Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What's in a name?

Choosing a name for your company can be one of the most important business decisions you'll make. Left to whim you could wake up one day and realize your company stands for nothing, or worse, stands for something you no longer do. It's important to take time with choosing a new name. Think about what it is your company does or will do, what you'd like it to mature in to, who your customers are and what will resonate with them. The more thought that's put in to the selection, the better the name will be.

In the A/E/C world many choose to go with the name(s) of the firms' founders and/or principals, it personifies the company and allows clients to put a face with the name, that is until the founder retires, moves on, etc. and the name no longer reflects the evolving persona of the company...Other companies incorporate its activity into its name - Burger King (they make burgers), Finagle a Bagel (bagels), Whole Foods (food), etc. and still others are made up names that at one time made no sense, but in no time at all became synonymous with an action - Google.

Thinking up company and product names and developing the brand identities to support them and carry them can be one of the most rewarding marketing activities around. It's an activity filled with creativity, new beginnings and hope. And it's the perfect activity to start off a new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Free 2009 calendar, one month at a time

After searching for the perfect 2009 calendar to no avail, I decided to start designing my own. If you are also in search of a new calendar, something to help you track the days of the month at a glance, then you're in luck, I'm sharing my designs with you. January is done and ready for printing. At the end of each month I'll post next month's design. Print it out, hang it up and enjoy. Download January 2009 today. The calendar is 5 inches by 7 inches and looks great printed on eco-white card stock from Paper Source.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Stretching the holiday message beyond resonation

As the holidays near the intensity of the "buy this for your loved one" messages are all but tattooed onto everyone's forehead. Some products lend themselves to the messages, toys, flowers, jewelry, food stuffs, etc. Others are a stretch, cars, homes and other pricey ticket items that usually need consensus from your loved one and then there are the "products" which force themselves into the holiday banter, like prostate exams.

Last night while watching TV a commercial came on with an spokesperson decked out in all her holiday glory urging women to "buy" the men in their lives a prostate exam, after all what better way to say I love ALL of you (their words, not mine). I don't deny the importance of prostate exams and men do tend to need urging to get them to the doctors, but positioning it among the holiday cheer is just wrong. I'd say save the message for New Year's resolutions instead. It would resonate more and not make a fir trimmed mockery of the importance of the, sometimes, life-saving exam.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The opportunity to upsell

It's harder to get new customers. Besides the economic climate there's a lot of noise to overcome in order to get your messages heard. Wouldn't it make sense then to better sell to your existing clients? There are lots of opportunities to upsell your clients. All you need to do is put more thought into your customers' needs and what you have to solve those needs.

Each year as I receive my insurance renewals I'm surprised that my agent never takes the extra step to call me up and ask me if I need more coverage. It would take them an extra ten minutes in their day, they'd leave a better impression with me and they'd likely get more business. The simple truth is I do need extra coverage, but because no one has bothered to ask me and I'm too involved with everyday life to take the step to call and ask for more I'm left with the same coverage year after year. The result? I'm under-insured and my insurance company is leaving money on the table.

What extra services do you have that you could be offering to your existing customers?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Identifying Needs

It's the job of the marketing department to identify and/or create needs and then satisfy those needs with its services or products. There are many ways to acheive this - holding focus groups, keeping a feedback loop alive with your customers, talking to people, listening to conversations on-line, etc. If you work for a company that makes toothpaste here's your opportunity at a little free market research.

I have a need and I want a company that makes toothpaste to solve it. This is my call to action to Crest, Colgate, Oral B and any other toothpaste manufacturer that's listening (you are all paying attention to blogs, right?). I have a four year old and she cannot get toothpaste out of a toothpaste tube (I've tried every brand and tube style available at CVS) without making a complete mess. I'm looking for something that is easy for her to dispense herself, only dispenses one "serving" at a time and is mess free; throw in a Disney character to make it more appealing to her and I'm willing to pay $1 premium for the toothpaste. Make sure it's available at CVS and I'm guaranteed to find it. More questions? Feel free to drop me a line.

Image by Leo Reynolds

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Create change with your Marketing Plan

Many of us are in the midst of developing and refining 2009 marketing plans and budgets. It’s one of my favorite activities. For me it’s an opportunity to detach from the daily routine, open my ears and my eyes and evaluate what’s really going on around me. To make the most of yearly planning sessions and budgets it’s important to understand what your organization is trying to improve or change. By taking time out and evaluating where your company has been and where it wants to go you’re guaranteed more success in your plan. Planning against carrying out business as usual can be the most important stop-gap to stagnation. Organizations without the elasticity to change can’t grow and in the current economic climate it’s more important than ever to not simply refresh the yearly plan, but to start anew with tangible goals and measurable actions. To start thinking more strategically try some classic marketing exercises. Throw out your old SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and start a new one. Have a brainstorming session about new opportunities and assign them risk/reward statuses (high risk, high reward; low risk, high reward, etc.), refresh the information on your competitors, it’s likely they too have grown since last year. These activities offer two benefits, they get the creative juices flowing and make getting buy-in from senior management that much easier. Where will you take your company next year?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jack Cards turns its customers into its sales force

Jack Cards, an on-line purveyor of greeting cards has put together a great piece of marketing collateral to help it customers spread the word of its brand, turning its customers into its sales force. With each greeting card order Jack Cards includes a $10 gift certificate to be tucked into the greeting card before being sent out. Its customers get to give a little extra something to their loved ones and Jack Cards gets new customers.

There are only two flaws with this campaign. Jack Cards is such a great resource for unique cards that I'm hesitant to give up my source. And there's that uneasy feeling you get when you're obviously passing along a marketing message to your friends and family in their greeting card. The cure? Leave the gift card out of the greeting card, but pass it along to someone else. Bottom line, it's a great campaign and a huge improvement over the pre-stamped postcards boasting the Jack Cards brand that Jack Cards used to include with its orders.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A copy of Tribes by Seth Godin up for grabs

It's been twelve days since my last post; my goal is at least one post every week. Instead of offering a litany of excuses, I'll admit that I'm overwhelmed by social media, and I'll through in a free book for one lucky reader as an apology.

In the last two weeks I've had a handful of people begin following me on Twitter - I haven't updated Twitter in weeks so I don't understand why anyone would want to follow me (but I'll update with this post). I've joined a couple of professional groups on LinkedIn, posted a question to one group and received only one response from a group of 158 (disappointing). In the process of changing jobs I unsubscribed from a lot of RSS feeds and never bothered resubscribing in the effort to reduce the noise (yes, I understand the irony). And I joined Triiibes, Seth Godin's newest social media experiment. I haven't used the site other than posting one event, I don't check in on what's going on and I ignore most of the emails that come to my inbox, it just hasn't proven important enough for me to carve out the time it needs. As a thank you (in my case, thanks for nothing) for participating in Triiibes I received a free copy of the book Tribes, in addition to the one I pre-ordered as the price for admission to the group. And because I have two copies I'm giving one away. The first person to email me their contact info gets my extra copy of Tribes, no strings attached. What are you waiting for? Email me now at vconyngham [at] gmail [dot] com.

In the offline world I started taking a photography class. It's time consuming and takes away from the time I could be spending blogging, twittering, etc., but in opportunity costs it's worth it. And here I said I wouldn't offer excuses.

Update: The book has been claimed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Coffee goes 2.0

Joffrey's Coffee and Tea Company reached out to bloggers a few months ago. They offered up free coffee for honest feedback and were up front in saying there was no pressure to blog about them or the coffee.

I tried the coffee, it was fine, but nothing to blog home about. That is until today, when I recieved a package of Coffee 2.0.

I haven't brewed it yet so I have no idea what it tastes like, but it is a great piece of marketing. Coffee 2.o was born out of the feedback Joffrey's received from the more than 1500 bloggers that took part in the initial trial.

The company took the feedback to heart, handroasted a new batch of beans and created a product package that speaks its audience's language, then mailed the coffee out to all the participants.

Coffee 2.0 is dubbed as crowdsourced java and sports a label complete with tags and categories. It's the perfect example of a company creating a special product that speaks a niche audience's language. Even if the coffee is terrible (which I'm sure it wont be) I still walk away with a great piece marketing.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Creating authentic customer engagement

Jay Ehret has been running a series of guest posts on his blog The Marketing Spot this past week and I'm happy to say I'm Friday's guest contributor. My post is about creating authentic customer engagement. Here's a snippet:
Small businesses are ideally positioned to create authentic customer engagement, much more so than their large counterparts. The reason for this is their inherent personality and expertise, usually a derivative of the owner’s. It’s a form of human capital that should be taken advantage of. All small business owners should account for this in their marketing plans.
To read the post in its entirety head on over to The Marketing Spot.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

From unique to non-descript

I was surprised to see/hear in a recent television commercial (yes, I still watch commercials) that Electrasol was changing its name. And the most surprising part is the blandness of the new name - finish. It's generic and the addition of the diamond image and tagline - the diamond standard of dishwashing - does nothing to take away the ineffectual rebranding.

It's usually a mistake to change the name of a product that caries a great deal of brand recognition, like Electrasol. Name changes can create confusion, diminish brand recall and soften sales. But if a company is going to change the name of a product, it should choose a name that's meaningful to the product, not a name that's muttered by parents around the dinner table (finish your vegatables, meat, rice, you get the picture) long before the dishes hit the dishwasher .

I don't know the background on this name change and a google search resulted only in a bunch of coupon offers to celebrate the new name. I only hope the marketers behind the rebranding effort were strong-armed into the finish name and didn't craft this meager candidate themselves.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boston ranks 6th in urban sustainability

Boston has been making strides in urban sustainability over the past few years and it's beginning to show. Sustain Lane has released its 2008 rankings of densely populated US cities on urban sustainability and Boston comes in a healthy 6th up from 7th in 2006 and behind Portland, OR, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York. Boston's best scores came from City Commuting (#2) and local food and agriculture (#3). You can learn more about the study here.

It's important that we all do our part to help reduce waste too. Here are my top 10 tips for reducing your footprint:

1. Ditch the car for public transportation - or better yet bike or walk everywhere you can.
2. Stop cleaning with paper towels, bar towels are a great alternative.
3. Shop your local farmers markets, your taste buds will thank you.
4. Invest is some good reusable bags for grocery shopping. I'm partial to the durability of the bags sold through Whole Foods.
5. Teach your children the importance of recycling.
6. Give up the bottled water habit.
7. Bring your own coffee cup.
8. Use freecycle to recycle the things you don't want.
9. Switch to biodegradable cleaners, I prefer Method.
10. Support green businesses.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Responding to customer complaints

Earlier this week I had an email exchange with Banana Republic's customer service department. I'm so impressed with their responsiveness that I'm sharing the exchange with you. Of course the next step is to see whether my next BR clothing purchase falls apart on me...What do you think, is BR being sincere in its response or just giving me lip service? Either way, the valuable lesson here is that if BR can respond to a complaint within 12 hours you can too.

My email to BR:
I'm a long time Banana Republic shopper, with the brand composing at least 50% of my wardrobe. It's among my favorite brands because of the fresh styles, reasonable prices, fit and quality. However, the quality seems to be taking a turn for the worse which is what is prompting this email. Over the past 4 months I've bought a dress, tank top and skirt all of which have had to be taken to the tailor to have the hems re-sewed after one washing, a jacket with a sleeve seam that came apart after one wearing and a silk shirt which is starting to fray at the seams of both sleeves after two trips to the dry cleaner. This on top of a handful of dresses with colors that fade and fabrics that loose their smoothness after a few washings. I've never encountered worse quality in clothing than I have from BR over the previous 4 months. Normally I would just stop shopping at your store, but because I have shopped BR for years and have never had quality issues (I have a dress that I bought 8 years ago, worn and washed more times than I can count that still looks brand new) I'm giving BR the benefit of the doubt by sending this email and encouraging that the quality be examined. Please respond and let me know how you will address these concerns.
BR's Response
Dear Ms. Conyngham,

Thank you for your e-mail. We are sorry to learn of your disappointment with the current merchandise quality at Banana Republic. However, we definitely appreciate feedback from our customers - both positive and negative - and your message will be shared with our Merchandising team. Customer feedback is the most important consideration when our merchants are planning what our merchandise quality will be like in the future.

As a note, you can take merchandise to your local Banana Republic store for evaluation, and we will be happy to offer you a return or replacement once the merchandise has been deemed defective by a manager at any Banana Republic store.

If we may be of further assistance, please contact us via e-mail at or by calling 1-888-BR-STYLE. Our Customer Service Consultants are available 24 hours a day for your convenience.


Customer Service Consultant
Responding to customer complaints is one of the most important things a company can do. It shows that you're listening and that you care. And your customers' complaints can turn into your best asset, they show you where the holes in your brand are and where your efforts for improvement should be concentrated. Remember, most people will just drop your brand. If someone takes the time to contact you about their problem you can be pretty confident that there are hundreds more in the wings that have just given up on you.

Image by: John Weise

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Know your niche

Today marked my first entrance back into the design community after a two-year departure. I attended a seminar at the Boston Design Center on starting, managing and maintaining a design firm. I attended with the hopes of a quick refresher on the subtleties of design-based businesses and the speaker, Jared Miller, did not disappoint.

But it was the audience that will get the attention of this post. For the past two years I’ve been working in the insurance industry and attended a number of industry seminars. The audience always had the same composition – very serious, lots of suits, heavy text driven PowerPoint presentations and even-tempered, sometimes disengaged attendees. The audience at today’s seminar was all about business, yet lighthearted, suits were mostly absent being replaced with a mix of stylish/trendy clothing, large splashes of color and wild bags and accessories, people were friendly, engaging and full of life and the PowerPoint was full of images.

What’s the point? – Audiences differ by industry and if you’re marketing to niches (which in today’s marketplace you most likely are) you need to know your niches intimately. Messages should be tailored to them, presentations should be spoken in their language and representatives from your brand should blend and/or compliment the individuals that make up the niche. With a tailored message for each niche you’re more likely to create an engaging exchange with your prospect and once the engagement is created, your brand becomes open to having a meaningful conversation and taking the next step in creating your next customer.

Image credit: Sean Econo

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Don’t forget to think small

Last week I made the cardinal sin of big business and one of my clients called me out on it. I used one generic form letter to serve a wide purpose and it came off as insulting to at least one customer. What I should have done was a series of more targeted, more personalized letters. It would have taken me (significantly) longer, but it would have been more in line with the personal relationships small businesses are better at creating. So let me use my mistake to serve as a reminder to all of us. Our customers are our most valuable assets and they should be treated as such, even if that means a few extra hours at the keyboard.

Image by:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A tale of great customer service

Last week I had a great customer service experience. So great, that I can’t help but share it with you. It happened at Lens Crafters. I walked into the store one minute before closing looking to claim a pair of frames I had put on hold, order prescription lenses and get a pair of sunglasses fixed. I expected a rushed transaction on the frames and lenses and a sorry to the sunglasses, after all I didn’t purchase them at Lens Crafters and I had already been turned away from Sunglass Hut with a “sorry, we only repair sunglasses that are sold through our stores.”

Instead, the optician was more than happy to sit patiently and explain my options for the lenses and immediately found someone to fix my sunglasses, for free. He ordered my lenses, told me they’d be ready tomorrow and asked what time I’d like to pick them up. He thanked me for my business and I left the store thinking wow, maybe great service isn’t dead.

Image credit: zone41

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Design Funnel Manifesto by Stephen Hay

Monday mornings are the jump start to our weeks. It's a great day for action plans, new ideas and bold new moves. Stephen Hay is here to help with the action plan in his new manifesto - The Design Funnel. Here's a quote to whet your appetite:

Good design is always tailored to the message one wishes to communicate. If our design is more or less a copy of what others have designed, what are we communicating?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Comcast purchases Daily Candy

Earlier this month Comcast announced its purchase of Daily Candy, a daily email service of what's hot, new and in-style. The $125 million purchase price is a testament to Daily Candy's popularity and a portfolio booster for Comcast. But do you really trust Comcast to put out an insiders' guide to the hot new things to try and buy? To me it's a misfit. I'm a Comcast customer, but only because they're the only cable provider in my area, and I certainly wouldn't turn to the company for fashion advice. True, most readers of Daily Candy will not have heard of the sale and it's unlikely there will be a shift in content. You can also make the argument that Comcast is in the content business and this is just one way for them to profit off the content they distribute. But I'm curious, of those that know about the sale, has their trust is the daily email become more subdued? To me, it's all a little less authentic.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Positive first impressions quickly turn negative

I’m starting to notice something in my own behavior toward first impressions. When they start off negative they remain negative, but when they start out positive there’s no guarantee the impression isn’t going to turn.

There’s an organization in my neighborhood that made a wonderful first impression on me, but after the (very expensive) sale, service has gone down tremendously. Paperwork is always wrong, phone calls aren’t returned in a timely manner and email is almost always ignored. It’s a syndrome that’s all too common. Companies invest a large amount of resources to win over their prospects only to disappoint them in the long run. It reminds me of an oft forgotten, but important business adage – you’ll always impress your clients by under-promising and over-delivering.

Because of my recent (bad) experience I’d like to use this post to remind myself and remind my readers that under-promising and over-delivering is the way to win the game. Doing to opposite is sure to disappoint.

Monday, August 4, 2008

How to weave a story, boloco style

My last three visits to boloco have been filled with snippets of the story the burrito chain is trying to tell me. Instead of telling me outright, they've been leaving clues and I'm finding it an interesting approach. Normally restaurants tell you what their story is on a plaque, in a brochure or on the back of a menu. There's no such thing at boloco. Instead their story has been unfolding in the actions they choose to take.

The first time I visited I noticed a sign on the door Member of Dine Green. Dine Green is a non-profit dedicated to helping restaurants become more environmentally sustainable. On my second visit I noticed that boloco only uses naturally raised chicken, beef and pork in their burritos (as noted on the menu). And the third time I visited I noticed that written on my smoothie cup was the message This cup grew up in Blair, Nebraska. It really did. It's made entirely of corn. It's 100% compostable. It will disappear no matter what you do with it.

It took me three times to fully hear the boloco story, but it was an interactive experience. I gained more from it than I would have reading a corporate statement. I'm not saying corporate statements are bad, and boloco might even benefit from being more outward with its story. But a story with no obvious action doesn't work either, and its within its actions that boloco excels.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A nail salon differentiates itself

In a sea of sameness it's a pleasure to come across a business that's identified a need, solved it and worked it into their business model. Earlier this week I popped into a nail salon in Charlestown, MA for a pedicure. I don't particularly enjoy pedicures, but I find them a necessary evil in order to keep up with the vanity of pretty toes in the summer. One of the reasons I don't like getting pedicures is I always recall the horror stories of people contracting infections from improperly sanitized tools.

So back to the nail salon - after picking out my color the woman charged with giving me my pedicure asked if I had a box at the salon. I responded no, but inquired as to what she meant. Apparently, if you plan on returning to the salon they'll set aside a dedicated set of tools for you. They go in a box with your name on it and you are the only one those tools are used on - brilliant.

With that simple gesture the nail salon has distinguished itself from the flood of others and alleviated fears of tool contamination. Sure, it costs them extra money to maintain a higher than normal supply of nail salon tools, but by the sight of all the boxes they also have a lot of repeat business. And we all know, it's cheaper to retain a customer than to find another one.

Image credit: Yips

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Free Marketing Idea

Here's a free marketing idea for my friends in the architecture field. The inspiration came from United Health; as part of their member outreach they send a birthday card to all their members reminding them of the preventive screenings they're due for that year.

Here's my twist for the architectural community. As part of your CRM (define) program send a birthday card (or perhaps an anniversary card) to your clients each year to commemorate the completion of the building your firm designed for them. It will remind them to reflect on the joy your firm's design has given them over the year(s) and keep your firm's name top of mind when they're considering other design projects, or speaking to friends and colleagues who might be looking for an architect.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Analyzing Boston's Visit the Pin

Boston has launched a quirky new marketing campaign designed to get more people engaged with the city. It's called Visit the Pin and it uses gigantic push pin replicas with tags as location markers. The tags on the pins ask viewers to text a keyword to 46305. I've only come across one pin so far and it's in Copley Square.

After texting COPLEY (as instructed by the pin) to 46305 I received a return message informing me that there's a farmers market in the area on Tuesdays and Fridays (which I knew since I found the pin on a Friday). It also invited me to call a phone number for more information, text A for near sites or text B for free events.

Texting A results in: Boston Public Library, Trinity Church and Newbury Street and a phone number for more info. Texting B results in Waterfront Performing Arts Series, Landmarks Orchestra Hatch Shell and AHTS: Boston Arts Festival and a second phone number. I was also directed to to learn more.

The campaign is intriguing. It captured my attention and warranted some follow-up. But there are certainly things the city could be doing better. Here's my 30 second analysis of what works, what doesn't and suggestions for improvement. Feel free to add your own comments at the end.

What works: The pins catch people's attention and encourage them to interact with their environment. Texting results in more options for interacting, including phone and web.

What doesn't: The campaign doesn't engage people that aren't willing to send that first text. The phone numbers that the city provides in their follow-up texts aren't of much use (one led to the parks department's voice mail telling me they're often out of the office, the other phone number just rang and rang with no answer) and the website doesn't extend the campaign branding.

Suggestions for improvement: Give people multiple ways to interact with the pin. Text is great, but put a phone number and URL on the tag as well. Give clues to where the other pins are, make a game out of it and the city's likely to get more interaction. And finally, if you're going to throw out a couple of phone numbers, make sure they're supported, if not by person than at least have a campaign specific voice message.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The story of eggs

While discussing The Omnivore's Dilemma at my book group a friend noted that fresh eggs were available at the farmers market in Copley Square (Boston) this year. Another recalled getting fresh eggs from a semi-crazed farmer near her summer home and the buttery flavor that the fresh eggs contained. And yet another recalled how the taste was unparalleled to that of commercial eggs. After digesting this information I left with a mission – to get my hands on some fresh eggs.

After three weeks of visiting the farmers market and being told “sorry, we sold out an hour after opening,” my lucky day arrived (the beauty of scarcity, three weeks later and I was still excited about eggs). There was a refrigerator full of fresh eggs awaiting me. I paid my $4 for 6 eggs and was on my way. The next morning I toasted and buttered some bread, cooked the eggs ‘over easy’ and sat down at the table with pure anticipation, only to become completely under whelmed. The eggs tasted just like the eggs I routinely buy at the grocery store (and only pay $1.59 per dozen for).

The story I was told about fresh eggs was that of taste and quality, incomparable to commercial eggs. The eggs I bought at the farmers market didn’t live up to that story. And the farmers market offered no alternative version. The story I should have been told was that of sustainability, local support and famers’ pride. Essentially, by spending the extra money on fresh eggs at the farmers market I can make a difference in my community and receive a product produced with care.

The moral of this story – when marketing your product, make sure you offer a story that’s believable and lives up to the experience. Otherwise you under whelm and your brand under performs.

Image by cobalt123

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Social media's role in transparency and learning

A surgery went very wrong at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) last week. A patient went in for one procedure and ended up having the procedure performed on the wrong body part. To the hospital’s credit there are no excuses being offered, after all there’s no excuse that could justify the mistake. Rather BIDMC is taking a more human approach and social media is playing a large role.

Paul Levy, author of the blog Running a Hospital and CEO of BIDMC shared on his blog an email that was circulated to all BIDMC staff after the event. The surgeon and his team acknowledged and accepted the mistake and apologized to the patient. Readers have offered thoughtful comments and shared their own personal lessons. But the most compelling story is BIDMC’s willingness to publicly share their mistake, to let others learn from it and to being completely transparent about the entire ordeal.

Without social media this couldn’t have happened. This mistake would have been one more in a series, covered up by legal departments and offering no learning experiences. Paul Levy has done a great service for his community. He’s opened another line of communication and has encouraged others to learn from the story. If social media can help us all be a little more transparent, to put our pride behind us and share our stories so that others can leave more knowledgeable after reading them than we all stand to gain from it.

Image by ortizmj12

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Philippe Stark making wind power cool

Philippe Stark, best known for his whimsical designs of everyday household items and his strangely uncomfortable looking large plastic garden chairs has proclaimed design is dead. However, it can’t be too dead as he’s resurfaced from that proclamation with another design twist on a not so ordinary product – the wind turbine.

Fittingly with his TED Talks presentation on the mutation leading up to the human race, Stark seems to be rethinking his previous contributions of useless design (his words) and mutating toward design for good. That is, putting his stamp on a seemingly utilitarian object whose goal is to better the earth.

As far as green efforts go, the world could use more first class designers, such as Stark lending their well recognized names to the advancement of a greener lifestyle. Here’s to Stark’s next transformation.

Image from Inhabitat's website

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

Although the sky is gray today and the air is cool, Boston's 4th of July celebration will be sure to please. From the fly over to the cannons blasting during the 1812 Overture to the fireworks adding sparkle to the sky above the Charles. The 4th of July is a time of celebration and remembrance. And Boston provides the perfect backdrop. With this I wish you a happy and safe 4th of July.

Image taken on Comm Ave. Take a peek behind the flag.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuned In book review

We all have books in our summer reading que. Some are business related, some are to help us escape reality and others are the carryovers from last summer's reading pile. Among the books in my que are The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles recommended by John Moore, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing (I realize I'm behind the curve on this one, as evidenced by the bargain basement price of $5.49 on Amazon) and Tuned In , which I received as part of a blogger outreach post on Web Ink Now.

Summer also coincides with my company's planning session so Tuned In made it off the pile first. I was hoping to find some inspiration to get the brainstorming started and in some aspects I did. Though like many who will read this book I realized there is a lot more work to be done before becoming "Tuned In."

Tuned In is a new book on the market written by Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott. It "argues that the key to business success lies in understanding and connecting with what consumers and markets want most." It's a quick read and gives a good overview of what companies need to embrace to become tuned in. To give you an overview of the book I'll share with you the book's Top Ten Actions to Create a Tuned In Culture.
  1. Get out of your comfortable office and talk with buyers about their unresolved problems.
  2. Identify your buyer personas. In order to make them real for you and your colleagues, name each buyer persona, build a profile for each and cut a representative photo from a magazine to represent them.
  3. Define your distinctive competence. Make certain everyone on your team understands what it is.
  4. Don't go to an internal meeting if you're only going to give your own opinion. Instead, be the person who goes to the meeting armed with data.
  5. Always ask where "facts" come from to disqualify mere opinions from your decision making process.
  6. Map your products and services on the Tuned In Impact-Continuum. Build a plan to increase the impact.
  7. Communicate directly the problems you solve for customers, not what your product or service does.
  8. Count the number of times you say "our" and "we" on your website. Write for your buyers by using "you" and "your" instead.
  9. Remove corporate gobbledygook such as mission statements from your external communications.
  10. Become a thought leader in your market and industry.
If this list has peaked your interest or if you're unconvinced by anything on the list then pick up the book. Or start with a free excerpt from the Tuned In website.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Buzzwords banned in England

Buzzwords have been banned in town meetings across England. According to a recent article on the Local Government Association has asked its members to stop using management buzzwords. Perhaps corporations should take the country's advice as well, it's not only ordinary citizens that find the continuous drone of buzzwords dizzying.

Here's the quote that brings it all home: "Why do we have to have 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement' when we could just 'talk to people' instead?"
It's an article that should make David Meerman Scott proud.

Image credit: San Diego Shooter's

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Makers Mark misses the mark in Boston

Nearly every day I take the T (Boston’s subway) to work and have become intimately aware of the advertising within the cars. Most times it’s a random selection of local colleges, hair removal services and pleas to participate in medical testing, but every once in a while a brand will take over all the advertising space within multiple cars. This month’s interruption specialist is Makers Mark. Its entire campaign is focused on the peculiar accent of Bostonians. It comes across (to me anyway) as crass and desperate. For starters Makers Mark is made in Kentucky, not much of a location affinity there so I can only assume the company is making fun of the local accent. That’s fine from a local company, but a bit condescending from an outsider. But worse, I’m not sure what the message is. If you have a Boston accent Makers Mark is for you, if you don’t you should try another brand? That’s probably not what Makers Mark had in mind but that’s my read on it. And I can only wonder if true Bostonians relate to the campaign (I’m not originally from Boston so I’m an outsider in this outsider’s target). The lesson in this story is humor is great in advertising, but be careful of the humor you choose, your message just might fall flat.

If you work for Makers Mark and want to shed some light on the message you were going after I invite you to do so in the comments.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A roulade is not a tart

A roulade is not a tart. Roulade means to roll, in creating a roulade you must produce something that is rolled around something else, a bouche noel (pictured at left) is a roulade. A tart is a pastry shell that contains a filling. In no way should the average person mistake a roulade for a tart. But that’s exactly what happened at dinner last night.

Have you noticed that dessert menus often lie? I’m not sure why this is, but it seems to be a normal occurrence in my dining experiences. Perhaps I’ve just come across a slew of pastry chefs that don’t have an understanding of the French language which so often dominates the descriptions of their confections.

Last night at a cute little Italian restaurant in Boston’s South End I ordered a Lemon Roulade, what I received was a Lemon Tart. It was delicious, but why promise a roulade and deliver a tart?

Restaurateurs are craftsmen, marketers and performers all at once. Their food (craft) needs to be outstanding, their menus (marketing) need to describe that food in an enticing and accurate manner and their space and wait staff (performers) must emulate whatever ambiance the restaurateur has set out to fabricate. If one of those facets doesn’t deliver, the restaurant becomes just one in the same with the other restaurants around it, sameness, nothingness, all at once.

Image credit: tsavadogo on flickr

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Download The Word of Mouth Manual, Volume II by Dave Balter

In April I wrote about Dave Balter’s creative book promotion for The Word of Mouth Manual, Volume II. It’s a follow-up of sorts to Grapevine, his first book on the power of word of mouth (WOM). Today, I’m happy to share with you that you can download the book for free. All you need to do is download the PDF from one of the blogs that Dave has given exclusive rights to. My favorites include:

Brand Autopsy by John Moore who shares his thoughts on Creationalist WOM vs. Evolutionist WOM and why he isn’t a fan of the BzzAgent model.

Seth Godin’s Blog who shares some thoughts on self-publishing.

Chris Brogan who offers his thoughts and reservations on “managed word of mouth.”

Brand Autopsy and Chris Brogan’s blog offer the best conversation on word of mouth as a method. They touch upon the many struggles I myself face with the medium.

Full disclosure – I’m a bzzagent (I’m a big fan of learning about marketing techniques by participating in them) and I’m participating in The Word of Mouth Manual, Volume II bzz campaign. I was not participating in it when I first wrote about this book. I don’t believe in using my blog to promote products from bzz campaigns I may be participating in, it feels too fake and too forced (part of my own reservations with the medium). However, I’m making an exception to my rule because of the author, the book and its ties to marketing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can you outlive your reputation?

Today I had a meeting with Avanade. Avanade is a global IT consultancy with unique connections to Accenture and Microsoft. Avanade is not what this post is about.

When I hear the name Accenture I venture down memory lane, recalling their re-branding efforts and how (or if) they’ve paid off. I can rarely remember the name Accenture, but I still have a quick recall of Anderson Consulting. When someone speaks about Accenture my brain automatically jumps to oh yeah, Anderson Consulting. It poses the question – Can you outlive your reputation?

The name trick my brain plays on me reminds me of my parents. Growing up there was a small grocery store in the village in which we lived. It was named IGA. However, my parents rarely called it that, because when they moved into the village it went by a different name, Corns, I think. I used to wonder why they could never remember the new name. It took years for them to call it by its proper name, only to have the store bought by another chain, its name changed once again.

Maybe it’s nostalgia that makes us recall things by what we first knew them as. Or maybe it’s a resistance to change. Whatever the reason, there’s a lesson for marketers to take away. Name changes are hard. Don’t go about them lightly, unless no one knows who you are. And if that’s the case, change your name, make it memorable and make a splash. But don’t change it again after that. Unless of course, you’re trying to outlive a scandal.

Image by Slack12

Friday, June 6, 2008

Joseph Jaffe, Delta Airlines and a call to action

Joseph Jaffe, writer of the blog Jaffe Juice shares with his readers his hellish trip aboard a recent Delta flight to Sao Paulo. But the post is about so much more than just bad service. The post is a call to action, an attempt to create a bigger voice so that Delta might hear it.

That’s the value Jaffe brings to his readers, he offers them the opportunity to live his experiments. His latest call to action is to create a petition of sorts, or an outline of bad experiences on Delta. I was more than happy to join in and I encourage you to do so as well. Just visit Jaffe Juice and add your story to the comments.

And if you’re curious, this is my story.…Coming home from Las Vegas (to Boston) and knowing that no meal would be served I pick up a salad from a vending cart near the gate. Unfortunately I neglect to pick up utensils. Once on the flight a flight attendant with a cart of sandwiches for purchase comes along. I ask for some utensils and am told "I'm sorry, utensils are reserved for those purchasing food." After apologizing for my neglect and pointing out the idiocy of this policy I'm still told no. Thankfully, the person sitting next to me (obviously amused by the interchange) purchases a sandwich, asks for utensils and hands them over to me. But I, with my plastic fork in hand, haven't flown Delta since. I'm not a frequent flyer by any means, but I do fly often enough that Delta certainly could have recouped their lost profits on that plastic fork denied me.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

In the News - jet trouble for Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma sells company jet to save money – that’s one of the headlines that ran in the San Francisco Business Times this past Wednesday. But no worries, the company will begin leasing the CEO’s jet. It will be slightly smaller, but hey, tough times call for tough measures…

Williams-Sonoma isn’t the only company trying to figure out ways to cut expenses and increase profits. But this cut back smells of greed, not a good image to portray it today’s economic times. Should Williams-Sonoma react to the story? I’m not sure they have an outlet to (other than traditional media); a breeze through their company site offers no access to the voice of Williams-Sonoma. The company appears somewhat sterile, very corporate and very investor focused.

That brings up the question, should there be a voice,
or a personality, behind Williams-Sonoma? If there was would it make the headline feel a little less bitter than it does today?

Image credit: cmiper

Monday, June 2, 2008

When communicating, reword, don't repeat

One hat that a marketer wears is that of a communicator. A marketer's touch can mean the difference between incomprehension and understanding; between bewilderment and excitement. Recently, I was reminded that great communicators have one thing in common. They know to reword, not to repeat. Too many of us repeat ourselves only to be met with the same blank stares and the same frustration. It happens every day around customer service centers and corporate boardrooms alike. If only each one of us, when met with the blank stare of incomprehension, took a moment, rephrased our thoughts and reworded instead of repeating. There would be a lot less frustration for everyone. Let this post serve as a reminder to you (as it will to me); next time someone doesn't understand you, reword, don't repeat.

Image credit: hebedesign

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Does mediocrity exist?

Here’s the question I’m pondering today – does mediocrity exist? You’re probably thinking, of course it does. But, if it’s all around us and tolerated by the masses does it really exist. Or more importantly, how is it defined? What’s mediocre to me might be fantastic to you. And conversely what’s mediocre to you might be the exact thing that meets my needs to perfection. So, if mediocrity can’t be defined, how does it exist?

Some recent experiences have led me to this question. I placed an order through Apple for some photo books and unknown to me my address was never completed in my .mac account. It read Valerie Conyngham at Valerie Conyngham, Boston MA. Apple’s system is so automated, as is FedEx’s that the mistake was never caught. My books were shipped to the incomplete address, marked as undeliverable and sent back to Apple to be discarded with the rest of the undeliverable orders. Certainly an incomplete address could have been caught and addressed (pun intended) by Apple if only there were a human involved in the process.

And more recently my Dyson has become mediocre to me. A piece of the space age plastic has broken off; its becoming hard to properly connect the canister to the vacuum base and the bottom of the canister (the part that holds the dirt in) often spills open before the release button is pressed.

These examples represent two companies that until recently didn’t even approach mediocrity to me. But both failed my expectations, more so Dyson than Apple because Dyson’s product failed me. Apple’s only guilt is its (failed) attempt at absolute efficiency. However, I’m sure there are countless thousands who have never had a problem with either company or product and would argue that neither is mediocre; I’ve just had two bad experiences. And does a bad experience constitute mediocrity? It all leads back to the question – does mediocrity exist and if it does what’s the definition? What’s your opinion?

Image by flickr user Dia

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Works Sucks and How to Fix It

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on Best Buy. As a result of that post I met Cali and Jody of Best Buy's ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) fame. They've just published a book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy (thank you). I hope, if only for my own selfish reasons, that every manager and HR person pick up this book and become inspired to start moving to a ROWE environment in their departments and/or companies. With Best Buy's reported productivity increases (41 percent) and reduced turnover results (as much as 90 percent) it's hard not to be inspired.

ROWE could also be the thing to help employers win over and retain the Millennials now entering the workplace. A generation according to 60 minutes who unlike their parents, demands a better work/life balance.

Interested in hearing more - Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek has an exclusive first interview with Cali and Jody on his blog.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Report any joyous activity

The above Report Any Joyous Activity sign appeared on a fence in Central Square (Cambridge, MA) earlier this week. If it's tied to a brand (perhaps RoseArt) it represents a great example of guerilla marketing. Really, I'm not sure where it came from, who put it there, or if any brand is involved. What I do know is it's fun and light and makes people smile. And that's why I wanted to share it with you.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Apple Store, Architects and creative energy in Boston

The streets of Boston's Back Bay were alive with creative energy last night. I'm not sure if it was more to do with the grand opening of the country's largest Apple store or the crowds of architects walking the streets and taking in al fresco dining after a day of education and camaraderie at the American Institute of Architects annual conference. Perhaps it was the perfect culmination of the two, but whatever it was it made Boston a better, livelier place for it.

And about that Apple store - I'm not sure what was the better photo op, the one I caputured of the crowd still waiting to get in the doors, already two hours past opening, or the one I missed of the crowd of people across the street all capturing the same scene using their iPhones.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A call for better giveaways

Yesterday my husband attended a meeting that celebrated the users of a particular software program that his company sells. He came home with the usual array of branded giveaways, most of them functional, but none of them relevant to the product. It made me think of all the other branded giveaways both of us have brought home over the years, only to make their way to the trash can. It’s a waste, I think marketers know it’s a waste, yet we keep on coming up with the same old stuff. I understand the need of the giveaway, but I’m suggesting we could come up with something more creative.

Here’s an idea for the company who sponsored the meeting yesterday and acted as the inspiration for this post. If the purpose of the meeting was to celebrate users, why not create a portfolio book of thier work. Something nice that they could display in their offices, share with their colleagues and at the same time promote your software. With the array of on-line book publishing tools available today it’s an easy and affordable project. Check out Blurb for inspiration.

Image from flickr, created by calcock

Monday, May 12, 2008

Traditional media, online and charity come together on How I Met Your Mother

Traditional media, online and charity came together in this week's episode of How I Met Your Mother. The show used the story line to help drive traffic to an online charity auction. The episode goes something like this - to raise money to help combat financial woes, Lily and Marshall start selling their stuff online. Then Lily tries to sell her paintings instead to try to keep her clothing from hitting the auction block. At the end of the episode Lily and Marshall tell the audience that they really are selling some of "their stuff" online at to help raise money for Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

The tie-in was great. The execution was not. Charity Folks, the hosting site for the auction couldn't bear the traffic. It was over an hour and a half before I finally got in. And the only reason I persisted was because I was interested in seeing it from a marketing standpoint. Once in, I got kicked off when I wanted to view all the items up for auction. Had I been a regular browser I would have given up after receiving the first yellow triangle of exclamation. After finally getting to see all of the items I was met with disappointment with the lack of inventory (a mere 24 items).

My point in all of this? One of the most important aspects of any online promotion is to make sure you estimate traffic ahead of time, bump up that estimate and be prepared with extra web hosting capacity. There's nothing more frustrating to a potential customer than to be met with the error loading page.

Image taken from and adapted with a yellow triangle of exclamation.

Apple store in Boston opening soon

This is an update to my Apple goes hyperlocal with Boston store wrap post. Apple has announced its opening day and it's this Thursday at 6PM. The above image is from an email sent to me by Apple. Though the store wrap remains unchanged (disappointing), it's nice to see Apple is continuing its Green Monster theme with its email campaign. I didn't sign up for email updates on this store, but I'm assuming I received it based on my .mac account, my zip code and my agreement to receive "occasional emails of interest to me." I'm beyond excited that an Apple store is coming to my neighborhood, but Apple could (and should) have gone one step further by offering existing customers an added incentive to visit - I'm thinking priority entrance on opening night.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The future of tying health into social networks

I just finished reading a report compiled by the California Health Foundation titled The Wisdom of Patients: Health Care Meets Online Social Media and it got me thinking about the future of tying health into social networks.

The United States is aging, rapidly. The country’s largest demographic segment, the boomers are beginning to enter their 60s. In 2003 12% of the US population was aged 65+, in 2030 that number increases to 20% (a jump from 35.9 million people to 72 million people). 80% of this age cohort has at least one chronic condition while 50% have at least two. Couple this with Hitwise’s recent report that shows share of traffic to social networking & forum sites by those aged 55+ has increased from 6% in 2006 to 11% in 2008 and you’re (or at least I) thinking that taking a closer look at tying in targeted health content with social networking could be lucrative., a social networking site for boomers claims the #4 spot in Time Spent on Social Networks by US Internet Users (again brought to us by Hitwise). That tells us the largest demographic population is spending a lot of time engaging in social networks. The challenge is to encourage more boomers to participate in the space. But to some degree we’ll be able to rely on the technology adoption curve to boost the numbers.

There are already some early players, Diabetesmine, Wego Health, and Patientslikeme to name a few (read more about them in The Wisdom of Patients), but there’s certainly room in the Long Tail for more players.

If you’re interested in pursuing this space I would suggest defining a target audience (ex., women boomers who are single, have professional careers and are 10 years from retirement) and researching what the most common chronic disease is among that target. Be careful to define a niche that’s large enough where only a small percentage of people will need to engage with your site to make it meaningful, but large enough that the community grows organically over time and becomes a vibrant on-line community. You may want to define a niche that is not currently being spoken to or one that isn’t being spoken to well. Engage with individuals that make up your niche and build a relationship so that your final end product (and it can morph along the way) becomes community minded and community built. These are just some recommendations; you’re likely to have more. Add them to the comments and help to define a better working list.

image credit: Social Network Mangement System by Aristocrat on Flickr

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Apple goes hyperlocal with Boston store wrap

Apple has gone hyperlocal with its new Boston store wrap. Apple's flagship store in Boston's Back Bay is set to open soon. To help build excitement (as if the store weren't excitement enough) Apple has ditched its previous white plastic covering for some local flavor. Green Monster flavor that is. Just blocks away from Fenway, the Apple store is capitalizing on Boston's love of the Red Sox and the famed Green Monster by emulating a score board that boasts Opening Day Coming Soon.

Image taken with my iPhone (what else).

Best Buy, Blueshirtnation and CultureRX

The Minneapolis, St. Paul Business Journal ran a great article this past Friday on Best Buy’s employee social networking site It’s one more example of Best Buy’s visionary approach to HR. By using technology to creatively solve HR pain points Best Buy has become a thought leader in employee relations.

Another example of Best Buy’s forethought is its Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) experiment where employees set their own schedules and work where they want. That venture was successful enough to result in a spin-off – CultureRX.

Perhaps we’ll soon see a spin-off from the creators of At the very least, let Best Buy inspire you to create a new solution to solve a work environment pain point. Then rethink the out-of-organization potential your idea might hold.

Image credit: Ian Muttoo

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Inspiration from a pencil and W.S. Merwin

Last night I came across the poem The Unwritten by W.S Merwin. I found the following lines inspirational. I hope you will too.

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught
they’re hiding

maybe there aren’t many
it could be that there’s only one word
and it’s all we need
it’s here in this pencil

every pencil in the world
is like this

You can read the poem in its entirety here.

Image credit: hownowdesign

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Borders makes coupons easier

I'm an avid reader and not a big fan of Amazon (they're free shipping takes too long for me) so I buy most of my books from Borders and Barnes and Noble. Visiting the bookstore is also a much more pleasant experience for me than ordering on-line. There's something about grabbing a cup of coffee, browsing the titles and lounging around while deciding which to buy. However, I still want a good deal on the books I purchase so I have rewards card for both bookstore.

Each week I receive an email from Borders with that week's coupon. While I appreciate the weekly coupons I don't appreciate having to print them out. I've often wondered why Borders doesn't incorporate the coupon with its rewards card, it would be easier on the consumer (me) and less wasteful for the environment.

Borders still hasn't incorporated its coupons into its rewards card. But still, my paper coupon frustration came to an end this week. Earlier in the week when I clicked through Border's email message to me to print my weekly coupon I was given the option to receive future coupons via text message. I always have my phone with me so I jumped at the offer. I'm not sure how long Borders has been offering this feature as the company didn't have the foresight to proactively tell me about it. But I'm happy it's a feature nonetheless. And Borders should be happy too; it gave me an incentive to visit its store today and pick up a copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma. I showed the cashier my text message and viola I received 30 percent off my purchase. And now that the coupons are more convenient for me I'll probably be spending a little more time (and money) at Borders.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stress, money and health problems abound

Stress, money and health problems abound in the US. The Gallup Organization and Healthways, Inc. released data today from a poll on health and happiness. The results (in my opinion) paint a depressing picture of Americans. Take these stats for instance:
  • Almost 40 percent of those polled said they were significantly stressed the day before
  • Two-thirds said they had at least one of a list of chronic health problems
  • 28 percent said they were not well-rested
  • A third said they worried about money the day before
  • 30 percent said they had a lot of worries in general and
  • 23 percent said they were in physical pain
What are the implications of a study like this? Perhaps drug companies will use the results as fodder to increase marketing budgets to better reach the hoards of stressed Americans. Or maybe the results point to why there has been such an increase in drug advertisements over the past five years.

According to an AHIP article The sponsors are hoping employers might use the information in support of bolstering social events for workers. It aligns with the finding that social time with friends and family is used as a buffer for stress. It also assumes that better social relationships in the workplace would help combat the stress born out of a bad workplace environment (one of the stress factors indicated in the study). Or is this the encouragement needed for the masses to adopt social networking. If an increase in friends and social activity correlates with a decrease in stress perhaps that’s the new message for conversing online and planning in-person meet-ups.

However you interpret the data, the important take-away is that the emotional wellbeing of Americans seems to be getting worse. Forty-seven percent of respondents identified themselves as struggling, up from thirty-seven percent in 2006, though that's to be expected in today's economic situation. Maybe we should release a Get Happier RFP, if that were the case what would your proposal include?

image credit: lindseyy

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Method Pop-up Retail Experience

I had my first pop-up retail experience this weekend courtesy of Method. It started with excitement as I thought perhaps the store was the newest fixture on Newbury Street. But upon entering, the salesperson who greeted me explained that the store would be gone April 28th. It was a temporary disappointment as I knew this would still mark an opportunity to stock up on my favorite cleaning supplies, and of course there were special offers to be had. It also presented an opportunity to experience pop-up retail first hand.

The store was beautiful, it was well thought out with lots of greenery, my favorite being a toilet bowl filled with daffodils and grass. There was a photo booth to add to the playful mood and the signage was a challenge to the city's residents - Detox Your Home Boston.

The products were displayed on clear shelving, by scent making it easy to pick up all the products in a single scent family and there were scent bottles to involve the senses even more. Jars of colorful gumballs helped tie the color pallet together and there were dog treats on hand for any four-legged visitors (as a dog owner I can tell you I'm much more loyal to brands that keep dog treats on hand). Reusable bags made of recycled plastic were given to shoppers to tote their purchases home in, helping to drive home the "green" message. My only complaint was that the full spectrum of products was not available, making it hard to take advantage of the 5 for 20 dollar special without purchasing duplicates.

If I was reader of the Method blog I would have benefited from knowing that I could bring in my chemical based cleaners and trade them in for Method cleaners. Though readers of the blog are probably already Method customers and might not have any chemical based cleaners in their homes, hmmm, perhaps the blog wasn't the best place for that message...And if I had mentioned "beantown is a green town" I would have received an extra 10 percent off my purchase. But I'm not a reader of the Method blog so I missed out on the incentives. I did visit the blog after visiting the pop-up store to learn more about their tour.

Boston was Method's first stop, NYC will be the next. I'd be curious to see how at the end of the travels pop-up retail helps Method to convert people to its biodegradable, earth friendly cleaners and what kind of ROI it produces, if one can be determined.

The Boston stop was maestroed perfectly. The store popped up on a high traffic (with equal parts local and visitor traffic) street around Earth Day. The message was succinct and the scents produced by the store were intoxicating. Staff was friendly and they were will trained in the message of the brand. As for myself, I now have enough All Surface Cleaner and Wood For Good Surface Cleaner to last a year. However, I'll need to make the trip to Target to pick up some more Wood For Good Floor Cleaner as that's the one thing I really needed.

Image taken from the Method Blog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Looking for a platform to publish your book?

The great thing about marketers is they write great books, but not all budding authors have a platform. Thomas Knoll is looking to change that. He's encouraging people through, a new activism website, to pledge to write a book on a platform that he'll develop. As long as he receives 20 pledges he'll build the platform. He only asks that people follow-through, participate and be willing to write their book on an open platform - open to collaboration, community and feedback.

It's a great idea. It uses social media to help would be authors write a book, builds a platform for continual feedback (hopefully producing a better book) and builds a community of 20+ people, all starting from the same spot of having an idea that they'd like to put to paper and using a new tool to do it.

It's become easier over the years to self-publish and this is one more step in the open spread of ideas. If you're looking for a platform to publish your book join Thomas and keep me updated on what you'll be writing about.

Image credit: Flyzipper

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Celebrate Earth Day by watching The Story of Stuff

It's Earth Day and to celebrate I'd like to share a link to a noteworthy video, The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard. It explores the linear system of the materials economy and its impact on humanity. The message is important and the production is incredible. It features Annie Leonard narrating the story amongst a background of ever changing hand drawn animations.

I'm intrigued by the video on two levels. The message resonates with my desire to not only do my part to reduce my footprint, but also to find more meaningful ways to get involved with environmental initiatives. And, from a marketing perspective the message is creatively delivered, it's engaging and it's fun to watch. There's information to challenge us as marketers to identify new consumer needs/wants and to more thoughtfully produce products to meet those needs.

I hope you'll give it a watch. If not for the message then for the inspiration in creating your own presentations and videos.

image credit: The Story of Stuff website

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Creative Book Promotion Inspires

I’ve been uninspired lately. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t posted to this blog in over a week. But that changed last night when I was on BzzAgent submitting a bzz report for a product I’m testing out. Here’s what inspired me. Dave Balter (founder of BzzAgent) is coming out with a new book, The Word of Mouth Manual: Volume II. That’s not what struck me. Dave’s first book Grapevine was great, but I wasn’t feeling a need for a sequel. What caught my eye was the promise that with every pre-ordered book Dave would mark it with handwritten annotations and (this is what really interested me) Seth Minkin, BzzAgent’s artist-in-residence would illustrate some of the annotations. Seth is one of my favorite artists. I love his work; it’s quirky and fun, much like Seth himself. And I’d happily pay for a book that included some of his hand drawn illustrations. So I’ve placed a pre-order for a book I’m not all that interested in reading. I did it because of the extra effort that Dave and Seth are willing to put into the effort. We can all learn a lot from this example and I hope it inspires you, as it will me, to put a little extra effort into our products, marketing or whatever else we’re concentrating on. And the icing on the cake – the book was only $7 and at checkout I got a surprise, Dave will be throwing in a free copy of Grapevine.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Follow a story using Google Maps

The biggest gift of a story is its ability to transport its readers to another place. But what if you had the ability to literally follow the characters along with the words? Now you can thanks to Penguin Books' We Tell Stories where author Charles Cumming shares a story, The 21 Steps using Google Maps as the delivery mode.

And the fun doesn't stop there. We Tell Stories is a study of alternate book writing using digital technology. While Cumming's choose Google Maps, Toby Litt decided to use a combination of blogs and Twitter as the main publishing platform for his story Slice. Kevin Brooks is letting readers get in on the writing of Fairy Tales and Nicci French is writing Your Place or Mine live.

Over the next two weeks there will be two more stories written in two very different ways. This is a great exploration of how different industries can adopt technology to engage their audiences. I'll be paying attention to the stories, both for reading enjoyment but also to see how these technologies could integrated into other industries. You can keep track of the updates at Penguin Books' We Tell Stories website. And please share any ideas you garner from this effort in the comments section.

Credit to Springwise for bringing this story to my attention.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Gem on public speaking from Now, Discover Your Strenghts

I'm in the midst of reading Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. The purpose of the book is to point you to your themes - your natural talents that can be built into strengths, but also included is a fascinating overview on brain development. And escalating the book to one of my favorites are the little gems of information spread throughout. The point of this post is to share one of those gems with you.

Public speaking is a talent. To some it comes easily, but to others it can be a struggle. One of the best assets a public speaker can have is being able to tell a story, or to weave several stories together into one cohesive speech. Here are some steps, taken from Now, Discover Your Strengths to help you build your presentation storytelling skills.
  1. Write down any story or fact or example that resonates with you.
  2. Practice telling it out load. Listen to yourself actually saying the words.
  3. These stories will become your "beads," as in the beads of a necklace.
  4. All you have to do when giving a speech is string your beads in the appropriate order, and you will give a speech that seems as natural as a conversation.
  5. Use 3-by-5 cards, or a clipping file to keep adding new beads to your string.
That's the gem that I wanted to share with you; I hope you'll find it as useful as I do. And if you're curious and have read Now, Discover Your Strengths, my themes are: Relator, Adaptability, Empathy, Individualization and Input. What are yours?