Thursday, July 29, 2010

9 self-help "brands" who use webinars to beam live aid to your computer

These days, the term “webinar” has cultural cachet and marketplace appeal — every motivational speaker, megachurch minister, best-selling author, wellness coach and spiritual guide claims to host one, says WSJ magazine.

But what is it, exactly?

You’ll find everything from Eckhart Tolle in crisp streaming video taking Skype calls, to more rudimentary examples: online PowerPoint presentations accompanied by a live voice, or audio-only webinars from self-help stars such as Marianne Williamson, who fields questions by email. Laura Day, the $10,000-a-month “intuitive” (that’s “psychic” to you and me), calls her twice-daily exchanges with her readers on Facebook and Twitter webinaring. “Right now it’s a niche with huge potential,” says Tamara Lowe, whose “Get Motivated!” stage shows feature guest speakers such as George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin who draw in-person crowds averaging around 15,000. A “Get Motivated!” webinar is available on Lowe’s site for $229—but don’t expect the big-name guests. Her coaches run the events; Lowe has only appeared in “a dozen or so. 

Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur,” calls the webinar phenomenon part of “a shift to a more democratic media age.” And yet he isn’t surprised that so far little money has changed hands. “The Internet is an increasingly low-end vehicle for these people. They use it as a kind of giveaway and make their money in physical events.”

Even we at Stinson Brand Innovation have used this technique in our own business development.  You can click here to listen to my teleseminar on branding.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How technology changes art

I appreciated what George Lucas said about how technology changes art.

"Painting, music, any kind of art form is essentially technological. The most important part is to be able to communicate emotions. I liken digital technology to going from fresco to oil painting. If you are doing a fresco, you needed about at least two dozen people. It was done by candlelight, and it was very hard to do. But if you use oil paints, you can go outside. You can see the light play on your subject, which completely revolutionized art. At the same time, if you don't like what you're doing, you can paint right over it and start over. You can't do that with frescoes. It used to be [with] film, you went out and shot it, whatever you got was what you got.  With digital technology, we can go in and shoot it, the way you would an oil painting. Then you can go back to your studio and touch it up. You can completely manipulate it. It's much more like a painting than it is like photography."

Monday, July 26, 2010

30+ biotech and pharma companies in Research Triangle engage with Jenkins MBA Biosciences Management

A recent issue of BioPharma International reports on the demand for skilled “crossover” bioscience managers who can provide both scientific and business leadership.  I like the success story of the North Carolina State University (NCSU) BioSciences Management program, which was created to fulfill this demand.

“We chose to write this article because we wanted to both publicize the usefulness of the NC State Jenkins MBA program to scientific professionals in the biosciences area and to encourage those considering enrolling in the program,” said Vincent Turula, Ph.D., one of the authors.

Turula is an associate research fellow at Pfizer BioTherapeutics and Vaccines Outsourcing in Research Triangle Park (RTP), N.C. His classmate and co-author Navdeep Malkar, Ph.D., is a principal scientist at the startup company Seachaid Pharmaceuticals, Inc., also in the RTP area. Richard Kouri, Ph.D., professor of practice and director of the BioSciences Management Initiative in the NC State College of Management, is a third co-author of the article.

As part of the Jenkins MBA program’s biosciences concentration, Turula, Malkar and fellow student team member Mac Rich completed a practicum experience with the Hamner Institute for Health Sciences in fall 2009. Their article, “Building Partnerships between Academic and Biosciences Companies,” summarized their project, which included developing a two-pronged approach to match Hamners’ research in the area of type 2 diabetes with potential partner companies.

“We believed that the approach to this practicum was unique and highly relevant these days given the increased emphasis on partnering and alliance forming between small biotech companies and pharmaceutical companies. In this article we sought to extol the leadership position of the NC State Jenkins Bioscience initiative,” Turula said.

“I thought the practicum was the one of the best parts of the Jenkins MBA’s biosciences curriculum,” Malkar said. “This project offered the opportunity to work on a genuine problem, with the involvement of people from industry, academia and a non-profit organization to build upon the partnership in the pharmaceutical industry.”

“Biosciences managers must understand the connections between and among all areas associated with the field,” they said, adding that companies in the three sectors of biotechnology – red, for healthcare; white, for industrial products, and green, for nutrition and agriculture – have all “voiced a desire for such bio-entrepreneurial managers. The BioSciences Management curriculum in the NC State Jenkins MBA program was designed to meet those needs.”

The academic program includes elements of traditional business concepts intertwined with scientific concepts. In addition to a core of courses in business fundamentals, the concentration adds biotechnology and pharmaceutical courses. The biosciences practicum experience culminations the curriculum with a short-term project that has students working directly with bio-agricultural, bio-industrial, medical devices, diagnostics, or pharmaceutical firms.

“The outcome is that students learn the tools needed to pursue management in biosciences and pharmaceutical environments in either science-based functions, such as research and development, or business functions. In return, the sponsor receives approaches and solutions to improve performance and positions themselves for enhanced competitive advantage,” the authors state.

“Being a scientist by training and having seen and experienced how business people make the wrong decisions about the right science, I wanted to make a real impact on how these decisions should be made, and decided to pursue the Jenkins MBA,” Malkar said.

Since the start of the Jenkins MBA’s BioSciences concentration in 2004, nearly 90 students working on project teams have completed 31 practica. The practicum experiences occasionally involve students in other Jenkins MBA concentrations such as a recent project that included students in both the biosciences concentration and the Jenkins MBA’s supply chain management concentration. This team worked with a large pharmaceutical company to define the worldwide capacity for the manufacturing of biologics and to determine whether to produce biologics externally, internally, or in combination.

Click here to read the full story – accompanied by some useful graphics – in the digital issue of the journal.

One table shows the network of more than 30 of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies or organizations in Research Triangle Park that engage with the Jenkins MBA program’s Biosciences Management initiative.

Friday, July 23, 2010

So long old ‘bou

In today’s blog, Brandy Gonsoulin writes about her experience earlier this spring: “As a Caribou coffee drinker, I received a shock (not of the caffeine kind) on a mid-afternoon coffee trip.  In the middle of a conversation, with a closer look at the cup, I realized that the logo had been redesigned."

Here are her observations on the rebranding initiative at Caribou Coffee.

I looked at the door – indeed, there was a new, odd inspired caribou taking the place of my familiar leaping reindeer, going the opposite direction have you.  I was confused, even mildly starting to feel a twang of brand grief.  The rebranding had snuck up on me without a warning.  What happened to the logo I loved?  Where were the big announcements, the “Coming Soon,” the “Look out for our new Image” campaigns?  Was this a joke?  Would CB2-inspired furniture soon replace the wood campfire-inspired interior?

The rebranding was an effort by the new CEO Mike Tattersfield to change what was referred to as a “schizophrenic brand image.” The color palette and font were exchanged for a sleeker look and the caribou is even leaping to the right to symbolize forward growth.

I get it.  I understand the need to refresh, to revisit strategy and to create a new image. And when I’m on the consulting side I might look at the left logo and recommend it is time to clean out the closet and get rid of that 1980s trench coat.  But being on the consumer’s side, it’s a different story.  And it got me thinking - if making a brand is all about brand loyalty then re-branding without an emerging strategy is like breaking up.  Caribou coffee didn’t slowly stop seeing me and limit calls to once a week.  They sent me a text message saying it’s just not working.

As marketers if you are considering changing what people have known and loved about you for so long in your attempt to capture a new audience, are you also considering your current audience and how the re-branding can turn them away?  As part of the re-branding communication strategy, how are you addressing your current audience loyalties and building support for the new image?

Who knows. . .maybe the new one will grow on me.  But for now, so long old ‘bou.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brand sampling with a support message

Yesterday, I blogged about 7 recent brand sampling programs.  In response, someone shared this Nexcare program with me.  I like the way it connects sampling with a cause.

"The Nexcare brand is passionate about blood donation and committed to raising awareness and recognition in our communities. Please help us spread the word and inspire others to donate by filling out a request form to get your two free give bandages.  Our high-performance, diamond shaped Nexcare™ give Bandages are our way to give thanks to regular donors like you and to help inspire people everywhere to give blood. Together, we can all be everyday heroes and work to help save lives. Please continue to give."

Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

7 recent brand sampling programs show a little goes a long way

Consumers love getting something free — even if it’s a tiny bit of something, as evidenced by recent sampling initiatives from these brands.

1. Texas Pete Hot Sauce

The hot sauce brand recently touted its flavor varieties by offering a limited number of product samples through the social networking site Facebook. The company planned to distribute its 10,000 samples over a four-week period, but hit that number of requests in just six days. Each sample contained a 1.9-ounce bottle of the consumer’s flavor of choice, a can koozie and a coupon that held a unique bar code to help the company track its redemption rate.

2. PureSpectrum

When the Georgia-based lighting company needed to distinguish its new 20-watt dimmable compact fluorescent lamp from rival products, a sample campaign was the answer. Test products were mailed to the company’s target audience — the 964 rural electrical co-ops across the United States. The campaign results generated an influx of purchase orders, product sales and requests for quotes.

3. Splenda

In July, the sweetener brand used sampling to give consumers a first look at its new pocket-sized mist spray and to gather feedback before rollout. Splenda required requesters to become fans of its Facebook page, which let the company better target its key demographic — women 25 and older — through their profiles on the social networking site. More than 16,000 samples were given away in just two weeks.

4. Living Proof

Free samples flew off the virtual shelves when the beauty brand offered Facebook® users a trial of its No Frizz hair care product. More than 15,000 samples were requested in a 48-hour period. Plus, fan numbers for the product spiked from around 1,000 to more than 7,000 during the promotion, even though consumers weren’t required to become a fan to receive the sample.

5. New Beauty magazine

Four times a year, the publication’s beauty sampling program, TestTube,™ sends subscribers deluxe-size samples of beauty products along with a booklet detailing the products’ features and benefits. After the first year of the program’s launch, 96 percent of recipients said they purchased a fullprice version of a sample item. The TestTube™ currently has over 20,000 subscribers, and the program continues to grow.

6. Cablevision Systems

Last fall, the New York–area cable operator brought interactive banner ads to TV that let its nearly 3 million subscribers order product samples from companies, such as Benjamin Moore, with a click of their TV remotes.

7. Sephora

The retail beauty chain offers consumers up to three free product samples with every online order. Customers select samples during checkout and the trial offerings are mailed with their purchased products.

Samples endure as a powerful way to win customers. In December, Opinion Research Corp. surveyed 1,000 consumers on behalf of the USPS — all of them primarily responsible for sorting their household’s mail.

Here are a few findings:
  • 81% of those surveyed said they will try a product after they receive a free sample.
  • 61% said an actual product sample is the most effective way for a brand to get them to try a product.
  • 65% said they would prefer to have samples mailed to their home.
  • 72% said they would prefer receiving multiple samples in a single sample box.
  • 89% said that an accompanying coupon would increase the value of a mailed sample box.
  • 84% said that they’d likely log onto a Web site and sign up to receive samples if they got a post card from the USPS driving them to the site.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

33 companies mark the start of next decade at Cleveland Clinic Innovations

Cleveland Clinic Innovations — the corporate venturing arm of the nation’s top heart hospital — is entering its second decade with a first-of-its-kind venture ranking, a brand-new incubator building and a growing portfolio of spin-out companies.

Perhaps most impressive, those companies — 33 in all — have attracted more than $340 million in follow-on funding from other investors. “That’s a darn good number” for a 10-year-old innovations group whose average spin-off is about five years old, said Harry Rein, chairman of the group’s Industrial Advisory Board and a veteran venture capitalist.

Cleveland Clinic Innovations (CCI) commercializes the inventions and discoveries of the Clinic’s doctors, researchers and professionals. The group’s activities include everything from investing a small amount of money to help an inventor validate a technology to prototyping a medical device to launching a company that makes a medical product to partnering with a health information technology firm to distribute its software.

It’s also the group that decides whether an idea should be spun out from the Cleveland Clinic as a company or licensed to another organization to develop.

“At root, its role is to be a facilitator for entrepreneurs and innovators,” said Rein, who also is general partner of Foundation Medical Partners, the Connecticut venture capital fund in which the Clinic is strategic limited partner. “If you’re an innovator, if you’re an inventor, it gives you the ability to present your ideas to somebody who has the resources to help you develop them.”

Medical institutions like Mayo Clinic and John’s Hopkins have similar commercialization groups. However, Cleveland Clinic Innovations was the only major academic medical center to make the first Most Influential Healthcare Corporate Venturing Divisions list published by Global Corporate Venturing last month.

“We were thrilled” with the ranking of 75 corporate venturing units, which were chosen by peers, said Chris Coburn, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations. “It validated what we believe about ourselves — we’ve accomplished a lot, but a great deal is going to occur in a very short time.”

As for its accomplishments, CCI has launched more than three-dozen companies since its start in 2000.

AxioMed Spine Corp. in Garfield Heights, Ohio, is developing next-generation spinal disc replacements. Clear Catheter Systems in Bend, Oregon, and Cleveland recently received European approval to sell its active catheter-clearance system PleuraFlow. Tolera Therapeutics Inc. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, last month raised more than $4 million to continue developing a drug that fights organ rejection in transplant patients.

Clinical-stage regenerative medicine company Juventas Therapeutics Inc., initially called AccelleRX — has started enrolling patients in a Phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of its leading stem cell factor for treating heart failure.

“We’ve got 10 companies that are in clinical trials or will be in clinical trials this year,” Coburn said. “Going into the clinic is a huge milestone.”

That’s because clinical trials often necessitate collaborations with large corporations, which are good relationships to have, he said. And getting into the clinic is the “key discriminator” for many potential strategic or venture investors.

For Explorys Medical Inc., which was spun out of the Clinic last year, CCI has meant contacts. Lots of contacts.

“They helped us with contacts with different government organizations, healthcare providers, life sciences organizations and industry networking groups,” said Steve McHale, the health IT company’s chief executive and a data management company veteran.

Explorys is using some of those contacts to build its application that assembles, manages and leverages burgeoning medical data to speed research discovery and bridge clinical information gaps. The company got its bio-research application, intellectual property rights and data related to the application from the Clinic.

Some of the Clinic’s spin-off companies, like Explorys, are moving into the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center (GCIC) — the $19 million, state-of-the-art incubator building at East 101st Street and Cedar Road. Enabled by a $60 million grant from the Ohio Third Frontier program, the GCIC hosts wet laboratories and offices, conference rooms and informal meeting areas, artwork and sophisticated teleconferencing and audio-visual technologies.

It also hosts Coburn’s office, and the offices of his 25-or-so Innovations colleagues.

As for exits, Cleveland Clinic Innovations has had two in its first 10 years. One exit — Cleveland BioLabs (NASDAQ: CBLI) — happened through a tiny ($14 million) initial public offering in 2006. Another company, ReVasc, was sold in 2007 to Micrus Endovascular Corp. (NASDAQ: MEND) in San Jose, California, for $1 million, with the potential of $5 million more in future milestone payments.

What could the next 10 years hold for Cleveland Clinic Innovations? Opportunity.

“I think there will be tremendous opportunity for organizations like the Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Innovations,” Rein said. “For people who are … willing to get involved in things that aren’t minor incremental improvements but rather serious game-changers, I think there’s going to be lots of opportunity. And that’s where CCI has to stay focused.”

(This article by Mary Vanac, co-founder of MedCity News and its Ohio bureau chief, appeared on

Monday, July 19, 2010

3rd way of reasoning - to help big companies innovate like small ones do

Today's blog entry was contributed by Robb Hughes, director of operations at Stinson Brand Innovation.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg Businessweek identified "Innovation's Accidental Enemies."

The magazine explained that when big companies are faced with a new idea, the innovator is asked to "prove it." The authors identify proof in two flavors: inductive and deductive logic. In both cases, existing data is used to provide certainty.  But for truly new ideas there isn't usually enough data and thus not enough proof. Consequently, real innovation has a hard time going beyond the drawing board.

The authors argue that big company cultures should accept and encourage a third logic -- abductive reasoning -- the logic of what could be.  Then innovation could be nurtured, proof produced later and dreams could become reality.  Click here to read more.

Abduction is defined as a method of logical inference which comes prior to induction and deduction.  The colloquial name is a "hunch." Abductive reasoning starts when an inquirer considers of a set of seemingly unrelated facts, armed with an intuition that they are somehow connected. The term abduction is commonly presumed to mean the same thing as hypothesis; however, an abduction is actually the process of inference that produces a hypothesis as its end result.

Could your company allow more abductive reasoning? How would it help your company encourage innovation?

Friday, July 16, 2010

"The best advice my mother never gave me"

As part of our learning ETHOS at Stinson Brand Innovation, Nancy Burgess recently reviewed a favorite book and shares her insights in today’s blog.

Business books abound. Some are dry and filled with theory; others aren’t based on facts at all.

For me, one stands out: David Maister’s The Trusted Advisor. If you’ve ever wanted to persuade anyone of anything, you must read this book. If I could read only 1 business book in my life, this would be it. It’s an excellent manual for managing business relationships successfully. If you’re an account manager, this should be your guidebook and constant companion.

I’ve found it invaluable in giving advice to my young adult children who are well past the commanding “we’re-leaving-put-on-your-shoes-and-get-in-the-car” phase and entering the “should-I-sign-this-apartment-lease” phase. It’s helped me to respectfully offer the wisdom of my experience, while ultimately acknowledging that their decisions are theirs alone.

Maister describes how to establish trust, give advice, and build relationships. He explains the 4 elements that engender trust: credibility, reliability, intimacy, and a low level of self-orientation. He illustrates the 5-step process for trust-building. He offers pointers for becoming better listeners and taking responsibility. He also provides insights for working with different client types. All this and more in an easy-to-read format. Only wish I knew this 20 years ago!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

$2.6B for Covidien to acquire ev3

In early June, Covidien reached an agreement to acquire Midwest-based endovascular company ev3, Inc.

ev3 manufactures angioplasty balloons, stents, and other supplies used to treat vascular diseases.

The acquisition of ev3 will allow Covidien to become a larger player in the medical equipment field, and will significantly expand its presence in the vascular device market.

Click here to read more in the ev3 company announcement.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

C = Connect: How to merge analytics with design

Today, here are some thoughts about visually communicating from Melanie Stinson, director of Brand Engagements at Stinson Brand Innovation.

If you’re like me, you’re looking for a way to navigate through the swamps of information you encounter every day. Whether you’re analyzing world news, customer profiles, market research, financial reports, or new business leads, it’s still your responsibility to communicate the results in ways that:
  • Connect with the audience
  • Are Honest in it’s representation of the facts
  • Are Easy to understand
  • Motivate to action
With “data visualization” you can open your audience up to more visual representations of your information and insights. There is a probably still place for your 75-page paper, but that is not always the best way to effectively communicate complex information or data points.

In The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia, David McCandless makes beautiful connections between the information he’s collected and the visuals that represent it.

Some are funny, like the “Timeline of global media scare stories (p 22)” and the “Massive multiplayer online worlds (p 184).” Others are enlightening, like “Yearly manmade vs natural carbon emissions in gigatons (p 102)” and “How people think (p 80).”

The conversation and usage of this method is vast and wide, but accessible. Here are a couple links that I really like:

The merging of analytics with design is stretching our minds and capabilities. As companies and industry offerings begin to overlap, and creative briefs become more similar, it’s the team that most uniquely executes the information that will succeed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another thought about social media

On reflection about yesterday's post about ChatRoulette, I'm wondering if I should get our dog a Facebook page.

Monday, July 12, 2010

1.5 million ChatRoulette users taking personal branding to the extreme

E-commerce is becoming the norm for a variety of items: gifts, clothing, books, music, and even a new home.  However, now people are using e-commerce to brand themselves and shop for people. The trend is, of course, personal branding.  People have built web-based profiles on sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and to reflect how they want their life to be viewed by their network.  We shop for new employees or employers, friends and associates, and lovers.  Be it professional or personal, one can take an identity to the extreme.

The latest is ChatRoulette.

ChatRoulette is a website that pairs random strangers from around the world together for webcam-based conversations. Visitors to the website randomly begin an online chat (video, audio and text) with another visitor. At any point, either user may leave the current chat by initiating another random connection.

According to CNN, “ChatRoulette has the trappings of every web site fad. The site had 3.9 million visitors in February according to Comscore, quadrupling its traffic in a month. It has become a pop culture phenomenon with singer Ben Folds incorporating it into a live concert and Daily Show host Jon Stewart dedicating a segment to it. It has created at least one web celebrity, pianist Ben Merton, who posts his improv videos using the site. It even has its own vocabulary word: players “next” each other when they’re ready to move on to a new conversation.”

In February 2010, there were about 35,000 people on ChatRoulette at any given time. Around the beginning of March, it had an estimated 1.5 million users, approximately 33% of them from the US and 5% from Germany.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

That’s using your Noggin (a beautifully named brain protein that acts as a BMP antagonist)

What’s going on inside your brain while you exercise?

That question has preoccupied a growing number of scientists in recent years, as well as many of us who exercise.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Fred Gage and his colleagues at the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute in San Diego elegantly proved that human and animal brains produce new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis) and that exercise increases neurogenesis. The brains of mice and rats that were allowed to run on wheels pulsed with vigorous, newly born neurons, and those animals then breezed through mazes and other tests of rodent I.Q., showing that neurogenesis improves thinking.

But how, exactly, exercise affects the staggeringly intricate workings of the brain at a cellular level has remained largely mysterious.

In last week’s New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds wrote in “Your Brain on Exercise” about a number of new studies, including work published this month by Mr. Gage and his colleagues. (See the citations at the end of this posting.)  They have begun to tease out the specific mechanisms and, in the process, raised new questions about just how exercise remolds the brain.

Some of the most reverberant recent studies were performed here in Chicago at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Here, scientists have been manipulating the levels of bone-morphogenetic protein (or BMP) in the brains of laboratory mice. BMP, which is found in tissues throughout the body, affects cellular development in various ways, some of them deleterious. In the brain, BMP has been found to contribute to the control of stem cell divisions. Your brain, you will be pleased to learn, is packed with adult stem cells, which, given the right impetus, divide and differentiate into either additional stem cells or baby neurons. As we age, these stem cells tend to become less responsive. They don’t divide as readily and can slump into a kind of cellular sleep. It’s BMP that acts as the soporific, says Dr. Jack Kessler, the chairman of neurology at Northwestern and senior author of many of the recent studies. The more active BMP and its various signals are in your brain, the more inactive your stem cells become and the less neurogenesis you undergo. Your brain grows slower, less nimble, older.

But exercise countermands some of the numbing effects of BMP, Dr. Kessler says. In work at his lab, mice given access to running wheels had about 50 percent less BMP-related brain activity within a week. They also showed a notable increase in Noggin, a beautifully named brain protein that acts as a BMP antagonist. The more Noggin in your brain, the less BMP activity exists and the more stem cell divisions and neurogenesis you experience. Mice at Northwestern whose brains were infused directly with large doses of Noggin became, Dr. Kessler says, “little mouse geniuses, if there is such a thing.” They aced the mazes and other tests.

Whether exercise directly reduces BMP activity or increases production of Noggin isn’t yet known and may not matter. The results speak for themselves. “If ever exercise enthusiasts wanted a rationale for what they’re doing, this should be it,” Dr. Kessler says. Exercise, he says, through a complex interplay with Noggin and BMP, helps to ensure that neuronal stem cells stay lively and new brain cells are born.

But there are caveats and questions remaining, as the newest experiment from Dr. Gage’s lab makes clear. In that study, published in the most recent issue of Cell Stem Cell, BMP signaling was found to be playing a surprising, protective role for the brain’s stem cells. For the experiment, stem cells from mouse brains were transferred to petri dishes and infused with large doses of Noggin, hindering BMP activity. Without BMP signals to inhibit them, the stem cells began dividing rapidly, producing hordes of new neurons. But over time, they seemed unable to stop, dividing and dividing again until they effectively wore themselves out. The same reaction occurred within the brains of living (unexercised) mice given large doses of Noggin. Neurogenesis ramped way up, then, after several weeks, sputtered and slowed.  The “pool of active stem cells was depleted,” a news release accompanying the study reported. An overabundance of Noggin seemed to cause stem cells to wear themselves out, threatening their ability to make additional neurons in the future.

This finding raises the obvious and disturbing question: can you overdose on Noggin by, for instance, running for hours, amping up your production of the protein throughout? The answer, Dr. Gage says, is, almost certainly, no. “Many people have been looking into” that issue, he says. But so far, “there has not been any instance of a negative effect from voluntary running” on the brain health of mice. Instead, he says, it seems that the effects of exercise are constrained and soon plateau, causing enough change in the activity of Noggin and BMP to shake slumbering adult stem cells awake, but not enough to goose them into exhausting themselves.

Still, if there’s not yet any discernible ceiling on brain-healthy exercise, there is a floor. You have to do something. Walk, jog, swim, pedal — the exact amount or intensity of the exercise required has not been determined, although it appears that the minimum is blessedly low. In mice, Mr. Gage says, “even a fairly short period” of exercise “and a short distance seems to produce results.”

Mirasend H, Andreu Z, Suh H, et al. Signaling through BMPR-IA Regulates Quiescence and Long-Term Activity of Neural Stem Cells in the Adult Hippocampus. Cell Stem Cell, 2010 7(1); 78-89.

Gobeske KT, Das S, Bonaguidi MA, et al. BMP signaling mediates effects of exercise on hippocampal neurogenesis and cognition in mice. PLoS One. 2009 4(10):e7506.

Friday, July 09, 2010

50 Cent and you -- put yourself in a music video with MySpace Fan Video site

Greg Dosmann, brand CHEMist at Stinson Brand Innovation, recently shares today’s blog.

It’s not a social media merger, but MySpace is trying to make itself a central site for entertainment by integrating with Facebook Connect. A nifty MySpace feature called Fan Video allows users to pull in their Facebook profile photos using Facebook Connect, a longtime rival of MySpace. However, this implementation was only integrated as a one-off for Fan Video, and that it is not indicative of a MySpace move to embrace Facebook Connect on a wider scale.

Nonetheless, it’s worth checking out the Flash overlay technology used in this app created by a third party company. Fan Video is letting users get close to their favorite artists by putting them in videos with artists such as 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, and Lost Prophets.  By connecting with either your Facebook or MySpace accounts, the site will generate a video that puts you front and center in music video shots featuring your profile picture. Check out the images below to see my profile picture hanging on 50 Cent’s wall. I’m impressed how seamless the overlay is within Flash and as you can see, the profile picture blends with the natural elements of the scene.

If you want to try this feature out, just visit MySpace Fan Video site, login with your Facebook or MySpace account, select videos from the available music videos of current popular artists and start sharing them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

10,000 Maniacs and the Gin Blossoms headline our neighborhood BurgerFest

This weekend, the savory patty takes center stage at the Roscoe Village BurgerFest -- on Belmont at Damen in our neighborhood.

We at Stinson Brand Innovation are proud to be a sponsor and creative contributor to the inaugural event.  Our team will be volunteering to support the sumptuous burgers, live music, arts & crafts, and activities for kids.

Among the eclectic lineup of burger participants: The Bad Apple in Lincoln Square; Lakeview's Select Cut Steakhouse; the Village Tap in Roscoe Village; Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro in the North Center neighborhood; Goose Island in Lincoln Park, Ye Olde Town Inn in Mt. Prospect,  and John's Place with locations in Lincoln Park and Roscoe Village.  Visitors will be able to vote for Chicago's best burger.

Headlining the music stage lineup will acclaimed rockers 10,000 Maniacs (Saturday) and the Gin Blossoms (Sunday). Among others performing on Roscoe Village Burger Fest's two stages will be jazz/funksters Liquid Soul, lauded Chicago chamber popsters Canasta, singer/songwriter Seth Bradley, Dot Dot Dot, Rock Candy, and pop/folk rocker Cameron McGill.

BurgerFest hours are Noon-10:00 p.m. both days. The gate donation is $5 before 5:00 p.m.; $7 after 5:00 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce.

For more information visit

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

6 ideas to help us tap into inspiration (from LiveDynamite)

Cindy Brumm, the chief of staff at Stinson Brand Innovation, writes in today’s blog that no matter how skilled or healthy we think we are, we all need a little help creating and living the most meaningful life possible for us.

“Enthusiasm releases the drive
to carry you over obstacles and
adds significance to all you do.”
–Norman Vincent Peale

Every time I’m feeling discouraged or down, I just head on over to  and soak up their encouragement to develop positive life skills.  I love their tag line – “Get good at living.”

I really enjoyed these tips which center on the fact that when we feel inspired, it’s easy to see what more is possible. According to LiveDynamite, positive emotions lift our spirits, fuel our energy and expand our vision. The more we actively build our enthusiasm the easier life flows, which is why inspiration is a vital part of our daily “life practice.” Inspiration provides energy and breathes life into our vision. It connects us to what’s possible. And the more we nurture it the easier it is to find.

Here are few LiveDynamite ideas to help us tap into inspiration. What ideas would you add to the list to stay filled with enthusiasm?
  • Visit and search for inspiring ideas 
  • Read a book that stimulates your curiosity 
  • Meditate and learn to quiet your mind
  • Create a mix of music you connect with
  • Create a vision board
  • Put inspiration on your calendar.
  • Make time for what matters most.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

10 Healthcare Dinosaurs that digital technology will make extinct

In today’s blog, Brandy Gonsoulin, project manager at STINSON Brand Innovation, says "These days it’s not enough to know your market; you must also be adapting to it.  And if you really want to position yourself, you also have to be predicting it.  Most of all, you could be actually shaping it."  Here are her observations on digital media.

Digital media is a trend that we can all see shaping the industries around us and is affecting how our industries work.  You can’t read a business or marketing article without media being mentioned.  I think that the biggest effect is going to be how it changes the healthcare market.  Take for instance the traditional detail rep.  Most reps currently pocket around brochures detailing the drug profile, key benefits, etc.   I don’t even need to get into the “print is dead” conversation; we all know where that one is going.  Pretty soon “someone” (wink, wink) is going to develop the proprietary digital-based rep detail tool that will become standard industry practice for rep detailing.  Patient medical records will soon be electronic and the days of your childhood doctor’s office experience will be ancient.

If we want to be the movers and shakers, we need to acknowledge that the digital wave is going to continue to change how our industry functions.  Where can we predict healthcare going?  And with that, what sort of communication models will we need to adapt or better yet, create.

Writer Jonathan Richman recently highlighted 10 healthcare practices and predicted their eventual demise.

I’m curious to see which ones will come true.
  1. 10 Healthcare Dinosaurs that digital technology will make extinct
  2. Pharma Brand Facebook Pages — 2-3 years
  3. Paper “detail” aids — 3-5 years
  4. Single-purpose medical devices — 5 years
  5. Pharma Brand Websites — 5-7 years
  6. Paper prescriptions — 5-7 years
  7. Massive healthcare portals — 5-7 years
  8. In-Office Doctor Visits — 8-10 years
  9. Paper medical records — 8-10 years
  10. Clinical trials — 15-20 years
  11. Healthcare Privacy — 25 years

Monday, July 05, 2010

90 clips make "Infomercial Hell"

You know, I've always said "Life is Terrific."  But from this compilation of classic infomercial set-ups, one has to wonder.

Enjoy the painful, back-breaking, black-and-white moments when you click on the screen.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

1st of 1500 patients enrolled in Abbott clinical trial of MS drug daclizumab

Abbott Laboratories and its Massachusetts biotech partner have launched a final-stage clinical trial of their experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
The first of an eventual 1,500 patients needed worldwide was enrolled last month in the U.S. The drug, daclizumab, is being developed for monthly injection under the patient’s skin by North Chicago-based Abbott and Cambridge-based Biogen Idec.

The trial is important because the drug industry is searching for new ways to change the course of the debilitating autoimmune disease, rather than merely treating the symptoms, as most products on the market do. Multiple sclerosis, a common neurological disorder that affects an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide, occurs when a patient’s immune system starts to attack the central nervous system.
"Despite significant advances in MS therapy, many patients continue to experience disease activity," said Dr. Ludwig Kappos, lead investigator for the Abbott- and Biogen-funded study and head of MS research at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland. "The MS community is eager for new treatment approaches."
Biogen already has a well-known therapy on the market called Tysabri, proved to be effective by slowing progression of the disease in most patients studied and reducing MS flare-ups. That has helped the drug become a blockbuster that will generate more than $1 billion in annual sales for the first time this year.
But Tysabri also has a rare but deadly side effect. It has been linked to a fatal disease called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML.
As of June 7, Biogen said, 55 people have developed PML and 11 of them have died, out of about 68,000 people on Tysabri. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is closely monitoring Tysabri, but has maintained that the drug’s benefits outweigh its risks.
In clinical trials so far with daclizumab, there are no known cases of PML, Abbott and Biogen said. The drug is a monoclonal antibody that works by attaching itself to disease cells.
Biogen said enrollment of MS patients in the final-stage clinical trial will be completed next year. Some analysts say daclizumab could be submitted to the FDA in the next three to four years for possible approval.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Guide to Clichés

I get a real creative charge when I find a hidden jewel of written word.  In this case, I found a February 2001 issue of Smithsonian magazine in the library of our apartment building.  I share this gem by Bill Gilbert.

Departing from simile on the metaphor mainland, the Fine Line ferry crosses the Dire Straits to the Isle of Clichés three times a week. In fair weather, passengers can often catch a glimpse of both Salient Point and Talking Point, the rugged Brink of Disaster and the vast expanse of Glacial Indifference.

When it reaches its destination, the Fine Line docks at Anyport, which provides a sheltered anchorage and harbors no grudges. The road to Success, the bustling commercial hub of Clichés, is not well marked and often has bumpy twists and turns. The works of Succession artists and craftsmen are displayed at the Peanut Gallery. Especially thought provoking is a collection of finely spun tapestries, the so-called Webs of Deceit; a delicately executed watercolor mural, Tissue of Lies, which depicts historic happenings associated with Success; and several clever examples of locally manufactured windows of opportunity.

From Success a circuit tour may be made by following the new but often trash-littered Information Highway. Worth a stop, at 25.2 miles, is the charming village of Better, on the commons of which is the reputedly therapeutic Bode’s Well. A short but not recommended side trip leads down a slippery slope from Better to Bad to Worse, a fetid hamlet on the Slough of Despond.

Continuing westward, the highway ascends through the Credibility, Gender and Generation gaps. Shortly thereafter, the traveler is rewarded with views of the spectacular Pride-Before Falls, where the river of Regret cuts through the heights of Folly. Atop this escarpment is a nexus of hiking trails. The deceptively smooth and easy path of least resistance leads directly into the mountains of Debt, where eerie margin calls are often heard.

After crossing the stream of Consciousness, the highway approaches Significant Development, a suburb in the planned community of Interest. Above, constructed on high moral grounds, is the reservoir of Good Will. This impoundment is shallow and often much reduced by evaporation during the season of discontent. Thereafter, the landscape changes dramatically as arid areas of Concern loom large. These barrens were once the stronghold of the Nadir of Guilt, a legendary warlord who, armed only with sharp retorts, was hoisted with his own petard in 1711.

Beyond Concern, the road to Oblivion veers to the left. Traffic on it is notoriously heavy. Prudent travelers avoid this byway at all costs and continue directly on to the coastal nature preserve at Boiling Point, where frequently seen species include the horned dilemma, unmitigated ass, yellow-bellied skunk, sour puss, superior smirk and flashy upstart.

The Last Resort is adjacent to the sanctuary. A local legend has it that if, while staying there, the weary traveler hears a swan song, he or she will never return to the Isle of Clichés.

Click here to read more.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

10-dollar upgrade and your cell phone can be a mobile microscope

Could your iPhone be upgraded to the latest medical diagnostics equipment? In today's blog, Greg Dosmann, creative designer at STINSON Brand Innovation, takes a closer look at the possibilities.

Dr. Aydogan Ozcan and researchers at the California Nanosystems Institute at UCLA have developed a method for transforming a normal cell phone into a mobile microscope capable of diagnosing diseases. “Microscopes are invaluable tools to identify blood and other cells when screening for diseases like anemia, tuberculosis and malaria. But they are also bulky and expensive. Now an engineer, using software that he developed and about $10 worth of off-the-shelf hardware, has adapted cellphones to substitute for microscopes.”

"Dr. Ozcan’s system may someday lead to a rapid way to process blood and other samples," said Bahram Jalali, an applied physicist and professor of electrical engineering at U.C.L.A. In one prototype, a slide holding a finger prick of blood can be inserted over the phone’s camera sensor. The sensor detects the slide’s contents producing an interference pattern, which can then be processed mathematically, and the information is sent wirelessly to a hospital or regional health center.

This technology would certainly solve the cost issue many rural clinics in Africa face, as medical diagnostic equipment is too expensive. Now a health worker can capture an image of a blood sample, send it as a text message to a global database, and have the diagnosis in minutes for the cost of two text messages. M. Fatih Yanik, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “This makes it possible for ordinary people to gather medical information in the field just by using a cell phone adapted with cheap parts.” This innovation is exciting for field biologists working beyond their lab and doctors working away from a hospital.

It’s cheap.
It’s small.
It’s compact.
It’s versatile.
It’s mobile.

If you'd like to read more, go to Fast Company, "Where’s the Lab On Your Cell Phone?"
NY Times, "Far From a Lab? Turn a Cellphone Into a Microscope"