Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Inspiration: Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones started his career as a jazz and be-bop musician, playing every brass instrument he could get his hands on, and with the very best: Count Basie, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie.

Along the way he became a publisher, media magnate, composer and orchestral conductor who arranged songs for Frank Sinatra: his is the definitive version of Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, which became the first record played by Buzz Aldrin on the moon itself! Plus, he produced three Michael Jackson albums – including Thriller, still the bestselling album ever recorded by an individual artist.

I was inspired to read that he had creative disagreements with the late Michael Jackson on their first collaboration, Off the Wall. While they were recording it, “Michael sent me a note saying ‘Quincy, please, please take the strings off the beginning of ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ because it’s messing up my groove.’ You know the strings, right?” He hums the opening few bars. “The strings are what made it work! It all went together, my background and his singing.”

The chart success of Off the Wall saw Jones invited back to produce a second Jackson album. The result was Thriller, which went on to sell an estimated 100 million copies.

He and Jackson also worked together on the “We Are the World” single, but parted ways after Bad. “He thought I was getting too old for the business because Bad didn’t sell 100 million. I said, ‘Michael, you can’t get used to 50, 60 million albums, come on man. You can’t tell me that 30 million is a bomb!’ Michael said: ‘Quincy is so old he doesn’t know that rap is dead’ – and this was 1987!”

Read more in the FINANCIAL TIMES article at

Monday, January 30, 2012

HEALTH MEGA-TREND #9: Tools that enable more informed health-driven choices

Consumers are embracing tools that enable more informed health-driven choices.

This is another major section of my continuing series of updates from Datamonitor’s report on New Developments in Global Consumer Trends.

Here are the key learnings, implications, and actions suggested by Mega-Trend #9.
The democratization of health information has facilitated more self reliance.  That means consumers are continuing to turn to the media to get their health information, but need to feel that they can trust what they are reading.

A kind of “formulation attentiveness” has been on the rise – knowing about and being influenced by the health details.  As this is becoming more widespread, consumers are demonstrating their increasing knowledge of health by making consumption choices based on labels.

And of course there is information overload.  Because we’re burdened by too much information, consumers are using information short-cuts to make informed, but simplified choices. Confusion is a barrier to consumption, and therefore should be eliminated to increase consumer confidence

The relevance to brand innovation is that product formulation is a battleground for industry players, so key benefits must be clearly communicated to consumers.

Consider the personalization opportunities.

Personalized nutrition and nutrigenomics are emerging themes and reflect a crossover between the health and individualism mega-trends.  Personalized nutrition is appealing to consumers but care must be taken not to take them out of their comfort zones.

Personalized beauty regimes are still relatively niche but are gaining traction as situational and personally adaptive beauty solutions are increasingly sought.  Demand for personalized beauty is growing in all regions as consumers become more ‘me’ orientated.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sharing music: a powerful way that humans bond

This weekend, I started listening to the audiobook of Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia

The Columbia University professor is probably the country’s best known neurologist. He has the ability to make the complexities of neurological disorders understandable to laymen while portraying the afflictions of his patients in a compelling and compassionate way. 

When the book was first published, writer Scott Horton of HARPER'S Magazine put 6 questions to Dr. Sacks about his remarkable study of music and the human brain.  

Here's one of the exchanges:

4. You suggest that we favor language as our primary medium for the communication of ideas, but your book develops the case for music as another important vehicle. Doesn’t this suggest that music and language have the potential to reinforce and support one another as media of communication?

There is a great deal of debate about the relationship between music and language, and speculation about which capacity evolved first. It has often been suggested that music emerged as a by-product of linguistic capacities. But musical rhythm, with its regular pulse, is very unlike the irregular stressed syllables of speech. We will probably never know the answer here, but whether parts of the brain evolved specifically to process music, or music happened to make use of neural pathways that arose for other reasons, it is clear that music has been central to the human enterprise for 40,000 years or more. Bone flutes, some of which date back even further than this, have been found at Neanderthal campsites. Sharing music is one of the most powerful ways humans bond together, and this has obvious survival value. We still use music in this way, to come together in singing religious songs, holiday music, national anthems, protest songs, even “Happy Birthday.” If we had a time machine, it would be fascinating to learn how early music and speech came together in the form of song. Steven Mithen, in The Singing Neanderthals, proposes that speech and music developed simultaneously, as a sort of song-speech, which later separated into spoken language and music.

Read the full interview at harpers.org

Thursday, January 26, 2012

“Sphere Within Sphere” sculpture at Vatican: reflecting a fractured world

When I posted this photo to my Facebook friends, I got many comments wanting to know about this unusual sculpture.

This bronze sculpture is called “Sphere Within Sphere” (Sfera Con Sfera) and it is the centerpiece of the Courtyard of the Pinecone at the Vatican Museum. 

Measuring four meters in diameter, it was created by artist Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1990 for the Vatican Museums.  Pomodoro's specialty is the casting of gigantic columns and/or globes.  In this magnificent sculpture, the fractured surface of the outer sphere reveals a very complex inner sphere.  

It tells a story of the harsh difficulties that the modern world finds itself in at the end of the second millennium. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

8 branding worksheets - available on this site for limited time

I'm soon going to be updating my book website, Forward-Fast.com

So, I want to remind you of the brand workshop tools you can download now for free.

Click to view the list of exercise-templates-for-branding

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It pays to look up

The Sistine Chapel is not the only beautiful ceiling at the Vatican. 

All around the basilica and museum, I admired some of the world’s most beautiful ceilings. 

They were indeed intricate masterpieces.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ways to get a live human: bypass those endless customer service phone trees, have them call YOU back.

We’ve all called a customer service department to get information about a product or resolve an issue.  So, you know the drill: Dial the number, navigate an endless maze of automated voice prompts, reach a live human and, finally, begin to explain your situation. If you zapped an entire lunch hour doing this, you're far from alone.


That’s why I love the website GetHuman.com

It’s a searchable list of more than 8,000 companies, customer service numbers and details on the fastest way to reach live company reps.

Here’s a post by a CVS Pharmacy just this week:  “At most CVS stores press 8001 to skip all menus as soon as the automated voice starts. This will start a special ring in the pharmacy and is usually used by supervisors to get in contact with the pharmacy right away. ”

Plus, there’s a cool feature to have a company call YOU instead.  Find a company, and if call-back is available, you'll see a big orange button for it.  Tell them your phone number, and they get the company to call you back instead of waiting on hold.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

“Per Grazie Ricevute” - a wall of gratitude

On my first day in Rome, I enjoyed a morning walk on via Trastevere.  I passed a wall of little plaques with “PGR” written on them.  Some spelled out the phrase “Per Grazie Ricevute.” There was also an altar to the Virgin Mary.

Since I only know that grazie means “thanks,” I could only assume it was a gratitude wall.

When I returned home, I did more research on the wall and its tradition of appreciation.

The wall of Per Grazie Ricevute is a thanksgiving wall for those who've had prayers answered.  They manifest their gratitude by attaching small PGR plaques on the wall.  It represents thanks for any miracle, and the names on the plaques are the persons whom the miracle touched.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Admiring the view: the windows of Europe

I often found myself admiring all of the windows while on my recent trip across Europe. I came back with so many pictures of windows, from inside and out, both decorated and plain -- all of which in some form or fashion I loved. (I also caught myself imagining what the view was like from the other side.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Better to be...": a personal brand story with attitude

The words are powerful.
The medium is gritty.
The placement is Berlin, a city known for its strength.
Even the font is an individual's handwriting.

This is how a personal brand story gets told with attitude.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Can't translate "Pan Am" into "Lufthansa"

I love the glamor and nostalgia of "Pan Am." 
 But I don't think they'll ever be able to translate it into "Lufthansa."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Halo Effect: a force of a winning team

"The halo effect," write John Hechinger and Curtis Eichelberger in BusinessWeek, "is the remarkable force a winning sports team exerts on a university’s brand and student recruiting power."

Boise State University credits its Broncos football team with giving the school a big boost after the team won the Fiesta Bowl in both 2007 and 2010. 

One donor from California specifically cited an article about the team when he sent a $250,000 pledge in support of a new business building, says spokesman Frank Zang. 

Applications soared 9 percent after the 2007 victory and 4 percent after 2010. The percentage of out-of-state students, who pay almost three times the tuition for in-state students, now stands at 19 percent. Members of this year’s freshman class hail from as far away as Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Monday, January 16, 2012

6 game-changing innovations - and inspiration for your brand

In a recent issue of FAST COMPANY, six industry players proposed six game changers that could supercharge struggling companies such as Honda and Quiznos.

How could these ideas inspire innovation with your brand?

Friday, January 13, 2012

8 items in my carry-on

As I travel across Europe for market research the last 10 days, I wanted to keep my carry-on bag light, but still stay productive.

I saw a feature in the Lufthansa Magazin that asked "what's in your bag?"

Here are the 8 essential items I've been carrying.

  1. Laptop
  2. iPad
  3. Notebook
  4. Noise-cancelling headphones
  5. Phone plug and back-up battery
  6. Sunglasses
  7. Receipt envelope
  8. Neoprene sleeve case

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rome: streets on the move

It's fun to see the scenes of Rome streets on the move.  Here are some videos.

Monday, January 09, 2012

St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel: a sense of power

It was an amazing and memorable afternoon for me to tour St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. I was overwhelmed with the sense of power throughout: the history, religion, politics, and art.

As I walked among the museum works, I also tried to capture some less-than-ordinary photos. Admiring the grounds out the windows. Capturing the sunlight coming through the windows onto the statues. Looking at the dome between the massive columns.

Here are a few pictures as examples of the day.