Monthly Archives: October 2008

The library is in jeopardy.



Months ago, I would have told you there is no way books will become paperless. The GUI of a book lets you read it at the beach in bright sun, on the subway squished between passengers, even in a tent by candlelight. And the Kindle? No way I could see myself reading The Old Curiosity Shop by the fireplace on a digital reader.  But today, I’m pretty sure I was wrong. Newspapers, magazines and, yes, even paper books will be greatly reduced in our lifetimes. Asmore and more people get used to reading on mobile phones, and other portable digital devices it’s only a matter of time before me evolve from nonrenewable paper-based media.


So what does that hold for libraries? Libraries are for research and free books. Today, by the time you drive or ride to the library, you have in one Wikipedia page access to hundreds of linked sources.  Across the country taxpayers are voting down library budgets every day, especially so in today’s economy. Libraries need to get ahead of this trend and reinvent themselves. Any thoughts?


Blog Action Day – A Poverty Pledge


I’m embarrassed to say I am one of those people that never give anything to beggars. That’s what we 50 year olds call them, at least from my part of the world. This was a rule of mine because I used to line in NYC between 5th and 6th Avenues where there were lots of outstretched hands.


Two quick stories: 1. I broke my rule one night when a person asked for $.17 so he could buy a can of Campbell’s Soup.   He was direct, had a purpose, and I believed him. 2. One night my pal and I ran into a dude we called “Mangia” at the Blarney Rock pub. We called him Mangia because he would echo this one Italian word up and down the corporate cannon in a most pitiful, pleading voice. The next time we saw Mangia, we were a little in our cups and ran up to him called him by our nickname, put on arm over his shoulder and gave him a beer. In a very Americanized voice, he said “Hey, thanks guys.”

I’m not proud of my “no change for anyone” coda so, starting today, I’m going to make up for lost time. Every time I am asked by a sober person seeking money, I promise to reach down into my pocket and dispense change. So long as there is some jingle in the pants, I will give it.   It’s a start.

PS. I saw a woman give a homeless man her orange the other day, and it near brought me to tears. Peace!

Is NBC Heroes Losing It?


I’m not sure what it was about Heroes, NBC’s 3 year old hit of show, but I’ve never found it too easy to watch. Having had the opportunity to do some promotional work with Hayden Panettiere, one of its stars, and having been sold by some fans I made an effort to watch and admit to being mildly attracted. But after watching the first 2-hour episode this year, it confirmed my initial feelings. I’m done.  Hayden is a major talent and going to have some wonderful success, but Heroes is running out of steam.


Part of the problem is the airways are being flooded with these sci-fi type of shows. Burn out is around the corner.  It started with Lost, I believe. That said, my favorite show in the genre, in its second year, is “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on FOX.  Summer Glau’s Cameron is the coolest, most brilliantly acted character on TV.  This kid’s got more acting chops than anyone I’ve seen in years. Amazing!


Advice for Amazon and eBay



There was an interesting article in the NY Times Business Section over the weekend about Amazon and eBay. It suggested Amazon is winning because they do better long-term planning and are willing to fail for a while so they can win.


Both companies have made some missteps, but both should thrive.  Even with its problems, eBay is still the leader in online auction.  Amazon is the 800 lb. gorilla in online retailing, and since ecommerce is only 7% of all commerce, there’s certainly room for both.


Some advice for eBay: Keep the auction business discrete. Any playing around with fixed price, VOIP, online payment, etc. should be either spun off or handled by unique management. Smart decisions are harder to make when considering the impact on other “family” businesses. As for Amazon: Stop with all the “trust” value prop talk. Make your business about “price.” Trust is earned and requisite, it’s not a branding idea.  Peace!



Toyota to Dilute Its Brand?



There’s talk in the automotive world of Toyota Motor Company spinning off the Prius brand. The Prius brand would stand alone in the U.S. market only and sell at Toyota dealerships, similar to the youth brand Scion. All cars in the line would be hybrids, with mini and maxi models in development. 


Not smart. The Scion brand made sense because of the different sensibility of the youth market – those unlikely to drive a Toyota. But owners of the current Prius are not so disinclined toward Toyota. They bought the Prius because it was a Toyota. Prius is addinggreat value to the Toyota brand and every day demonstrates Toyota’s branding promise “Moving Forward.”  


GM, Ford and Chrysler are beginning to smarten up and catch up (read Chevy Volt) and as underdogs they will begin to gain momentum and cut into Toyota’s leadership. Toyota is strong now and will remain so by staying focused. A line extension in this market will divert management, potentially move the brand backward, and hurt their eminence.  



BBH and Hand Lotion.



Men are weird. You know it. I know it. There are all sorts of “man things” which are unexplainable. Odd rules.  


Getting men to use hand lotion is going to be tough. That said, it is a brilliant marketing opportunity for Bartle Bogle Hegarty and client Unilever. If BBH can get men to use hand lotion — Vaseline in particular — it can potentially double the size of the market. But men don’t do hand lotion. How is BBH planning to get men to change their behavior? By creating ads using manly sports figures. 


Right church, wrong pew. Sports figures make sense, but demonstrating and driveling on about the benefits of hand lotion in a TV spot or Internet outtake is a mistake. Sports figures need to use the product, not hawk it. 


When Mike Piazza walked out of the Mets dugout a few years ago with blond hair, it gave all men permission to color their hair. (A billion dollar lost opportunity for hair color companies.) Had he done an ad for hair color, it would have flopped bigger than a singing cop TV show.


Consumer generated creativity.



I’ve been following the growing gaming category recently and was surprised to note that gamers exhibit a high degree of creativity. The litmus was a story about a game company that provided tools to its users so they could develop and share graphic creatures or machinima game elements. The expectation of the company was that by the end of the first year they would hope to have 1 million consumer-generated graphics. In fact, they had a couple million in a few weeks. Wow!


I’ve always felt that consumer-generated content was a nice fad, but the really creative stuff should be left to the most artistic. Now I’m having second thoughts. Not all consumer generated ads suck. Not all second tier blogs suck. Not all neighborhood YouTube videos are boring. 


Creativity and artistry should not just be the domain of the top 10%, but of everyone. And we should encourage consumer-generated art and creative. We all need to be more creative.


Marketing Palaver.



Okay, I’m a little bit of a geeze but when it comes to marketing and selling I know of what I speak. In a recent email exchange with an extremely smart and successful digital age marketer, he offered:  


“…engaged dialog (is) needed to embrace and maintain long term customer/constituent relationships….authenticity, transparency, and existing as an instance of true core values matter most today.”


I wrote him that whenever I’m in a meeting and someone trots out words like “engaged, authenticity, transparency and core values,” especially all in the same sentence, I wonder if the marko-babble detector is going to go off. 


A ad in the paper today promised “Rooms that exceed expectation.” MOG (Mother of God,) who are these people talking too?


“Good advertising" I once read, "makes you feel something then do something.” That’s what good marketing does. Authenticity, transparency and all the other “encies” are just marketing palaver, and the price of doing business. Feel and do, that’s the key.


Suffolk FCU Needs Gutting



I live in Suffolk County on Long Island. East of New York City, Long Island is over a hundred miles long and no more than 14 miles wide. By many accounts it is shaped like a fish. Many small businesses here use the outline of the island in their logos which gets tiresome and often creates awful signage and advertising.  But no where is this more evident than with the Suffolk Federal Credit Union. To make matters worse, since Suffolk County is one of only 4 countries on Long Island, its logo only gets to use the tail of the fish.


As federal credit unions become favored now that banks are collapsing and money gets tighter, it is time for Suffolk Federal Credit Union to sit at the big girl table and invest in a little artwork. It’s okay to use the fishtail in the “K” maybe, but let’s just stop it right there. 

Click here to see the logo.


Kid Rock Blowin’ Smart Bubbles



Kid Rock is an American treasure. The real deal. Whether raunchy or mellifluous (listen to “Picture" with Sheryl Crow,) Kid sings his ass off. He also cares about and understands the music business. Read some of his exchanges with noted music blogger Bob Lefsetz as proof. Yesterday Kid ended his long hold-out allowing Rhapsody to sell his music digitally. Until this deal, you had to buy Kid Rock music … bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy… on CDs.  


One provision of the the deal is that you must buy full albums. Very smart. The single cut is killing artist loyalty.  If you don’t listen to a whole album you can’t truly get an artist. Plus burn-out on a song and artist is more likely when listening only to select cuts.  The single digital download why more and more one-hit-wonders are emerging. Kid Rock knows this. Peace!