Sunday, December 20, 2009
Starbucks Needs a Redesign (or How Project Runway Can Save America's Favorite Coffee House from Boring Brand Syndrome)
Monday, December 14, 2009
My five-year-old son won the wishbone pull at Thanksgiving this year and was overjoyed to learn that because he won, his wish would come true. The day after Thanksgiving he woke up with pure joy and excitement to see his turkey bone wish come true. All day he lurked around the house looking for his wish.
10:30 a.m. "Mom, where's my wish?" 12:00 p.m. "Mom, where's my stupid wish?" 2:45 p.m. "Do you think I need to wish again? Maybe I should change my wish" 6:15 p.m. "That turkey was an idiot."
Finally, by bedtime I realized his increasing sense of annoyance with the fowl magic demanded my intervention. "What did you wish for?" I asked. His little baby face replied with sincerity and concern, "Everyone says I can't tell or it won't come true!" "Oh, but mothers have special powers when it comes to wishes -- we are the only ones you can tell and the wish will still come true," I encouraged. "Really?" "Yes, really. It's true." I had him. "A rubber band shooter!" he whispered in excitement, his eyes growing wider with each detail. "A big, AK-47, shooter that launches rubber bands at the bad guys!" My mind was reeling, half out of concern for his violent tendencies and half for my ability to find such a toy. Do they even make guns that shoot rubberbands?!? Turns out they do. A lot. And all shapes and sizes from western style to military, to accessories packs and scopes. A lot of companies are out there manufacturing rubber band guns. But not our turkey. Of course I had to find one -- and quick -- the last thing I wanted was for him to not believe in the power of the wish.
After comparing prices online for a ridiculously unecessary amount of time (I'm talking days) and weighing the shipping wait vs. my son's innocence, I opted for the old-fashioned round of calls to local toy stores. And, hallelujiah, I found one at a local toy store in Princeton. "Hold it, I'm coming!" Home I raced with my child's dream of the magical world in my bag. I swerved into the driveway and tip-toed to the front porch, placing it gently and slightly askew, as if a magical turkey elf had heaved it off his feathered back onto the cement stair.
Days had passed since he shared his wish with me. Many days. And when I tell you he is a persistent believer, I mean each morning he reminded me that our turkey was broken and he will never trust another turkey again. He was...well... he was pissed. But on this special morning, I knew the turkey elf had visited and left his little (real little, it was actually a pocket rubber band shooter that doubled as a pen--I know, I suck) wish gift on our porch.
As he woke that morning, I called out to him to put his scooter away that was leaning on the front stair -- convenient right? Luckily, my children are horribly messy and I was able to use the motherly "clean up your toys" nagging to get him to open the door and find the magic. As he rounded the corner of the house to put away his scooter he sighted the strange little package gleaming in the morning light. "What's this? Mom, what's this?!?" It wasn't entirely recongnizable as a rubber band shooter at first (remember it doubles as a pen), but once I explained, his face filled with glee. "The turkey did it!" he said. "My wish came true!" "Yeah! Yeah! Awesome!" Oh joyful turkey, he bought it. And as I watched him jump around with childhood excitement, I thought, damn, mystery is a powerful, powerful tool. He didn't even care that it wasn't exactly the right wish, just that the wish came true.
We have this same power as marketers. Mystery is completely underutilized by brands. And as I sit around wrapping toy, after toy, after toy in the name of mystery this holiday, I wonder where are our marketers of mystery? Certainly, DumDum lollipops has it right with the mystery flavor and McDonald's with the secret sauce, but who are our current mystery providers? The closest we have are the insider sales and scavenger hunts happening on Twitter and in other social media spaces. And consumers are loving this play on possibility. Just look at the lines at the stores. More mystery equals more revenue. If I were a brand this Christmas, I would wish for more mystery. Grab hold and pull!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
- Get them on their feet. A good social program is inspiring. The most amazing piece of the social sphere is the interconnected sharing evolving a collective creativity. People want to share and help create and grow the brands they love. Get the people who love you on their feet, cheering for the next song, the next Tweet, the next offering from the brand.
- Thank the fans. "Thank you, L.A.!" So simple. So simple, yet it gets the most rousing cheer from the crowd. People want to be loved. Love your fans. Thank them. @ reply them. Give them special treats, secret sales, scavenger hunts. Please. Thank you.
- Don't tuck your shirt. There is a certain rocker aura that says "I'm one of you." Don't try so hard to "fit" the mold. Maybe, just maybe, if bankers took off the fancy ties, they could have fared better in the eyes of the public. The idea is to be a part of the culture in language and look and feel. Be real. Be comfortable. Be conversational.
- Dedicate the song. "This one's for you New York!" Set goals for the social program. Tell your followers what you plan to do. If they love you, they will help you achieve your goals. Challenge your followers to help grow a new market, then reward them when you hit a certain number of customers or followers.
- Have a set list. Social conversations require commitment, a beat that carries the melody. Know what you will be talking about. Calendar your social program and stick to it.
While each musician has a unique approach and style, they all follow a similar approach to performing. This, too, is the case for social media. It's not a medium to fear -- just embrace it and the songs will flow. Rock on!
Photo credit: Stephen Lovekin
Friday, November 20, 2009
- Do it in the morning. Writing in the morning will ensure it gets done before anything else gets in the way. And you'll feel great all day. Plus it doesn't interrupt with Prime Time TV. Perfect.
- Have a plan. Put together in writing the topics to cover for the week, even the month. Jillian will be so proud.
- Drink lots of water. By drinking water, you'll ensure you won't be too caffeinated (sorry, Seth Simonds) or too drunk to write.
- Create a community of support. Having other bloggers around to emulate and act as inspiration will keep the plan on track. Working out with a friend always helps.
- Set goals and celebrate achievements. Little mini hurdles will add up to big-time results. Be certain to treat yourself with a blog-reading or two for every blog post put in, I know I will.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
There’s a moment in the creative process when everything stops. The image of the scene hangs breathlessly in the air. It calls out “look at me, this is it, what you need to see.” It’s the moment of creative actualization.
It’s what I live for.
Despite lusting after that moment, I’ve often thought it a bit odd when it happens. I’ve even closeted the experience. Telling you, really, for the first time. I’m hoping there are others like me. Or maybe I’m just suffering from some form of advertising-industry induced hallucinations. And not the kind I used to experience in my Chelsea days in the early 90s – that’s another post.
It feels similar to when you’re in a plane hanging above the Earth. When the movement seems to stop and the rippling water below is quiet and still.
Everything clears. It’s just the idea. Standing there in solitude. A creative Polaroid.
It’s resulted in some pretty killer campaigns, so despite my possible mental illness, I’ll go on inviting suspended reality.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Intuition is real. Statistics are not. It’s become quite a popular practice to spew statistics through the blogosphere and on Twitter. And there’s not a client out there that doesn’t salivate when we present a good statistic (or twelve) in our Keynote. But I don’t trust a single one. Give me a statistic and I’m sure I can shoot a hole in it.
Most research is constructed. Because it’s a human product, research is controlled by opinion – usually the opinion of the guy who created the questions or poll.
Once the “data” is collected it can then be manipulated to reflect any number of your dreams or desires. I once was on the phone for more than two days with a Wall Street Journal Reporter who literally took numbers from a very popular large survey I was responsible for delivering to the media and manipulated them in such a twisted, perverted way, making impossible leaps that would shame even the most fearless free runner, to make her “compelling” point. The statistics she created were used for more than five years in various spin-off articles on the subject. Every time I would see another article I would wince and shake my head in amazement. It’s the Journal and they’ve got numbers – yes, that’s the word of God.
And then I always question the audience. How many of you reading this have taken the time to do a poll? A long poll? The kind we typically create as marketers? Most times I think we are measuring sentiment of people who are happy to get a call during the day and unless it’s a product for those with severe loneliness, I’m not sure we’re measuring the pulse of the typical American. “Yes, according to our official poll, 90% of Americans prefer watching Judge Judy to CNN, eat dinner at 4:30 p.m. and feel their sons don’t love them anymore.” And don’t even get me started on focus groups. If 100 dollars gets you to sit in a smelly room with a bunch of strangers to talk about your feelings on new gum flavors, I’m not sure I’m taking what you say as seriously as the guy who said “no.”
Why is everyone so afraid of intuition? It’s the one thing we can count on more than anything in the world. It’s a belief in the power of emotion – the power of a brand’s essential elements to tap human emotion and drive a culture. We don’t need statistics to tell us that America needed Obama. We don’t need statistics to tell us driving while texting is distracting. We don’t need statistics to tell us cayenne flavored chocolate won’t be popular. Believe in thought. Believe in emotionally charged, instinctive, battle-tested thought. That’s the opinion poll we need to read.
In our culture, our American culture, we seem to be less in tune with our creative side. Even afraid of believing in it. I’m asking for a movement driven by the creative class to herald thinking and instinct, where artists and freethinkers demand and get the same respect as a seemingly bulletproof statistic. Intuition is crafted from an environmental history of facts shaped by human emotion. It’s quite a perfect blend of observation and humanity. It’s better than a poll. I don’t have a stat to prove it, it’s just intuition.
Photo credit: C4 Chaos
Monday, October 19, 2009
I just emerged from the other side of a 150 page strategic document. I've been writing and writing and writing some pretty heady, serious stuff with lots of graphs and analytics to support my super heavy arguments. Ugh. Lots of writing. So, when I peek out from under my strategy rock (it's really not that bad) I do what every strategist does, I grab a fashion magazine to unwind.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Authenticity is an often-used term in our branding vocabulary. It's frequently the toughest thing for brands --to simply be authentic. There's a lot of discourse and deep thinking devoted to uncovering authenticity and defining brand truths. And in almost every case there's a moment in the process when it's imperative to step back and take a look from a different perspective.
- Define a lexicon. How does she speak? What's her voice sound like? Most brands have a distinct tonality and cadence to their language.
- Observe her style. How does she express herself? Define her cultural dress.
- Analyze her hopes and dreams. Where is she going? Speak to to her and understand what inspires her.
- Listen to her stories. Where has she been? There's something in her DNA that shapes her view of the world. Uncover this and state it simply.
- Get to the emotion. What moves her? Knowing this will provide the closest clues into her true self.
- Let her be free. Sometimes a brand just needs some breathing room. Especially under this new world order, she will follow her most devoted fans.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
In an effort to be brief, because I don't want to spend a ton of time here, I'll get right to the point. Let's take a trip through communications history and visit several turning points in our intellectual development that radically shaped our culture. I know what you're thinking, "she just said she was going to be brief, now she's talking about history and intellectual development? I don't have time for this." Indeed. It's what we hear often from clients learning about the medium -- social media is a waste of time. James Cooper, creative director at Saatchi, inspired this post and has the greatest little graphic on his blog that I think I'll use often. Thanks, James.
- Books: Historically, the book was seen as a threat to political power and reigning leaders used the medium to control thought by limiting or removing access. Here's some deeper information from the highly-respected and deeply-trusted social media source Wikipedia on the matter. (I do hope those of you who read my blog are in tune with my sarcasm.) As we moved through the ages, the book became a way to control gender advancement -- don't even get me started here -- where women were prevented access to certain books. The message always: books are not for everyone, there is a better use of your time. We see how that panned out.
- TV: Do you know there is a TV Turn-Off Week that schools across America promote each year? I verbally and physically banned this school district edict in my house. I explain each year to the bright-eyed, young teachers and their dusty, old leadership that if it were not for TV, the students in my house would not eat. Both my husband and I fuel this medium and it in turn fuels our bank account. Banning it would not be a good thing. And my kids are none the worse for wear. In fact, my son currently attends a fancy, intellectual school where there are lots and lots of books that even girls can read.
- Video Games: Well, 'nuff said. In fact, this guy suggests reading a book instead. Good for you, books! According to BusinessWeek, it turns out gamers might not be wasting their time at all, but are actually social, strategic thinkers. And video game sales are on the rise, increasing by over 40 percent during the five year period studied, according to reports from CES 2009.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Strategists are method actors. I know a lot of you highbrow types are scoffing at this headline. "I'm not acting -- it's real immersion into the brand." No, you're acting. Here's how I know:
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
It is not a place for thoughtful exchange. It's definitely a place to learn when your colleague has a headache and is going to bed early, that your high school acquaintance can't decide what to eat for dinner and your former colleague once liked to drink heavily with guys in Greek-lettered t-shirts. It's definitely a great place for ethnographic research of the mass consumer audience, or to learn about the daily lives of old fogies.
What's bothersome to me as a marketer, is the lag of industry understanding of the platform's irrelevance to the youth set. Most marketers still think it's a place to speak to young people. And, yet, statistics show anything but that: reports from July 2009 show college and high school user rates dropped by 20 percent, while the grey-haired audience increased by 513 percent. Yes, 513 percent. Great news for AARP, bad news for MTV.
Facebook is losing relevance certainly for millenials, but also for people who want to converse. It's become a warehouse of memories. Which is wonderful -- and needed--especially for those folks losing their memory. And it can exist beautifully like this for...ever. My argument is that it is no longer a place to market to youth. And it is no longer a place to have meaningful conversations. For that, go to Twitter. Seriously. Here's my handle:@gretchenramsey.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
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Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
- There's nothing sexier than a blazer, a tie, and jeans. And yet most men can't put it together; they either end up with a suit and tie or jeans and T-shirt. Try taking half from one look and half from the other. Chances are you'll get something a little bit cooler.
- Men don't shop enough. Being current has everything to do with finding the place you want to shop, whether it's J.Crew or Tom Ford. You have to get off your duff and get out there, because styles evolve. Certain things are classics and they do stay, but men need to keep updating their wardrobe, because change is subtle. For example, denim is getting slimmer. If you're wearing jeans from two years ago, they probably don't look current. Get a new pair of jeans.
- Overplucked, overdone men are frightening to me. Women want a man who looks like he takes care of himself but doesn't look like he thinks about it more than she does.
- A pressed shirt signals work mode. But a washed-cotton shirt automatically makes you feel more touchable, more approachable. It's effortless. However, if everything is washed—that's not interesting. When washed is paired with a blazer and a tie, it looks amazing.
- Most men don't have a clue about tailoring. They hate to ask for directions and they hate to ask if something looks good on them. Learn to ask the salesperson. Ask a woman. Great tailoring always makes guys look better.
- Get dressed, then change one element. With a suit, wear a pair of Converse, or take off your dress shirt and put on a chambray button-down instead. You can also do the reverse. Try khakis rolled up with wingtips. Tweaking one thing is an easy way for guys to modernize an outfit, even if they don't know what the hell they're doing.
- Three subjects are off-limits to my husband: my mother, my ass, and my age. The worst thing you can do to a woman is to make her feel like she's not beautiful anymore. The best thing is to pay her a compliment.
- What women notice are the shoes and the watch. Go for understated elegance, whether it's a vintage Rolex or a classic Timex or a watch that was your grandfather's. It's the same with shoes. I love a pair that look like they've been resoled 10 times.
- A giant shirt is not cute. If it feels overly comfortable, it probably doesn't look so good. A simple fit test is to check your shoulder seam. It's designed to be on your shoulder line—not somewhere near it.
- We don't need you to be perfect. What we do need is for you to look a little bit more pulled-together. And no pleats, please, not ever, ever, in your life. Ever.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
They really loved that sweater. "Bob, let's get a close up of you in that acrylic number. Yes, hand on cheek, gently... not too masculine...perfect...and a little semi-smile, just a bit, not too much...no teeth...yes...yes... Got it!" So, what's so fabulous is that this guy was actually acting. He really was acting. All through the Eighties -- laughing at little twin babies who can't talk so well, hugging awkward teenage daughter, paltry jokes, semi-smiles. Eight years of this. AND we haven't even begun to talk about America's Funniest Home Videos. Which is known by the entire South as AFHV. It actually is known by the acronym -- and Saget is the God of the acronym to the most conservative faction of our global society. He may be the best actor of our time. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say he is. He is the best actor of our time. Because he's a dirty old man. A dirty, dirty, lover of spandex-wearing Hollywood hotties, dirty old man. Or maybe that's an act, too. Jesus. He's the Einstein of pop culture. And he's funny. Surprisingly funny. Dirty and funny.Now, what does dirty and funny have to do with advertising, you might ask? Or maybe you are not asking, in which case you probably work at Crispin, Porter and Bogusky, or some scary little shop down a back alley in Las Vegas. Well, it has to do with surprising your audience. We love to discover something new about our brands. We love little unexpected presents. We love secrets, discovery and mystery. The best brands offer engaging new products, hidden campaigns for the most zealous of supporters, operational solutions, brand experiences beyond reason. They surprise us. Over and over again. It's the Bob Saget Effect. I'm not suggesting you run out and make a Keynote about the Bob Saget Effect, unless you have some really liberal clients -- like Hugh Hefner liberal -- but I do believe we should embrace this thinking when our brands seem tired and our consumers even more so. Just peek beneath the acrylic sweater. Just a bit, not too much...
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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Saturday, August 29, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Super cool new Outdoor tools. Moss. Mud. Friendly to Mama Nature and will make you look like that super hip creative thinker you know you are. Could it be the end of vinyl?
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
We are creating advertising in one of the most radically transformative times in advertising history. Recently, I've heard clients say they "can't afford to fail -- not now." "Failure is not an option." And what's evolving from this paranoid state --this "challenged" economy-- is safe advertising, laden with pricing, sales messages and desperate tonality. Now, more than any other time in recent history, we have an opportunity to unite for dramatic creative, emotionally charged, delivered by social systems of friends inspiring thought and action. Humankind has turned inward for reflection, connection and discovery -- we must tap this. The time is now. Clients with the bravery to speak in very human terms, on truly emotional levels will win, will win big. Clients who brave the new social world online will enhance not only their sales, but their legacy. If you don't have a creative mobile program, a vibrant social media space, a dialogue where consumers live, opportunity is escaping--new media is not experimental -- it's exponential. Down with fear. Embrace the thought of failure -- it means you are moving, risking, changing perception, shifting the landscape. Welcome to the world of risk-takers.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Marable encourages graduate students to examine their academic environment - Archive
And this one from CPB is a beta:
Crazy. Keep on truckin'.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Check out this amazing Apple App wall that pulsates every time someone buys an app: http://is.gd/YjqQ. Dylan's head would explode if he saw this!