Friday, December 4, 2009

Free Idea Friday

Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. Every Friday I will share an idea that's been rolling around in my head that I have neither the time nor the where-with-all to execute. Remember, it's free, so take it for what it's worth.

There are over 100,000,000 households in the United States. It's a pretty good bet there's at least one refrigerator in each of those households and many of those refrigerators are not full which wastes a significant amount of energy since a full refrigerator runs much more efficiently than an empty one. So how do you keep your refrigerator running at peak efficiency if you don't keep it full of food? Fridge Savers energy absorbing blocks fill the empty spaces in your refrigerator, reducing it's energy usage. A savings of just 10% will save the country at least $1 billion in energy costs and cut CO2 emissions by 1.8 billion pounds. 

Okay, so it's not the next iPhone and a lot of work needs to be done to investigate the design and materials. But, here's a concept board to take to consumers to gauge their interest in the idea (Click on the image to see the concept full size). At a time when people are concerned about the small steps they can take to save money and energy, it might be worth a look.

Thanks to Glenn Fuller, new product visualizer extraordinaire, for the illustration.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Unleash Your Inner Edison

Are you a great, innovative thinker? Do you want to be? Recent research shows that there are five keys to innovative thinking and that they are not innate talents hardwired into our DNA. Pretty much anyone can learn them (and I always thought I was special). So if you want to invent the next iPhone or Pet Rock, here are the five secrets to becoming a creative genius.

  1. Connect Ideas -- Take two or more things that already exist and combine them in new and unique ways.
  2. Actively Observe - Watch what people do and listen to what they say without any preconceived notion of what the answer is.
  3. Ask Questions - This is a skill that people don't practice enough. Asking the right questions that get deep is the key.
  4. Experiment and Optimize - The first internal combustion engine wasn't perfect. Your idea probably isn't either. Be ready to show it to a lot of people early and improve it quickly.
  5. Explore and Discover - How big is your world? Who do you talk to? What do you read? The more you experience, the more resources you'll have to draw from to develop new and innovative ideas.
That's it. Simple, huh? Tomorrow I'll demonstrate this practice with a new product idea on Free Idea Friday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Merry Freakin' X-mas

Yesterday, the American Family Association took The Gap off their anti-Christmas watch list. I'm sure the folks at Gap, Inc. in San Francisco are breaking out the eggnog over this news. It seems that in years past The Gap used phrases like "Merry Gap-mas" to promote their seasonal offerings and managed to rub the perpetually offended the wrong way with that bastardization of the greeting.
I'm guessing the AFA lifted the ban grudgingly, given that Christmas now shares top billing with Hanukkah, Kwanza and Soltice in this year's Gap spot. But they're not above taking credit for the change. "We firmly believe that Gap is responding to an enormous amount of pressure from the AFA network," said Bryan Fisher from the AFA. I have a hard time believing that was in the creative brief at Crispin, but hey, I've seen stranger client requests.
This doesn't end the work of the AFA as there are several retailers on their naughty list, including those bastions of heathenism: Advance Auto Parts, Kroger and Radio Shack.
So Happy Holidays, and in the immortal words of Stephen Colbert, "Only 24 more shopping days to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior!" (Thanks to my friend Ryan Arnold for that one.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Smart Marketers Fix The Product First

Levi Strauss will soon re-introduce Dockers brand khakis to American men with a new advertising campaign sporting the theme "Wear The Pants." Having owned my share of Dockers over the years, I am a little skeptical that the brand will resonate with their intended target, 25 - 35 year-old men, given that Dockers are probably seen is "their father's pants." And we all know how well that "not your father's" thing worked out for Oldsmobile.

There are two things, however, that Dockers seems to be doing right. The first is illustrated by this statement from a New York Times article, "The campaign... will be accompanied by changes in the pants, including more colors and different fits." Nice to see a marketer not taking an outdated product, dressing it up with a new campaign and then blaming the agency when it fails.

The second smart element of this makeover is acknowledging the brand's heritage. They're not running away from their past by claiming Dockers are something they're not, such as the latest hip pant for a new generation. They're taking the core equity of the brand, "casual work pants," and trying to make it relevant today. I'm betting on a successful relaunch. For Levi's sake, I hope that works out better than the bets I've made in the market.

Monday, November 30, 2009

For Retailers Twitter Is The New Radio

In the old days of advertising (up until 2001 or so) there were essentially four ways of communicating with consumers: television, print, outdoor and radio. Of those, the "retail media" were newspaper and radio because they were the most targetable and you could change the message frequently. This article in the New York Times shows how retailers are embracing new media including Facebook and twitter, to get the message out at a moment's notice. That's great if you have perishable inventories that you want to move or other timely information you want to share with fans of your brand. It is, however, a double-edged sword.

Tweeting deals is one more way to communicate that what you're selling isn't worth the price you've been asking. Just as the auto companies conditioned consumers not to buy until the big red rebate tag was on the windshield of a car, retailers may find their customers waiting to buy because they know there will be another deal coming soon. In twitter and Facebook you have tools to help fans feel like insiders. The key is to find ways to alter the value equation beyond price reductions, because a customer who buys solely on price is only there until he finds a better deal. And in the information age that could be... now.