August 31, 2006 by Colin
It’s not much of a surprise, but Wal-Mart is testing new pricing and product models – including a test store with more upmarket products.
” … the addition of upscale products in key future growth areas is an important tool to attract new customers without alienating the company’s core shoppers in search of the lowest prices for basic goods. At a 203,000-square-foot test store in Plano, Texas, an upscale suburb of Dallas, Wal-Mart is showcasing expensive jewelry, $500 bottles of wine, plasma TV sets and other expensive items along with organic foods. Now, some of those items are trickling into other stores.” (Forbes)
Hmm. Reminds me of the classic David Wilcox tune “Downtown Came Uptown”:
” … I used to wear jeans
I’m in italian slacks
I had long shaggy hair
It’s cut short and slicked back
I drank three dollar wine
Now it’s cocktails at two
Because downtown came uptown for you …
So you took me uptown
You made your driver wait
Taught me how to eat snails
And caviar on a plate
No more sittin’ in the alley
With the boys drinkin’ blues
Because downtown came uptown for you”
Lacklustre cover of “Downtown Came Uptown” available on YouTube.
August 31, 2006 by Colin
The first day of September is just hours away, and that means we’re about three weeks from a new year’s worth of high school and college students realizing they’re desperately short of money. They will then hit the bricks looking for anything that will may cash money. As a tribute, I present 6 First Job Archetypes for Teens and Twenty-Somethings:
Fast food chatter – The bottom of the new-to-retail food chain, she works in a smaller franchise serving juices and wraps to mall shoppers. She took this job to satisfy her parents and be near her friends – who also work retail at the mall. She has absolutely no loyalty to the job or her boss, and will drop the job the second a trip to Vail opens up.
Ducking from Reality – not actually an employee, this guy hangs out where his friends (and imagined girlfriends) work. He’s a serious drain on productivity, a distraction when real customers come in, and a confirmed stalker. He can demonstrate passion for the product in the store, but will shy away from any formal role moving product.
Too Smart For Your Own Good – This guy spends every waking hour of his day learning about the stock on the shelves – whether it’s records, D&D, xtreme sports or yoga wear. He has more invested in his identity as an expert and connaisseur than as your latex salesman, and this will harm your balance sheet. He sort of slid into the job after coming into the store 197 days in a row, and will be hard to get rid of.
Halfway to Juvie – Bouncing from call centres, rental car outlets to cheque cashing places, this guy is honestly trying to find a niche for himself in society. He just has a problem with authority. Your authority. Will rise to the challenge and deliver in the crunch, but his tendency to question the larger social implications of his job may drive him (and you) nuts.
‘Stache Man – Likes to think he’s pulling off a Tom Selleck/David Carradine vibe, but really looks like the sofa dwelling stoner he is. Unspecified life experiences have prepared him to turn any conversation to the worst. No real job plans are in his future, but he certainly knows what he’d do if he won a million dollars.
Oh God No! – This is what happens to students if they don’t plan ahead. $19.95 photo packages, smoke breaks by the loading dock, and a vaguely suspicious feeling about the rent-a-Santa. And a job that may end by Boxing Day, but doesn’t pay enough to let you shop on December 26.
August 31, 2006 by Colin
10 ways to eliminate the echo chamber, or how to encourage creative thought rather than repetitive ruminations, from Chris Pirillo. Some additions to his list:
- Read widely and frequently. Go into news agents. Buy magazines and papers you’ve never heard of. Check out the new arrivals shelf at the library. Pick up contra-culture community weeklies. Read outside of your area of comfort, training and education.
- Don’t link your feedreader to your blogroll. There should be experimental “reads” in your reader – authors and sites you’re just trying out. If you make a mechanical link between the two, you’ll start to filter your feedreader to avoid unusual or (god forbid) off topic entries in your blogroll.
- Google juice is not the same as intellectual influence. I can slipstream in a high profile discussion, making an appearance in comment fields but not establishing an individual line of argument. Or I can dare to throw out my own ideas for discussion and dissection.
- Dare to discuss anything other than social media. And politics. And knitting.
- There is no home for orthodoxy online. In an environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas, why would you restrict your blog to a particularly narrow interest? Just like you discuss contemporary culture and outside influences in the office, why can’t you dip your toe in a deeper pool online?
- Your career strategy should include, but not be dominated by, blogging.
Hat tip to the CofC.
August 30, 2006 by Colin
August 29, 2006 by Colin
Sean got the ball rolling with the 22 Immutable Laws of Word of Mouth, I threw in the 22 Immutable Laws of Blogging, and Tamera Kremer has followed up with the 22 Immutable Laws of Customer Engagement. Here’s my take on the 22 (somewhat) Immutable Laws of Buzz:
- Indie cred, commercial dead
- Feed your fans’ hunger for information
- Sponsor a “D” list celebrity event
- Promotions targeted to extreme niches
- Win their hearts: build credibility with new audiences
- Bright lights, big titties. Leverage celebrity connections. Or sex.
- A heavy ValPak buy. Just kidding.
- Hit the local social circuit – in outrageous clothing
- Lifestyle reporters: ten dollar words, ten cent facts
- Celebrity gifting: Local weathermen are surprisingly affordable
- Chase’s Calendar of Events: the art of piggybacking
- Car Accident or Sales Record: Just spell my name right
- Teen hits drive time > AOR hourly
- Community weeklies: filling news holes weekly
- When in doubt, let your publicist leak it out
- Post no bills: really, it’s just a suggestion
- Try local late night, the cpm is lower. (So is the return)
- Celebrity endorsements: there’s gold in the 1990 Fox television schedule
- Guerrilla marketing – at community soccer games
- Public Access Cable: the Dead Zone
- BOGO does not create buzz. Unless you’re a mortician
- All Hail Empress Oprah
Update: Bob at Flacklife has published his 22 somewhat immutable laws of evaluation.
August 29, 2006 by Colin
Remember when Blockbuster was considered a surefire moneymaker? Investors in video rentals were business geniuses who could expect the company to throw off money for years to come? There have been some roadbumps in that industry lately, haven’t there?
Who knew ten years ago that video rentals would be kneecapped by the popularity of online media, changing viewing habits and bloody pay-per-view?
DAMN YOU READILY AVAILABLE BROADBAND!
That’s the secret in successful business forecasting: amazing priescence and an awareness of changing customer preferences.
Mark Cuban, while arguing that online movie distribution is not an immediate threat to retail distribution, makes a point about the industry that will really be affected by downloaded video:
” … The biggest business impact of downloadable movies won’t be on the movie business, it will be on the paperback book business.”
A great soundbite, but it comes with plenty of caveats: movies are not a good summer beach read; iPods aren’t exactly welcome on flights lately; etc.
That’s why I noted that awareness of customer preferences are an important component of business forecasting: the paperback industry won’t be crippled any time soon. Downloaded movies, and their players, are still a (sizeable) niche industry.
August 28, 2006 by Colin
Dr. Marburger, the Science Advisor to the U.S. President, spoke in 2005 about his perception of the priorities of science journalists. They can be summed up as three P’s, in diminishing order of importance: Principles, People, and Places.
” … I once gave a talk on science advocacy in which I described the priorities of science reporters. They care first about the significance of discoveries, second about the scientists who made them, little about the institutions in which the work was done, and not at all about how and where the money came from.”
Those are gross generalizations, and there is some reporting of fund sources and sponsor institutions, especially in local reporting. Still, he’s a scientist with a lifelong experience in public institutions, so Marburger remains convinced journalists have to broaden their interests and their reporting:
“That is beginning to change in view of concerns about conflicts of interest, but that is not the main issue. About a third of the research and development activity in this country is funded by the United States government through a surprisingly large number of agencies and programs. The other two-thirds comes from a diverse private industry. Who does what for which parts of science, and why and how they do it, are important and, I would hope to many people, interesting questions. These questions are so important as to warrant some passing reference in every news story.”
August 26, 2006 by Colin
I’m trailing Brendan and Joe on this (thankfully not Ian), but Ottawa is celebrating a conversations two-fer on September 25: a chance to speak with Shel Israel, and the first meeting of the Ottawa spin-off of the Bay-area Third Thursday get-togethers.
The first of what we plan to be a series, this Third Monday meeting will give social media afficionados in Eastern Ontario a chance to get together, put a face and voice to an email handle, and listen to some outstanding speakers.
The folks in Toronto are pulling together a similar shindig: Third Tuesday.
I’m certainly looking forward to the opportunity to mull over some social media issues and wrestle some ideas to the ground.
August 26, 2006 by Colin
Over at Progressive Boink: Your Band Name Sucks. Among the (justifiably) slandered: Les Savy Fav, Test Icicles, Atreyu, and Mr. Mister:
“41. Mr. Mister
What at first looks very mildly clever in the same vain as The The is ruined by the fact that the band actually got its name from a Dairy Queen drink called Mr. Misty. Which, in turn, makes me think of Dustin Hoffman dressing up like the girl from Pok√©mon, & that’s just wrong.”
August 25, 2006 by Colin
It’s a Mary moment: that point in the day when slow drudging work stares you in the face. The sort of task that looms on the horizon like an immovable monolith, blocking all sight of the weekend.
What to do? Knuckle down, chop through the work like a machete through unappreciated kudzu? Dig through the draft folder for something half-baked to start off with? Or might you actually look for a thread of inspiration, a spark of insight – you know, actually draw upon those creative skills that got you behind that keyboard in the first place?
Is there a touch of Mary in you? (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!)
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and – SNAP – the job’s a game.”
Or are you a Murray? More particularly, John Winger – Bill Murray’s character in Stripes? Are you going to shuffle through life, sucking it all up and taking each body blow – to your self-esteem, to your personal life, to your health – in a continuing spiral of negative introspection?
” … I’ve had an interesting morning. In the last two hours I’ve lost my job, my apartment, my car, and my girlfriend. …”
The key difference between a Mary and a Murray? The inspiration to reach for your vivid imagination and your inherent sense of fun when faced with a challenge. It’s much better to dance with penguins and fly over rooftops than be chased through Czechoslovakia in a coverted mobile home, isn’t it?
[tags] Bill Murray, Mary Poppins, Motivation, Stress [/tags]
(Two notes: I know that, in real life, Bill Murray is actually more of a Mary than a Murray. And, for a few minutes, I considered Murray Slaughter from the Mary Tyler Moore show as my ironic pop culture reference for the less energetic character. That seemed a little too obscure for most blog readers.)
August 24, 2006 by Colin
There’s self-promotion, then there’s desperation:
” … But there are smarter ways to get noticed, is my point. Ways that better use your energy and resources (and that preserve your sticker collection) — craft a great, funny query letter and send it to the young agents at all the reputable agencies, enter screenwriting contests, search Craiglist for screenwriting groups and network from there, make a no budget short and put it on YouTube, start a blog. There are lots of good ideas… and then there’s a fuchsia notecard in a dark corridor in the car wash in Eagle Rock. …”
Read the whole post, if only for the use of the word “fellatiotic.”
Thanks for the pointer, Holly.
August 24, 2006 by Colin
Michael Bierut reviews (a little late) what seems to be quite a fantastic book about¬ the standard-setting art director at Doyle Dane Bernbach: Helmut Krone. The book.¬ Graphic Design and Art¬ Direction (concept, form¬ and meaning) after¬ advertising’s Creative¬ Revolution.
” … It leaves me with no doubt that something I once suspected is, in fact, true: Helmut Krone is God.I sense that bit of hero worship would be scoffed at by many of those who knew Krone personally, which I never did. Another admirer, George Lois, once called him “a complex kraut” with a “dour, Buster Keaton face,” “a fidgety perfectionist who worked with deadly Teutonic patience.” And indeed, some of his simplest, clearest, most effortless-looking work was the product of brutal sweat. …” (Design Observer)
Included alongside Bierut’s piece are several memorable and still arresting examples of Krone’s work. (and more can be found at the Center for Interactive Advertising’s Volkswagen Gallery)
(For a discussion of¬ of the relative¬ weaknesses to be found in the history of graphic design and advertising, refer to David Crowley’s piece in Eye 57, which briefly mentions the Krone book: a¬ “… hagiographic account… In 257 pages of densely set text, Challis presents a forensic account of the art direction of every ad in Krone‚Äôs portfolio to demonstrate his ‚Äėrule-breaking‚Äô genius.”)
August 24, 2006 by Colin
” … Jim Cabage is a Tennessee trucker who has danced at more than 450 Jazzercise locations in forty-seven states and two provinces.”
-¬ found in Dave Feschuk’s “Every Highway: Riding shotgun in the big rigs”
August 22, 2006 by Colin
As handwringing and anxiety continues in the traditional media industries, an apt quote from the CBC’s Max Ferguson:
“… I see the CBC as a sort of domestic British Empire. Both were created and developed by a rather insular breed, exhibiting alternate flashes of brilliance and idiocy. At this moment there are many critics who would extend the analogy even further, gloomily predicting that the sun is already setting on the CBC also, and that, beset from without and within, its complete disintegration is close at hand. Certainly, to all those who help guide the CBC ship of state, the prospect of turbulent and dangerous waters ahead must occasion moments of doubt, confusion, and uncertainty. …” (Page 166, And Now … Here’s Max, published 1970)
For your listening pleasure: Ferguson’s Rawhide character completely messes with all sides of the debate on the flouridation of water, from 1961. (audio)
[tags] CBC [/tags]
August 21, 2006 by Colin
I don’t like the new Tea Partay video for its genius as a work of viral marketing (over 700,000 downloads on YouTube). I don’t like it because it mimicks the format and rhythmic structure of hiphop videos. I like it because I’m an unashamed preppy.
I don’t mean I jumped on the casual Friday bandwagon in 2000 and never got off. I’m not talking about stain-resistant casual chinos. I’m talking four pairs of penny loafers. With six resoles among them.
Twenty years ago this month, I was strolling the aisles of Halperns, the small chain responsible for forcing young men and women across Canada into grey polyester-blend slacks, white shirts blue blazers with brass buttons and plaid ties. The outfitter for Canada’s boarding schools. (long story there)
Wearing dress pants, button-downs, golf shirts and dress shoes to school was not a stretch. I had spent the previous years posing around downtown Ottawa as a mod. Making the transition to boarding school was not a great conceptual leap – even if it meant a radical shift in the implied socio-economic values of my new clique’s uniform.
In fact, the popularity of “transition” icons like Rick Astley (YouTube), the Style Council and Sloan Rangers meant preppy style was culturally acceptable outside of Princeton, Greenwich and New Haven.
Preppy style had been mocked by the Official Preppy Handbook and then, ironically, taken off in popularity. By the time I arrived at the party, Ralph had been throwing up stores as fast as he could. Youth brands like Club Monaco were drafting behind with lines of white cotton shirts, similar styles of chinos and v-necks. (And the “CM” logo meant they were already monogrammed!
Twenty years later, I still head towards the chinos, pinpoint cotton and plaid when shopping. Argyle is my friend – in moderation. And real men don’t do flourescents or reflective material – unless its on boating clothes.
By the way – I’ve never played golf, and I don’t belong to a country club. And while I may never have played a lawyer on TV, I do admire the work of 300 pound Samoan attorneys.