Thursday, July 30, 2009

4 pitfalls in clinical decision making – from “How Doctors Think”

In his book How Doctors Think, Jerome Groopman, MD, identified traps that physicians must avoid on the path to a clinical decision, including these:
  1. "Satisfaction of the search." The tendency to fall back on lower-level decision-making rules when we want to eliminate alternatives.
  2. "Diagnosis momentum." The tendency to ignore findings that might lead us in a different direction than the one we're already headed in.
  3. "Commission bias." The tendency to do something rather than watching and waiting.
  4. "Intuitive leaps." The tendency to make a jump to a diagnosis that may not be supported by evidence or even by logic.
Could these pitfalls also apply to those of us in the clinical “innovating” business?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

HE4 Diagnostic Biomarker Test Shows Promise in Monitoring Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian malignancies are a leading cause of cancer death in women because they are usually detected in the late stages when the disease is incurable.

Encouraging new research presented by Abbott and Fujirebio Diagnostics last week at the AACC (American Association for Clinical Chemistry) annual meeting shows that a novel diagnostic marker HE4, combined with other tests, can be used to more effectively monitor for early-stage ovarian cancer.

This can improve treatment options for many of the 22,000 women in the US who develop this deadly disease each year.

New research on HE4 presented by Richard Moore, MD at a scientific workshop provides important validation for the use of the HE4 test in combination with CA125 (the current standard for monitoring ovarian cancer) in estimating EOC risk in women presenting with pelvic masses.

The HE4 test was developed through research efforts aimed at identifying combinations of biomarkers to add sensitivity to the CA125 test, which is limited in its sensitivity and specificity, as well as its ability to monitor early stage epithelial ovarian cancer.

“Our results show that the dual marker combination of HE4 and CA125 can aid in the differentiation of benign pelvic masses from ovarian malignancies in women diagnosed with a pelvic mass,” said Moore. “This is exciting as it will help us improve the care we give to the many women who are afflicted by this deadly disease.” Dr. Moore is associate professor in the Program for Women's Oncology at Women and Infants’ Hospital and Brown University.

“More than 250,000 women present to their physician each year with a suspicious pelvic mass, yet there is still no reliable tool to differentiate malignant disease from other benign gynecologic conditions, making early detection a significant challenge,” said Robert Doss, Ph.D., divisional vice president, research and development, Abbott Diagnostics. “HE4 represents an important advancement in monitoring these pelvic masses.”

Fujirebio Diagnostics, Inc. and Abbott have signed a license agreement to develop this new ovarian cancer marker for use on Abbott’s automated ARCHITECT® diagnostic analyzers. A manual form of the HE4 test has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an aid in monitoring recurrence or progressive disease in patients with EOC and is CE marked for use within the European Union as an aid in estimating the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

The team from Stinson Brand Innovation attended the AACC conference in support of Fujirebio Diagnostics. We created a brand experience in the booth, including a touchscreen kiosk program to inform lab directors of the clinical application of the HE4 biomarker. Here are a few photos from the exhibit.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in women. An estimated one in 72 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetimes. It accounts for 31% of cancers of the female genital organs. Women who are postmenopausal are at the greatest risk for ovarian cancer.

About Abbott Diagnostics

Abbott Diagnostics is a global leader in in-vitro diagnostics and offers a broad range of innovative instrument systems and tests for hospitals, reference labs, blood banks, physician offices and clinics. With more than 69,000 institutional customers in more than 100 countries, Abbott’s diagnostic products offer customers automation, convenience, cost effectiveness and flexibility. Abbott has helped transform the practice of medical diagnostics from an art to a science through the company's commitment to improving patient care and lowering overall costs. The history of Abbott Diagnostics is filled with examples of first-of-a-kind products and significant technological advancements, including the development of the very first diagnostic test to detect HIV.

About Fujirebio Diagnostics, Inc.

Fujirebio Diagnostics is the premier cancer diagnostics company and the industry leader in cancer biomarker assays. Fujirebio Diagnostics specializes in the clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization of in-vitro diagnostic products for the management of human disease states, with an emphasis in oncology. Fujirebio Diagnostics is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujirebio Inc. Fujirebio a leading healthcare company in Japan with a focus on diagnostics, and is a group company of MiraHoldings. Fujirebio Diagnostics has a worldwide distribution network which enables physicians and patients to access its diagnostic products. For more information about Fujirebio Diagnostics, please call 610/248-3800 or visit

Monday, July 27, 2009

3 Lessons on The Culture Behind Japanese Brands

A couple of months ago, we had a wonderful week in Asia. While in Tokyo, we appreciated the business culture, as well as the social. Here's an excerpt of an article by Chauncy Zalkin with three lessons on the culture behind Japanese brands (shared with me by Nancy Burgess, a Verbal CHEMist at Stinson Brand Innovation).

"Historically, in a simpler time before the jet age, Japan was geographically isolated, surrounded by treacherous seas and formidable fault lines. Mountains cover three-quarters of Japan. Earthquakes and challenging terrain are constant reminders of nature's strength and have contributed to the importance Japanese people place on having a dependable, manageable social system. Japanese people value the group over the individual, and the society consequently possesses an enviable system of organization and an ethos that gave rise to innovative brands and services. The branding world has taken notice.

Lesson 1: Consideration of the Group
Kuuki wo yomu means to "read the air"-to get a sense or feeling of group sentiment. In a recent social experiment, Japanese and Western participants were shown a picture where an individual stood in front of a group and were asked to describe the situation. The Japanese test takers "read the air," meaning they considered the facial expressions of the group behind the individual, whereas westerners focused solely on the expression of the individual to make their assessment.

Lesson 2: Ritual and Restraint
One set of slippers is for the house. Another, for the bathroom. Sake comes before, not during, the meal. After a Japanese meeting, it's time for karaoke and raucous good times. The working day is done. Each experience has its place, and for that time, every other experience is put aside.

Lesson 3: Reverence for Nature and the Human Touch
Products that exhibit the human touch and an understanding of the environment are what consumers-and society-demand now. Japan is known for sci-fi style innovation but also for employing nature's materials in unique and reverent ways.

In Conclusion
Brands are about values, and values are about people. It is the Japanese people-their culture, their society and their sensibilities-that are the power behind Japanese brands. From Toyota to Sony and Muji to Uniqlo, Japanese brands enjoy global respect for their high quality, attention to detail, technological edge and commitment to the environment. Japan, take a bow."

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Chauncey Zalkin is the founder and served as a senior brand strategist and resident trends expert at creative shops before moving to Paris to write and continue her cultural research projects from a different lens.

Friday, July 24, 2009

4 guiding principles supporting our R & D of innovation tools and techniques

Blog topic submitted by Melanie Stinson

The R & D for medical treatments that can save, prolong, and improve lives begin with inspiration. Then, they take form through innovation and collaboration. And finally, they emerge ready to meet patient needs.

We at Stinson Brand Innovation work closely with leading healthcare corporations, clinical institutions, and universities R& D to brand, and launch these advances in biomedical technologies.

Every day, we’re applying and integrating our core capabilities to R & D for biomedical technologies so we can accelerate new treatment options for physicians and patients across a broad spectrum of specialties including immunology, oncology, endocrinology, cardiology, neurophysiology, and research bioreagents.

This R & D view applies to our own consulting tools, too.

Here are four guiding principles that help support our research & development of new techniques and creative ideas:
  1. Go early, go often. Building experimentation into your business is harder than you think. Start small and stay focused. Try everything, but don’t try it all in one prototype.
  2. Learning by doing. Build value for the business as you prototype. If you fail, what will you have learned? What will you salvage?
  3. Inspiration through constraint. Don’t exhaust yourself searching for money and resources. The tighter your constraints, the more creative your prototypes will be.
  4. Open to opportunity. Look for unanticipated ways customers are using your offering. Their improvisations may be the future of your business.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

3 unlikely items used to create "inFamous" soundtrack -- old metal shelving unit, bungee cord, flowerpots

To create a unique soundscape that matches the ruined urban environments and desolate atmosphere of the recently released PlayStation3 game "inFamous," the sound engineers and musicians at Sony drew sounds and music out of a wide variety of found objects and musical instruments used in unorthodox ways.

Sony invited WIRED out to its Foster City studio to find out about the creative process. The result is the video you can watch below.

Stringed instruments like zithers and cellos were used for percussion. A violin bow drawn over a garbage can lid produced a haunting wail. In the hands of well-known composers like Amon Tobin and Sony’s internal music staff, a room full of unlikely objects were coaxed into giving up a most intriguing game soundtrack.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

10 inner voice lessons: master your fear of failure and harness your power story

Many of us will facing our summer holidays with concerns about the state of the economy, the world, and even our personal wellbeing.

"This year, more than any time I can recall, we are subject to an epidemic of mental, spiritual and emotional fatigue," says Dr. Jim Loehr, whose latest book is The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny in Business and Life.

"If ever there were a time for people to increase their ability to manage their inner conversations and overall wellness – this is it." He adds, “The ability to see clearly in the storm is neither inherited nor something that necessarily develops with age. It comes from repetition and practice, much like strength develops from workouts at the gym.”

Dr. Loehr is a performance psychologist who has spent an entire career helping high performing athletes, military Special Forces, medical professionals, business people, and organizations master the fear of failure and harness their "inner voices" in service of their goals and missions.

As I was using Dr. Loehr’s book as a reference for Stinson Brand Innovation’s N-of-8® story development tool, I wanted to share his insights to help you take control of your inner voice during turbulent times.


  1. Take Control of Your Inner Discord. This sets the stage for the next steps. Consciously turn to an activity that engages and absorbs you completely. Continue it until you can talk with yourself calmly.
  2. Summon the Voice of Your Conscience. Ask yourself questions like, “Is this (the stress-producing activity or thought) really something I should be spending my mental energy, time, money or other resources on?”
  3. Summon Your Voice of Reason and Wisdom. Listen to the disturbing inner chatter and then write down the facts—just the facts—of what is happening. Then write a brief story—beginning, middle, end—around those facts, using your best wisdom and perspective.
  4. Summon Your Voice of Support and Encouragement. Whatever tone of voice you would use with people you care about the most, use that same tone with yourself.
  5. Summon Your Voice of Toughness. Without access to the voice of toughness, many of us are too easily pressured by the world. Listening to this voice will help you to “hang tough” in an environment where we're surrounded by catastrophizing.
  6. Summon Your “I Don’t Buy It” Voice. When there is negative or nervous talk around you, maintain a healthy inner skeptic; distance yourself from negative group-think.
  7. Suspend Your “I Don’t Buy It” Voice. When you feel positive energy from the groups around you, sign on.
  8. Summon Your Voice of Compassion. Every time you stimulate feelings of compassion within yourself, you increase this capacity. It is a practice that has as many benefits for you as it does for the recipient of your compassion.
  9. Summon Your Voice of Sincerity. This voice gains volume when you listen to and acknowledge your deepest private voice, and then find an appropriate and honorable way of using that voice when speaking publicly to others.
  10. Summon Your Voice of Intuition. Intuition doesn’t follow the standard pathways of conscious logic and reason. Training this voice, listening to and respecting this voice, can pay enormous dividends in just about every avenue of life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

N-of-8 of innovative companies in health, science, and technology

Even in these tough times, surprising and extraordinary efforts are under way in businesses across the globe. In our fields of health, science, and technology, eight companies were highlighted this year by FAST COMPANY for their power and potential of innovative ideas and creative execution.

These are the kinds of enterprises that will redefine our future and point the way to a better tomorrow.

1. WuXi PharmaTech, Shanghai, China

As big drugmakers in the U.S. and Europe cut staff, WuXi PharmaTech has been a major beneficiary. A China-based drug-research company that provides scientists-for-hire to conduct R&D, WuXi is growing so fast that this year it expects to employ more chemists than Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker. In China, entry-level scientists make less than half what their American counterparts earn, and WuXi's scientists are often at the lower end of the expertise chain. Still, the company is carving out an ever-larger role. In the near term, WuXi is accelerating the development of blockbuster drugs for the likes of AstraZeneca, but it is poised to become big pharma's next competitor.

2. Gilead Sciences, Foster City, CA

Gilead developed the first single-pill HIV regimen, which now boasts an 85% market share, as well as Tamiflu, which is stockpiled by governments worldwide against avian flu. In 2008, it won approval for Viread, a significant improvement in treating hepatitis B. By focusing on life-threatening illnesses, the company has achieved steady growth, despite a tiny marketing effort. "All the large companies have thousands of reps," says Gilead founder Dr. John Martin. "Our HIV U.S. sales force is less than 100 people." Gilead's strategy reaps both financial rewards -- $3.5 billion in profits last year -- and good karma. Its Access Program helps deliver low-cost HIV drugs to 97 countries, and a nonprofit foundation has given $8 million for HIV education, prevention, and treatment. In the pipeline: a less toxic and more effective drug for hepatitis C.

3. DSM, Heerlen, the Netherlands

Powder to the people! That was the Dutch life- and materials-science company's novel approach in the fight against "hidden hunger," defined by the United Nations as the lack of essential vitamins and minerals (not food) affecting more than a billion people in developing countries. "We wanted to improve the quality of the food basket," says sustainability director Fokko Wientjes, of the partnership between DSM and the UN's World Food Program, established in March 2007. DSM's answer: a tasteless powder called MixMe that for 2.5 cents a day can be added to fortify staple foods. It can be customized to suit different cultures, and the packaging (the size of a sugar packet) can withstand extreme transport conditions. Pilot projects in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Kenya have so far benefited 250,000 people. This year, DSM expects to produce 100 million packets.

4. Genzyme, Cambridge, MA

The patient biotech giant came to prominence by developing treatments for rare genetic disorders, a process usually fraught with risk and expense. But in January, the company announced that it expects its 20% compound annual earnings growth to continue through 2011. Genzyme has recently added renal, bone, and cancer treatments. A 10-year study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons just reported good news for the company's Carticel, a cell therapy that uses a patient's own cartilage to repair damaged knees. Says Dr. Lyle Cain Jr., an orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Alabama: "This is the beginning of the next generation of procedures."

5. Aravind Eye Care System, Madurai, India

In a 33-year quest to end blindness in India, Aravind has developed everything from cheaper intraocular lenses to a 20-minute cataract surgery that allows high volume at lower cost. The network of not-for-profit hospitals and vision centers performs 300,000 eye surgeries each year -- 70% for free -- using broadband connections to on-call doctors in city hospitals for instant diagnosis. Camps in rural areas screen thousands of patients weekly. "We are going from village to village to provide eye care to the unreached," says Aravind's chairman, Dr. P. Namperumalsamy. Aravind won the 2008 Gates Award for Global Health.

6. Affymetrix, Santa Clara, CA

The life-sciences company makes lab tests that scan tissue samples for variations in thousands of genes. It had a rough financial year as the market for genome and RNA analyzers has waned. Rival Illumina, meanwhile, did well by selling gene sequencers. Now the race is on to develop advanced tests for genetic predisposition to heart disease and the most common types of cancer.

7. Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore and Kolkata, India

The hospital performs more than 20 heart surgeries a day at low cost and high quality -- including the first artificial heart implant in Asia, last April. Some call it a temple. Some chose to call it the abode of saints who heal. To some, it's a last chance of survival. But to no one, is this just a hospital. In its genre, Narayana Hrudayalaya may well be one of the biggest hospitals in the world, but the fact that it’s one of the biggest hospitals, with a heart, is becoming legendary. The rich come here for the world's best heart care. The poor come here for the world's kindest care.

8. Verenium, Cambridge, MA and Jennings, LA

The company's scientists use a brew of enzymes to turn sugarcane waste into fuel at the nation's first demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, in Jennings, Louisiana. BP inked a $90 million partnership last year. Verenium is a leader in the development and the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol, an environmentally-friendly and renewable transportation fuel, as well as higher performance specialty enzymes for applications within the biofuels, industrial, and animal nutrition and health markets.

Monday, July 20, 2009

12-foot omphalos helps tell a story

Last week, I wrote a post about storytelling in unique media - here's another example.

Even public art can inspire stories.

Picture the sculpture, "Cloud Gate," by Anish Kapoor in Chicago’s Millennium Park. The sculpture is shaped like an ellipse, and its legume-like appearance has caused it to be nicknamed The Bean. It is made of 168 highly polished stainless steel plates, and stands at 33 feet high, 66 feet long, and 42 feet wide, weighing 110 tons.

From a distance it could be mistaken for a huge drop of mercury, while up close its highly reflective surface captures and transforms the skyline, the downtown cityscape and even the passers-by into a wonderfully warped new vista. The 12-foot underbelly is called the “omphalos” or navel and multiplies reflections in a vortex. The artist, Anish Kapoor, has referred to the sculpture as “a gate to Chicago, a poetic idea about the city it reflects.”

"What I wanted to do in Millennium Park is make something that would engage the Chicago skyline…so that one will see the clouds kind of floating in, with those very tall buildings reflected in the work. And then, since it is in the form of a gate, the participant, the viewer, will be able to enter into this very deep chamber that does, in a way, the same thing to one's reflection as the exterior of the piece is doing to the reflection of the city around," Kapoor said. "I hope what I have done is make a serious work, which deals with serious questions about form, public space and an object in space. You can capture the popular imagination and hold other points of interest, but that is not what I set out to do, although there is inevitably a certain spectacular in an object like this."

Friday, July 17, 2009

4 signs of negative indoctrination and blocks to innovation

“I know I’m right and I’m not going to allow any contrary discussions about it.”

Ever hear a team leader express that thought – explicitly or implicitly? Have YOU ever expressed it? Felt it? And when it’s expressed, what message is the listener getting? Probably this, “Adopt our thinking without question or get off the team.”

Back on June 26, I blogged about the often-used phrase “Drink the Kool-Aid,” which means to buy the company line or to enthusiastically perform a task without knowing how it may affect you.

While the phrase is used so much in jest, let’s not forget how it can stifle creativity and innovation. Or worse, how it can be a sign of a real leadership problem.

The Power of Story author Jim Loehr writes to watch for these signs of negative indoctrination:
  1. Increasing intolerance for beliefs and values that don’t absolutely align with yours;
  2. Increasing rigidity and inflexibility in thinking and action;
  3. Increasing use of fear and threat of retribution if what you say is not acted on or taken seriously; and
  4. Increasing inability to see value in opposing points of view.
Learn more about Jim’s book on the Stinson Brand Innovation reference library page.

The examples above can just as easily by applied, of course, to life outside the boardroom and workplace. Fanatical thought and coercive behavior have no place as we seek to expand our creative lives – in the classroom, the office, the chapel, the lab, or the home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

110-story Sears Tower re-branding today

The sleek black building that looms over this city's skyline has for 36 years been instantly recognizable as the Sears Tower. Until now.

The 110-story building — once the world's tallest, now the tallest in the Western Hemisphere — officially became the Willis Tower Thursday in a ceremony in downtown Chicago.

The switch was part of the deal struck by Willis Group Holdings, an insurance brokerage with offices in New York and London, when it leased 150,000 square feet in the famous skyscraper.

Company Chairman and CEO Joseph Plumeri and Mayor Richard Daley unveiled a sign out front bearing the tower's new name.

Getting city residents to embrace the change, however, may not be so easy. Read more background, along with reader comments, in this morning's USA Today.

4 New Members to Stinson Brand Innovation Team

At STINSON Brand Innovation, we're proud to announce the addition of four new innovators to our a global health, science, and technology brand team.

Jairaj Mashru, account executive, brings a wealth of knowledge, creative energy, innovation techniques, and a strong global mindset.

Layne Shapiro, account executive, will employ her skills in client service to augment our account management and execute new ideas for our brands.

Robb Hughes, finance manager, has quickly taken a lead role with STINSON’s project management system, SC3AN.

Brian Stinson, design studio assistant, is applying his digital media skills on various projects.

In addition to the new hires, STINSON Brand Innovation welcomes three interns to our Chicago office for the summer. Norah Tang, graduate student at University of Illinois Chicago, Katelyn Phillips, senior at University of Illinois, and Kayte Curtis, senior at University of Idaho.

Read more about them and other company updates.

Even video games have stories

As I've been doing research for my new N-of-8 book, I've also been finding examples of storytelling in unique media.

Consider these two popular games and the story lines they weave.

Grand Theft Auto is an award-winning video game series created by Dave Jones, later by Dan Houser and Sam Houser, with game designer Zachary Clarke and published by Rockstar Games.

The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, driving, and occasional role-playing, stealth and racing elements. It has created controversy because of its adult nature and violent themes. The series focuses around many different protagonists who attempt to rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld, although their motives for doing so vary in each game. The antagonists are commonly characters who have betrayed the protagonist or their organization, or who has the most impact impeding their progress.

The stories began in 1997 and have been extended across 9 stand-alone games to date with more planned for the future.

Another example is the multi-player online game City of Heroes that offers a different kind of story formula. According to its website, it is “set in a fantastic world filled with awe-inspiring Heroes and bone-chilling Villains. Countless adventures await you on the streets of Paragon City and the inside the evil empire that is the Rogue Isles.”

The story section gives you a taste of what awaits you inside the world of City of Heroes. You can re-live the Rikti Invasion, meet some of the legends you may find yourself fighting (or fighting beside), and even take a peek into Ghost Widow's most personal thoughts.

And here’s a major difference -- if you feel inspired, you can share your ideas with the game producers by submitting your own City of Heroes fiction using the “Fan Submissions” feature.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2 great song lyrics that inspire

I’m often inspired by great song lyrics that help tell a story.

One of my favorites is "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" which first appeared on The Beatles’ 1965 album Rubber Soul.

"I once had a girl,
or should I say, she once had me."

It is one of several songs on the album referring to an antagonistic relationship with a woman. When asked about the meaning of the lyrics, producer George Martin answered, “My wife is going to give me a hard time for saying this. It was one of John's indiscretions. I remember we were sitting at the veranda outside our hotel rooms in St. Moritz and John was playing at his guitar and working out the text. He felt that Cynthia had tricked him to marry her.” Martin referred to the words as "a very bitter little story."

The song is a lilting acoustic ballad featuring Lennon's lead vocal, signature McCartney harmonies in the middle, as well as the first use of the sitar by a rock band, of course played by George Harrison. The exotic instrumentation and oblique lyric represented one of the first indications to fans of the expanding musical storytelling and experimental approach the group was adopting.

Another favorite song lyric is from Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow.” He writes in the opening line,

“Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer,
I was taken by a photograph of you.”

In both these examples, it’s the twist of the meaning and perspective that makes the lyric so memorable.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Building connections that can weather the storm

In the June issue of PRWeek, Maril MacDonald of Chicago's Gagen MacDonald Communications offers her view on the forces that are reshaping today’s communications landscape — and her position on how our profession must evolve to answer these challenges.

"We’ve all seen, heard, and probably experienced lessons of the last decade. We know that the best honed talking points can’t prevent the reality of a damaging YouTube video," MacDonald wrote. "We know that seamless press conferences can’t prevent a disgruntled former employee’s blog. And we know that no “all employee” email can eliminate the threats of web-spread innuendo or the rants of a cable TV pundit. In essence, we’ve lost a great deal of our ability to control “the message.”

So what can we do?

"We cannot control what our employees and customers hear about us. Each day, they are besieged by dizzying torrents of information. These torrents threaten our reputations and our brands." So MacDonald advises, "In this stormy climate, we need to focus on stimulating durable emotional connections with our key constituents. Emotional connections are forged by experiences — they are visceral, rather than cognitive in nature."

MacDonald concludes, "As Corporate Communications leaders, internal communications practitioners, PR professionals or anywhere in between, our focus needs to be less on what our audiences hear and when they hear it: it needs to be on what defines their experience with us. Future success is not about message dissemination — that market is quickly saturating. Future success is about building connections that can weather the storm. The question can’t just be 'what do we want them to know?' It has to be just as much about what we want them to feel."

We at Stinson Brand Innovation agree — that attitude is an exponential factor in the success of a brand.

(Thanks to John Bock of Gagen MacDonald for sharing this article with us.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

10 Top Most Important Musical Innovations of the last 50 years

The Walkman, the clunky portable cassette player, has been named the best musical invention of the last 50 years by T3, a leading gadget magazine.
  1. Sony Walkman
  2. MP3 format
  3. Apple iPod 1st Generation
  4. CD
  5. Napster
  6. Dolby
  7. DAB radio
  8. Boombox
  9. Sonos Multi-Room Music System
  10. Panasonic Technics DJ deck
Click here to see the images and read the details.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why “transmedia storytelling” is future of biz -- studios creating mythologies, multimedia worlds

Now that the franchise has replaced the blockbuster as Hollywood's holy grail, a new tool has emerged to help those who want to extend film and TV properties across multiple platforms.

This according to an Peter Caranicas writing in the June 26 issue of VARIETY.

The tool -- transmedia storytelling -- is capable of performing such feats as the recent revival of the Batman franchise, which helped propel "The Dark Knight" to the second-highest box office numbers in history, after "Titanic."

"They resurrected a dusty old brand that ran into trouble in the early '90s," says Jeff Gomez, co-founder of Starlight Runner Entertainment, which specializes in applying the transmedia approach to studio tentpoles. "The filmmakers were able to go back to the essentials -- the true, deep conflict that the character faces -- and they managed to make it resonant with our current conflicts as a society."

Transmedia takes the concept of the bible (a document containing backstory information that film and TV writers rely on for building plots and characters) to an extensive new level.

The idea of developing a piece of intellectual property in a consistent manner across multiple media platforms was pioneered in its modern form by George Lucas, who turned his first "Star Wars" film into five more features, multiple TV shows, a panoply of books and an onslaught of toys and games. The feature films alone have generated a cumulative worldwide box office of more than $4 billion.

And today, as the industry struggles to maximize audiences and revenues, many producers consider transmedia a key to extending franchises across the additional platforms that have emerged in the three decades since the first "Star Wars" film.

"I grew up on 'Star Wars' and experimented with that stuff on my shows. It helped build a loyal fan base, connect with them beyond primetime and reach them in other parts of their lives," says Jesse Alexander, co-exec producer on "Lost" and "Heroes," and exec producer on NBC's 2010-debuting skein "Day One."

For "Day One," an hour long drama set in the aftermath of an unspecified event that destroys the global infrastructure, Alexander says he's working with NBC Universal to develop ancillaries like a comicbook, a prequel novel and online content to be available on or before the show's debut. "It helps to build out the franchise at launch," he says.

"People are realizing that this kind of concerted implementation is one of the most powerful ways to convey messages," says Gomez, who worked with Disney on "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Tron," and with Fox on James Cameron's "Avatar." "For them, as for most of our clients, we make sure the universe of the film maintains its integrity as it's expanded and implemented across multiple platforms."

Starlight Runner typically got involved with projects toward the end of their development, but more recently has been jumping aboard at an earlier stage, Gomez says. And producers are building the costs of creating a transmedia plan into the production budget rather than leaving it as an afterthought paid for by the marketing division.

Starlight Runner was founded in 2000 and has built a client list that includes Acclaim Entertainment, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Showtime and Hasbro.

Starlight Runner creates "megabibles and mythologies" contained in oversized binders full of images, chronologies, storylines, character profiles and descriptions of such details as geography, vehicles and weapons. "We teach the studio, other divisions of its parent company and its licensors how to bring these characters to life in a way that's true to the original platform."

"We always try to extend a property to other experiences," says the exec. To do that, he adds, it's important to "look at what the essence of the property is, what people are responding to, and re-create that in other ways."

Another believer in the transmedia concept, scribe Danny Bilson, who's steering production and marketing at vidgame publisher THQ, takes as his mantra the old Microsoft advertising slogan "Where do you want to go today?" "That's different from 'What do you want to watch?'" he notes.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

3 basic elements of a personal brand story (and the basis for your own N-of-8 personal brand development)

Purpose, truth and action are three basic elements of a brand story. Beyond brands, these are three fundamentals of a personal story, too.

So as our teams at Stinson Brand Innovation are working on several new N-of-8® brand story development projects these days, it’s also a good time to analyze our own stories.

Let’s take a close look at these three elements:
  1. Purpose is the thing in your life you will fight for. It is the ground you will defend at any cost. Purpose is not the same as “incentive.” Rather, it’s the engine behind it. It’s why you have energy for some things and not for others.
  2. Truth means your story should conform to known facts. Ask if your personal story is a work of fantasy, a lie you tell yourself, or reflects your biases and prejudices. Maybe you’re sidestepping parts of the story that are obviously untrue because they’re just too painful to confront.
  3. Action is to engage, to achieve extraordinary depth. It’s more about energy than just time. The difference between full engagement and multitasking is not incremental. With the one-foot-in, one-foot-out level of engagement characteristic of multi-tasking, a startling number of things, all relatively inconsequential, get achieved in a short time. Consider this quote: “A distracted artist will not produce anything of real worth. An entrepreneur with scattered thoughts will not come up with solutions superior to the competition’s.”
So all good stories must have purpose, truth and action.

Here are several questions to answer when creating an energizing story for your personal brand.

  • What is my ultimate purpose? (Or, what is my company’s ultimate mission?)
  • What am I living/working for?
  • What is my defining principle and goal?
  • What makes me do what I do?
  • What is the one thing I would do, even if I had to walk through fire?
  • What would I work for, even if there were no pay?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • Is the story I’m telling true?
  • Is this truly my story, or is it what I believe it should be?
  • Is it grounded in objective reality?
  • What assumptions am I making, and are any of them faulty?
  • What am I white-washing to make myself look better?
  • Is my private voice in synch with my public voice?
  • What actions will I now take to make things better?
  • Which habits do I need to eliminate?
  • Which habits should I begin to breed?
  • Am I an observer or a participator?
  • Are my actions filled with hope — the belief I will succeed and that the change I seek is realistically within my grasp?
  • Does this story inspire or influence others into action?
In fact, why not convene your own N-of-8® personal brand development group with trusted friends, family, or colleagues to help shape your story.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

3 Trends in Pharma Branding Over the Next Five Years -- STINSON Brand Innovation, Inc. Releases White Paper

We are releasing our latest white paper titled, "A Look in the Crystal Ball: 3 Trends in Pharma Branding that will Impact the Industry Over the Next Five Years." This white paper is available for immediate free download on our website. Click here for your free download.

When considering the constant development of technology and the advancements of communication that is affecting every industry today, we wondered how it is affecting the pharma industry.

The three ideas we focus on in this white paper include:
  1. Mobile branding: Due to the explosion of mobile communications, brand media must now offer healthcare professionals highly personalized and relevant information when and where they need it.
  2. Growth of patient content: Health 2.0 (a subset of Web 2.0) has become a driving force in the further evolution towards customer-centric care--collaboration between patients, as well as between patients and their caregivers.
  3. The experience of the brand and marketing as a service: The relationship between doctors and drug reps has changed—and it may never be the same again.
Staying ahead of the game is a challenge for every brand innovator. "A Look in the Crystal Ball" is a white paper to stir advanced thinking into the future of pharma branding and highlight various ways to communicate a brand through popular social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

This is our ninth white paper to be published by STINSON Brand Innovation on topics ranging from brand strategy to brand experiences. They are all available for free download on our website. Click here for free downloads of any of our white papers.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pelican Inn, on the way to Stinson Beach

A couple of weeks ago, Jenny and I took a trip to Stinson Beach, California, for the famous Dipsea Race.

What a treat to stay at the Pelican Inn, that we’ve driven past many times on the way to Stinson Beach. Small rooms, but charming indeed, as each room has its own romantic antique décor. The owners and staff are quite friendly.

We met friends for a glass of wine in the private den for guests. Then, we all enjoyed dinner in the authentically British pub, with low-beamed ceilings, a giant hearth, lagers, fish and chips, bangers and mash, and heavy picnic-type, shared tables.

The next morning, we hiked around the Muir Woods trails and came back for a full breakfast in the garden patio.

Another evening, we stopped in the restaurant late for coffee and dessert, while Brian Wallace performed in front of the fireplace. He played his grandfather's viola, a sarode (a form of lute featured at the court of Akbar in the 16th century), a saxaphlute (similar to an old English sackbut guitar), a drum, and a bamboo flute.

The added benefit of this location is Muir Beach which is at the end of the road. And the Green Gulch Farm is just down the path.


Monday, July 06, 2009

1963 Corvairs – a car brand that brings back memories

Also on the 4th, we took a drive to the past – the classic and muscle car show in Middleton, Idaho. It was a real treat to see two 1963 Corvairs, just like my daddy drove when I was a toddler.

Thanks to Brenda and Dennis Stephenson for sharing a look at their cars. They are also the driving force behind the Boise Basin Corvair Club. Click here to check out their site.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

6990 feet, 43.754ºN, 116.100ºW – coordinates of our hike on Shafer Butte

On the 4th holiday, Jenny and I took a short hike up Shafer Butte, in the mountains above Boise (near the Bogus Basin Resort for skiing in winter). We enjoyed the great views and wild flowers along the Mores Mountain trails.

Read about the area mountains in this book preview of Idaho, a Climbing Guide by Tom Lopez.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The family doctor: a remedy for healthcare costs?

The primary care doctor is gaining new respect in Washington.

Battles may be breaking out over the various healthcare bills emerging from Congress, but reformers agree that general practitioners should be given a central role in uniting the fragmented U.S. medical system.

This according to an article in BusinessWeek.

This vision has a name: the "patient-centered medical home." The "home" is the office of a primary care doctor where patients would go for most of their medical needs. This medical home may sound like the "gatekeeper" model of the 1990s, a managed-care creation that was all about holding down costs. But advocates say the new concept is designed to help patients, not insurers. It's more like doctoring 1950s-style, when a Marcus Welby figure handled all the family's medical needs. This time it's juiced up with digital technology.

It also represents a way to streamline a disorganized and wasteful system that chews up a crippling 18% of the U.S. gross domestic product. That burden is felt particularly by private industry, which covers 60% of the nation's insured. Since most businesses try to ferret out waste and disorganization in their own operations, the medical home is a concept they can embrace in good conscience.

The current practice of medicine in the U.S. is a long way from this model.
  • Only 27% of physician practices come close to qualifying as a medical home;
  • Medicare and other insurers pay doctors on a fee-for-service basis that rewards quantity of care over quality; and
  • There are no reimbursements for discussing diabetes management with a patient or talking over a case with a specialist.
It is tough for many doctors to focus on coordinated care when there is no mechanism to pay them for their time. A nationwide switch to medical homes is also constrained by an extreme shortage of primary care physicians, again because of the economics. Medicare reimburses primary care at a lower rate than any other specialty, so only 17% of medical graduates choose to enter the field.

The efficiencies came from relying on a team approach, where nurses take on a lot of the record keeping once left to the doctor.

Click here to read the full BusinessWeek article and watch an interview with the author.

Is there an innovation that could make it feasible to have many more "patient-centered medical homes?”

Could companies and/or other organizations even sponsor them?

I welcome your comments.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

What Pharma can learn from Pringles

Last week was the Cannes Advertising Festival. It's the Oscars of the ad world with awards given out in many different categories, including e-marketing. Its Cyber awards represent the best of the best in digital marketing in every industry. The digital agency for Pringles, Bridge Worldwide, created a banner ad (yes, banner ad) that won a Gold Cyber Lion award.

Read what Jonathan Richman, director of business development at Bridge Worldwide, thinks about how a Pringles banner ad can tell us something about digital marketing in pharma and healthcare. Click here to read his blog post.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Roche drops PhRMA; moves to BIO -- are they a "maverick?"

I noted with interest on Tuesday that Hoffman-La Roche plans to drop its membership in the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA), the leading US industry association lobbying for pharma interests in Washington and beyond. Likewise, the Financial Times is reporting the company also has plans to drop its membership in the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

Instead, as part of its take-over of Genentech, Roche says in the US it will join the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO).

“Genentech and Roche believe BIO’s purpose is closely aligned with the direction of the new company and, therefore, can represent the company’s interest in Washington,” spokeswoman Darian Wilson said in a company statement released last week.

The New Jersey newspaper Star-Ledger quite rightly painted the move as an effort by Roche to sever its ties to Big Pharma.

It is a defection whose importance is made clear by the efforts put forth by PhRMA to keep Roche onboard. Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of PhRMA, told the Star-Ledger that the group sent it chairman, AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan, to Roche’s headquarters in Basel to make a personal appeal to Severin Schwan, Roche’s chief. But in the end, Tauzin says, the Genentech forces, who “feel they are different,” won out.

But attempting to be different than the rest of Big Pharma may make sense if you’re Roche – or any other company looking to survive and thrive in the reality that is today’s pharma marketplace. Let’s face it; the industry’s not terribly popular (deserved or not) with consumers, governments, activists groups… and the list goes on.

In her "Eye for Pharma" blog, Lisa Roner liken Roche’s move to the strategies Southwest Airlines has employed over the years to set itself apart from the rest of the US airline industry. Southwest, arguably the most successful US airline now or ever, has built its business on being different, bucking the “group think,” stick-together-as-we-push-ourselves-over-a-cliff mentality embraced by all the other airlines.

Roner points out that when everyone else in the US airline industry rushes to raise fares and tries to one-up each other on who can charge more, Southwest lowers theirs. When the industry suddenly decided that charging exorbitant fees for carrying checked passenger baggage somehow made for smart strategy, Southwest said not us. They fly out of alternate airports, run local “shuttle” type flights and do a whole host of other things the rest of the US airline industry would tell you amount to flirting with certain death.

But Southwest remains the most profitable, stable and highly respected airline in the country – precisely because they are not like the others.

Roche’s move to distance itself from the Big Pharma pack is, in some industry watchers' opinions, is an incredibly smart one if they leverage it well. It’s a unique opportunity for Roche to paint its newly merged company as a different breed of pharma, with different priorities and commitments to its stakeholders. It’s the ultimate opportunity to pull a “Southwest” and break free from the lemming mentality that so often seems to rule pharma.