Friday, February 25, 2011

A paperless sketchbook

I've always been partial to concept sketches, the early formation of a product or advertising idea that's drawn by hand on a napkin or notepad. They have so much energy and potential. It's a part of the creative process that seems to have fallen by the wayside with the advent of the Mac, Illustrator and Photoshop.

This tool brings that lost art into the digital age.

The NoteSlate is a simple, one-color tablet that works like a pen and paper, allowing you to share handwritten notes, sketches and ideas electronically.

There's no web browser, no multi-media center, no phone or camera, it's an electronic notebook that puts a human touch in the digital world.

Will it replace the iPad? No. But it's a nice alternative to sketching out ideas on paper then scanning them. Plus you have the added benefit of saving a few trees in the process.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Big tobacco versus big brother

I don't like either side in this fight.

It's pretty clear the tobacco companies lied for years about what they knew and when they knew it. Smoking is harmful, causes cancer and his highly addictive. Done.

Now in a settlement with the Justice Department, the government wants the tobacco companies to run advertising featuring 14 statements, including these:

A federal court is requiring tobacco companies to tell the truth about cigarette smoking. Here's the truth: Smoking kills 1,200 Americans. Every day.

We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits.

We told Congress under oath that we believed nicotine is not addictive. We told you that smoking is not an addiction and all it takes to quit is willpower. Here's the truth: Smoking is very addictive. And it's not easy to quit.

Two comments on these:

First, who created these statements and has it been determined that just including these in marketing communications will actually change behavior?

Advertising isn't only about words and rational arguments. Changing behaviors requires something more. That's why most advertising fails. Most advertising is targeted at our rational mind using functional benefits. I don't think there's anyone in America who doesn't know smoking is bad for you. Choosing to smoke is not a rational decision and you can't change that behavior with rational arguments.

Second, the last time I checked, cigarettes were a legal product. Now you can argue whether or not they should be, as they are the only product sold legally in America that when used as intended will kill the consumer, but if you really want to get rid of smoking, ban cigarettes.

Trying to engineer its demise through manipulating advertising and other communications may seem like the easy way out, but it's a waste of time and money because it will never convince everyone to kick the habit.

Our government has been using this strategy since the late sixties and people are still buying coffin nails.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Today's Gen-Xer is not tomorrow's Boomer

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports on how companies are changing their products and marketing pitches to appeal to aging baby boomers. Why? Let me sum it up for you.

People don't adopt the behaviors and attitudes of the demographic their moving into, they change the behavior of the demographic by bringing their attitudes with them.

Got it?

This was Detroit's big mistake. They assumed the opposite back in the '70s.

They said, "Let the Japanese build those cheap cars for entry level buyers we don't make any money on. When they're ready for a 'real car' they'll move up to us."


If you want to predict what your product, your brand and your communication should look like in 10 years, try this. Look at those who are 10 years younger than your current target, and ask yourself how your product and marketing will have to change to fit with their attitudes and behavior.

Otherwise you'll wake up one morning and find out that your market has moved on and nobody's moved in to replace them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Union Made

It's been interesting watching the activities in Madison for the past week from the conservative stronghold that is Sheboygan.

The state employee unions face a delicate balance in standing up for their collective bargaining rights while not seeming insensitive to private sector workers who have also suffered over the last few years. And I found that to be an interesting challenge.

What would I do if I were marketing for the unions?

Make it personal.

It's easy to vilify a union. It's hard to vilify a grandmother or a hero of 9/11.

The hyperbolic statements of America's favorite commentators made headline writing easy.

Thanks to Madison photographer, Terry Talbot for allowing me to use a few of the hundreds of images he's captured of the protests. You can see more of his work at The names in the copy are invented for demonstration purposes only. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

News from the land of the perpetually offended

Here we go again.

Recently, Pepsi introduced a new taller, thinner can for Diet Pepsi at New York's Fashion Week with this statement, "Our slim, attractive new can is the perfect complement to today's most stylish looks, and we're excited to throw its coming-out party during the biggest celebration of innovative design in the world."

Of course that didn't sit well with Lynn Grefe, president of the National Eating Disorders Association.

“Pepsi should be ashamed for declaring that skinny is to be celebrated." she is quoted as saying. "PepsiCo’s comments are both thoughtless and irresponsible. Their shameful misdirection is further exemplified by tying the launch of this offensive marketing campaign to Fashion Week, where women’s body types are atypical at best … and unhealthy as to be fatal at worst.”

In an era when obesity is at epidemic proportions among Americans, is aspiring to be slim really a bad thing?

Yes, I know being too thin is not good either and the fashion industry has a pretty awful track record in this area, but it's just a soda can.

Lets all take a deep breath and lighten up.