Merry Christmas!

I don’t know how active I’ll be in the blogosphere during the holidays, but just in case I become a complete creative vegetable, abandoning my computer in favor of my family, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas season. It  has been delightful getting to know many of you during 2007, and I look forward to deeper interaction in 2008!

(Image credit)

BrandingWire update

We have a couple of new challenges up on BrandingWire.comone has generated a bunch of helpful input already, the other is just up now.

If you hadn’t already discovered, BrandingWire is no longer restricted to the original 12 pundits who founded the site – now, we publicly post these challenges, and invite ANY marketing blogger to give input and ideas. So pitch in!

Also, Who Needs You? – a new-ish post on the Small Business Branding blog. Feel free to challenge this idea in the comments if you think I’m off base!

Steve’s Sticky Stuff 12_18

A high-end narrated 3-D animation of the “inner life of a cell.” Very cool. Warning: lots of medical terminology.
Where can you find some good (low-cost or no-cost) images? Here’s a helpful list.

If you use Facebook at all, you’ll get a kick out of this spoof glimpse into Facebook 30 years in the future.

And finally, an inspirational year-end treat. Patrick Hughes – born without eyes, crippled from birth, gifted musician – and a member of the University of Louisville marching band. Amazing.

“Welcome to Scotland.” Now Fork over the Cash.

125,000 British pounds, that is.

What does that amount of cold, hard cash buy you? Why, a new, imaginative, creative, over-the-top tagline for the country that made Scotch famous.

“Welcome to Scotland”welcome-to-scotland.jpg

Nope. Not joking.

That amazing, mind-bogglingly original phrase is what an agency came up with – and what some government entity embraced – as the new tagline.

Some things, you just cannot make up. The worst parody is something so ludicrous that it is its own self-parody.

Welcome to insanity.

Steve’s Sticky Stuff 12_07

It’s official – Style has now replaced Substance (30 second audio).

Would you pay $120.00 for a beer?

Something as simple as a water droplet can make a great photo. Examples here and here.

Do you have teenagers (I have 3…so far). Then this will make sense to you! It is now posted in our kitchen…

What’s in a Name?

For reasons both profound and petty, what you name your product matters.

This article from Business Week goes into the latest status between the 2 competing hi-def disk formats (HD DVD, and Blu-ray). While this battle has been going on for two years, and while I have no idea what the exact technical merits are for each format, I’ll give my opinion on the branding winner, hands-down.

blu-ray-disc.jpgBlu-ray. Why? Because it’s a cool name. HD DVD is not cool – it’s boring. Petty? Yes indeed. But if I’d just purchased a new-fangled player, I’d feel a lot prouder to say to my friends, “Hey, come on over and see my new Blu-ray player and disks!”

So many companies, especially technology companies, don’t get this. Look, if you’re going to invest a boatload of money into developing a product, why would you launch it with a weak name? Would you launch the Queen Mary 2 by breaking a bottle of Sam’s Club cola over it and dubbing it the “QM 877 Ocean Transport System”?

(as an aside, I saw a Blu-ray disk showing on a large HD panel TV in a store last week, and the resolution and detail were absolutely out of this world. I’m sure that a HD DVD would have looked cool too. But it is easier to remember that I saw Blu-ray!)

(just noticed an article on the NY Times website, about the tendency of new web companies to use nonsense names. Worth a read.)

Switching off the Beacon

Facebook finally owned up to the fact that they really did a poor job implementing Beacon, a “service” that provides way too much information about your buying habits (from the Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required):

After weeks of criticism over a new advertising program that was perceived as a privacy threat, Facebook Inc. has tweaked its privacy settings and offered a public apology from its chief executive — but advertisers remain wary.

The program, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled last month, allows Facebook to track its users’ activities, such as purchases, on third-party Web sites that partner with the social-networking site and broadcast them to the users’ friends. For instance, Facebook users could receive messages telling them that a friend had bought a sweater on or a movie ticket on Called Beacon, the program was intended to give advertisers a way “into the conversations between people,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

But the program raised the ire of privacy advocates and users, who said Facebook didn’t clearly explain how users could prevent information from being shared and didn’t give them a way to opt out entirely. The advocacy organization Civic Action, for one, formed a group complaining about the way Beacon had been implemented. As of yesterday afternoon, the group had close to 70,000 members.

In a Facebook blog, Mr. Zuckerberg yesterday wrote, “We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.” He added that Facebook users can now adjust their privacy settings to opt out of the Beacon program entirely…more


At least Mr. Zuckerberg did the right thing, made a plain-spoken apology, and reacted to the concerns by making changes.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would want to broadcast this much information about themselves – but then again, I don’t “get” Twitter for the same reason…

How to get StickyFigure to walk around with a silly grin on his mug

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we visited Mom up in Central Connecticut, and experienced an unexpected pleasure. A Stew Leonard’s grocery store had opened up nearby, and we went for a visit.


I had heard about this small NY/CT chain over the years, and so I was prepped for the fact that Stew’s was a destination, not a mere grocery store.

And so, there I was wandering through a food store, a bemused grin painted across my face, fresh amusement and amazement delighting me with every turn of the corner. Folks, these people are ON IT! This is how food shopping ought be!

First of all, the store is not laid out in traditional aisles. You wander a meandering path from department to department, taking in the various sights and smells of each area. Wisely, the fresh coffee (with a roasting machine on-site, and bins of beans that, in some cases, are still warm!) is right up front. I could not resist grinding and buying some and it is delicious. Plus, at many points along the way, free samples are offered – the pumpkin donuts, and the thick sweet potato chips were scrumptious – so you’re definitely getting a multi-sensory experience all along the way.

For kids, there are various stations where you can press buttons and have amusing farm animals perform for you, plus there are mechanical thingamabobs hanging from the ceiling to keep young (and old!) attention spans occupied.

stew-animals.jpgI felt like I was at a country fair. Probably looked like a real doofus, with a crooked grin seeing all this marketing genius embodied in a store, but I didn’t care – it was so much FUN!

When was the last time you went to buy food and had fun? When was the last time you looked forward to a trip somewhere so you’d have an excuse to return to a grocery store? I’m looking forward to my next visit over the Christmas holidays!

The food quality appeared to be quite good across the board – a lot of fresh stuff and quite a wide variety. Prices were moderately higher than normal, but somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to care about that. I was too enthused about the overall customer experience. Stew’s re-defines what shopping should be!