Friday, December 19, 2008

Brand Failure and the Big Three

Recently I was asked to share some thoughts on the brand failures of the big three automakers with Adaora Udoji, John Hockenberry and the listeners of their Public Radio show, The Takeaway.

Adaora asked; "Did the brand of the American made car fail the American consumer? If so, when? "

Great brands know themselves and shine like beacons; lighthouses by which consumers navigate. The ability to predict an experience before we have it is the purpose of a brand. We know it will be thoughtfully designed and reliable if it’s a Toyota, that it will be exhilarating if it’s a BMW, but if it’s a Chrysler, what does that really mean?

Detroit’s willing disregard of the most basic tenants of branding coupled with a lack of focus on anticipating and delivering against consumer needs has contributed to the colossal collapse of the industry.

In preparing for my radio debut, I reached out to NYU professor, Robert Salomon, who pointed out two major gaffs by the Big Three; Detroit has over done it with production that exceeds demand and they've created a complex web of far too many brands. BMW has the 3, 5, and 7 series. Can you name all the Chrysler or GM brands off the top of your head? Either company could cut the number of brands it offers by half, increase efficiencies, and boost customer awarness and affinity.

Beyond creating far too many options for consumers (creating a paradox of choice), the Big Three churn through brands at a rapid rate and retire brands for reasons that are hard to fathom. The Ford Taurus was a hit in 1996 and instead of investing in a process of continual innovation, Ford discontinued it in 2006. Chrysler introduced the popular Neon in 1995 to great fanfare as articles in business publications hailed that Detroit had finally made a great small car. Unfortunately, it was discontinued in 2005. Contrast that with the Honda Civic which was introduced in 1972 and has been continuously made since then, or the Toyota Corolla which has been continuously made since 1968 and improved for 40 years.

Kelly O'Keefe, brand guru, VCU Brandcenter faculty member, and Detroit native points out, "It’s hard to be loyal to a brand when they keep taking away your favorite vehicle. The constant juggling looks like chaos to the consumer, but there’s another problem with it. It becomes a distraction from refinement. We all know that innovation is seasoned over time. History often forgets that innovations like the iPod took years to perfect and gain widespread adoption. Foreign car makers stick with their brands and improve them, year in and year out. They keep it simple and they keep getting better. By churning brands so frequently, Detroit doesn’t leave themselves the time to get it right."

After I left the studio, I thought about the most basic principles of branding that the American car companies could observe in order to get things back on track.

Branding and the Big Three: 7 Steps to Brand Recovery

1. Nothing kills a great brand faster than a bad product. Or, as my friend Kelly Hoey likes to say, "you can’t polish dirt!" There is no amount of advertising or promotion that will cultivate consumer trust and loyalty if the product doesn’t deliver.

2. Great brands know themselves and act with unwavering consistency. Nike stands for one thing – authentic athletic performance. We see this in every product they make, every ad they run and everything they do. As a result, we trust them.

3. Brands that lead with behavior and not rhetoric win. While Ford talked about “Quality is job 1,” Honda delivered a quality product every day, and has for over 30 years.

4. Anticipating consumer needs leads to game changing innovation and marketplace advantage. Tide is over 60-years old and remains one of the fastest growing brands in the P&G portfolio. Their growth, leadership and profitability are attributable to a clear understanding of the customer, a desire to make life better, and a committed focus on continuous innovation.

5. Satisfying a customer means not only meeting their needs but satisfying desires. Whole Foods turned grocery shopping into high art and capitalized on a wave of foodie obsession.

6. Brands that cultivate a sense of belonging create emotional bonds with consumers that are almost impossible to break. Apple told us that they were for the crazy ones, those who dare to think different and in the process, change the world. Who, among the rapidly growing creative class, would not want to consider themselves among the crazy likes of Gandhi, Picasso or Amelia Earhart?

7. Great brands inspire evangelism. Ikea, Mini and Google enjoy profound mind- and market-share with astoundingly small advertising budgets.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Branding Joe the Plumber

In catching up on some reading today I came across an article in AdAge about at team at Ketchum who were doing some fast thinking. While watching the last presidential debate, they began to twitch and twitter each time Mr. McCain invoked the now famous Joe. It just so happens that Ketchum works with Roto Rooter, and the gang running the "Disruptive Media Team" couldn't help but think Joe might just be a creative and disruptive branding tool. Despite their efforts, their Roto Rooter client wasn't quite sure the Joe story would stick. And it didn't help that Joe is not actually a certified plumber.

All this got me to thinking - have we (in the marketing and communications business) gone to far? Is any citizen with a yen to get politically involved a target for branding? Joe shows up at a rally and has a heart-to-heart with a political candidate. That gets exploited for political gain in ways Joe probably never imagined. And before you can warn the guy to duck - the brands come a calling.

I'm all for opportunistic communications, and smart brands immerse themselves in culture and current events - but in this case something is just not right. I can't quite put my finger on it - but it just feels like Ketchum was trying to push this one too far.

What do you think?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Musical Road Lancaster,CA

VSL brought my attention to this fantastic branded utility that is now gone. My favorite part of this video is the driver and passenger response not only to the "utility" but also the sponsoring brand. Way to go Honda!

The Santa Monica ad agency RPA cut half-inch grooves into a quarter-mile stretch of Avenue K, in the exurban L.A. desert city of Lancaster. The grooves were synched in such a way that driving over them at precisely 55mph caused Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” — a.k.a. the Lone Ranger theme — to echo in the air around you. Well, not so fast, Kemosabe! Avenue K borders a quiet subdivision, the RPA failed to take variables such as tire pressure into account, and the Civic ad became a civic nuisance. The road has already been repaved, but YouTube is loaded with clips of drivers getting their grooves on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Use and Reuse

Via PSFK and Dinosaurs and Robots

In 1963 Heineken introduced a beer bottle brick. Called the World Bottle this ingenious design helped solve the problem of refuse and broken glass littering the beaches of the Caribbean coupled with the problem many islands face, a lack of affordable building materials. Wish they'd bring this back!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Anticipatory Customer Service and Brand Love

Several years ago I chose Geico because I had heard that they were a low cost, easy-to-access provider of auto insurance. I liked that I could do business with them on the Web too.

And now, with this anticipatory customer service email, along with a cute gecko and a CEO named Nicely, Geico has turned from an insurance company that I do business with into a brand I love.

Take note Jet Blue ($7 for a pillow and blankee?!) - a brand I loved which has turned into a company that I'm not sure I want to do business with.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Responsible Retail, Irresponsible Congress

Will this administration's ties to big oil actually halt progress being made by retailers who aim to to reduce their carbon foot print? Hard to believe but, the answer to this question just might be yes if Congress doesn't renew a corporate tax incentive for solar panel projects which will expire on December 31st of this year.

In a post this morning from Cool News/Reveries referencing Stephanie Rosenbloom's article in the New York Times (8/11/08), if Wal-Mart took solar to bright, and installed them in every Sam's Club and Wal-Mart store, "the resulting solar acreage would roughly equal the size of Manhattan, an island of 23 square miles." So far, Wal-Mart has installed solar panels in 17 of its stores and distribution centers and plans for five more are underway.

Here's the problem. Congress, having tied itself in a knot over the issue of offshore oil drilling, has failed to renew the corporate tax incentive for solar panel projects. That means retailers with the best environmental intentions, Wal-Mart included, will get a tax credit for solar projects only if they are completed by December 31st. Safeway's vp of energy operations, George Waidelich, says that's a problem, because nobody wants to risk missing the deadline. "You're talking about millions of dollars," he says.

Big plans are underway from big retail to go solar. Kohl's is installing solar panels in 85 stores, Macy's plans to have installed in 40 store's by year's end, and Safeway is going solar in 23 stores. That said, a kilowatt hour of solar power costs 25-30 cents, versus six cents for coal and nine cents for natural gas. Add to that the cost of installing a solar power system at "$4 million to $6 million for a store the size of a Wal-Mart."

Along with savings from a tax incentive, retailers are banking on a pay out, not only in dollars and cents over time, but also in a boost to their image. We all know that Wal-Mart hopes that their environmental strides will offset the bad press they get for their bad behavior on the human rights front. Analyst Bernard Sosnick, "who has examined Wal-Mart's plans, said the day might come when people can pull their electric cars up to a store and re-charge them with power from the roof or even from wind turbines in the parking lot." Now if only Wal-Mart would pay their employees enough to afford the electric cars...

Time to write your congress person!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Brand Immersion: Fit Flopped

Heed the warnings? Who me? Come on.

I’m in shape.

Well at least my legs have always been in shape.

That’s what I thought when I got my new shoes home and ripped off the tags, cavalierly discarding them without paying any notice to the yellow one with the ominous black stripes and the word WARNING in bold caps.

Photo courtesy of

Once I donned my Fit Flops, my feet started singing. Really. Well I mean if feet could sing that is. Mine were not just humming a little ditty. It was a full blown Hallelujah chorus.

So, after putting them on, I didn’t take them off for two weeks (except to sleep, and that was with some reluctance).

And then, it started. A nagging little pain in my lower back. But of course, I blamed that on Lisa D’s too soft bed at the Vineyard. I figured the pain would go away. But the nagging moved up to whining and I could no longer blame it on Lisa’s generosity, so I honed in on to the crap desk chair I sit in all day. After bending over and wincing in pain, I changed the chair but things continued to worsen। It finally dawned on me that somewhere I saw something about not overdoing it with the shoes.

So I went online and searched “lower back pain”+”Fit Flops”. And of course I found it. Fit Flops CURE lower back pain. So I read on about how, within the soft and supple soles that nurtured the soles (and the souls) of my feet, there is a wobble board designed to make the muscles in the buttocks twitch and work hard to produce the rock hard results we so desire.

I was twitching and twitching and my buttocks finally seized up like a block of concrete – taking my lower back with it.

How do I know all this?

With great reluctance, I left my sole caressing Fit Flops at home and have spent the last two days in my not so hip Birkenstocks.

My back is making a remarkably fast recovery but my feet are in mourning.

Never has there been as comfortable a shoe as my Fit Flops. But because I abused the privilege, and because I also value walking upright and sitting in a chair, I’m afraid the Flops of Fitness must be retired for the season. I’ll try again next spring – in moderation.

UPDATE 8Jul: The pain in my back actually got worse and worse. It wasn't my back - it was my sacroiliac - that spot where the thigh bone connects into the hip socket. It became totally inflamed and caused spasms to the lower back. After a week of prescription strength analgesics to control pain, added to a muscle relaxer to control back spasms, I'm starting to feel just plain sore. So go-ahead, commute in your Fit Flops - but heed the warnings. These little wobblers pack a might mean punch.

UPDATE 24Aug: The saga continues. I continued to have pain in my hip so I went to an orthopedist. A nerve test and MRI confirmed a herniated disk in L5. I went on two courses of steroid treatments to reduce the swelling in the disk. After the second course of steroids I saw steady improvement for 3 weeks. Then, while walking on the beach I got a back spasm and terrible pains in my leg - like all my muscles shrank instantaneously. This was paired with really severe pain in my heel and arch. I'll be starting physical therapy this week and will likely get an epidural to once again attempt to reduce the swelling in my disk. Trust me ladies, just say no to Fit Flops!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Brand Immersion: Nike Foundation Girl Effect

Nike Foundations asks for your support to help change a girl's life and, in the process, change the world. Compelling work from Wieden+Kennedy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brand Immersion: Particle Theory

I've been watching Ted Talks lately and am fascinated by the discussions of particles and particle theory. Tonight I heard Amy Tan speak about particles of truth and Brian Greene speak about particles (vibrating strings) that make up the universe - possibly the universal theory.

So I started thinking about universal theory and have begun trying to apply it to the idea of content and its relationship to the brands that sponsor it (advertising). This got me to thinking about the value of media, media properties, and massively distributed content. I've written a little bit about this in a few blog posts and in comments on other blogs including Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine.

Jeff recently wrote, "...I think newsrooms will need to be organized around topics or tags or stories because the notion of a section is as out of date as the Dewey Decimal System (hat tip to David Weinberger). Stories and topics become molecules that attract atoms: reporters, editors, witnesses, archives, commenters, and so on, all adding different elements to a greater understanding. Who brings that together? It’s not always the reporter or editor anymore. It can just as easily be the reader(s) now."

To which I responded, "...your observations of the press-sphere should also be a wake-up call to the publishing side of the business who have not yet embraced the vast opportunity associated with “particle theory”. When publishers realize that they are not selling “the page,” “the book,” or “the Web site” but the particles of content themselves, it will become clear that returning to profitability depends on their ability to create systems, processes and selling techniques that match advertiser supported revenue streams to content particles and not necessarily to the curated, branded environment [of a media property]. In this new model that fully embraces massively distributed content everyone wins. Advertisers associate their messages and brands with content that is most relevant; consumers encounter brands in context with content; creators (publishers) monetize not only their own distribution network, but the organic distribution network (long tail) of the content eco-system; and the long tail of distributors (the eco-system) gain some shared financial benefit for propelling the content particles to a broader audience."

As I think about this further, it seems that massively distributed content involves the breaking apart of media as we've traditionally viewed it. Instead of only monetizing blocks of content (media properties) where that content may be valuable for a fleeting time to the few who visit that place, value can be created or extended as the content breaks away from its bounded space. As content becomes an individual particle it can travel to, and live in many places. It can travel with bits of extremely relevant branding, advertising or sponsorship. Or it can attach to new places that have branding, advertising or sponsorship most relevant the fans of the new place.

To determine the value of content particles, I've started to line up a series of assumptions:

1. Content particles may extend active life (engagement or consumption) for longer periods of time.
2. Content particles reach more people over time.
3. Content particles ultimately reach more highly targeted audiences.

I'll be refining this theory over time as I continue to explore ways in which I consume content, desire to consume content, use content in my forays into the social Web, and observe my friends do the same.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brand Immersion: Do and Do Some More

This gem from Wieden Kennedy London for Honda makes me proud to be a Honda owner. Its sweet, straightforward, inspiring and makes you think about Honda as a neighbor, a friend, and an instigator that you want to hang out with. Bravo to Tony, Kim and the gang in London for continuing the good work they started with Honda Grrrrr.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brand Immersion: The Life of a Freelance Consultant

Thanks Linda Ziskind for uncovering this gem!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Brand Immersion: Bringing Ideas to Fruition

My friend Tamara Giltsoff from OzoLab passed on her copy of The Next Issue to me the other day. In it I found this short, rather poetic piece from Malcolm Poynton to be quite inspired...

Lost and Found
Challenges bringing ideas to fruition in a rapidly changing and unpredictable environment include: finding people naive enough not be be afraid; finding others experienced enough not to screw it up; finding people who know what questions to ask; finding others who know what questions not to answer; finding time offline to think; finding time online to explore; finding constants in an ever-changing space; finding ways to change the constants; finding open-minded clients; and finding ways to open clients' minds then, having found enough to make progress, remembering to ensure that everyone gets lost in the infinite fun of this golden age."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Brand Immersion: Tivo your YouTube

Reuters reported, on 12March that the lines between television and the computer continue to blur as TiVo engages in a partnership with YouTube to deliver Web videos directly to people's TVs.

I can't quite get my head around exactly how this will work yet, or what the revenue model will be. But I know that there are YouTube videos I'm excited to watch and share on a bigger screen.

What truly excites me about this partnership, however, is the recognition by both YouTube and Tivo of their primary mission as information distributors - without boundaries.

Brands that recognize the power of massively distributed content, beyond their traditional boundaries, will reap great rewards. More specifically, attaching revenue directly to content (particles), not only to a Web site or magazine (place), dramatically expands revenue potential. Good content particles become massively distributed and consumed, and the revenue associated with this content particle increases in tandem. Advertisers and sponsors are able to pick and choose their content particles to create more relevant associations between their brand and their message and the content itself. It winds up being a winning formula for the publisher, distributor, advertiser and consumer. And that's just plain good business.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Brand Immersion: A Wish for World Peace

In December I first wrote about Pangea Day and shared their call to action - make a film that can change the world.

The thesis: What if everyone in the world watched the same film at the same time? How would it transform us? How would it unite us?

Now, in a mere 36 days, we'll see the fruits of that labor. On May 10, 2008, at 6:00 PM GMT (2:00pm EST) millions of people from all over the world will come together to share a program of short films, talks and music, broadcast on TV, the web and mobile phones around the world.

People all around the world are becoming Friends of Pangea Day, hosting large and small viewing parties to share this four-hour program of films from around the globe. You can be part of it.

Attend an event in your neighborhood or create and host your own event.

Pangea Day was conceived by Jahane Noujaim, a visionary documentary film maker (Control Room and It is the result of Jahane's Ted Prize winning wish for world peace.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Brand Immersion: Welcome to the social

From: akispicer, 1 week ago

Just caught up with Paul Isakson's Blog and found this fantastic primer on current trends in social networking. This SlideShare from Fallon planner, Aki Spicer, covers his thoughts on 10 Trends Marketers Should Know About Social Networking. It was delivered at the agency's Brainfood lunch and was broadcast live across several social media platforms so that anyone could watch if they were so inclined.

If you've got comments or thoughts, be sure to leave them for Aki over on the SlideShare or on the Fallon Planning blog post.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Brand Immersion: PSFK Conference Notes

PSFK Notes
Grant McCracken and Allan Chochinov were the highlights for me at the recent PSFK conference. Here's a copy of my notes and following these - check out the video highlights.

SlideShare Link

McCracken's notions of moving beyond "noticing as a brute activity" are a challenge to all who blog. While I couldn't find a piece of video to illuminate that point, I was able to locate the piece of his presentation that posited the notion of goods and services no longer being about indulging consumers - but enabling them.

Chochinov's inspiration - impact eco-systems of behavior, culture and environment. He got his point across by sharing with us an assignment he gives his design students - make a better pooper scooper. Here he wraps up his theory. It's all about sh*t...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour 2008

8pm today - take action. Turn off for one hour.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Brand Immersion: The secret to success

Paul Isakson of space150 in Minneapolis shares his compelling, simple, and elegant thesis on advertising, branding and innovation. The formula for success in any or all of these disciplines is simple... make people's lives better.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Brand Immersion: Water Balloons

It is not often that I take time to think about, let alone share thoughts about a television spot. But this one deserves a quick mention. Not entirely original (I see shades of Sony Balls - a spot well worth talking about) it is, nonetheless, stunning and sweet and absolutely on brand and on message. Advertising, when it is done well, is visceral. My favorites are luscious and lickable. This is both and in addition - is likable. And that makes me like this brand.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Brand Immersion: Design and the Elastic Mind

Yesterday I took a brief walk through Design and the Elastic Mind, a new exhibition at MOMA. The simplest way to describe it is "rocket fuel for the mind."

The web version of the installation is far more eloquent...

"Adaptability is an ancestral distinction of intelligence, but today’s instant variations in rhythm call for something stronger: elasticity, the product of adaptability plus acceleration. Design and the Elastic Mind explores the reciprocal relationship between science and design in the contemporary world by bringing together design objects and concepts that marry the most advanced scientific research with attentive consideration of human limitations, habits, and aspirations. The exhibition highlights designers’ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history—changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior—and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use. "

This goes beyond being a typical museum exhibition. It is an experience that requires a clear head and a few hours. You'll want to drink in every word on the walls as your brain wraps itself around images and objects that are beautiful, shocking, pragmatic and fantastical. As my friend Yael remarked, "it is like being a kid in a science museum." Information is being crammed into your brain in great volume, at lightening speed and all of it is wonderful - in the every sense of the word.

Only Bruce Mau's Massive Change exhibition comes close to helping us look at the world in important new ways and understand our role in designing changes that are necessary and important.

Skip working late on Friday and see it for free or grab three friends over the weekend and take the plunge. Then let me know what you think.

If you are not going to be in New York before the exhibition closes on May 12th, see the amazing online companion to the exhibit (masterful visual organization of information) at

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Brand Immersion: Beware of Cute

I'm a bit late to the party on this one and perhaps you've seen it floating around the Web. Truth be told, this came in one of those emails from Mom - the joke kind that are generally better left unread. Not sure what compelled me, but I did read it and now (for the 12 people reading this blog, Mom included) I share it with you.

I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in when a well-meaning marketer comes up with something that is cute or adorable and then immediately believes it is worthy of being a tag line or “on pack”.

As you will see – cute is dubious and branding a treacherous business!

This is an actual letter from an Austin woman addressed to Proctor and Gamble regarding their feminine products. It's PC Magazine's 2007 editors' choice for best web mail-award-winning letter.

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your 'Always' maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the Leak Guard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from the curse'? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call 'an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.' Isn't the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers monthly visits from 'Aunt Flo'. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy!

The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants... Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: 'Have a Happy Period.'

Are you kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak girl, there will never be anything 'happy' about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.

For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like 'Put down the Hammer' or 'Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong', or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bull sh*t. And that's a promise I will keep. Always.

Wendi Aarons
Austin , TX

Post Script: A follow-up to the Austin Chronicle from the writer of this missive...

"Hey Stephen, I was just reading your column [“After a Fashion,” Arts, Dec. 7] and was shocked to see a link to my Always Maxi Pad letter. Also shocked to see that it supposedly won PC Magazine's editors' choice award … I think they forgot to tell me. Anyway, I wrote this last February as a humor piece for, and it's taken on a life of its own. The good news is that Proctor & Gamble no longer puts "Have a Happy Period" on their adhesive strips. I'm taking full credit for that one. Love the column and thanks for the mention! Best, Wendi Aarons"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Brand Immersion: Damon Endorses Indelible Waste

In today's issue of Brand Week, Kenneth Hein has written an article about how Coke and Pepsi are suffering a "beverage backlash." Bottled water growth rates are slipping into the single digits, down from double digit growth experienced for the last decade.

To accelerate demand, these beverage giants are signing up celebrities to hawk bottled water by offering part of the proceeds from bottled water sales to various charities that are organized around clean water initiatives.

I'm all for supporting philanthropic giving and believe that making a profit while doing so is just fine (ala RED). This giving, however, comes with a price that is unacceptable. This giving is attached to the propagation of indelible waste.

Wake up Coke and Pepsi and shame on you Mr. Damon! Stop trying to justify trafficking bottled water by stimulating demand and cloaking its purchase in celebrity endorsement and good causes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Brand Immersion: Making Sustainability Personal

I'll start this post by stating that I am NOT a WalMart shopper. I've actively avoided shopping there because this is a retailer that has a long history of imposing the founder's politics on communities and treating employees badly.

That said, WalMart's efforts in the last 18 months to embrace sustainability are laudable. Their pressure on suppliers to reduce packaging, their actions to reduce the carbon footprint of their retail environments, and now, their efforts to educate 1.3 million employees about personal sustainable commitments are all active and progressive steps in making sustainability a mass market, main stream imperative.

Take a look at this video (and pardon me for subjecting you to the ridiculous interviewer) about WalMart's Personal Sustainability Practice initiative.
that are organized around clean water initiatives.

I'm all for supporting philanthropic giving and believe that making a profit while doing so is just fine (ala RED). This giving, however, comes with a price that is unacceptable. This giving is attached to the propagation of indelible waste.

Wake up Coke and Pepsi and shame on you Mr. Damon! Stop trying to justify trafficking bottled water by stimulating demand and cloaking its purchase in celebrity endorsement and good causes.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Brand Immersion: Water for All

Water. Vital to our existence. In the United States we've elevated water to being a status symbol. There are those who feel compelled to spend handsomely on bottled water. And others who understand the folly of that. But what happens when access to water makes it a very dear and scarce resource? Here's an amazing and beautifully designed innovation for those in third-world countries who must travel for their water and contend with sanitary storage of it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Brand Immersion: Brief for Ad Agencies

I was having dinner recently with one of my favorite people who just happens to be the head of a major advertising agency. As we were chatting about the dire need for innovation in agencies, from their sense of purpose to the product they deliver, it suddenly dawned on me that instigating massive change might be a fairly simple process...

Any work delivered to clients must be able to live and work beautifully within the confines of an iPhone.

There isn't a Web site, a television spot, a widget, or a viral application that can't be expertly captured, displayed, and broadcast by this magical device; from voice, to text, to images, to full length feature films.

It is here at last. We live in a fully mobile, IP-based world and advertising, marketing and branding that does not take this into consideration is work not worth creating, selling, or buying.

Full disclosure - I don't own an iPhone (yet) but there isn't a project I'm working on that isn't optimized for one.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Brand Immersion: Shoe Shopping

I know what you're thinking. "Shoe shopping...what could this possibly have to do with branding and marketing?" So I'll tell you...

A few months ago inMotion ( - an organization, on whose board I sit, that provides legal services to women without means) had a fund raising event at a shoe store called Te Casan. Brilliant. I buy shoes and they get money. No rationalization necessary. Guilt-free shopping. I bought three pair. But it wasn't altruism alone.

This was one a completely unique shopping experience. It started with an amazing environment. The store has three levels, each with its own intimate and unique vibe. Then there is the help. People who understand shoes, feet, and fashion. They care about how you feel, how your feet feel, and how your feet and their shoes marry up. And finally there are the shoes. I swooned when I saw, on the velvety leather bottom of a pair of delicious black suede pumps, "Limited Edition: 30." Only 30 other feet the world over would be wearing my shoes.

I left with three pair of beautiful shoes. I felt like I had scored a great prize or a great work of art. My feet would sport shoes more limited than the Miro print on my wall.

I haven't stopped talking about (or recommending) Te Casan since that evening.

This is an example of a flawless merchandising strategy. Great product, great experience, fair price, good service, and an impression of scarcity (or limited supply). No advertising necessary. This hits every hot button a shoe lover has and begets immediate and continually recommendations. There's no better or more efficient media plan!

Thanks to my friends at PSFK for the reminder. Time to go shopping for spring!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Brand Immersion: Clean Up Your Act

Long a fan of Kenneth Cole's provocations, I find my admiration growing. While many a brand has gone guerrilla with wild postings, street painting, chalking and other forms of commercial graffiti - Cole takes it one step further. To get their point across, they power washed city sidewalks using stencils. Rather than add to the mess - they chose to clean it up. And how 'bout that contextually relevant messaging...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Brand Immersion: The Whale Hunt

Jonathan Harris continues to amaze us with the way he organizes information and tells stories. He is a gifted artist whose work is provocative, pragmatic and endlessly moving. His latest work will take you on a journey and the simple story will captivate you and have you questioning your ideas and ideals as you voyeristically observe a community working together. When you've finished, think about how lovely it would be to organize your own journeys using this stunning interface.

Inspired? Check out more of Jonathan's work:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Brand Immersion: New Year's Resolutions

I gotta get me some of these! The Slipper Genie cleans the floor as you walk, with removable and washable chenille soles; $11.99 from (888) 394-8328 or