Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Economist's Aesthetics

Pasi Kolhonen, an architect and researcher at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, has some interesting thoughts on what he calls "Economist's Aesthetics" and how advertising has become and integral part of the urban landscape.

Mr. Kohlhonen notes that despite how an advertisement's main purpose is to be noticed, it has in fact become a part of the everyday city experience. There's so much of it, that it becomes invisible and actually becomes a part of the actual city architecture:

The cityscape -- our picture of the city -- is fast becoming a city of pictures. An ever-increasing share of our field of vision has been sold for advertising. The city has been efficiently draped in posters and advertisements. and city dwellers do not usually seem to mind them.

Maybe those See-Free Visual Spam Blocking Sunglasses are due for a comeback.

via We Make Money Not Art

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ford's Bold Move

Sure you've already seen this on AdAge , but the Ford Bold Moves documentary is a pretty radical idea.

Assuming they live up to what they say with the documentary("rip out the bs out, rip out the political posturing" ), the honesty will be greatly appreciated. Ford isn't whining about people not buying American, they're rolling up their sleeves and allowing the public to see how they plan on turning the ship around. They're blunt about the fact that the competitors are not the Big 3, it's Toyota, Honda and Nissan. And they're straight forward about the fact that they have an inferior product, and their pricing structure is out of whack.

The social marketing conference that Adam went to had a discussion on blogging, and the 10 commandments of blogging:

•Listen and respond (Talk with, not talk to)
•Engage your audience (Tell your readers what you’re doing and invite them to get involved)
•Maintain the integrity of your blog (Never fake anything)
•Demonstrate passion and authority
•Use lively, personal writing
•Offer something new and unique
•Stay on topic
•Link often (Give credit where it’s due)
•Acknowledge mistakes (You’ll be making them!)
•Enjoy the conversation

(insert: ironic that this post doesn't meet any of the criteria.)

There was specific attention on corporate blogs, and one example in particular was Bob Lutz (GM Chairman) answering a question as to why a particular Saab wasn't released in the US. He initially stated:

“It was developed specifically for European roads and drivers, and, as such, is not intended for American needs or tastes.”
Bob Lutz, March 4, 2005

But, later in his corporate blog, he said:

“What I should have said is that BLS is . . . built on the same architecture as the Saab 9-3, that, for exchange rate reasons, we can't profitably bring to the United States. So this generation is going to be Europe-only. Our current thinking is that the next generation will be available around the world.”
Bob Lutz, March 10, 2005

The latter was a much more truthful response, and the honesty was refreshing.

What was my point? Oh yeah, the Ford Bold Moves documentary is in essence, a corporate blog and a good thing. This is what happens when product offerings don't live up to the brand promise. God bless the world wide web.

Check out the first couple episodes for the Ford documentarty here:

It isn't going to change public perception (or the product) overnight, but I'm intrigued enough about American business and economics to follow the story through. It is first a content piece ("The American people love the truth, and they love an underdog"). Second, it's about long term perception changing. Assuming they sell me on the fact that they're catching up with the Japanese manufacturers, and assuming I'm not in the car market for at least a few years, I might be more inclined to give Ford a chance. Great idea given their situation.

McDonald's a cultural respite?

Neat bit of anthropological observation and reasoning by a guy named Rolf who runs a travel site on yahoo travel. His premise, which seems entirely plausible to me, is that McDonald's overseas is not an American cultural oasis, but an oasis largely free of culture. Whether this is positive or not, argue amongst yourselves. Regardless of where you stand, the chain clearly addresses a consumer need and admit that you already suspect it is not entirely tied to the food. Based on Rolf's premise, you could argue that McD's has developed a "third space" every bit as distinctive as Starbuck's.


"European onlookers will tell you (with a slight sneer) that these peripatetic Yanks are simply seeking the dull, familiar comforts American culture. And this explanation might be devastatingly conclusive were it not for the fact that European McDonald's also happen to be crammed this time of year with travelers from Japan, Brazil,
, New Zealand, Argentina, Korea, Canada, India, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, and — yes — neighboring European countries.

Indeed, despite its vaunted reputation as a juggernaut of American culture, McDonald's has come to function as an ecumenical refuge for travelers of all stripes. This is not because McDonald's creates an American sense of place and culture, but because it creates a smoothly standardized absence of place and culture — a neutral environment that allows travelers to take a psychic time-out from the din of their real surroundings.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Book Review: Stupid Questions Collection

I have noticed that every planning blog has the requisite endorsements of must-read books. Those book referrals tend to fall into a few categories:
MEMOIR (ie Ogilvy on Advertising)
PSEUDO-SCIENCE (ie The Advertised Mind)
PHILOSOPHY-THEORY (ie Sex Lies and Advertising)
MANIFESTOS (ie Disruption)

But notably, there is very little recommendations for the all-important
TECHNIQUE, ie books addressing the nose-to-the-grindstone executional details of account planning like: How the hell do you write a moderator's guide? Or ABCs of writing a qualititative research proposal? Or what is the best method to shut down a chatty focus group participant? Does a focus group participant get paid even if she is late? How many pages should the topline be? Who should write the guide: planner or moderator? What are some tips to keep the party alive in the focus group?

Rest assured, all the high-minded theory and propaganda in Blue Ocean Strategy or Positioning won't answer these burning basic questions of gripping and catching on the field. This series of book reviews in the "Stupid Questions Collection" should get you to the real stuff you want answered - without wasting your dough on the misleading titles that don't satisfy.

Today's post will feature Focus Groups+Ethnography. I will point out the "best" (my opinion of course) based on 2 simple parameters of book content: Workshop Manuals (ie primers explaining language and structures) and Advanced Level Tips+Tricks (ie "insider" secrets to speed your learning). I won't waste time kicking the crappy titles that I paid too much for and traded back for pennies.

Sage Publications seems to have cornered the market in Planning and Research books with an academic textbook slant. Unfortunately, most of their books cost $HUNDRED$ because the market is so niche. NOTE TO SELF: I SMELL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY IN PLANNING BOOKS.

HOW TO PLAN ADVERTISING by Alan Cooper and APG is prob your best well-rounded resource. It's a few years old, but takes you from the celestial mission of planners to how to write a brief and briefing the creative team. This is technically a pamphlet-plus, so while it is a quik read on the bus, it ain't thorough (and few planning books are). Likely you won't find a new copy, but some used ones seem to be around for $30.

GOOD THINKING by Wendy Gordon is a good technical glossary that answers the larger question of "what is qualitative research?" with some overviews of history and varying qualitiative techniques of the day. Best all round sampler. A bit pricey at $45, and you won't find many used links.

MODERATING FOCUS GROUPS gives you a good pocket-sized reference. Covers topics like the structure of the topline, and proposal writing. Note that it gets pricey at $55, but you can always check one from the library (that's where I got mine, shhh).

FOCUS GROUPS: PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR APPLIED RESEARCH 3RD EDITION by Richard Krueger and Mary Anne Casey. Good one, spiral bound for real use. NOTE: You will be tempted to forego the $45 price tag and click on the $3 used edition link. DON'T DO IT, SLICK. It will net you a crappy 1970's version that is sorely inadequate in comparison. Do skip the $80 hardcover version though, unless you prefer to roll top class. Note, too, this one is written VERY BASIC...depending on your experience and temperament, it may be insultingly basic. But I concede that basic can have it's place for some readers.

MODERATING TO THE MAX by Jean Bystedt is a good "secrets and tricks" manual that gathers the experience of others in the biz - and who u gonna get that from otherwise? Approx $35.

WHY WE BUY (and CALL OF THE MALL) both by Paco Underhill. Really this counts as an anecdotal memoir, but it gives a lot of details on Underhill's ethnographic techniques of putting cameras in stores and lurking in retail spaces to observe how people shop. While the book is clearly a sales tool to drum up clients, it is packed with insights that you can actually use. Maybe you can skip the second book, as it rehashes a lot of the same. Find lots of used ones for $3.

by Tom Kelly of IDEO. Another sales memoir, BUT, great stuff on IDEO's "human factors" techniques for designing products and interfaces. Otherwise known as ethnography. As industrial designers, they give some unique perspective on brainstorming and exploring how consumers feel the brand not just see the brand in ads.

Harder to find are IDEO's METHOD CARDS which put their research methodologies onto flash cards for quick fresh thinking on your old research problems. Pricey at $50, but a good buy for simple, quick reference when you're tapped out of ideas.

And lastly, I really liked WINNING WITH THE P&G 99 by Charles Decker. Don't let the bad title and cover fool you. It is written by an ex-Procter&Gamble exec who details the infamous P&G ethnographic technique for gleening consumer insights and new product uses. It is very dogmatic Manifesto-styled, but good stuff if you want to know their inside "rules" on what makes a good ad or product. These 99 principles serve as research codes of conduct for all P&G staff.

If anybody has any more to add, toss it in!

Walmart and us.

A new Rasmussen poll confirms that a wide swath of Americans are just fine with Walmart (the volume and tenor of complaints withstanding). The poll does not obviate Walmart's need to continue to reach out to communities of every stripe, but it at least begs the need for us communication oriented folks to try and understand the role this company plays in the lives of a majority of its citizens. I have been told by older generations of my family that Walmart occupies a place not unlike that of Sears 50 years ago. As we have seen with Sears and KMart, Walmart must continue to evolve or it will slowly wither away and be replaced by the next big (or small?) thing. Americans are loyal, as long as you keep up with them.

To Aki's point from a while back, store experience seems like the next best frontier.

Study highlights:

"Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Americans have a favorable opinion of Walmart, including 29% who have a very favorable opinion of the retail giant.

A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adults found that 29% have an unfavorable opinion of the firm.

Lower and middle income Americans are more likely to have a favorable opinion of Walmart than upper income Americans.

The reviews are even better among those who have worked for Walmart (or have family members who have been employed by the firm). Among these workers, 79% have a favorable opinion of the company.

Forty-two percent (42%) of all Americans say they shop at Walmart at least once a month. This includes 7% who visit at least once a week."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No! Behind the Tiger!! - Eye Movement & Assessing Context

Love things like this - study showing that the way different cultures actually physically look at an image is very different, not just the way they interpret images (and indeed events).

Basically Americans focus quickly and more exclusively on a foreground object, while Asians, in this case Chinese, are more likely to look repeatedly at the background, scanning it for details. So the thinking goes this then can explain (/or is a result of) the way Asian cultures are more likely to look at events or information in context.

You could make some astoundingly wild leaps of reasoning off this about the way people behave and the way societies view news and current affairs... but why make a neat insight into how eye movement relates to our mental process partisan...

I would love to know if you can get similar divergent results within geographic populations though. I’ve seen similar types of research into the connectivity between female vs male brains (basically women tend to have more connections so think & literally see more than most men, who are conversely more focused on a particular thing).

A couple of links for more info & soundbites:,1284,68626,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_8

Trend: Ad Agency Deathwatch: More on One Word Equity

More on Mark's post about Maurice Saatchi's manifesto for ONE WORD EQUITY here.

While I agree with some points, and disagree with other over-simplifications, I am more impressed with the presentation and use of podcast to spread the agency's propaganda (or "guiding principle"). The Maurice Saatchi P/R attack and recent speeches declaring the "death of advertising" is always good for drawing a panicked ad-crowd. Like Colt45, "it works everytime".

I am always intrigued with just how poor a job most of our agencies do at branding and advertising ourselves. You gotta consider from the client's POV that if agencies are so damn good at simple messages that differentiate products and services, how come nobody knows half of us agencies, and fewer can differentiate what we each stand for?

I am also impressed with Saatchi's focused repackaging of a rather basic tenet - the idea formerly known as "Positioning". It is ironic that in his charge to claim simplicity, One Word Equity perhaps overcomplicates what Al Reis and Jack Trout covered in their '70's treatise.

Perhaps this "new business model" is a clever Jedi Mind Trick to reaffirm what we've mostly accepted,or it is simply brilliant to reclaim the proven classics...sorta like beat sampling - it may not be wholy new, but it's all new to you.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Immaturity Rising

According to a new study (link via Discovery News), we not only worship youth, but we act like it too. One piece of marketing "conventional wisdom" is that if you want to target teens, act like you are targeting twenty-somethings (Axe comes to mind). According to this study, twenty-somethings actually act like teens. So, regarding that conventional wisdom...

[researcher] Charlton explained to Discovery News that humans have an inherent attraction to physical youth, since it can be a sign of fertility, health and vitality. In the mid-20th century, however, another force kicked in, due to increasing need for individuals to change jobs, learn new skills, move to new places and make new friends.

A “child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and knowledge” is probably adaptive to the increased instability of the modern world, Charlton believes. Formal education now extends well past physical maturity, leaving students with minds that are, he said, “unfinished.”

Ahh, now it all makes sense:

"People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact.”

And there is good news:

"Charlton added that since modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility, “immature” people tend to thrive and succeed, and have set the tone not only for contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is possible our genes may even change as a result of the psychological shift.

But then there's this:

The faults of youth are retained along with the virtues, he believes. These include short attention span, sensation and novelty-seeking, short cycles of arbitrary fashion and a sense of cultural shallowness.

Suddenly, the phrase "there once was a man from Nantucket" popped into my head. Hmmm. Whatever.

User Created Awesomeness

Nike's "The Chain"

I may be a bit behind on this one, but I'm sure I can't be the last to find this.

Proving two things yet again - Nike gets football (even if they do call it soccer), and they get user-created 'blah'.

This is the best use of consumer video I've yet seen. 21 minutes and rising of the longest football chain in the world... addictive viewing.


(Ps make sure to watch it with the sound up)

Brawny Academy Webisode 2 Online Today

This week the Brawny Man gives his charges an insight into the multitasking world of their long suffering wives, all while retaining their manliness of course.

In the Brawny Man’s own words:

“How are you doing? I thought I'd let you know that the second episode of Brawny Academy is now online for your enjoyment. You'll see our campers get rid of some porcine cabin invaders and tackle a batch of mom-centric obstacles, all in the name of relating better to the challenges their wives face every day. I'll sign off now and let you get to it - I've got a lunch meeting planned with a raccoon-whisperer.

Warmest Regards,
The Brawny Man”

Inbox of Immaturity

First, thanks to a wanting-to-remain-ALnonYmouSON tipster we now have a possible explanation, or clue into the origin, of last inbox's image: Poor Kitten

This week's IOI (cool acronym it took 2 months to create/steal from an old BMW ad we did) theme is, believe it or not, not football/World Cup/soccer. It is: Dancing!

1. Though the 2 are not mutually exclusive as proven here: Crouch v. Dempsey

2. Not quite the NumaNuma guy, but less annoying than Andy Milonakis: Nice dog

3a. Last week it was Screech, this week’s it’s a flashback to Slater: Pick the better dancer

3b. If you thought A.C.’s dance was fresh, get out this pimpin’: Let your Soul Glo

4. Combine the last 2 and you get dancin’ all over the world: Not quite the running man

5. Not exactly dancing, but smooth moves: Take a bow

AKI SITE: Classic Site Name

BONUS: Update in the viral life of Bubb Rubb from Sarah: New Toy

And the original here: WOOWOO
Make sure to get out the remix as well (same page).

The death of advertising?

At the link, Grant McCracken comments on Maurice Saatchi's dirge on the impending failure of advertising. Specifically, Saatchi's premise:

"...nowadays only brutally simple ideas get through. They travel lighter, they travel faster.

WhatI am describing here is a new business model for marketing, appropriate to the digital age. In this model, companies compete for global ownership of one word in the public mind.

This is "one word equity".

In this new business model, companies seek to build one word equity - to define the one characteristic they most want instantly associated with their brand around the world, and then own it. That is one-word equity."

McCracken searches for the appropriate characterization of this premise. "Insane" seems to best capture it. I agree, but for perhaps different reasons. As attractive as such a reductionist theory is (and arrogant to boot), it is completely seperated from any understanding of what consumers - strike that, people are fast becoming. We are living in a world that is increasingly powered by tools of control that generate increasing amounts of personal autonomy. Personal Autonomy is simply the ability to control ones resources. Ron Inglehart, in "Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy", uses World Values Survey data to pursuasively present this process as nothing less than the Human Develelopment Sequence. More recently, the previously mentioned "Stumbling on Happiness" notes that we are hard-wired to desire control. The effect of all this autonomy is that people are "free" to become ever-more complex, ever-more individualistic. I believe the effect is that "consumers" contruct a highly personalized connection to brands that can't be easily understood or dictated by us ad folks. The best we can do is provide compelling, mildly cohesive ideas that allow as many consumers as possible to construct a personal connection to a given brand. It's what consumers do already, lets learn to feed them.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Trend: Social Isolation

We all seem more interconnected than ever with the advent of cellphones, blogging, and social networks like myspace. However, a major study from the American Sociological Review announced that Americans are having trouble finding true connections. (Further coverage from the Boston Globe and the Washington Post.)

Some interesting points:

  • The average number of people with whom Americans discuss important matters has dropped from three to two in just two decades.
  • One-quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom to discuss their most important personal business.
  • Four out of five people surveyed in 2004 said they only talk to family members about important personal matters, compared with 57 percent in 1985.
  • White people, young people, and people with more education tended to have larger social networks than non-whites, older Americans, and people with less education.

    Although many internet users state that technology has created more powerful social connections (see The Strength of Internet Ties), our immediate personal relationships have dwindled. Can virtual communities take the place of real communities that are becoming less relevant from suburban sprawl and the loss of true third places?

    These conclusions may seem a bit dire. After all, perhaps our method of interaction and socializing is simply changing from the "good old days" of decades past. It seems that we are deciding to do things on masse. Third places such as megachurches and malls have replaced small community networks. Upwards of six million people participate in World of Warcraft. We all know a lot more people. But how many of them really matter?

  • Trend: Conscious Consumption

    Cause-marketing spending will rise 20.5% this year to $1.34 billion, projects sponsorship consultancy IEG, Inc.

    Marketers spent $1.11 billion on cause-related sponsorships and activation last year, according to IEG research. The projected increase makes cause marketing the fastest-growing segment of sponsorship, outpacing the industry's overall growth rate of 10.6% to a projected $13.4 billion, per IEG.

    "Companies are realizing the powerful marketing benefits that can be gleaned from nonprofit affiliations," said William Chipps, senior editor of IEG Sponsorship Report, in a statement.

    IEG credits marketers' efforts to reach teens and young adults via cause tie-ins, citing FedEx and The Home Depot's "alternative Spring Break" campaign with United Way of America and MTV that sent college students to construction projects in hurricane-damaged communities.

    The projected growth gives cause marketing a 10% share of overall sponsorship spending (up from 9% in 2005). Sports sponsorship, by contrast, is expected to fall to about $8.84 billion, 66% of total sponsorship spending (from 69% last year).

    The marketers most active in cause sponsorship: specialty retailers, automakers, banks, financial services and non-alcoholic beverages (see chart). Industry segments slowing their use of cause tie-ins: airlines, beer, personal-care products and telecommunications.

    Trend: Cashless Society: Contactless Payment

    Much has been made of a future movement toward contactless payment (MasterCard PayPass, Visa, Chase Blink, etc.) This article shows a World Cup promotion made by an Austrian watch maker: a watch with a built-in MasterCard PayPass.

    While it is not necessarily the prettiest watch ever built, it does bring up the issue of how to make contactless payment appealing to consumers. The first applications of contactless payment were meant to speed up transaction times at places like McDonalds or Starbucks. While this is nice for the consumer, most of the benefit lies with the retailer; if the consumer still has to wait for their food or beverage, speeding up the credit card transaction time does not speed up the entire guest experience and it certainly doesn't get them out of there faster. So the benefit in contactless technology must rest somewhere else if it is to catch on with consumers.

    This payment watch brings up another advantage of this technology - not having to carry or take out your wallet. The real benefit of contactless technology could be in embedding a payment method in something that you carry with you all of the time - your phone, your watch, or even your arm(?). The last one may be a little controversial but it does make the point - does a key fob benefit the customer if it is another thing they have to carry around with them (like a credit card)?

    Some trials have begun in situations where speed actually is important, such as mass transit. But in the majority of places where contactless currently exists, is there a real benefit to consumers? Paying quicker to wait for your latte won't drive widespread adoption.

    Trend: Tools for the common brain

    As one who has spent a few decades honing my ability to recognize useful patterns within mind-numbing tables of raw data, I have to admit that visual representations of pretty complex datasets, like this demo application developed by Thinkmap (Visual Thesaurus), have me a little spooked.

    Tools like these could eventually make productive analysis of even the dryest dataset friendlier or (gasp) even fun for the data-phobic. For those of us who are paid to "decode" research, the democratization of knowledge has a dark side. Excuse me, I need to review my value-added checklist right now (I know, welcome to the club).

    Trend: Hanzi Suckers

    Pseudo-hipsters have been tattooing their arses with cryptic, yet philosophical asian characters. Long gone is the era of having a mere heart and "Mom" on your arm.

    Perhaps donning these asian texts infuses the wearer with instant character and worldly experience. Surely they lend a touch of smoky intrigue and mystery when you discover these tattoos in someone's secret garden (yay!), and then hear the story of what the character means to the wearer..."so deep."

    Unfortunately, it seems most of these asian character tattoos mean absolutely nothing at all, or mean something funnier than intended as the wearer has been hoodwinked by witty pranksters. is dedicated to translating many an asian tattoo or art trinket for us easily-impressed westerners.

    *The above tattoo apparently was supposed to say "Dare not to accept"...yet the actual translation is closer to "Thank you, come again". Nice.

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    Trend: Mass Interactive: Mutual Security

    NY Times features the travails of a web hactivist who lost his Sidekick and used his blog and the weight of masses of web sympathizers to unleash shame and fury on the lowly thief to force the phone's return.

    via Chroma

    Trend: Bankrupt!: Youth Debt Burden

    We've posted more than a few times on the increasing power of the youth dollar in varying categories.

    Unfortunately, all that new youth spending on cell phones and clothes and music is creating the unexpected consequence of new youth debt.

    Some quickie facts about young people and credit:

    • As many as 1/3 of high-school seniors use credit cards. 20% of 18-year-old high-school students have cards in their own names.
    • Young adults 18-to-24 spend nearly 30% of their monthly income to pay back debts — double the percentage spent in 1992.
    • 76% of college undergraduates started the 2004-05 school year with a credit card. More than half reported getting their first card at age 18.
    • The number of 18- to 24-year-olds declaring bankruptcy has increased 96% in the past decade.

    Sources: Jump$tart; "Generation Broke: The Growth of Debt Among Young Americans"; Teenage Research Unlimited; Nellie Mae;; Credit Abuse Resistance Education program; U.S. Treasury Department; Junior Achievement Worldwide;

    By law, children under 18 aren't even legally liable for their credit-card debts. But nothing prohibits a company from issuing a card to a minor and charging fees accordingly.

    And, ironically, this youth non-liability loophole has fueled a quiet increase in PARENTS WHO APPLY FOR CARDS UNDER THEIR KID'S NAME, possibly for the parent's use as their own credit is maxed out (see prior posts on this with regard to rising Kid ID Theft).

    Some parents are attempting to head off the problem and nurture some semblance of money maturity by eschewing credit cards and instead opting for prepaid cards (thus jr spends only what Mama gives them).

    But one still has to wonder if kids are any more educated about how to manage money (prepaid, debit, credit or whatever form). More answers on that question another time...

    Simply said: add all this rising youth debt, to youths' slacker-expectations that Mom&Dad will resolve it for them ( and parents' increasing inability to rescue their debt-ridden kids) and we have some big ol' market opportunities ahead (of course that is my glass half-full manner of looking at it ; ).

    Book review: Stumbling on happiness.

    Rating: Wow

    I've been meaning to post on this book for a while. I saw Gilbert speak at a planning conference on how bad we are at making decisions that end up in happiness. This book is an expansion of the same theme and it's fascinating. Illustrating his points with a never-ending sequence of "experiments" that were conducted on students, he shows how, given a choice, we frequently choose what will make us less happy while thinking it will make us happier.

    It's a brilliant book for planners because it also helps to highlight opportunities for creating reappraisal of situations. It is our perspective that often leads us astray and shifting perspective is really our stock in trade.

    I was also reminded of this by the story on neophilia. Another of Gilbert's themes is that myths about happiness are propogated because they are crucial to our survival. His example is the myth that money makes us happy. As research has shown, rising out of poverty increases happiness, but after about $40K/year, more money does not actually increase happiness. However, if we all believed that our economies would grind to a halt and therefore it's a myth that we propogate.

    Genetic underpinnings of consumerism?

    Media Life Magazine has a very interesting article about some Japanese scientists who have identified an enzyme that appears to be responsible for neophilia, which Wikipedia defines as the love of novelty and new things. This is the trait that leads us to desire new gadgets, clothes, etc. and is now on its way to being classified as a hereditary condition.

    While consumerism is too new to have affected our genetics, there is lots of substantiation for the fact that we tend to develop traits that further the survival of our species. And, as the article points out, our (economic) survival is increasingly dependent upon people continuing to buy, buy and buy.

    I also posted earlier on research that showed that human evolution is still in progress and changes have taken place within the last 1000 years. So it isn't actually that farfetched to assume that we will/are developing genes for consumerism.

    Via Gizmodo

    Trend: User-Created: Hip-Hop's "Unwelcome Attention" Fights Back

    Rap mogul Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter has dropped all lyrics containing references to Cristal Champagne at a gig to mark the 10th anniversary of his hit album "Reasonable Doubt".

    The furious hip-hop star has already withdrawn the drink from his New York nightclub 40/40 after the company's boss made "racist" comments about the wine's association with hip-hop. And now he's threatened to omit all Cristal-plugging lyrics from his Sunday show at New York City's Radio City Music Hall.

    'Can't Knock The Hustle', 'Dead Presidents', 'Feelin' It' and 'Brooklyn's Finest' will all be altered for the extravaganza, according to Page Six.

    Jay-Z also adds: "The response from our customers at 40/40 has been incredible. This weekend, we sold more bottles of Krug and Perrier Jouet than (ever) and we expect that trend to continue. They are great products and we are glad they have embraced us with open arms."

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Trend: User-Created: Hip-Hop's "Unwelcome Attention" Redux

    Louis Roederer Cristal is now scrambling with a surprising about-face in response to a massive hip-hop boycott over statements made about various rappers' patronage of the pricey drink.

    I posted last week about a special Summer 2006 article titled "Bubbles & Bling" in The Economist Magazine, Frederic Rouzaud was quoted in an article stating "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

    The story caused massive backlash against Cristal, culminating in a boycott of the drink led by Jay-Z, who pulled the expensive drink from his popular 40/40 sports bar franchise and is declaring in recent radio interviews that "Cristal is over."

    In a press release issued through Berk Communications, Jay-Z responds: "It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud views the 'hip-hop' culture as "unwelcome attention." I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including The 40/40 Club nor in my personal life."

    Jay-Z continues to twist the knife with: "Just as Rouzaud stated, 'I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business,' Jay-Z and the 40/40 Club will now be serving only Krug and Dom Perignon to their customers seeking high end champagne products."

    Louis Roederer Cristal responds in a statement to "A house like Louis Roederer would not have existed since 1776 without being totally open and tolerant to all forms of culture and art, including the most recent musical and fashion styles which — like Hip-Hop — keep us in touch with modernity."

    Cute. But probably too late now. And further, merely saying that you're "tolerant" of cultures doesn't exactly say warm welcome, either. Nice move when an executive like Frederic Rouzaud single-handedly boosts competitor sales almost over nite. Just by running his mouth about customer passion for his product. Real nice.

    While it is difficult to assess the hip-hop influence on Louis Roederer's bottomline, consider that in a 2004 article the makers of Courvoisier were said to have experienced a 30% spike in sales following the first references of the liquor. It was "the largest increase the 300-year-old brand had experienced since Napoleon III named it the "official supplier to the Imperial Court."

    Claire Coates, a spokeswoman for the Cognac National Interprofessional Bureau, says the hip-hop influence helped American sales reach more than 40 million bottles last year, worth $1 billion. Young blacks accounted for 75 percent of those sales.

    And that's just Courvoisier, so consider the "hip-hop effect" on brands like Timberland, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, etc., etc., there's no doubt that sales of Cristal have skyrocketed over the years.

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    Inbox of Immaturity

    First, this has nothing to do with immaturity, but wanted to follow up on Aki's post about Cristal's CEO's "I'm sure Dom P and Krug would be delighted to have their [the hip hop community's] business." In case you haven't seen it, another CEO (of the R-O-C, hov!) has called for a boycott of the bubbly, starting with his 40/40 club:

    Now back to the immaturity...
    If that racism’s giving you a headache:
    Japanese poop hat:
    A guy who wishes he was wearing that cushiony hat:
    Shatner singing Rocket Man:
    More disturbing than that:
    Screech needs your help:

    BONUS FROM AKI SYSTEMS – for G4TV, voice is none other than Charlie Murphy:
    Star Trek 2.0 Cribs
    Star Trek 2.0 Coffee House
    Star Trek 2.0 Poolside
    Star Trek 2.0 Karaoke

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Technology - it's all how you use it

    An interesting account of how technology is changing work patterns. And how using a blackberry can free up time rather than be enslaving. In the study, an even 40 percent of the respondents claimed that the BlackBerry increases their available family time; 48 percent said it left them with about the same amount of time, and only 12 percent said that it decreased their family time.

    Like most things, it's all how you use technology - whether one remains the master or servant is up to you.

    In videogame advertising predictions

    Cnet has a good overview of the in game advertising forecast. It predicts that advertising expenditures will hit 400 million by 2009 and that gaming, and gaming advertising, will become increasingly geared towards families playing together. One fascinating stat: "For every $50 a month spent on TV advertising per gaming household, only 10 cents is spent on advertisement-supported gaming content."

    The article view is that advertising is lagging consumer behavior in this area which is probably true. However, it's a risky area for brands as consumers won't be as tolerant of advertisers ruining their experiences here as they are in other mediums.

    Clear Channel creates 1 second radio spots

    In a quest to: "Find new uses of radio for advertisers who are continually asking us to demonstrate that our medium can successfully extend brands, (SIC) can successfully reach the consumer with touchpoints that are new and surprising." Clear Channel has created technology that will allow it to sell 1 second radio spots.

    While they may have made good on their quest, I wonder if they forgot to include useful as a criterion for development.

    via WARC

    In Google's sights: Nielsen

    This is pretty interesting, according to the Guardian, Google has developed a new application that can identify which TV program you're watching simply by listening to it. I'm guessing it assumes you'll have your PC and TV within earshot of each other and on at the same time. However, if you do, it will deliver advertising or content to your PC based on whatever you're watching and connect you with other viewers of the same show.

    It's still at theory stage, being based on a research paper, and the eventual uses could be much more interesting. However, it's fascinating how much attention Google is paying to advertising.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Yet another MVNO - Disney

    Disney Mobile has launched with a family monitoring system cleverly disguised as a family plan. It includes a host of features designed to make sure you never lose track of where your kids are. Of course, they've included the obligatory wallpaper and ringtone downloads. The phone isn't that cool, and I wonder whether the age of Disney magic aligns with the age of the first cell phone? I would have though that many kids have moved on from Disney by the time their parents are willing to give them phones but I could be wrong.

    Via Gizmodo

    Virgin Mobile to Offer Free Minutes for Watching Ads

    Starting today, Virgin Mobile USA will be offering a new service, called "SugarMama" which allows users to view commercials on Virgin's website or read text messages on their phone. In return, they can earn up to 75 minutes per month of free airtime. So far, Xbox, Pepsi and Truth (anti-smoking) have signed up for the launch.

    Interesting way to hit their target audience, but will it also invite consumer advocates to criticize what can and cannot be promoted via this channel based on content (for example, liquor ads could be effective with the upper range of the demographic but are a definite no-no for the 14-20 set). Is there a way to customize content based on the age of the phone owner?

    Also, will teenagers, with their short attention spans, stick with the entire ad and answer the questions at the end, regardless of the pay-off?

    This could be an opportunity to get good tracking data if there are special offers tied to the advertising that phone owners could take advantage of (ex. show this text message coupon code at your local Pizza Hut to receive $1 off the lunch buffet, etc.)

    It will be interesting if this new channel works.

    Wished for trend: Beauty

    The link, via adblather ( highlights an extraordinarily beautiful and imaginative ad. Humor and hyperbole do often get our attention, but I often wonder if we rely a bit too heavily on them or too reflexively. Here's to simple and powerful visual candy.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    How iPod got its mass on

    Via This is a visualization of iPod's "ecosystem" as of 2004, when iPod hit its stride.


    yellow = competitors
    green = content providers/distributors
    blue = technology providers
    pink = accessory makers

    What's fascinating about this model is how closely it matches the way consumers themselves now develop personal networks. It also illustrates how having the courage to not control every potential revenue stream can be a brilliant move.

    Umair Haque (, who has developed a persuasive vision of the emerging "Media 2.0" landscape urges:

    "Don't use the property rights metaphor as an excuse for a strategy."

    "The property rights methaphor - Only I have the right to use/benefit/exchange this piece of land". But he then adds: "But what if you let others in and they build you a house?"

    He then notes, correctly I think, "The property rights metaphor itself is a block to thinking strategically about Media 2.0 economics."

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Brawny Academy - Episode One, June 12th 2006

    Brawny Academy.

    June 12th - Episode One of Brawny Academy Available Online Today.

    Follow the trials and raised expectations of the Brawny Man’s charges here.

    Half of Americans Believe Humans Did Not Evolve

    Almost Half of Americans Believe Humans Did Not Evolve; Religion is major predictor of attitudes toward human origin

    A recent Gallup Poll shows that almost half of Americans believe that human beings did not evolve, but were created by God in their present form within the last 10,000 years or so. These conclusions are based on responses to a specific Gallup Poll question that provides respondents with three alternative explanations for the "origin and development of human beings."

    AKI COMMENT: Have I mentioned to everyone about "Evo-Terrestrialism"? Don't be fooled by superstitious religions and pseudo-science - man was placed here by Aliens! Pull the shroud from over your eyes people!

    Trend: Pop Faith: Battle Cry

    Teen Christianity is the new cool, and can be considered a legitimate success, inspring youth to movements like mass vows of virginity and “purity rings”, to impassioned "defense" against the corrosion of non-christian messaging (pop TV and MTV).

    Witness BattleCry for a living example of the extents of US teens' passion for Jesus.

    The Battle Cry Campaign is driven by several Christian ministries and church leaders and led by Teen Mania Ministries. Teen Mania's goal is to provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take His life-giving message to the ends of the earth.

    Trend: Consumer Experience Sells

    What drives top-line growth and above-average profits? Peer Insight, the service innovation consultancy, has devised a chart and table (below) that correlate and index a portfolio of companies that provide great consumer experiences (cX) with sales and stock-market performance. The evidence speaks for itself: the likes of Starbucks and Whole Foods Markets, which focus on their consumers' needs and wants, fuel their innovation and profits by keeping the customer in mind.

    via BusinessWeek's IN Special

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Mickey Mouse fruit.

    Disney has recently dumped McDonalds as a partner and is now re-branding fresh fruit. Sold in the US and Europe the fruit will have removeable stickers that kids can collect.

    "We are trying to develop 'better for you' ranges for kids," claims Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products.

    I don't know what the pricing will be but it seems likely that the sticker will command a premium and it's not exactly like fruit isn't available to kids without Disney's help. Surely education efforts would make a bigger impact on helping kids eat better than re-branding fruit?

    via WARC

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Trendspotting with Demetri Martin (Daily Show)

    Consider this the companion piece to Adrian's post about the new young wines. I particularly like Demetri's un-Powerpoint charts.

    Trend: User-Created: Hip-Hop's "Unwelcome Attention"

    In a special edition of The Economist Magazine, the managing director of Louis Roderer Cristal addressed the popularity of the sparkling wine brand amongst Hip-Hop artists. If you don't know, you can't watch an MTV hip-hop or R&B video without seeing "big pimpin'" rappers "ballin'" on camera with bottles of high-priced cognac and champagne. And shouting out the brandnames. For Free.

    In an article titled "Bubbles & Bling" Frédéric Rouzaud, the managing director of Cristal, was less than thrilled at rappers' fondness for the posh drink.

    "What can we do?" Rouzaud told The Economist. "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

    The article further labeled the constant Cristal patronage by rappers as "unwelcome attention."

    According to, the pricey champagne was the 8th most mentioned brand on Billboard's Top 100 chart in 2005 with 35 mentions, being promoted by the likes of Kanye West, Trina, Lloyd Banks, The Game, Mariah Carey, and others.

    AKI COMMENT: Whaddya do when a whole culture insists on name-checking your product (for free) in their songs, and pouring your product (for free) in music videos, and showcasing your product (for free) backstage and in the VIP Rooms at the club? Dang, what a big problem you've got. How many liquor brands have I worked for in my life that paid me to strategize some secret-sauce to get that magical hip-hop endorsement?

    While I respect Cristal's dilemma - it ain't upper-crust when the 'hood is sippin' it outta plastic cups. I do think what you do firstly is DON'T COMMENT NEGATIVELY ON ANY CONSUMER PASSION, ANYWHERE, FROM ANYBODY. Sure, you can choose not to goose it - don't send a complimentary crate of the juice over to Snoop's house (you sure bout that, boss?). But getting on the mic and clowning consumer passion for your product just seems ill advised no matter how you cut it (remember, this is $600 joy juice, here).

    This move is faulty particularly, when:
    A)the cliche upper-crust consumer you think you sell to (let's call him Cadbury) has no clue about this subculture endorsement anyway, and

    B)don't be fooled, Cadbury (if he is under 40) has all the CD's by these artists bumpin' in his Maybach (or at least his sons and daughters do) and he aspires just as much to the hip-hop fantasy as the 'hood aspires to the yachting lifestyle. Look closely at Paris Hilton's invite list, it ain't Bif and Muffy at her party, it's 50 Cent and Dr Dre posing in W Magazine in golf shirts on the lawn. And

    C)you're dissing guys who are professional speakers, constantly played on radios, on tv, on mics, every nite, in every city, before packed crowds, globally...they can just as easily make your brand the butt of every rhyme, too. Why pick a fight?

    Ironically, it is Cristal's type of blatant exclusionary snobbery that makes the hip-hop nation chase it for admission. It is quite possible this rebuke of "unwelcome attention" MAY NOT halt sales in the 'hood. Go figure...

    Yet the fact that Cristal's dismissal may not affect hip-hop's demand is purely accidental on Cristal's part.

    Consider smart brands like Louis Vuitton and Courvoisier who've recently learned to track in both spheres of influence. Their ads and initiatives have definitely gotten a shade "ghetto fabulous" and made the best of an unstoppable train. Consider, too, the 'hood is gonna purchase pirate product or purchase some near-lux copycat brand with, or without you. Well, why let pirates get paid off of your brand? Put J-Lo and Busta on. Gloss 'em up and get paid off of a good thing that you never saw coming. Money spends no matter who is giving it - work with it, don't fight it.