Archive for August, 2012
CBD is a canine-friendly office and, for the past 9 years, my lovely girl Jasmine has been a constant presence. Sadly, Jasmine departed this world on Tuesday for the big doggie park in the sky. A Shepherd-Husky mix, Jazzy was a talker, with a “woo-woo” howl unlike nothing we’ve ever heard. Various pitches of that howl announced her arrival at the office, her desire to eat (right smack at high noon), her need for a walk, a demand for a treat… even expressing annoyance at having her morning or afternoon nap interrupted. She often talked–and ran–during her sleep as well, an amusing diversion in the day. Our office manager, Sharon, was always a soft touch, and Jazzy pestered her relentlessly for treats. She helped herself to a good share of unprotected sandwiches and the occasional piece of birthday cake and would bound in like a freight train to a client meetings if food was involved.
Jasmine left behind an office full of admirers—my husband, me and Puck (her much more aloof and quiet companion who misses her a bunch). No dog will ever be another crazy Jazzy, but we feel the best way to honor her life is to provide a new life for another pup who will, of course, be absolutely wonderful in her unique ways. So, this weekend, we will take Puck “speed dating” at Chicago Canine Rescue, the wonderful organization that plucked them both out of Chicago animal control’s pound so many years ago. Stay tuned!
I catch something out of the corner of my eye. You’re leaning against the wall, just about to make a move, perhaps to walk towards the train. People threaten to block my view. A bus bounces and honks down the street, noisily braking at the intersection. There are so many distractions. All are aiming to take this moment from me. I only have a split-second to get this shot. Our eyes locked. I focus. Squeeze the trigger. GOTCHA!
Dear reader, what I am describing is a passion of mine— street photography. While this entire exchange only took seconds, I can play it back in my mind like a short film. This rich moment is typical of street photography, and it always makes me think. What can I add to it to make it better, bring it to life? Thanks to artists Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, I might have an answer.
Though GIFs (pronounced “jiff,” like the peanut butter) have been around since the late 1980s, its resurgence in the last half decade enjoys a newfound art form in photography displays. Using animated GIFs as their medium (not video), Beck and Burg have created cinematic moments that are subtle, beautiful and dramatic:
And, Cinemagraphs aren’t the only display GIFs are invading. Marketers have taken animated GIFs to email, engaging viewers with an entirely new brand experience, putting motion in what is expected to be still: (Yes, animated GIFs will play in every email client, excluding Outlook 2007/2010 and Windows Mobile 7 – in which you will just see the first frame.)
If you have seven minutes to spare, watch this Off Book short from PBS Digital Studios. It dives into the history of the GIF and includes an interview with Beck and Burg, as well as other animated GIF artists.
Get a feel of GIFs, then start adding this wonderful feature into what you do. As we enter the visual age, it’s not something you’ll regret investing in.
Last year, Valentine’s Day merchandise was in stores by December 15. This year, Hobby Lobby partially stocked its holiday merchandise the week after July 4, and Halloween City pop-up stores opened doors weeks before Labor Day.
Retailers are trying to entice consumers earlier to combat lackluster seasonal and holiday spending, but this early-bird tactic results in consumers being a bit ”over it” when the holidays finally arrive. Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that U.S. retailers and consumers need a few more buying-occasion holidays. I’m surprised that the economists have overlooked such an obvious opportunity.
I can think of few things more economically stimulating than a good holiday, especially if it’s coupled with a day or two off work. As it is, most of us enjoy a paltry nine holidays every year that are suitable as giving or buying occasions. (Okay, nine if you count St. Patrick’s Day.)
Consumers spending habits are still conservative; however, there are still motivations that inspire us to buy. The solution isn’t in adding redundant celebrations like Sweetest Day. The trick is to find new National holiday concepts that galvanize, inpire and reward us. Here are some holidays that would get me into a store:
- National Beautification Day: Just imagine the elasticity of this idea. From fashion to home improvement to gardening… National Beautification Day can give businesses another opportunity to help customers reach their own unique beautification goals. A Tuesday in May would be the perfect day, but I’m seriously going to need the day off.
- National Day of Giving: This is a terrific opportunity for us to turn our attention to those who have suffered from benign neglect over the last year. Think about that neighbor, teacher, mechanic or business colleague—the people you take for granted. How would you celebrate such a day?
- National Picnic Day: What could be better than a day totally reserved for celebrating the American outdoor dining experience? Sure, we’ve got July 4th, Labor Day and Memorial Day, but these overscheduled holidays lack focus. Let’s just pick a day to stop work, gather a crowd and cop a squat on the turf with our Smokey Joes.
Need a new holiday? Tell us your ideas!
Lollapalooza is one of the major music festivals in the country, drawing roughly 270,000 attendees over three days in Chicago’s Grant Park. The demographic is a strong 18-35, perfect for an experiential marketer.
While I wasn’t able to get to everything during my one day there (who can?), here’s what my son and I experienced and thought about each marketing attempt:
- American Family Insurance: Just before the entrance, American Family Insurance was handing out bags with sunscreen and hand sanitizer, which was simply practical. But how about a promotion, contest or call to action in the bag?
- State Farm: Inside the gates, State Farm had a bag check, and someone’s great idea took it further giving people a chance to “spin the TV” to win prizes. Naturally, almost everyone won sunglasses (customizing was a nice idea, but made the line long); and, marketers made off with data from a survey people were asked to take. So far, the follow up has been pleasant and not overdone.
- Sony: Sony had several booths focusing on different products. The Playstation portion was crowded but engaging, with plenty of games to play and raffles. On the other end, Sony Electrolounge was big on atmosphere, low on fun. They had a scavenger hunt, which sounded like a nice idea on paper, but my son wanted to focus on Lollapalooza’s music, not ask people to pose for pictures just to be entered into a raffle he might not win.
- Google: Google had a similar booth to Sony, but they didn’t ask you to work as hard for freebies. Google also gave free a download card attached to Lollpalooza program.
- Dell: Didn’t make it to the DELLLIVE LOUNGE. “Another DJ tent?” My teenager was not impressed. Not Dell’s fault.
- Adidas: Adidas had performers dancing. Entertaining.
- Camelback: Camelback sponsored free water filling stations, which was a great sponsorship and very welcomed throughout the day.
- Oasis: The Fender Fan Oasis was a lot of fun. They took pictures of people holding legendary guitars and gave you the opportunity to try out equipment.
Overall, everyone did a good job. It’s not always easy to create a differentiating experience that’s brand relevant and fits with an event. As any good marketer will tell you, it’s a challenge to engage the consumer beyond the experience. When it’s all said and done, if you can, use the event as a bridge.
Simply put? Market what’s meaningful.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed the arrival of chief marketing officers (CMOs) at U.S. colleges and universities. It was unfortunate to learn that all too often the main focus among CMOs is the need to defend their job internally followed by convincing parents of the value of investing in higher education. Truly, their attention is needed elsewhere.
There is no room for marketing complacency in today’s saturated higher education space. From student acquisition and degree completion to alumni advocacy and capital campaign achievement, colleges and universities have to embrace marketing as a strategic initiative critical to survival and growth.
Job one in the higher education market is to differentiate an institution in a way that is meaningful and not easily replicated by the competition, and to develop a unique value proposition that can resonate with myriad audiences. In addition to providing constant and consistent brand stewardship –which includes aligning various schools/sub brands– driving demand for programs is essential. Things such as leveraging intellectual capital, stemming attrition, attracting sponsorships and cultivating alumni relations are just a few of the day-to-day initiatives that require marketing expertise.
Simply put, there isn’t a post outside the CMO position that can efficiently manage these crucial elements; all are vital to an institution’s financial health. More importantly, these responsibilities require inclusion among the highest ranking administration to ensure success. Often times, only a CMO can command and be confident in receiving that kind of C-suite support.
Together these responsibilites total a simple equation that quantifies a CMO’s value and return on investment (ROI).
Public transportation. Riders have a love-hate relationship with it. We’re all big fans when our trip runs smoothly, but how about when it doesn’t?
Enter Designing Chicago, a new platform that connects people to the city. The concept of its first project, titled “New Tools for Public Transit,” was created by George and Sara Aye, founders of the Greater Good Studio in Chicago. Their mission is to solve social problems, starting with one that seems to always have people complaining — public transportation.
The idea is to allow Chicagoans to participate in the creation of a transit mobile app. This app will connect the city’s transportation schedules from one interface and ask urban dwellers to share ideas, express needs or start conversations around city navigation.
Collecting input from Chicagoans, “Urban Scouts” will be sent out in the city to gather as much information as they can about transportation: what people think about it, what they like/dislike, what’s working and what’s not.
This participatory project will gather information from multiple perspectives: young and old, Chicago natives and first time visitors. The data collected will then help craft the app to give people the knowledge they need to navigate Chicago.
The purpose of the app is to alleviate the stress of traveling by making a rider’s trip run as smoothly as possible. The app could have a scan code to pay on your phone, an alarm to alert you before your stop and even a locator for bike parking, car sharing or taxis.
Weather recaps, money tracking, gas saving – these are just a few of the ideas Designing Chicago has come up with, and more from the public are flooding in. For the mobile world, this concept of getting consumers involved in the process of creating an app seems like a great idea.
Why not let the future users of the app contribute to what goes into it? This approach gets everyone excited because people enjoy feeling like they are a part of something. The users of the app will be able to follow its creation and contribute ideas along the way.
Will this attempt to create the ultimate transportation app be a success? Currently in the research and development phase, it is still too early to tell. Whether or not this app is built and released, the idea alone is one that has stirred interesting conversation. Could this be an approach that companies may see fit? If social media is more heavily integrated with this type of crowd-centric project, a much wider audience could be reached.
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