October 6, 2007 by Colin
Spinners or wire rims? It seems that spinners are winning the fashion wars, even in suburban Ottawa. Wire rims are back where they always belonged: on antique British roadsters and your grandfather’s Cadillac.
This success built on an already sizable and reliable fan base among the custom lowriders popular on the west coast of the United States. Not to mention their century-old business with luxury customers.
Other brands have found themselves stranded and abandoned by their traditional clientèle after following urban fashions too closely (see Tommy Hilfiger): why not this company?
How did Dayton avoid the familiar cycle of boom and bust common to most fashionable accessories?
“…Dayton’s factory wouldn’t soon join the other hollowed-out plants that dot the city. The company has managed to maintain its original high-end customers, Guilfoyle says. And it’s hoping to capitalize on the inner city’s new interest in Harley-Davidsons. Besides, they still have their loyal vatos in East L.A.
“Dayton is the wire wheel of status,” says Lowrider‘s Jeff Rick. “And it can’t be a lowrider without a wire wheel. I don’t see that going anywhere.”
Part of Dayton’s secret was diversifying their markets. Instead of relying on unprecedented success found through easy cross-promotion opportunities with rappers like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, they sought out new markets for their custom rims.
Markets unlikely to rise and fall with the fortunes of urban music: playing upon the nostalgia of boomers picking up the “retro” Ford Thunderbird and P.T. Cruiser. Oh, and Harley Davidson buyers. And BMW lovers. And people obsessed with spending more time with their Jaguar mechanic than their spouse.
Dayton has always served niche markets, customers interested in customizing their individual automobiles and motorcycles – whether they were built in Detroit, England, Italy or Japan, or built by hand or by a robot.
It seems that the arrival of a new market segment – while exciting and flashy – did not distract the company from its overall long-term strategy.
They continued to serve clients interested in paying top dollar to personalize and customize their “ride.”
(They even have a blog for their street rod project)
October 3, 2007 by Colin
Chalk signs. You know – chalkboard signs decorated with menus, promotional tag lines, simple price displays, usually found at grocery stores or restaurants – that rough and personalized touch that helps build a personal bond between you and your retailer.
One Canadian company, Chalk It Up!, has created 400 boards since 2001, including 75 for the Ruby Tuesday chain of casual dining restaurants. Claire Watson, the principal artist, has posted several images from her work on flickr.
Chalk signs provide hearty opposition to the polished and focus-tested stalagmites that otherwise dot the grocery floor – the promotional pop-ups, tasting stations, shipping palettes disguised as festive boxes, and good old fashioned Super Bowl celebrity cut-outs.
Properly conceived and executed, chalk signs can convince a consumer that their chosen shop or store is so fresh, so responsive and so connected to the community that their signs HAVE to be chalk, HAVE to be changed every day.
When institutionalized, though, chalk signs can prompt memories of the big bad wolf, dressed in Grandma’s bedclothes: when Whole Foods, Starbucks, Domino’s or Movenpick Marche list ingredients, menu items or prices in a chalk script, I get a faint whiff of lupine halitosis.
The most appealing quality of chalk signs is their humour. Subtle, ironic, sophisticated, blunt, or punny. The artists and workers who put some real effort into the signs should be recognized – at the very least with a piece of flair that says “I’m the chalk artist, tip me well!”
In the wrong hands chalk signs can provide quick outlets for staff dissatisfaction – like at this New Orleans Starbucks.
[tags] chalk signs, chalk menus, restaurant menu [/tags]
October 1, 2007 by Colin
Your childhood stuffed toy has been hijacked by consumer goods companies. That may not be a surprise to you, but it has irritated the hell out of the original illustrators of characters from the Snowman to Paddington Bear. (London Times, via Serendipity Book)
“…[Raymond] Briggs complains that his iconic Snowman, with his soft curves and floppy felt hat, has been used to sell everything from fizzy drinks to fried chicken. “It is galling to find that the innocent character one has created for young children is being used to promote junk food and drink, and also to decorate the packaging of lavatory paper,” he said.”
[tags] children’s books, illustrations, Paddington, Marmite [/tags]
September 24, 2007 by Colin
Really. An impressive ass kicking machine. On Craigslist. With a picture.
At the tail end of the description, the machine’s master craftsman has thrown in this pitch:
“Oh and If you need any remodeling done I have 10+ years experience and my own tools.”
There you go: the key to success as a small business. In a field with many similar competitors, identify a quality that separates your services from the pack and promote that quality. Make it real for the consumer.
Here in Canada, we have a guy who has built a reputation as an expert in ass kicking AND renovation: Mike Holmes.
[tags] renovation, ass kicking, promotion, Mike Holmes [/tags]
September 7, 2007 by Colin
Ahh. The joys of retail marketing and management. Customer flow through. Seasonal promotions. Retail merchandising. Customer service in a retail environment.
Andrew at Northern Planner has a wonderful post brimming with notes, observations and comments about the retail environment.
I’ve picked out on of the more boring observations, if only because it touched on my behaviour just yesterday:
“…People always pick up books and feel them in book shops…”
Reasons why I pick up books in bookshops:
- to check the price.
- to measure the heft-to-price ratio.
- to check for promotional blurbs.
- to check for promotional blurbs from people I actually respect.
- to look for colour pictures in the middle pages.
- to keep the clerk from asking “can I help you?”
- to check for overspacing – who wants to buy a short story stretched into a longer book?
- are there footnotes? I like footnotes.
- to randomly sample the text. I’m not fond of too many “ten dollar words”.
- to check the author’s name – and google the book for reviews on my blackberry.
- what’s the paper weight? A thirty dollar book should have good paperstock.
- what’s the table of contents look like? More than one idea?
- because the book next to it was interesting, and it may have absorbed interestingness by osmosis
- NOT because it’s on a clerk’s recommended list
- shiny colourful cover is hypnotizing me!
Do you notice what’s missing? Any mention of stickers, promotional posters, “best of” lists and “as featured on Oprah” displays.
As for discounts – whose purchasing decision in a bookstore is influenced by a 20% off discount?
[tags] books, retail, book shop, book store, observation [/tags]
September 6, 2007 by Colin
Zinedine Zidane. The Rugby World Cup. The New Zealand All Blacks, perhaps the best rugby team in the world. A nice public relations campaign organized by Adidas in France to build awareness and create an opportunity for French fans to meet a soccer god and rugby behemoths.
Too bad some of the largest news agencies and chains in the world boycotted the event.
It’s the result of a battle that pits some of the biggest names in traditional wire journalism against major sporting organizations – all because of the increasing pressure from fans and audiences for up-to-the-minute coverage of major sporting events online and on 24 hour sports channels.
The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Presse and others are very upset that the International Rugby Board is trying to impose restrictions on coverage of the World Cup by media organizations that are not paid sponsors of the event.
“… The agencies are fighting against IRB media restrictions such as that no organisation can post more than 40 images or three minutes of news conference or “locker room” video online during any match.” (Guardian)
The members of the news coalition are boycotting all events and promotions leading up to the World Cup, which begins today. They are pressuring the IRB to lessen the restrictions imposed upon media accredited to cover the World Cup. The French government has weighed in, as has the European Commission.
The IRB is arguing that similar conditions are already imposed by the Olympics and the soccer World Cup. After all, commercial considerations must be taken into account:
“We think our rules are fair to everyone, to those who pay for the privilege to buy certain rights which helps us reinvest in the game, and also to those who get to come along without paying any rights fees [said Mike Miller, Chairman of the World Cup].” [AFP]
The full detail of their statement is available online, and the explicit mention of news and photo distribution by mobile phone underlines the central role media disintermediation plays in this dispute.
Unfortunately, the boycott will mean that coverage of the World Cup will be restricted to those organizations that have bought access through sponsorships or are driven to cover the event by their rugby-mad readers (like the Welsh, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the Brits).
In North America, rugby will continue to struggle for attention in the thin oxygen of the subscription sports channels.
On the other hand, this is the first time, in four years of blogging, that I have used disintermediation in a post. Yay me!
[tags] rugby, Adidas, International Rugby Board, All Blacks, World Cup boycott [/tags]
August 20, 2007 by Colin
Yeah, you know me. I’m the guy or gal in the aisle, leaning over my Blackberry or Treo.
By the time you shuffle over to ask “if I’m alright?” it will be all over. Your chance to influence my buying decision will have evaporated.
Forget that after-hours training from the manufacturer. Forget the features card you keep in your back pocket. You had a chance to be the professional. To be the expert.
You could have helped me evaluate features and reliability. You could have offered honest opinions about the brand and the product, identified benefits and weaknesses among competing products.
Instead, I turned to Google. Or CNet. Or Consumer Reports. I txted a friend who just bought one. I emailed a buddy who had some things to say about that brand. I’ve already sent a picture to my mom and she doesn’t like the cut.
You’ve lost the advantage. Your bosses paid the money to drive me to your store through advertising, yellow pages ads, paid placements and covert word of mouth. And you pissed it away in those few minutes.
The days of spoon feeding information to customers are over. We can carry our personal, professional and technical network around in our pockets, and you won’t beat that unless you’re faster, better informed than you are now, and more willing to compete on price and features.
The irony is, I found your store by looking it up online. Your paid yellow pages ad was the first result on my BlackBerry or Treo screen. I looked at your flier – online – while standing on the sidewalk outside.
You paid all that money to drive me through the door. And then you hit me with old fashioned retail placement and marketing. Take a hint from the insurance industry: they are willing to serve up 5 competitor’s rates just to convince a consumer to stick with them.
If a bunch of actuaries can figure it out, why not you, the intrepid retailer? ‘Cause the enabled consumer is not going away.
Oh – and when we’ve made a decision without your help, don’t offer us the extended warranty. I REALLY hate it when a retailer offers to bet me that my new product will break right as the warranty expires. Shows real confidence in the product, and just confirms in my mind that you’ll squeeze me for every last cent.
[tags] retail sales, in store promotion, sales training [/tags]
July 28, 2007 by Colin
Here you go folks. I’ve tried to draw out the career arc for the typical alternative band (or one hit wonder pop band). The arc progresses from left to right, with the four segments representing roughly two to three years in total (although it could be 18 months if you’re an American Idol winner).
I know I’m being unfair. Many bands have very successful careers as independent artists, profiting from one huge national hit to avoid working crap jobs as baristas ever again. Others turn away from more mainstream paths to emphasize their music and build a close connection to their loyal fans.
I’m thinking, really, of those bands whose career has been defined by one song. No matter how varied their discography (empthreeography?) and how nuanced their work, the only time most of us think of these bands is when we catch a bar or two of their signature song in an office building lobby, at the mall, or waiting for a teller at the bank.
Or in an ad for a feminine hygiene product.
- the Cranberrries’ Linger
- Dido’s Here With Me
- BareNaked Ladies One Week
- Counting Crows Mr. Jones
- Midnight Oil, Beds are Burning
- Jesus Jones, Right Here Right Now
- Lily Allen/Professor Longhair, Knock Em Out (ad)
A special added treat: Midnight Oil on Alan Thicke’s talk show – that’s right, Alan Thicke people!
[tags] music promotion, music marketing, AOR, AC radio, American Idol, radio, record sales [/tags]
July 23, 2007 by Colin
“… The old diplomacy was defined by a world of limited information. It was a veritable secret garden of negotiations. And secret negotiation still matters. But we live in a world where the views of a Pashtun herdsman, and the conflict he faces between illegal opium production and legal farming, holds the fate of a critical country in the balance. So the new diplomacy is public as well as private, mass as well as elite, real-time as well as deliberative. And that needs to be reflected in the way we do our business.”
- excerpt from David Miliband’s first speech as Foreign Secretary, speaking to The New Diplomacy (text on FCO site, spotty video on YouTube, and webcast on avaaz.org) Which signals a greater commitment to online communities and a frank conversation with the general public?
- a blog, or
- co-hosting your first major policy speech with an international and online activist organization?
David Miliband, the British Cabinet Minister formerly known online for his personal blog posts as DEFRA Minister, has been promoted to the post of Foreign Secretary. No new blog yet, but the signs are encouraging. In fact, Miliband’s first major policy speech was co-hosted by avaaz.org – a relatively new international and online activist organization. In addition to the vague but reassuring words in his speech about non-traditional influences on diplomacy and foreign policy priorities. the new Foreign Secretary fielded some questions submitted online by avaaz’ members.
“…At the end we handed David Miliband his own Book of Global Public Opinion, with all our members’ thousands of questions and pieces of advice, warning and encouragement. Clarion calls for an ethical foreign policy, a new global climate treaty, all-party negotiations and ending occupation in the Middle East, the protection of human rights and decisive action on poverty. I hope he’s reading it now.” (Paul Hilder, in HuffPost)
The talk is even being walked on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. The FCO is encouraging Britons to “Have Their Say” about the speech and the FCO’s priorities. Unfortunately, the system seems to consist of an HTML form, a formal review process once submitted, and then a static compilation of comments.
The three themes under this section have links to reddit, del.icio.us and digg – but none of the other pages on the FCO site seem to have them. It’s a first step, isn’t it?
The larger question remains how Miliband’s past experience with online comment and activism will be reflected in the polices and practices developed by the FCO. Will public diplomacy really change as a result?
Or will the process be more incremental, simply as a result of institutional inertia and the greater challenge of shifting the course of a large foreign policy apparatus?
*crossposted from sosaidthe.org
[tags] Government 2.0, online activism, Miliband, FCO, public diplomacy [/tags]
July 23, 2007 by Colin
I’m loving the new energy awareness campaign from flickoff.ca (and flickoff.org). I saw the first mainstream ad (here) yesterday, and it’s edgy and engaging. Not quite as raw as the first ad, but more informative. In the new ad, a young woman* walks the viewer through the argument for energy reduction, and a few steps anyone can take. Meanwhile, the logo flashes for a brief split second – and it’s easy to misinterpret THAT logo.
The campaign is supported by several companies with strong youth ties, including Roots, Virgin Mobile and MuchMusic. The narrator* of the ad is Hannah Simone, the host of MuchNews and the New Music on Much Music.
In a cross promotion homerun, MuchMusic managed to get one of the Flick Off t-shirts (available from Roots) onto Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) during his recent appearance in Toronto to promote the new Harry Potter movie.
Predictably, the Ontario government’s $500,000 in support for the campaign drew criticism from the opposition parties:
“…It’s bad judgment. It’s offensive, it shouldn’t be done this way. There are lots of ways to educate kids without using language like this.” [said Conservative Party Leader John Tory]
NDP house leader Peter Kormos expressed similar views in a different way.
“That the taxpayer would spend flickin’ money on a campaign that is based on telling people to flick off just blows my flickin’ mind. Nobody has lost their flickin’ sense of humour … but the minister got burned flickin’ big-time.
“Parents are going to be flickin’ embarrassed … (They) have enough to deal with (besides) the Ministry of the Environment in a government that simply doesn’t give a flick about their children’s language.” (Windsor Star)
Wow. I guess they’ve never seen a FCUK t-shirt.
[tags] energy reduction, flickoff, flick off, Kyoto, greenhouse gas, community activism, Harry Potter [/tags]
July 20, 2007 by Colin
William Gibson’s getting ready to release a new novel, and his publisher has some innovative ideas to promote Spook Country. As the Penguin Blog tells us, they’ve prepared a range of activities in Second Life – making an apt link to the ideas first floated in Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer.
“…we’re screening his fine and strange movie No Maps for These Territories; there’s a competition to design an avatar for the man himself; we’re giving away shipping containers packed with Gibson goodies and at the beginning of August, William Gibson himself will be coming into Second Life to read from Spook Country and answer questions…”
Tom Nissley interviews the famed and farsighted author on the Amazon blog:
Amazon.com: Have you visited Second Life at all? I know that you’re doing some promotions for the book there.
Gibson: I’m going to do something there, and it’ll pretty much be the first time I’ve been there since I did go and check it out last winter. It was a strange experience.
Amazon.com: Did they treat you as a god there?
Gibson: Well, you know I didn’t go as myself. I went as the guy that I cooked up when I signed up, so nobody knew it was me. And actually it was like a cross between being in some suburban shopping mall on the outskirts of Edmonton in the middle of winter and the worst day you ever spent in high school. [laughter]
Amazon.com: Yeah, I have to say I’ve visited the outskirts and it frightens me.
Gibson: It’s deserted. It seems like functionally it has to be deserted. If it’s not deserted it crashes. So there’s all this empty, empty architecture. There’s whole cities where there’s only one other person and they don’t even want to get close to you. And when you do succeed in finding a group of other avatars, people aren’t very nice.
Amazon.com: They’re meaner than they are–it’s like people are in their cars.
Penguin’s Jeremy Ettinghausen offered UKSFbooknews greater detail on Gibson’s initial foray into Second Life:
“…”We visited one of the hardcore dystopian cyberpunk sims and had a wander around. A group of cosplayers were sitting chatting on benches and when they saw William Gibson (obviously not appearing under his own name) a few catcalls rang out.
He was, I think, both surprised and disturbed by this – I think surprised by the mocking and disturbed that in a virtual world where anonymity is prized and the usual laws of physics do not apply, appearance still seemed to be an issue for residents.”
[tags] Second Life, William Gibson, Neuromancer, book promotion, author tour[/tags]
July 11, 2007 by Colin
Yeah, yeah. Ed Mirvish and his son David transformed live theatre in Canada, London and around the world.
Let’s talk about his skills as a salesman. A master salesman.
Once upon a time, I lived a half block away from Honest Ed’s Emporium, found at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets in Toronto. The store was ringed with thousands upon thousands of incadescent lights, lighting up the street and the punny signs that just drew you in:
Honest Ed’s a blabbermouth! He can’t keep his prices a secret!
Honest Ed attracts squirrels. At these prices, they think he’s nuts!
Honest Ed’s no midwife, but the bargains he delivers are real babies!
Forget Paco Underhill’s “butt brush” theory: Honest Ed’s is jammed full of Israeli cookies, Chinese shoes, Indian cast iron kitchen tools, and everything else you could imagine. The prices are painted onto cardboard signs, just like pre-war general stores.
People will tolerate cramped aisleways, blaring visual stimuli and the basic presentation of products in exchange for low low prices.
All this retail magic gave Ed Mirvish, and his son David, the resources to rescue and revitalize classic theatre in Toronto.
“…Over a quarter century earlier when I bought the Royal Alexandra, although many people were happy that this theatre was safe for the time being, many were concerned with what I would do with it. They did have qualms. Frankly, in the early years I was often tempted to put vending machines on the back of the seats and sell toothpaste and razor blades. I am glad I resisted. (How I Became An Overnight Success in Seventy Five Years)
After the 2003 SARS outbreak led to a slump in business and tourist travel to Toronto, the Mirvish family worked with Toronto hotels to offer deeply discounted hotel and theatre packages to entice Canadians and Americans back to the city.
Photo by easternblot
[tags] Honest Ed’s, Honest Ed, Ed Mirvish, discount retail, discount shopping [/tags]
July 7, 2007 by Colin
Now, I know most alternative songs have poor production qualities, home made cover art and only adequate singing, but Art Brut is taking promotion of their recent album to interesting new formats. Like Karaoke. They’ve made instrumental tracks available for select events in the U.S.
As Brands Bands Fans points out, karaoke may be on an upswing in the U.S., with some reality karaoke shows in the pipeline. And it’s certainly a format popular in Asia. One that encourages fans to engage with the song and the artist.
I could see karaoke being used as part of an integrated marketing campaign, but I think the karaoke market is largely aimed at having a carefree night out with your friends singing Celine Dion and disco hits. Does karaoke really push song sales in the United States? Will it develop like markets in Japan and elsewhere?
In North America’s frame of reference, there’s a fine line between independent music, extended instrumental performances, and a time warp back to the 70s. To performances by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Or extended riffs by the Talking Heads. Or, at its worst, some of the passages from any Yes song.
Band front man Eddie Argos told Pitchfork his best purchase of the last year – and it’s unusual:
“…Oh, no! I know the best thing I bought! It was when I was in America, and there’s a television program called “Due South”, they’ve got a Mountie in it, in Chicago. It’s my favorite ever television program, I think it’s brilliant. I was obsessed with it when I was younger. I think that’s why I like it really. Over here the box set is about £100; it’s very popular here. But I don’t think it’s very popular in America ‘cos I managed to buy the box set on DVD, the whole of Series 3 for like $12. It’s brilliant. [laughs] (Pitchfork)
[tags] music promotion, Art Brut, record promotion, karaoke [/tags]
June 6, 2007 by Colin
The day’s best cross-cultural reference:
“Nobody puts Swayze in a corner!”
It’s the promo tag line for AMC’s showing of the 80s film Red Dawn.
And for those readers younger than twenty five, it echoes Patrick Swayze’s famous line from Dirty Dancing.
[tags] 80s, eighties, Dirty Dancing, Jerry Orbach [/tags]
May 25, 2007 by Colin
Then you’ll like Jonathon’s own personal account: How I Did It.
In keeping with the self promotional theme, I think Jonathan’s story should come in a package:
- 18 page self-published narrative
- Autographed reprint of the NYT story
- USB key of all the home made Jonathan Coulton videos
- Longwinded testimonial from John Hodgman
- Flexidisk of Jonathan’s favourite songs
- A little odd-shaped erratum sheet with a Skype link where fans can find a phone tree of Jonathan Coulton non-sequiturs.
But that’s just me.
[tags] Jonathan Coulton. Clive Thompson, indie music, music promotion [/tags]