High Touch, High Volume Events
· Transforming the Tradeshow Portfolio
· Rewriting the Rules of Event Marketing
· Developing an Event Measurement Dashboard

Increased competition in the event marketing arena has lead us to find new and innovative ways of expanding the brand experience for our health, science, and technology clients’ brands. We apply the learnings from the Summit each year to our own case studies in hopes of making a bigger impact each time we participate in a new event.

This Brand Experience white paper not only includes mentions of case studies from well-known companies speaking at the Summit, but also provides charts, worksheets and tactics to help guide the audience in the steps it takes to create brand experiences at any type of event.

The white paper is available for free download at

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

23 miles on 1 Bus to Reduce Smog in Boise

I travel frequently to Boise, Idaho from Chicago. Hiking, biking, and enjoying nature are still the biggest attractions of Boise (even though it is the biggest metropolitan city in the state of Idaho). Jenny and I enjoy the nature of Boise on hikes and runs in the foothills. I blogged about this in an earlier post, 2 great mornings in “nature’s water catcher”.

So it was encouraging for me to read the article in the New York Times Boise Region Grapples with Smog, a Growing Threat.

The article says that after years of growth and suburban development, the Treasure Valley region that includes Boise and its suburbs was on the brink of violating federal clean air standards. The solution to that was simple -- although somewhat unheard of around Idaho: drive less and take public transportation. Due to the increasing popularity of the area, there is more business activity, and traffic congestion which has increased pollution causing a turn in weather conditions which trap polluted air in the valley.

Some good news according to our client Leonard Herr, the air program manager for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality: the increase in gas prices and favorable weather last year led to notably lower ozone levels than the summer before. People suddenly began leaving their cars in favor of the region’s limited bus system—so much in fact that the one bus that runs the 23-mile trip from Boise to the outermost exurbs sometimes resorts to standing room only.

Read the full article.

And visit the Idaho DEQ website.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Back on January 30, I started a conversation with blog readers and LinkedIn groups on Snuggies.

I wrote:

What is it about Snuggies? 4 million sold, even more on backorder.

If you haven't heard by now, this is the latest brand phenomenon Americans are crazy about -- Snuggies. Snuggies are the brand of “super soft, thick, luxurious fleece with roomy oversized sleeves that let you do what you want and still be wrapped totally in warmth". The Snuggie brand is conquering the sour economy by selling over 4 million units in just three months – and are currently on backorder! Do you think the demand for Snuggies is a result of the quirky commercials that show a family wearing Snuggies to a football game? Or is it the man wrapped up on his couch reading looking like he just stepped out of a "Star Wars" movie?”

Here’s a few of the replies and insights I received:

Cristian Saracco,Founding Partner & CEO at Allegro 234
Great idea...I saw the commercial and the man reading the book looks like a capuccino...a capuccino monk! ;)

Paul Murray, Touchpoints Director, Pavone
My personal theory is that FIRST someone had a surplus of book lights they wanted to move, and THEN they found a wholesale supplier of inferior fleece fabric. They tried a whacked-out offer in some target market, using their primary product as the value-added rather than the lead product. When that direct marketing campaign had high yield, they scaled it up and went into serious snuggie production.

Christine Pencosky, Account Executive, Kinetics Worldwide
All I have to say is that I wish I invented it. Who knew such a simple idea would be such a money-making product. Everyone I know is making fun of the product...but I will tell you that all of those people went out and bought one!

Ilan Geva, Main Touchpoint, Ilan Geva & Friends
It’s January! of course you'll sell anything that will make you warm and comfy. Its also lousy times, people want to lift their sour mood a bit for a small price...many places are being left without electricity, heating prices are high too. Let’s see how Snuggies is going to perform in July.

Janie Curtis, Chief Strategic Officer at Wildfire/Head of Factor 9
I agree with Christine - I wish I had invented it! I was one of those cynics who was saying 'come on - it is just a back to front dressing gown'. Now it is a national phenomenon. Perhaps the greatest talent one can have in innovation and new product development is to be able to see the potential in ideas that have no immediate interest to us personally. It seems straight forward, but perhaps easier said than done, since we all tend to evaluate the world through our own personal lens!

John Brocato, Sr. Account Executive at KHOU-TV CBS
In agreement with everyone else, wishing it was my product. This product was launched at the right time, with the right price point, in the right economy. First it is winter, cheap enough for an impulse buy, and lastly more people spending more time at home because it is too expensive to go out for movies. Simple products + good marketing = $$$$ Ask the people who launched the Pet Rock or my personal favorite Chia!

Gabriella Schleinkofer, PR Manager at Market2Market Events Ltd.
Their advertising on the site is just absolutely terrible. The product is a great idea but who on earth did the advertising? It's kinda retro but not cool retro but simply "out of date", it makes you feel that once you order the product you automatically become an elderly suburban housewife with a bad perm and no fashion sense.

Lisa Rothstein, Award-winning screenwriter and Professional Copywriter / Marketing Consultant
The advertising sure isn't pretty, but it works. Remember "the Clapper?" However, I ended up not buying a Snuggie because once you automatically get the second one "free” and then have to pay shipping and handling on each, it ends up not being such a bargain. It felt like a bait and switch, and I did not want to reward the company with my sale. I wonder how many other sales have been lost because of this business model. Of course I did it over the website; probably if I had called I would have gone through with the sale because I would have been felt funny backing out in front of a real human. Still, a great simple idea at the right time. They should do a tie-in or JV with Netflix!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Could a “co-director” help us infuse local culture into our global brands?

I was invited to speak at the Asia Brand Congress 2008 which allowed me to visit the magnificent city of Mumbai, India-- so when the movie Slumdog Millionaire was released, I was excited to see it. And I loved it. Obviously, I am not the only one. Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for ten Academy Awards, has won five Critic’s Choice awards and four Golden Globes.

Slumdog Millionaire is a love story that springs from the chaotic streets of Mumbai when the main character’s life is followed from street orphan to TV quiz-show contestant.

Director Danny Boyle was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and credited his co-director Loveleen Tandan for the success of the movie.

Tandan infused the movie with authentic Indian culture. She did this by urging the incorporation of key artistic and cultural cues into the movie largely by translating a third of the dialogue into Hindi. It successfully connected the experiences of this young Indian boy to an American audience while eliminating any cultural barriers.

“As soon as she did it, the scenes just transformed,” says Mr. Boyle. “A good decision follows a good decision, and our first good decision was hiring Loveleen.”

While reading this, I am reminded of the issues we here at STINSON work to overcome when going global. What could we do even better to “transform” our brand message to relate to global companies and global audiences in a more effective way? I feel STINSON has the potential to take global brands to a greater level, but our first step is to communicate that in the most connected way possible. I would like to hear your suggestions or thoughts on global communications between companies. What co-direction should STINSON seek when expanding our brands globally?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

1 Smart Second

While writing yesterday’s blog , “10 Trends for Advertising in 2009,” I was also focusing on the Super Bowl and the many advertisements reaching the millions of consumers that night. I realized that MillerCoors, the makers of Miller High Life, followed some of those very trends.

Miller High Life ran 1-second ads throughout the Super Bowl featuring the big burly Miller High Life delivery man reinforcing the brand as a “good, honest beer at a tasty price.” Considering the excessive price tag for a 30-second commercial to run during the game, it was a wise decision.

“Miller High Life is all about high quality and great value, so it wouldn’t make sense for this brand to pay $3 million for a 30-second ad,” said High Life senior brand manager Kevin Oglesby, in a press release. “Just like our consumers, High Life strives to make smart choices. One second should be plenty of time to remind viewers that Miller High Life is common sense in a bottle.”

In this economy that is a smart way to think. What is a brand saying to its loyal customers if it uses its money recklessly? It’s hard to support a brand in this economy that isn’t respecting your wallet in return. MillerCoors creatively advertised its brand in a resourceful way—and probably received even more publicity because of it.

This economy will force brands to think “outside the box” when advertising and I’m excited to see more of these trends.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

10 Trends for Brand Advertising in 2009

Everyone knows the economy is bad right now. Brand marketers are finding ways to cut back and save money in any way. So what kind of advertising should we expect to see in 2009?

Already we are seeing a shift in advertising. Big name brands like Microsoft, Burger King, and Dunkin’ Donuts are taking direct aim at their competitors, which is a marketing technique deployed more frequently in a downturn. Campaigns are more aggressive, yet the ad pitches themselves will be less lavish and glamorous.

Here are ten trends Advertising Age reports that you can expect to see this year:

1. Short and Sweet: TV ads will emphasize how a purchase will cost you less, and the message will be communicated in less time.

2. Less Glitz: Pricey, glitzy production will be rare.

3. Ads that Watch You: Face-reading technology is here—which will enhance and better align creative advertisers to communicate and connect to their consumer

4. Ad People…Like: People will see more and more advertising they actually like and seek out.

5. Ivy League Approval: Well respected universities in the U.S. will lend credibility to brands in need like financial institutions and automobile manufacturers—because they will suddenly need additional revenue streams as well.

6. Online Tracking: Innovations in location-based services and mobile-phone applications will give consumers more services.

7. Video Explosion: Video will increasingly show up on anything that doesn’t move and even some things that do, on cell phones, buses, elevators, fast food restaurants, billboards, and of course, the internet.

8. Smart Ads: People’s growing ability to gather and store information while out and about it critical and necessary for their purchase decisions and the ads will increasingly cater to new information-gathering behaviors.

9. No Banner Year: Banner ads will be the new junk mail.

10. Seeing Red: If you were paying attention to the Christmas lights this year, you know red will be the next big color in advertising taking the throne from orange.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A personal plea on behalf of bushfire victims in Victoria, Australia

As a the world gets smaller and we feel more globally connected, I find that we now more often know someone personally affected by a tragedy. So it is with the worst wildfires in Australian history. Police have so far confirmed 181 deaths as the fires ripped across the southern state of Victoria on Saturday. But the state's premier, John Brumby, said more than 50 people remained missing Tuesday afternoon.

Here's a personal letter I received from a business friend this morning. I hope you'll join me in responding to her request for a Red Cross donation -- as well as for thoughts and prayers for those affected.


Dear Mark,

I am taking a minute to email all of my connections in relation to the horrific Bushfire situation in Victoria, Australia.

I live in the township of Cockatoo, Victoria. On the weekend I evacuated my young family ahead of the warnings. Thankfully our area was spared this time around, however many areas weren't.

The current situation is that there are 25 fires still burning out of control and a total 152 fires burning in Victoria yet to be declared safe, 173 people are confirmed dead and over 750 homes lost, 3,218 km² of land burnt, and still more to come.

I personally have dear friends still missing in Kinglake and Narbethong, including two children aged 6 and 3, and several other friends are thankfully safe, but without homes.

I am making a heartfelt appeal to anyone who can spare a few dollars to please make a donation to the Australian Red Cross, Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009 on this link, every single dollar counts.

Thank you for your consideration and for sparing a thought for all who have lost beloved ones, animals, homes and memories.

Kind regards,


PS: Here are two pictures that show how close the fires are to me.


The view from my home this morning looking toward Bunyip State Forest (8km away); as you can see there are still fires burning, so a wind change in our direction would mean we too would lose our home.

Monday, February 09, 2009

10 Fruits That Heal

We often get so focused on new medical technology brands that we can miss the obvious health benefits of good fruits – especially some less common fruits you have to search for in the store.

High in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these ten fruits give the human body the edge it needs to stay sharp, focused and healthy.

Here are 10 fruits that keep your body healthy:

1. Bilberries: Keeps your eyes healthy
2. Blueberries: Promotes urinary health, fights cancers
3. Cherries: relieves the pain of arthritis and gout
4. Cranberries: Promotes healthy skin, kidneys and urinary tract
5. Grapes: Lower bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol
6. Pomegranates: Fights cancer and get oxygen where it’s needed most
7. Prunes: Enhance digestive health
8. Raspberries: Shown to inhibit tumor growth
9. Strawberries: Can help improve short-term memory, fight inflammation
10. Wolfberries: Fight inflammation, cancers, diabetes, premature aging, memory loss, vision degeneration and lung disorders

Sunday, February 08, 2009

5 Grammys for 2 of music's best brands -- Alison Krauss and Robert Plant

"Raising Sand," the stark, rootsy album by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, won five Grammys Sunday night, including Album of the Year. Plant and Krauss' "Please Read the Letter," produced by T Bone Burnett, also won record of the year.

You can read my blog posting from the week the album was released at

Friday, February 06, 2009

2009 is the year to really "shine"

It is now the beginning of February, time to assess how your new year resolutions are progressing.

Consider shifting from resolution to reinvention. I received an email the other day with advice from Gary Ryan Blair which I found it to be a great approach to achieving your New Year's reinventions. It is about visualizing yourself after achieving those goals, and it drives you to invent your future self.

The following is a creative exercise for you to think about how to surpass your potential in the New Year.

How would YOU fill in this blank -- In 2009, I'm finally going to__________________________!

Now go forward-fast to December 31st. It's New Year's Eve going into 2010. You're reflecting on the past year, jotting down a few notes in your journal.

"I've got a lot to be thankful for this year...

I reduced my credit card debt by $______________________________.

I feel great and now fit into my________________________________.

I have increased my retirement fund by $________________________.

I have achieved a number of personal goals that include____________________.

I have exceeded my own expectations by accomplishing__________________________.

I've got nearly enough money saved for a nice family vacation in ______________________.

I've been fortunate to become a trusted advisor to my clients, like_________________________.

I upgraded my skills by learning_______________________.

I'm enjoying an even better relationship with____________________.

I am more balanced in life and work because I_________________________.

So, what did YOU write down? What are your aspirations for the coming year?

Are you ready to make 2009 the best year EVER?

If you found this exercise useful, click the link for more advice from Gary Ryan Blair:

Thursday, February 05, 2009

2,000 of athletes from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games begin in Boise.

Yesterday, the Special Olympics Flame of Hope arrived here in Boise.

The flame has toured the state since arriving in Idaho last week, with visits to 57 cities big and small in all corners of the state.

Runners from law enforcement agencies from all 50 states and around the world have carried the Flame of Hope. They have been joined by a handful of Special Olympics athletes.

The torch was lit in Athens, Greece back in November. From there, the Flame of Hope traveled around the world for three months making stops in several countries.

The torch arrived in Idaho on January 29.

Its first stop was in Coeur d' Alene where the law enforcement torch run began.

On that day about 120 officers took part in several events, which included a boat launch and a short ceremony at the Coeur d’Alene public library.

The torch then made its way to Lewiston.

On January 30, it also made stops in Rathdrum, Moscow, Worley and Post Falls.

Earlier this week, the torch was in the Idaho Falls area -- making its way through several towns there.

And just two days ago, the torch was carried through Twin Falls.

And finally before arriving in Boise it made its way through the streets of Sun Valley.

Local law enforcement officers and 10 Special Olympics athletes carried the torch from the Boise Depot down Capitol Boulevard Wednesday afternoon to Boise City Hall.

It's arrival in Idaho's Capitol City was marked by a special ceremony at Boise City Hall featuring First Lady Lori Otter and Mayor Dave Bieter. Otter was presented with one of the 16 torches used in the run across the state before the flame begins its final trek to various Treasure Valley locations.

The games are expected to draw more than 2,000 athletes from more than 100 countries around the world. We're among the supporters, along with 9 other friends visiting us from Chicago.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

4 Steps to See Your 2B Effective Creative Visualization of Where you want to be”

Recently, we at STINSON used a visualization exercise to envision our 2009 strategic objective. We literally wanted to "see" where we wanted to be.
It helped expand on ideas and identify steps to attain our goals.

Shakti Gawain has always been one of my favorite experts in this area. So, it was good to review these techniques as I came across an excerpt from Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What you Want in Life by Gawain in the HedraNews.

The excerpt gave 4 basic steps for effective creative visualization. I really liked the suggestion in the second step--drawing a physical picture while creating ideas. Here's some photos from the STINSON group exercise:

Now, here are all 4 steps from Shakti Gawain:

1. Set your Goal
Decide on something you would like to have, work toward, realize or create. It can be on any level--a job, a house, a relationship, a change in yourself, increased prosperity, a happier state of mind, improved health, beauty, a better physical condition, or solving a problem. At firs, choose goals that are fairly easy for you to believe in, that you feel are possible to realize in the fairly near future. Later, when you have ore practice, you can take on more difficult or challenging problems and issues.

2. Create a clear idea or picture
Create an idea, a mental picture, or a feeling of the object or situation exactly as you want it. You should think of it in the present tense as already existing the way you want it to be. Imagine yourself in the situation as you desire now. Include as many details as you can.
You may wish to make an actual physical picture of it as well.

3. Focus on it often
Bring your idea or mental picture to mind often, both in quite meditation periods, and also casually throughout the day, when you happen to think of it. In this way it becomes an integrated part of your life, and it becomes more of a reality for you.
Focus on it clearly, yet in a light, relaxed way. It's important not to feel like you are striving too -hard for it or putting an excessive amount of energy into it--that tends to hinder rather than help.

4. Give positive energy
As you focus on your goal, think about it in a positive, encouraging way. Make strong positive statements to yourself: that it exists; that it has come or is now coming to you. See yourself receiving or achieving it. These positive statements are called "affirmations". While you use affirmations, try to temporarily suspend any doubts or disbelief you may have, at least for the moment, and practice getting the feeling that what you desire is very real and possible.

Shakti Gawain is a best-selling author and a pioneer in the field of personal growth ad consciousness. The 30th Anniversary edition of her classic work Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want In Life was recently published by New World Library.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Comfort Brands

The economy affects everything, especially the trends at the grocery store.

Less expensive comfort foods and classic brands are being snatched up at the grocery store, as well as the staples needed to make home cooked meals. More Americans are adopting a back-to-basic approach and forgoing the convenience of pricey frozen meals or pre-prepared dinners.

Classic comfort brands such as Kraft® Macaroni and Cheese and Hormel® Chili are in demand. Consumers are also making the effort to cook from scratch -- and are more likely to eat at home than out. When consumers are tempted to let someone else do the cooking they are heading to fast food restaurants, not sitdown dining.

Comfort is increasingly becoming the deciding factor in the foods people consume.

What brands register comfort for you?

Monday, February 02, 2009

11 Suggestions for the next 11 Days -- Inspiration for Fast New Ideas for 2009

Although the economy is down, budgets are cut, and everyone is looking to save money, innovation is still in demand.

Here are a few suggestions to inspire new ideas from Patrick Hanlon, founder and CEO of Thinktopia, in a recent AdAge article Economic Slowdowns Demand Fast New Ideas.

1. Immersion
Immerse yourself in relevant data, reports, trends, and studies, while identifying your goals and challenges

2. Know what you need to know
Have definite outcomes in mind-knowing what you want to get out of your session will help you have a better experience and better ideas.

3. Conspire to inspire
Design a great brainstorming session by keeping PowerPoint presentations to a minimum and mixing people up for discussions and creative thinking.

4. Bring in your best people
Bring in people from all parts of your business (creative, finance, operations) for different ideas and viewpoints.

5. Bring in outside thought leaders
Bring in award-winning designers, ethnographers, trend-makers, stylists and thinkers of all kinds. They can be objective and practical and smart about your business opportunities in ways you can't.

6. The best way to innovate is to cross-pollinate
Bring in thought leaders outside your business walls too.
Example: Consider a furniture designer when looking for ideas on how to design new packaging.

7. Structure, structure, structure
Make sure everyone knows the expectations, and understands the goal of exercises

8. Simulate all the senses
Engage people in all the senses: touch, sound, taste and sight.

9. Success inspires success
Think of others who have been successful, come up with great ideas or products to kick-start thinking.

10. Think forward by thinking backward
What should you be doing right now in order to prepare for the future headed your way?

11. Think of your brand as a city or country
Do this by asking questions: What would it look like? What would people do there? What kind of music would they listen to or clothes would they wear?

Now, here's my suggestion -- take each of the suggestions and put it on your calendar. One inspiration for each of the next 11 days. Then, apply it to what you're working on that day. I'll check back in after 11 days to see how it went for us.