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, March 30, 2007

User-Created: What's with all the tiny pictures? (Onitsuka Tiger by Asics)

These sites have passed under my nose over the past week. While each is slightly different— the Asics site is a collection of photos, while encourages video upload and drawball is a user-created graffiti site—they collectively invite users to submit an image (a representation of themselves in some way, I’d argue) to become a tiny part of something massive. While I think these sites are cool, visually and conceptually, I’m left wondering, “what’s the point? Is this cool for cool’s sake?” I posed the question to our esteemed Interactives.

Basically, the group agreed. Right now, it’s answering the innate human desire to engage, be a part and leave your mark.

But more interestingly, there are lots of ways to evolve the concept into something more purposeful (dare I say) that could either bring people together in support of a product or idea (a nod here to Onitsuka) or to help people better understand the components that make up a big, maybe faceless brand. What would a thousand picture collage of SXSW look like? Or Tumi?

ROI of Blogging: Part One-Buzz Metrics

I've been thinking on the sidelines about the ROI OF BLOGGING (nobody asked, but I recall one of our declared missions is to be more accountable about RESULTS), so here goes.

Part 1: I took a 5 minute BlogPulse review (short attention spanners can skip to conclusions at bottom):

Fallon Planning Blog vs
Our Planner blog is getting buzz volume on par with the main website (we work largely outside the margins with no PR flack "promoting", just planners talking and people talking about what we talk about). We take the hit in being cited among traditional (ie mass audience) press sites (though we have scored a mass media mention or two throughout last year).

Fallon Planning Blog vs Fallon Worldwide
What's more interesting to people: Fallon Thinking or Fallon Accomplishments (new spots, new book)? Kinda neck and neck (I remind you, planners have no PR team flacking daily). Interestingly, most of the Agency buzz is fueled by Pat+Fred's "Juicing the Orange" book promotions.

Fallon Planning Blog vs Juicing the Orange - 6 months
"Juicing the Orange" takes it! But planners ain't no slouches in this note, that Agency Buzz verbatims reveal a tendency to be mostly Book buzz with the agency buzz basking in that association, so those could be considered duplication of the same buzz. And that note only shows that Agency Thinking is the bigger draw, add JuiceBook buzz and PlannerBlog buzz and we easily trump Agency Accomplishments buzz.

Fallon Planning Blog vs Juicing the Orange - 2 months
The Book is the gift that keeps on giving - buzz that is.

Fallon Planning Blog vs vs - 2months
Eh, the JuiceBook Dotcom ain't really pulling them in to the extents that the AgencyBrochure Dotcom or even PlannerBlog Dotcom is...interestingly, the JuiceBook Dotcom was intended (I think) to be an ongoing conversation continued beyond the book...a blog format could have been a better reworking of that thesis (compared to a promo microsite that may not work as effectively at fueling revisitation). Note too, I don't have the JuiceBook Dotcom metrics since day one, so there was likely a big flurry of buzz back in the day that trumped all of us (I would have to check Alexa for that measure). Needless to say, today, the JuiceBook Dotcom is not quite up there.

- but JuiceBook ain't doing so horribly when you take the 6 month view.

CONCLUSION: The F* I knows.

OK, so I'll try a few:

1) Metrics are fun!
2) Planners rule. Fallon Planners rule the mostest.
3) Blogs can definitely reinforce (even take the lead) building the overall experience of the brand...note that Agency and Book Buzz is propaganda. Hey, I got nothing against corporate propaganda at all, but it is a different POV than our blog which (allegedly) is our thinking (on a good day). And technically, GOOD THINKING IS THE FALLON PRODUCT IN TRADE (NOT JUST ADS)...but that is a different debate for a different day.
4) I could also conclude that the blog reaches pretty damn far (comparatively) with half the resources (did I mention we got no PR team flackin' us daily?). PlannerBlog buzz is produced from simply harnessing the thinking we do everyday - recorded in posts in real time and opening our thinking process up for people to see. For us, thinking is easy, it is the merchandising of our thinking that is the hard part (the important part?).
5) Fallon Planning Blog is "Juicing the Orange" in action...mmm, tasty. We're putting in action, daily, the corporate ideal of being outsmart in lieu of outspending.
6) Buzz about the book and buzz about the work (ie New Ads and Clients) is prob getting the bigger mass audiences, though. Do we like that? To be honest, Planner thinking ain't landing in Fast Company and BusinessWeek everyday...but that is a matter of time, and prolific content, and striking the timing on a hot topic and the responsive discussion and insight from us.
7) Blogpulse metrics depict a snapshot of levels of buzz, but admittedly it lacks a bit in defining the audience whose buzzing. Planner Blog was always intended to speak primarily to Planners (we told you that at the title)...and secondarily to internal Fallon teammates, then tertiarily (that a word?) to whoever cares to peek inside our heads and contribute or gawk (whatever's your pleasure). Number 1 and 3 are our biggest viewers. We should boost internal Hive Mind around our blog (get your AEs and Creatives on the same page with you - this webpage - and stop complaining that they never "get it"). So much of our chatter may be amongst other elite thinkers (discounting the occasional blog cite in and CBS News et al). Is high buzz amongst elite thinkers good or bad (I pretend to speak rhetorically, but I certainly have a POV)? We can change any and all of these, blogs are flexible like that. JuiceBook buzz is targeted squarely to prospective clientele. Technically, PlannerBlog can just as effectively (perhaps more effectively) target prospective clientele, too. That is up to us to get it in the clientele channels (perhaps starting with our own clientele). **We may have an offline conversation about who actually reads Planner blog, but you'd be surprised what domain names I see checking us out, consistently - and it ain't just planner geeks at other agencies I'll have you know.
8) Time matters. Blog buzz and readership (currently at almost 300 readers a day) didn't just blast off at day one, so don't expect to light fireworks with your blog - it's a Long Nose strategy that builds up. The traditional buzz tactics (press release about new work debuts, a new book debut) spikes and drops, spikes and drops, spikes and drops - like a crackhead scrambling for the next hit. Buzz tactics such as the book provides a long tail that at least keeps it going a bit longer - like a slow baked weedhead coming down from a good high (Like these colorful metaphors? "This is your blog on drugs"). But without doubt, the Plannerblog keeps our brand buzz steady, steady, ongoing, like a heartbeat - as long as we commit and continue to contribute and stimulate and surprise. Blog demands that we deliver the goods (good thinking) with each and every post.


Open to discussion. Oddly enough, I don't hear too much talking about ROI of blogging...some good ones I have found are here and here.

I will soon post further thoughts and analysis on ROI OF BLOGGING throughout coming weeks and conclude a magic formula for easy success.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Politics 2.0: McCain MySpace Page Begs For The Hacking

(Spank) "Please sir, may I have another?"

The scoop as detailed by Tech Crunch:
Presidential hopeful John McCain used a well known template to create his Myspace page. The template was designed by Newsvine Founder and CEO Mike Davidson. Davidson gave the template code away to anyone who wanted to use it, but asked that he be given credit when it was used, and told users to host their own image files.

McCain’s staff used his template, but didn’t give Davidson credit. Worse, he says, they use images that are on his server, meaning he has to pay for the bandwidth used from page views on McCain’s site.

Davidson decided to play a small prank on the campaign as retribution. Since he’s in control of some of the images on the site, he replaced one that shows contact information with a statement: "Today I announce that I have reversed my position and come out in full support of gay marriage…particularly marriage between two passionate females."

Lessons learned here:

1) The web matters, social networks matter - recognize
2) All together now - honesty and transparency (repeat 3 times) - especially when you are a big ol' brand with the means and resources to do better and the delicate image that begs for pranking
3) Never underestimate the power of the little guy...hidden behind layers of cryptic acronyms and avatars lies the guy who can rally thousands (or millions) of people to expose you in a very public display (as in this case, the person offended is the founder of one of the largest news aggregators who can post his grievance before millions - oops, you stepped on the wrong "little blogger", dude)
4) The echoes of social network chatter reverb globally, and faster than the speed of light
5) Social currency and web conversation can be great advertising and branding tactics - note Davidson's clever add to "Discuss Election 2008 on". Nice one-two punch! Subversive, AND entrepreneurial! That kind of thinking warms my heart
6) Don't step into the social media ring if you're not prepared to face millions of challengers. Those good ol days of launching a mass media message bomb and stepping back to await the pavlovian response are over.
7) Actually, you will be called into the social media ring whether you want to or not. Right this moment, someone is having an experience with you. And right this moment someone is saying something about your brand. And they may have the eyes and ears of millions. Are you comfortable with what they may say?

via Tech Crunch
Get at the original NewsVine post

User-Created: Zooppa

Recent results announcements from Frito-Lay declares that Dorito's "Crash the Superbowl" user-generated commercial campaign drove over 600 million views. 600 million views (the Superbowl boasts of 93 million views). Expect many to reduce the clues to tapping this opportunity as "let's hold ourselves a You-Create-It Ad Contest"!

That essentially is the potion that Zoopa offers us treasure-seeking marketers.

The checkered flag is waved and I picture advertisers like the zany comedians of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World in the madcap race to get that easy "user generated pot o' gold".
Zooppa stands to gain from the holy grail of engagement - harnessing the awesome power of user co-creation...but their solution of plug-and-play contests to solicit work from brand superfans for any and all clients seems ham-fisted and too literal. User-co-creation is first and foremost about sincere consumer passion for a brand. And the base reality of consumer-made engagement is that IT AIN'T FOR EVERYBODY NOR EVERY BRAND! But we'll see how these guys fare.

I quote highlights of their schema below:

" partners with international companies to sponsor their brands through Zooppa's video competitions. Based on the briefs companies provide, users are invited to create their own commercials for that brand. This can mean designing an animated sequence, writing a script or concept for a potential ad, or actually shooting their own video."

"For each company that Zooppa partners with, a new contest is launched for users to compete in."

"Once users have uploaded their commercials, it is up to them to decide the winners. Users rate the videos and it is based on these ratings that Zooppa awards the cash prizes. Each Zoop$ that users earn are equivalent to real US dollars. Once users have accumulated a minimum of 1000 Zoop$, they can convert their Zoop$ into a real cash pay out."

Hey brands! Here is a free treasure map clue to consider: if our brands behave in unique and engaging ways, consumers will co-create with us. Save the money on the contests and prizes and think of really great experiences for your customers to have with your brand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Neo-Health: Antioxidant backfire?

Antioxidants are everywhere, and most people believe they’re good for us (although they can’t say exactly why). They let us indulge in chocolate with less guilt. But a new study shows that taking an antioxidant supplement might actually lead to a shorter life! This week, news spread of a cumulative analysis done in the Netherlands that found studies on various antioxidants (like vitamin E or beta carotene) showed a 5% increased death rate. Here's a webmd recap.

People who get antioxidants from their fruit and vegetables do tend to live longer, but taking the pill version might be harmful. In a New York Times article earlier this year, Marion Nestle, a nutritionist, put it well, “ The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.”

Still leaves Hershey’s in question….cocoa is a natural source of antioxidants, but recently The House of Chocolate announced expansion in its so-called ‘goodness chocolate portfolio’ Hershey’s Antioxidant Milk Chocolate and Whole Bean Chocolate. So which is it? Supplement or natural cocoa ingredient?

University Marketing: Creating (A) School Spirit

I've always felt most school's would fail to get a passing grade in Marketing (even as I pursued my degree in this field). From fairs to brochures to tours to websites to videos to alumni newsletters, they don't do a heck of a lot to pull people in/make a connection and keep them connected. The know, however, for many, their sports teams create a real draw. This week's AdAge has a good article on the benefit(s) of a university's "cinderella" team making it far in the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments. For example, last year's George Mason saw a significant increase in applications this year (4x greater) after making it to the men's Final Four, 25% increase in "giving," and got press mentions worth up to $50MM in purchased media.

Unfortunately for those smaller, less known/popular schools, this year's men's tourney boosts household names of Ohio St., Florida, UCLA, and Georgetown. However this year's women's bracket saw a Sweet 16 shocker in Marist, who planned to take advantage of this moment in the spotlight by...drumroll please...simply playing the game.

Asked if Marist would take advantage of its success by running a 15- or 30-second commercial on ESPN's telecast of the game against Tennessee, Mr. Murray said the school had something longer in mind. "How long is the game going to be on? Two hours? That's a two-hour infomercial for us."

Fair enough. And when you think about how colleges and universities have historically and typically chosen to market themselves, you can't help but admire the "action speak louder than words"/events speak louder than ads approach. Look no further than this Slate article's title, to some up traditional university marketing: "Those Weird College Ads: If you like our football team, you'll love our chem labs full of Asian students."

As state-school spokespersons are quick to point out, colleges don't pay for the airtime—the slots are provided at no cost under most college-football television contracts.

Yet, there must be a way to not just fill this time better, but have a more compelling message and make a stronger connection with viewers. First you have to understand who that audience is. It's probably not full of potential student-athletes, it's probably not be full of jock guys, it may not be potential applicants, it may not be potential donors. It may be all of the above, but primarily current students. So the opportunity may just be to engage and galvanize the entire student body to create a visible or somehow tangible sense of positive energy and enthusiasm on the campus. In this case, maybe you sponsor a student created video contest. Or maybe there's a noticeable dropoff in or lack of current students participating in volunteer orgs, so you can make them aware of the opps available. In this case, you drive them to a comprehensive website or event.

Overly simplified, more university's need agencies to help them first and foremost, define objectives, learn about your audiences, create strategies for recruitment, donation, etc., develop smart and unique ideas and ultimately execute them. To help them understand what makes them unique and optimize real moments for connection—from the ads to athletes to the professors to the events to the students. (Hopefully the ones giving the tours are like Guide #2 in this post from Hill Holliday's blog.)

Ad Agency Deathwatch: Digital Wake-Up Call

WSJ reports on "Madison Avenue's Digital Wake-Up Call". Nike recently served notice to W+K and other agencies to boost web savvy and integration, other traditional agencies are taking stock.

some quotes:

"The move was a wake-up call to Madison Avenue. The message is clear: No matter how talented an agency's creative team or how well the client's management likes the firm's executives, the agency is of limited value unless it embraces digital media."

"Digital has long been 'an afterthought here,' says a person at the agency. 'We do it but haven't done it to the level we need to.'

"Nike now believes digital thinking should be at the heart of ad strategy, according to people familiar with the marketer's thinking. To make digital more central, it needs its main ad agency to be better skilled at digital techniques because the agency is developing ad strategy at the very early stages of a marketing campaign."

"Ad executives say more mainstream ad firms could lose business unless they figure out how to better integrate digital media. If people aren't embracing digital they will get left behind; clients are already there and they are gravitating to agencies who get it."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Viacom vs YouTube from Daily Show (on YouTube) Explained by Demetri Martin (Until They Take It All Down)

Viacom and YouTube haven't had the most amicable professional relationship. Viacom filed a huge billion-dollar lawsuit to stop the Tube from posting their intellectual property and now Viacom is being sued by "activist" groups for their insistance that a parody of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" be removed from YouTube. "Daily Show" correspondent Demetri Martin tackled the complex issue and made it funny, if not completely confusing. Even funnier, the clip is still available on YouTube.

via WebJunkTV

Mass Interactive: Wanted Poster on MySpace UPDATE

UPDATE: Homie is NOW APPREHENDED! Thank you MySpace for keeping the streets safe!
*Note the subtle change in music tracks since he's been caught (b4 it was "Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?"). Oh, Ponch and John, you clever-clever cops...Cue the freeze frame, theme music and roll titles.

Previous episode: Police created a MySpace account for a serial bank robber hoping to enlist the millions who use the popular social networking site as a cyber posse to help track down the fugitive.

The account has already collected over 1800 "friends", other MySpace users who have joined the unnamed robber's social network.

via MIT AdLabs and Smart Mobs

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Inbox of Immaturity: March Madness Continues

You mean you didn't fill out an NIT bracket this year? Maybe you had a viewing party at your crib then? No. Well did you at least cozy up on your couch solo with a nice bucket of popcorn?

Sorry, I spent the years between Iverson and JTIII at Gtown, so I have some built up resentment. Plus, I missed the living legend Dikembe Mutombo, but heard tales of this legendary night.

In case you're less of a bball fan, but still want your fill of immaturity, here you have it: CGI disaster, National Anthem disaster, and Rap lyrics disaster - who knows though it could be the next club banger.

Guilty Pleasure: Techno Tuesday

I just found a new guilty pleasure, an online comic strip called Techno Tuesday. As the name implies, expect a new episode every Tuesday. The humour is prob a bit dark for some tastes - which is why I am loving it. This is like Simpsons for tech-geeks, which at this point may include everybody living in this modern age.

Check some samplers:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mass Interactive: Wanted Poster on MySpace

Police have created a MySpace account for a serial bank robber hoping to enlist the millions who use the popular social networking site as a cyber posse to help track down the fugitive.

The account has already collected over 1785 "friends", other MySpace users who have joined the unnamed robber's social network.

via MIT AdLabs and Smart Mobs

Innov8 (or Die): Skunkworking the Motorola Razr

CNN/Money recounts the story behind how a team of engineers and designers defied Motorola's own rules to create the cellphone that revived their company.

The RAZR - a play on a code name the engineering geeks dreamed up - was hatched in colorless cubicles in exurban Libertyville, an hour's drive north of Chicago. It was a skunkworks project whose tight-knit team repeatedly flouted Motorola's own rules for developing new products.

They kept the project top-secret, even from their colleagues. They used materials and techniques Motorola had never tried before. After contentious internal battles, they threw out accepted models of what a mobile telephone should look and feel like.

The "thin clam" project became a rebel outpost and a talent magnet within the company, and the team grew to as many as 20 engineers who met daily at 4 P.M. in a conference room in Libertyville to hash over the previous day's progress.

"Anytime you've got something radically different, there will be people who feel that we should be putting our resources on other stuff," says Roger Jellicoe, team leader on the project. "It was a kind of lock-the-door-and-put-the-key-beneath-it approach to product development." Digital pictures of the project were prohibited, so nothing could be inadvertently disseminated by e-mail. Models of the phone could leave the premises only when physically accompanied by a team member.

With an ambitious deadline of completion within the year, Jellicoe relied on non-standard methods to drive morale and speed ideation. For example, he set up a competition among five of his engineers to see who could come up with the best design. And engineering and design teams began combining their work, a back-and-forth process that became known as the "dance."

Lessons from MOTO RAZR:

1. Secrecy limits distractions.
By insulating its RAZR development team from the influence of corporate groupthink, Motorola got an innovative product that wowed the industry and consumers.

2. Research isn't everything.
Motorola's "human factors" unit dictated that phones more than 49 millimeters wide would be deemed uncomfortable by consumers. The RAZR team concluded otherwise. Their only data points: their own instincts.

3. Niche products can have mass appeal.
The RAZR wasn't designed to be a blockbuster. It was supposed to be a high-priced, high-end jewel to regain luster for Motorola. Yet with high demand, unit costs plunged along with the price for consumers - to as low as $99.

4. Missing deadlines doesn't mean failure.
The RAZR team was supposed to be done by February 2004; they weren't until summer. But getting it right meant a whole lot more than getting it done on time.

Brand Cult: 55 Ways to Have Fun With Google

How elastic is your brand?

Google's mashable interface is unique in that it is intentionally opened to all users for mass hacking and improvement.

One believer has uncovered at least "55 Ways to Have Fun With Google" including the Google Snake Game, Googledromes, Memecodes, Googlesport, The Google Calculator, Googlepark, Google Weddings, Google hacking, fighting and rhyming?

Download PDF to start having fun with Google.

Mass Interactive: Groundswell

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff at Forrester research have a good blog you should read, Groundswell, and a developing book about winning strategies in a world transformed by social technologies.

And as you'd expect for a book about such a topic, they are reaching out to the masses, You.

Their book will be crammed full of proprietary Forrester data, and insider case studies from organizations that succeeded through embracing consumer technologies.

Feel free to join the conversation and tell them about what you're doing.

Some of the things they're looking for:

-Good stories about how you got started and kept going.
-Real business results you can speak about. (Successes are great, but we'd also like to hear about projects that flopped or haven't succeeded yet, too.)
-Real people involved in the project that we can speak with.
-And in case you are worried about the public nature of sharing, they'll keep your examples confidential until the book is published some time next year.

Connect with Josh Bernoff/ or Charlene Li/

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

FallonLabs: Striegel's Wall Writer

Our own Jason Striegel and the interactive team is in the laboratory cookin' up some new interactive experiments. This homebrew "wall writer" is intended to eventually project onto a large wall or side of a building and allow the user to draw an image using the building as a canvas and the laser pointer as a pencil.

It's still in the early stages of development and is currently being rigged from a computer, photoshop, a standard web camera and a simple laser pointer.

"Package Up" Your Packaging

Got an email from Aki this morn, titled "funny observation" and which read, "this link still drives em in aftr all this time (14 yesterday alone) i always see it in the most linkd box...the gift that keeps on giving (for better or worse)." (Note: I printed this without Aki's permission.)

He was probably trying to coax me into post a "Dick In the Box" remix, but instead I remembered this post at Kottke.Org, which I some how "Stumbled Upon the other day. (Note: I didn't actually use this service.)

Seems that Gatorade may have lucked out (or knew all along) when designing its bottle for a mostly male sports drink consumer. It's not just the urinal peek or the locker room full exposure anymore; it's an AREA OF EXPERTISE.

Focus and learn men, focus and learn.

Mass Interactive: DeathSpace

Philosophical ponderings: In this age of digital second lives and multiple online identities, what happens to one's digital essence when the physical body dies? Is there a heaven or hell for the digital soul? Do androids dream of electric sheep?

Check out DeathSpace, a self-described "collection of dead myspace users."

Mass Interactive:

One day plus and counting...check out Justin's streaming live "reality" show.

Twitter, MySpace and Facebook options available too, so you never miss a move!

Monday, March 19, 2007

2007 Planner Survey

Planners, time to take some of our own medicine!

It's time for the 3rd annual planner survey.

If you haven't participated before, Heather LeFevre at Martin Agency conducts an informal survey that is designed to let us all see what planners at different agencies think about their jobs, understand what drives salaries, and hopefully learn more about how our discipline is changing.

192 people participated last year.

Please only take the survey if you are working as a planner (freelance and those who work outside the US are welcome), and your answers stay anonymous.

This link captures your email so you may receive results.

Feel free to post on your blogs and/or pass the link on to all the planners you know.

Email capture

Politics 2.0: James Kotecki

We've had many a debate around here about the new wave of citizen journalists and their "lack of experience".

One side says these are just loudmouths with technological access to millions and no basis or experience to intelligently inform what they say.

The other side says, well, true, but A) what truly "qualifies" the professionals to speak on matters of state?, B) at least these citizen journalists are speaking in tones and terms that most of us can relate to, and C) quit yer whining and embrace it...or get trampled over.

Here is an enterprising Georgetown student, who is giving campaign advice for free on YouTube and his website. James Kotecki, 21, is building a name for himself as he dissects the candidates’ online vids. His message: “The web isn’t TV.” Just because you’re a politician who is “on the web” doesn’t mean you’re using the web well. So as candidates for the 2008 election increasingly put video online, Kotecki critiques.

The candidates and traditional media seem to be noticing - and some are even responding to him.

Could a 21 year old with a web camera and a DSL line actually affect the direction of America's elections? I hope so.

Trend: Return to Simplicity :: Mims

An unlikely example of an oft-observed trend that stems from increased choice, complexity, information, and overall nonsense/bullshit is what I, upon first (and second and tenth) hearing, would have described as "more ridiculously dumb and unnecessary shit." However, the charts have proven me wrong as hip hop artist Mims catapulted to #1 on the Billboard Charts last week with his first single, "This is Why I'm Hot".

But now that I've put down the Hateorade, I hear the beauty (and profitability) in its simplicity. In fact, I didn't have to listen very hard since Mims actually outlines his plan/sums it up with one line in the first verse: "I could sell a mil', sayin' nothin' on a track." Combine that to the familiar samples that put the hip-hop enjoying masses in our rap comfort zone. And even note the obviousness of using his rap name/legal last name as an acronym for his first album title -- M.I.M.S. - Music Is My Savior. You've got yourself a hit like Norbit. (Rhyme intended.)

For a better and graphical interpretation of this song, check out this amazing article from the Village Voice.

And in case you haven't checked out the video:

"To be continued"?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Postcards From Second Life: The Diaries of Molotov Alva

An interesting bit I came across on YouTube. Filmaker Douglas Gaeyton apparently came across a series of documentary-like films shot entirely within Second Life. The thing is, a man by this same name seems to have disappeared from California earlier this year.

Peep the official Molotov website.

I'm trying to uncover whether this is actually true or an imaginative story, but in the meantime it's a cool piece to take in-- a man escaping from the brand he's made for himself in First Life to redefine Brand Molotov in a new world.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hactivism: Home Depot Forced to Respond to Message Board

The web continually enables the masses to not only whine and complain, but actually channel a loud enough voice to force change from brands and corporations.

Consider this: after readers flooded MSN Money's message boards with tales of lousy service, Home Depot's new top executive says change is on the way!

Last week, MSN Money published a column by Scott Burns that focused on customer-service problems at Home Depot.

The response was overwhelming: THOUSANDS of readers posted messages on the MSN Money boards and more than 10,000 took the added steps of e-mailing editors to MSN to share their own stories of time wasted at Home Depot's stores. Oh, and did I mention that Home Depot is in a announced a 28% decline in earning for 4Q, and same store sales are down 6.6%?

In response to message board outcry, Home Depot’s new CEO, Frank Blake, posted his own message promising change. Below is his posted promise of change:

I'm Frank Blake, the new CEO for The Home Depot. I've read a number of the postings on the MSN message board (unfortunately, there were a lot of them), and we've dispatched a dedicated task force -- working directly with me -- that is ready and willing to address each and every issue raised on this board. Please give us the chance.

There's no way I can express how sorry I am for all of the stories you shared. I recognize that many of you were loyal and dedicated shoppers of The Home Depot . . . and we let you down. That's unacceptable. Customers are our company's lifeblood – and the sole reason we have been able to build such a successful company is because of your support. The only way we're going to continue to be successful is by regaining your trust and confidence . . . and we will do that.
We've already taken steps to cure many of the ills discussed on this message board:

We will be and already are increasing our staffing in the stores.

We're also in the early stages of launching a nationwide program to recruit and hire skilled master tradespeople to staff our stores so that our customers receive the kind of service and expertise that made The Home Depot great.
We're investing significantly in the appearance of our stores to make them an easier and more fun place to shop.

And we're making it clear to all our associates that nothing is more important than you, the customer. Every associate knows that his or her number one job is to make you smile and to help you solve your home improvement problem … no matter how big or how small.

But the real judge of all of these changes we’re making is you. All I ask is that you please give us the opportunity to win you back. When you enter our stores, you should receive a personal greeting. After that, you should encounter a helpful associate who will walk you to find the tools, material or service you need. If you don’t, please let us know . . . just like Scott Burns did.

A response box has been opened at

More Hactivism +/+/+

via Consumerist

Friday, March 16, 2007

Innov8 (or Die): What Banks Can Learn from Geek Squad

The Geek Squad seems an unlikely model for banks to emulate, but founder and "chief inspector" (read, CEO) Robert Stephens has a lot to say about how banks can improve their customer experience. Interviewed in the March/April 2007 issue of BAI's Banking Strategies, Stephens says banks should strive to make the routine activities of banking fun, such as waiting in line at the branch or at the drive-thru. He also calls for innovative business cultures able to nurture small, inexpensive experiments that could later on have a big impact.

Some excerpted mindbombs to consider:

•Think of every company not as a company but as a software program—as a system you're buying into. Customers, either consciously or unconsciously, choose companies based on their interface.

•There are endless ways to innovate. We need cultures inside companies that are constantly turning out these ideas.

•What makes the Geek Squad unique is that we are defined by the employee. Labor is our biggest expense, as it is with most other service businesses, so we define ourselves by our relationship with our employees. The technology will change, but how we deliver service and what people expect from good service, those things won't change.

•The customer experience is a product of your employee experience, especially if you're customer-facing. For banks, the branch is just one part of it. That's why online and phone are probably the most important channels, because even if you come to a branch, you might be calling first to get driving directions, or going online to find out about the hours. So, the online and the phone experiences almost should be taken care of first, since they can be more easily controlled.

•For example, we're launching Geek Squad in London early this year. I told the team: "You have no money for public relations—none." I told the marketing team: "You can't do marketing, but I'm going to give you money for creative endeavors. What you're going to do is, you're going to design the call center scripts to make it fun to be on hold."

•The reason they have no money for PR is because I expect them to make that experience of being on hold enjoyable. The experience should be so memorable that the press will line up to call us and ask us to come on their TV or radio show and talk about it. Now, that's public relations. Operations become marketing. They become indistinguishable from each other. That's when you know you have accomplished your mission.

•I ran into our chief financial officer the other day in an elevator and said, "You know, the finance department is the most important catalyst to creativity in the entire company." He looked at me, like, "Really? Why?" I said, "Because you say 'no' more than you say 'yes.' And saying no frustrates people. But the successful people, the persistent people, will always seek to find a way."

•I learned this from not having the resources, as a small company, to do things. So you tend to do them differently. That's a lesson that I'm learning now, even in a large environment like at Best Buy. The best thing that ever happened to me was not having money when I started my company. That starves the organization, which fosters creativity.

•A large bank may give up on innovation for many reasons, such as we're government regulated, we can't get things through too quickly or there are Wall Street pressures on a quarter-to-quarter basis. But I would argue that those pressures are the source of the creativity; they are not the limiter.

•That's the riddle. We tend to give up too easily and just throw our hands up, saying, "Well, we can't innovate," and then complain. But that's a form of competition because that kind of attitude prevents you from beating your competitors.

•It's easy to blame the faceless monolith, but if you're competing for its resources against a peer, well that's different. You can look at which idea contributes to a better customer experience. If you can't measure that, then it's back to the drawing board.

•That criterion creates a Meritocracy; it's one idea versus another. But the ideas should start small. If you ask for a lot of money for a project, you're going to be subject to a lot of restrictions, a lot of barriers. Not spending a lot on a project provides greater creative freedom because there's less risk for the organization.

•Tiny experiments can snowball into great revenue producers, and that's what companies need to do. Software is your process in real time. It offers the ability to design, to experiment, at a really low cost. That's where I think banks are specifically missing out on a coming revolution in software development at low cost and high speed.

•Banks should continually set a goal of coming up with one new idea a month, one new little service. They don't have to be large, massive undertakings, but simple, tiny stuff.

•I recently launched a rapid prototyping program at Best Buy called "Two weeks: $500." Basically, if anybody in the organization has an idea and can give us a prototype in two weeks, we'll give them $500 to develop a simple software feature or function to demonstrate it. The feature can be made accessible on the company network so people can check it out. Then, to take it to the next level, we can add a few more zeros, maybe do a $5,000 prototype. When you get to the $50,000 level, maybe you invite your top customers in to beta test it.

•Eventually, you might move to the $5 million implementation, but you start with $500 to force that creativity and de-risk the idea to get it off the ground. You can't even get to the $5,000 level unless you've proven out some kind of working prototype.

via BAI Banking Strategies

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Inbox of Immaturity: March Madness Begins

Not too many links being sent this week as the majority of my friends' time has been spent filling out tournament brackets and talking smack. This clip should sum up the type of conversations that are taking place and will continue to happen over the next few weeks. WARNING: Explicit lyrics (and parts in particularly bad taste - even for the IOI).

Timely, after Duke's loss to VCU tonight. If you decided not to click on it, here's a good typed example of the craze that is March Madness.

Plus, here are a few other links passed on for your Friday: Ahnald, A.S.S., and from Aki, who decided not to put it in the "How to..." category of posts, here's Strobing.

Happy St. Patty's Day from the Irish half of El Gaffney.

Politics 2.0: 08 Bloggers Network

The 08 Bloggers Network is comprised of blogs that discuss the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.  The function of 08 Bloggers is to increase bloggers’ access to candidates by establishing an organization capable of leveraging campaigns for access as well as establish a mutually beneficial community.

08 Bloggers will eventually assist members with scheduling interviews, gaining access to events, fact checking, research, acquiring credentials and a whole host of other services.  Additionally, the 08 Bloggers Network is a great way to promote your own site, while facilitating access to relevant information.

Among other activities, the network is currently in the process of organizing a massive presidential bloggers convention tentatively scheduled for this summer.


Politics 2.0: Dreampolitik

Re-imagining progressive politics?

Aroused by a mix of jealousy and excitement, author Stephen Duncombe formulates a colorful curriculum that calls for an injection of imagination into the politics of the Left.

To quote from a review on Boldtype:
"Progressives, Duncombe maintains, currently operate within a political model founded on the admirable yet outdated Enlightenment-era principles of reason and rationalism. If their purpose is to effect meaningful political change, then it's time for a new strategy. Duncombe's solution? Dream. By envisioning and enacting a political spectacle that heeds fantasy more than fact, progressives might capture the popular imagination and, possibly, the popular vote."

This includes lessons from such disparate source materials as Grand Theft Auto , the Billionaires for Bush network, Madison Avenue-crafted McDonald's commercials, and Las Vegas' urban planners. The focus of this fluent narrative is what he calls "dreampolitik" — realpolitik's creative counterpoint.

Throughout Dream, the author deftly explores American pop culture and political symbolism. With humility and humor, he explains why his political nemeses are more effective at motivating the masses than his comrades. He offers a re-imagined brand of progressivism, suggesting that his readers play politics a bit more like a video game.

at Amazon

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bankrupt!: The Big Payback

I have posted more than a few times about what I see as the emerging New American Dream: Freedom from Debt!

Seattle Times reports on an extreme (maybe), and amusing (sorta) example of a dude who is so committed to getting out from under the debt that he's been living in his truck for nearly 19 months, skirting rules against sleeping in vehicles while otherwise living the life of a mainstream student and full-time employee.

"Even though I had a good job, I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and not making any headway with my credit cards," says truck-dweller Andy Bussell.

The odyssey began in 2005. Bussell was working full time as a "Mac genius" at the Apple Store in Newport Beach, sharing a $1,600-per-month apartment. He had racked up more than $10,000 in credit-card debt and was struggling to pay for school and save money. So on July 29, 2005, he started living in his truck, with the goal of lasting one year.

Most mornings, Bussell heads to the university gym to shower, shave and brush his teeth. Then he heads to class, and later to work. Evenings are often spent rock climbing or doing yoga, visiting friends or studying in the student union, which has wireless Internet access. Then he heads back to the truck, which he parks in a variety of locations, and plays guitar, reads with a battery-powered headlamp or watches DVDs on his laptop.

His mail goes to a post-office box. What he misses most are a kitchen and a bathroom. To deal with the former, he buys food such as yogurt and fruit in small quantities; for as regards the latter, he takes advantage of public facilities. On occasion, he has resorted to employing an empty Gatorade bottle.

On the bright side, after 19 months of peeing in Gatorade bottles and eating yogurt, Bussell's credit card debt is nearly paid off.

via Consumerist

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Viral Learning Center

Finally, ALL THE SECRETS REVEALED TO MAKING A SUCCESSFUL VIRAL VIDEO! Enroll now at the Viral Learning Center and get the confidence and know-how to succeed!

Thanks VLC!

Black Sheep of Advertising: P.T. Barnum

Ad for P.T. Barnum circus, 1879 (click to enlarge).

From "Twenty Ads That Shook The World" by James B Twitchell:

"Today, we use the term hype. In the nineteenth century it was called humbug. Humbug was part of a new lexicon that included words like hoopla, ballyhoo, bunkum, flimflam, claptrap, and codswallop. These were the new words to describe a new form of uniquely American entertainment: the media-made confected event, high on promise, low on delivery, and probably costing something. As the actress Tallulah Bankhead once remarked after a rather disappointing but much-hyped evening at the theater, "There is less in this than meets the eye." This was exactly the kind of media-made event that P.T. Barnum first mastered."

Innovation Timeline 1900-2050 offers up an Innovation Timeline from 1900 all the way up to 2050 - yes that’s right, 47 years that haven’t happened yet!

The timeline is offered in the same spirit as the 2007 Trendmap - it’s open source so people are encouraged to adapt or play around with it or use it in anyway they like.

"The Long Tail" and Brand Communications

Mohammed Iqbal of O&M has written an interesting white paper on how Chris Anderson's long tail theory can be applied to brand communications.

In crafting his argument, Iqbal challenges theories such as Maurice Saatchi's One Word Equity (+), which claims that the essence of a brand should be boiled down to just one word-- Coke: Refreshing, HP: Invent, etc.

Iqbal's stance is that, in today's world, brands need not be defined by a singular proposition, but because they mean different things to different people, they should be expressed as such.

Old brand thinking:
New brand thinking:
Iqbal's key steps for utilizing The Long Tail in building a brand (peep the full paper for more depth):

  1. Seek help in populating the curve (consumers, people who interact with your brand).
  2. Time is a natural elongating-agent of a brand communication market.
  3. Recognise that ones and twos can add up to quite a few.
  4. Employ recommendation and word-of-mouth for your brand-building efforts.
  5. Don’t try and predict. Measure and respond instead.
  6. When you have infinite choice, context is more important than content.
  7. Build negative databases of your brand communication.
  8. Trade control for influence.

Culture: Revenge of the Ghost Rider reports that Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B.'s "Ghost Ride It" video has been banned from all media outlets because of the video's use of the Ghostbusters car and logo. Mistah F.A.B.'s "Ghost Ride It" song exploits the phenomenon of "ghost riding," which is when the driver stands on the hood of a moving vehicle and dances a jig (and preferably tapes it for exhibition on YouTube or those 'Dummies Gone Wild' video shows).

According to reps for Mistah F.A.B., who appeared on Fox's Hanity & Colmes show over the subject, the video for the single had already been edited 52 times to meet MTV and BET's guidelines. The video was being aired on MTV2's Unleashed MTV Jams, MTVU and MTV's Sucker Free Countdown when Columbia Pictures threatened legal action over the usage of the Ghostbuster's logo and likeness in the video.

In Dec. 2006, the song came under scrutiny when an 18-year-old man and a 36-year-old man died in separate ghost riding incidents.

*AKI COMMENT: You would think that the resulting deaths from ghost riding would be more of an issue for banning ghost riding videos, but eh, I guess the misuse of logos is a bit more pressing. Either way, you can't ban these streets - check out more Ghost Riding mayhem from YouTube:

It's all fun and games until...

Monday, March 12, 2007

PR and Marketing, like Ebony and Ivory

Jonah Bloom at Ad Age writes a timely commentary about "The Cultural Gulf that separates marketing & PR - and why both sides must work harder to bridge it"

To excerpt from the article:

"Transparency means that marketing departments, so often home to hyperbole in the past, are also confronting the fact that an over-claim in promotional material can be exposed as a lie in the time it takes some blogger to write that his whites don't wash whiter and his phone service actually drops calls every other conversation. Ad execs are also learning the importance of listening to influential consumers before crafting messages and are trying to facilitate word-of-mouth programs -- two tactics some PR practitioners see as inherent to their discipline."

"Conversely, many companies' PR executives, who once massaged other people's messages and left most content creation to the marketing department, are now building and populating websites, social networks, message boards, blogs, vlogs and podcasts. They're no longer just intermediaries; today they're becoming media and message originators, too."

"Its a big cultural gulf, but as the internet makes the relationship between corporate reputation and brand equity ever more transparent, the two departments will have to use their new found common language to bridge it."

And with that, I cue Paul and Stevie...


via Ad Age

Play Money: Game of Life Takes Visa

Hasbro and Visa have partnered on an update to the classic Game of Life board game with a credit card that is integrated into gameplay.

The effort plays off Visa's "Life Takes Visa" tagline. "Hasbro gets the chance to reflect consumers' desire to use electronic payment in the course of their daily lives and Visa gets a great brand fit," said Visa spokesman Michael Rolnick. "The fit between the brands is so natural."

In addition to the Visa card, the game also features elements of Visa's financial literacy curriculum Practical Money Skills for Life. Players can choose four paths to pursue their life goals, including the adventure track, family track, college track or the career track.

"For us, it’s an opportunity to give parents a chance to start a dialogue with their kids about financial practices," Rolnick said.

Critics, however, say the deal is the latest attempt by marketers to exploit young children.

"This co-branding with children's toys means that children can't even play a game without having some product marketed to them," said Susan Linn, do-founder of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the author of Consuming Kids. "Credit card companies have saturated the teen market and are now trying to seek younger and younger customers. That's concerning, especially when credit card debit is a growing, among young people. It's just sleazy of Hasbro."

Rolnick, however, countered that Visa's goal is to teach players about financial responsibility. The company will place brochures for its Practical Money Skills for Life curriculum in board game packaging, he said.

"We are not marketing to kids," Rolnick said. "We are helping to educate kids. It’s never to early."

Game of Life: Twist & Turns edition hits stores in August, selling for $34.99.

via Promo

Cashless Monopoly
Play Money