Steve’s Sticky Stuff 11_9

Do you ever feel like you’re pulling too much weight? You’re not alone…It’s not out yet, but looks like an interesting new web application…JotSpace, a free on-line whiteboard.

Just for fun, let this site load, and watch the action.

Cassini takes a phenomenal shot from behind Saturn (extremely high res). Yes, that little dot behind the rings is Earth. I may have linked to this one before. Well, it’s just as impressive today!

Some Glass Eye Candy

brokenbayer2.jpgWow. Very cool photos of glasses shattering, and the effect on liquids inside. Shatteringly good!

Quote of the Day

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, “Make me feel important.”

Mary Kay Ash, founder, Mary Kay Cosmetics

(hat tip: AdvaMed SmartBrief newsletter)

The Best 2 Minutes You’ll Spend Today

If you haven’t yet seen the brief video clip of an autistic high school boy who gets his moment in the sun during a basketball game, then click here. It will be the best 2 minutes of your day – guaranteed!

Brand DNA – instant recognition

Seth Godin has an insightful post on how quickly certain things (such as the first notes of a song) can register on us, and bring up the “brand” represented.

Off the top of my head, I think this type of imparted Brand DNA comes from at least 3 things:

– Repetition

– Consistency

– Strong (hopefully, positive!) association

Recently, one of my sons, who is taking drum lessons, was given a CD to learn from, by a rock group from the 70’s. I vaguely recalled the name of the group but couldn’t “place” the song names in my head. However, moments after the CD started to spin, I had the whole song flooding back from memory. Repetition, don’t you know, from years ago.

I remember, over a decade ago now, when I used to fly more regularly into Chicago, that there was (and still is) a Starbucks located at the entrance to O’Hare’s Terminal E/F. Coming into that city, my nose would be attuned to this positive association, and it was always there. Plus, they had one at McCormick Center, where I’d be each year for a trade show in November – and I’d unfailingly walk however long it was in that gargantuan place to get my morning Starbucks. Those experiences helped embed the Starbucks DNA into my system.

Now, if I could just get a piece of Seth’s DNA and graft it into my makeup!

My Most Popular Post – I Can’t Believe it!

Like most bloggers, I like to peek “under the hood” and see which posts generate the most traffic. And, since search engines drive so much surfing these days, it’s particularly enlightening to see which terms are used frequently that draw people to my site.

Some of the searches are truly bizarre. Why my site comes up in response to certain word combinations (some of which I won’t reproduce here!) is sometimes a mystery!

But what query brings the most visitors? Dr. Pepper’s 23 flavors.

I did a post on this marketing campaign some months back, which I consider a brilliant move by the Dr. Pepper folks. In that post, I mentioned how this “23 flavors” theme creates a sense of mystery – so just what are these wonderful flavors?

And, sure enough, tons of people are searching the Internet trying to find out! They come to my site because I did a post – not because I can reveal the “23” secret! – but I suspect folks are rummaging around the web trying to find the answer to this puzzle. It’s a great marketing concept.

I don’t think it would work so well for bottled water, however…

Brands You Can Take to the Bank!

Last week, I drove by some sign for Citizen’s Bank. It registered in my obsessive brand-consciousness that this was a particularly weak logo – what do a bunch of arrows pointing to one another have to do with anything? Then, going on their website, I noted that the tagline is, at least, consistent with the logo – weak and meaningless. The name of the bank isn’t bad, but someone please invest some money in a better identity campaign!

That got me thinking of another bank that recently went through a merger and re-branding. Just what is a Wachovia, anyway? And what is the logo trying to portray? Shouldn’t a name and logo have a certain self-evident meaning to it? If someone has to ask how to pronounce something, or query as to the meaning of a logo, then the game is over before it starts.

I happen to bank at Bank of America – only because the branch where we started banking long ago has gone through however many mergers, and BofA is the last acquirer of record! BofA’s logo is strong, although their prior campaign slogan (Higher Standards) had no particular emotional content. However, the new BofA campaign (Bank of Opportunity) directly speaks to people’s aspirations, and their new ads are quite effective.

Of all bank names, however, none sinks lower in my mind than Fifth Third Bank, with their highly intuitive web address, What were these people thinking? And how are they going to compete with First Third, Second Third, Third Third, and Fourth Third? What if First Second opened up down the street (tagline: 1/2 the Bank You Expected!)?

So, what are your most (and least) favorite bank brands, and why?

Coffee and Donut Shops: spicing up a boring drive

It was a long and rainy drive to Boston last week. The scenery, of course, was ever-changing – the back of an 18-wheeler, the rooster-tail from an SUV, orange detour cones – but despite all that, staying alert and engaged was a challenge. What to do to help make the trip less of a snooze?

How about coffee? Specifically, comparing the coffees of the various donut shops as I snaked my way northward.

First stop: Krispy Kreme. One of their few stores in the area northeast is off I-95 in Milford, CT. Pulling up, I was happy to see the “Hot Now” sign lit up (hot donuts were being made!) – but then, was quickly dismayed to discover that they no longer – as of a few days before – hand out free samples of those delectable rings of sweetness to customers! Hey, that was the main reason my family and I have stopped there all these times on trips to Connecticut! One great branding idea destroyed, probably by some cost-cutter in HQ. Nonetheless, I do like their coffee pretty well – esp. the bold roast. I’d give KK a ranking of 2nd place among my stops this day.

Then, of course, there is Dunkin’ Donuts. For those in the northeast, and especially New England, I should say the ubiquitous DD. Their coffee has always been consistently decent, and today was no exception. Some years ago, they did a limited trial of a DD Dark Roast, and I used to Go Out Of My Way (one of my ultimate measures of brand attachment!) to get that brew. Alas, for reasons that have never been clear to me, they shelved it. The DD cup, on this day, ranked third.

And in first place? Well, we had dinner with some friends who moved down from Canada recently, and they recommended Tim Horton’s. Now Tim Horton’s donut shops are big in Canada, but only recently have they begun invading the U.S., starting (I assume) in New England. Having stored that tidbit in memory, when I saw a Horton’s sign off the highway, I pulled in for my first TH coffee experience. And, I’d have to say that it nudged out the Krispy Kreme brew by a few grounds.

Of course, on my way home I saw the welcome sight of a Starbucks sign, and that cup easily topped the others. What can I say? – I like strong, dark coffee. But I still haven’t found the equal of my all-time favorite, Mill Mountain Blend. Why can’t these folks expand from central VA to north Jersey??

Back to the Past

Every once in a while, my eye catches an advertisement on-line that forces me to click – not because I care one whit about the thing being advertised, but because the graphical design or message is so compelling.

Yes, I’m sick. I know.

This morning, it was a banner ad for I thought that the logo, the color combinations, and the typeface were so well put together, that I had to go to the site. And I was not disappointed. A great site design – very pleasing to the eye. Somebody with real talent did this interface.

I have a mild interest in genealogies – nothing inordinate – but if I ever want to dig deeper into the past, guess where I’ll go?

The Power of Imagery

Recently, I asked a graphic designer friend to come up with a couple of graphics using the imagery of pie, for a volunteer organization in which I serve.

She did a great job – and the unexpected evidence was quickly apparent! My five year old was standing over my shoulder as I opened up the files (one of an entire pie, the other of a delectable slice), and then I heard him leave the room and scoot down the hall. Next thing I know, he is pleading with my wife, saying that he’s “in the mood for pie!”

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind a slice myself!

(if you’re looking for free-lance graphic design work, by the way, I can certainly recommend my friend Rebecca)

Coming Up with Names

Every once in a while, the conceit creeps in that you’ve seen all the branding/marketing sites out there. Nope. Here’s a very thoughtful site on corporate naming, called The Name Inspector. Written by a linguist with solid experience in naming, this relatively new site has some great content.

Hat tip: Guy Kawasaki

Brand Memories

I was sitting at my desk today, riffling through old memory banks to try to identify brands from other eons of my life (childhood, teenage years, college, young adult) – something has to be very special and memorable to endure the decades.

Then, going to pick up some wine for tonight’s dinner, I saw a name that I hadn’t seen for many years. French Rabbit.

Back when my bride and I were relative newlyweds living in Nashville, and just discovering the pleasures of wine, there was a brand we bought frequently (both red and white) called French Rabbit. Why? Well, it was cheap. And reasonably drinkable, at that young stage in our pilgrimage.

Now they come in this funky new “tetra” packaging. It was still cheap, so for old time’s sake, I picked up a bottle box thingie of Merlot.

It’s red, it’s liquid, and it’s inoffensive. Would I buy it again? Nah – but I still enjoyed connecting with a brand from the past. Even if it was one of the earliest to do the “cute animal” thing for a label!

No Wimpy Wines, part deux

After my recent post on Ravenswood Winery’s marketing approach, I exchanged a few messages with Becky Carroll, who recently wrote up her (very positive) experience with Ravenswood on her blog, Customers Rock!

Giving Citi some credit

It’s easy to pick on the foibles of various companies when they do something wrong. But it’s always nice to point out when a company does something right.

I recently got a Citibank credit card. I had a minor issue to clear up, so I called the toll-free number shown on the card. From there, FOUR things went right:

1. Almost immediately on the automated phone system, the option was given to reach a human being. Having just yesterday been through touch-tone purgatory with my ISP, this was a refreshing change.

2. A person picked up right away. On a Saturday morning. Nice.

3. As I explained the situation, she instantly understood the issue and said she’d take care of it. No fuss, no muss. Nice job, Yvonne.

4. Then, when I mentioned one slight anomaly on the website when I logged in, she said she’d have the web person take care of it right away.

How to build customer appreciation and loyalty? Here’s a good 4-part starting point!

New DVD – it’s in the cards

One of my sons just came home with the new James Bond DVD (Casino Royale). Ah, but this was no ordinary DVD packaging. This oversized box contained, not only the 2-disc movie edition, but also 2 decks of cards (with Casino Royale “branding”) plus one high-quality poker chip.

I’ve always been a fan of “enduring” give-aways – swag that you can’t bring yourself to throw away because it is perceived to be too valuable, too useful, too unique, or too attractive. Pens – too much competition. Labeled candies – barely any shelf life. But these playing cards won’t be easy to toss out. My Impactiviti tile coasters – too nice to toss. I also find it very difficult to toss pads of writing paper – I still have some from conferences years back.

If you’re going to give out a goodie, make it something hard to part with – be sure it passes the “toss test”!

A keen grasp of the obvious

I saw this pathetic example of empty verbal calories in the WSJ today. Read the following sentence and make a mental score, on a scale of 1-100, of the brainpower expended to generate this stellar insight:

“We see consumers as the most important part of the fashion food chain because they are the ones who are ultimately buying the product,” says (I’ll leave out the name and company to spare the embarrassment).

Golly gee whiz – you mean the actual BUYER is the crucial link here? Why, oh why didn’t I pursue that MBA so I’d have been instructed in these finer points!?!

And by the way, am I the only one in the world that actually despises the term “consumer“? I find the term to be demeaning, depersonalizing, and ultimately unhelpful. Problem is, I have yet to come up with a different term that somehow also incorporates the ideas of intelligent decision-making and well as usage. Customer, client, user, purchaser – all of them have flaws and limits as a general term, though they are not as offensive as consumer. Anyone else have ideas for a “consumer replacement”?

Chuck talks

Great billboard put up by Charles Schwab, as we approach tax season. Very simple, very effective:


What else needs to be said?! Punchy and compelling message, with 8 letters. Fabulous.

Are your ideas Made to Stick?

This will be the best business book I’ll read all year. I know that already.  And if you need to communicate with other people (who doesn’t?), it may be one of your top picks also.

Made to Stick has the telling subtitle, Why some ideas survive and others die. The main thesis is this: there are ways to package your ideas that allow them to stick in the minds of your audience. Building on a key concept (“stickiness”) from Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book, The Tipping Point, authors Chip and Dan Heath uncover the anatomy of ideas that embed themselves into the minds and hearts of people.

 The book is clearly written, very approachable, and filled with memorable examples that, of course, exemplify the main intent of the book. The principles outlined are nothing earth-shatteringly new, but they are presented in such a way as to provide a practical call to arms for more skillful and creative expression.

According to the authors, communication that sticks needs to maximize simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional connection, and the use of stories. When you think of some of the world’s best communicators, you see the fingerprints of these practices all over their preserved productions.

This is a passion of mine – distilling down to the core idea and expressing it well, whether in writing, public speaking, teaching, or any other format. I see this skill as the key success factor in creating good branding – but I think the principle applies equally to training, copywriting, and even parenting. I recommend this book highly to anyone who seeks to communicate more effectively.

How to create a difficult “user interface”

You can Havidol!

Are you suffering from Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder (DSACDAD)? Some people actually think they are…and now there’s new treatment – Havidol!

Great spoof on a fake drug and condition, dreamed up by Australian artist Justine Cooper.

The website promoting Havidol is well-done and almost convincing. I enjoyed doing something similar with some colleagues a few years back, with Tranquel, a theobromine-based treatment for lots of mood disorders. But my favorite fake drug of all time is Delinqua, a product a few of us came up with for chronic tardiness.

How not to succeed in a call to action

I was working out on an elliptical machine a few days back, and saw an ad the defied comprehension. DirecTV was advertising for new employees – they showed clips of lots of happy DirectTVites in their various roles, and then had a call for action to go to their website to apply for jobs.

OK, so far so good. Then the announcer, voicing over an array of screen shots, was explaining the 4-step series of menus on the website in order to find the spot where you apply! HELLLLOOOO! You’re running this 60-second ad, and then walking through a series of very particular mouse clicks to show people how to act?? Are you kidding me – someone is supposed to REMEMBER all that?

If you’re going to drive people to a website through some kind of promotional campaign, put a link directly on the home page! “We-re hiring! – did you see our ad on TV? Apply HERE!”

Perhaps the company should be renamed InDirectTV!

AT&T – the circular evolution of the brand

Stephen Colbert explains the convoluted evolution of AT&T to….AT&T. Hysterical.

(Nuts! YouTube had to remove this video…)

Starbucks and market spend

Couldn’t have said it better myself. So I won’t. The chart speaks volumes.

The power of true customer service and loyalty…Starbucks has built its brand without enriching media outlets!

Hat tip: Brand Autopsy 

Top Ten Tips for Corporate Naming

Good stuff from FortyMedia.

Spicing up the mundane

Color bubble wrap – why’d it take so long?

Take the obvious and undistinguished, and find a harmless and no-cost way to spice it up.

This would be a real hoot – fill the bubbles with scented air. Then, when people pop it (you DO pop bubble wrap – admit it!), they get a bonus sensory experience (beats scratch-and-sniff!).

(hat tip: book of joe)