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"