Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yankee Land

Way down upon the Wabash
Such a land was never known.
If Adam had passed over it
The land he’d surely own.
He’d swear it was the Garden
He play’d in as a boy,
And straightway called it “Eden”
In the State of Illinois.

Well, that’s where we’re headed now. Eventually. Off on our “late spring break” of a road trip. Yankee Land. Minnesota is our first destination, then on to Chicago for a family wedding. All around, we’ve been promised fair weather…no snow, in other words.

I’m not certain I believe those promisers, even if they’re family. You know as well as I do that the states “north of the Line” are the next best thing to Arctic regions.

Bless ‘em, they’re channeling travel ads, just like the verses that begin and end this post. This traditional folksong was damned popular in the early 1800s. Property speculators used it to attract settlers and sell land in the “fertile land of El-A-Noy.” Don’t you dare believe it – I have been in Chicago in the middle of winter and the wind that comes off Lake Michigan freezes the cones off the pine trees. Starting around October.

Today we’re driving north. Unlike those early 19th Century settlers, we’re using our Prius. The mpg’s not as good as oxen but we’ll get there faster. I’ll keep up the blog while on the road. Later, y’all.

She’s bounded by the Wabash,
The Ohio and the Lakes,
She’s crawfish in the swampy lands,
The milk-sick and the shakes.
But these are slight diversions
And take not from the joy
Of living in this garden land,
The State of Illinois.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Scroll Reveals!

In a copyrighted article last week, reporter Jim Warren announced that an engineering professor at the University of Kentucky would use X-Ray CT scanning to read interior images of a scroll that had been carbonized by the eruption of Italy’s Mount Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago.

The Italian volcano blew up in 79 AD and buried the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under tons of super-heated ash and rock in one of the most notorious eruptions in history. Thousands of people and animals died. Unbelievably, hundreds of papyrus scrolls survived, tightly rolled up but turned into charcoal, in a Herculaneum mansion. These scrolls were so badly damaged that they crumbled when scholars first tried to open them centuries later.

Now, thanks to hundreds of man-hours and thousands of dollars in computer time, the Kentucky professor and his team have digitally unrolled one precious scroll (see top right) on a computer screen so scholars can read it. The first ancient words revealed are:

After months and months of auditions, Britannia phenom Flavia Publia Nimachis is once again competing on the big Forum stage of Rome’s Got Talent.

Yes, she's got a new makeover courtesy of our own Celerinius Fortunatus here in Herculaneum. Yes, she made it through to the finals.

Hundreds of fans have painted themselves blue in adulation of the Pictish Publia, and will descend on Rome-Sweet-Rome in the Ides of Maius to see her perform in the finals. We hope she will show the spark that made her a word-of-mouth superstar throughout Mare Nostrum.

It’s a triumph of scientific archeology, all right.

“Herculaneum Scroll, Extra-Crispy” photo: David Stephenson.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

“Vertically Famous”

In marketing (as in life), there’s hardly any problem that can’t be overcome with great big budgets. In the absence of money, though, focus is everything.

At this year’s Online Marketing Summit in Houston, Robin Tooms (Principal and Web Strategist at Savage Design) spoke to a capacity crowd about thought leadership marketing using online mechanisms. It was a good reminder, since I’d helped Trevor Eade accomplish this for EMS Group, as you can read about here.

Thought Leadership is a smart tactic, with a considerable force-multiplier effect – especially valuable for companies which are just starting to expand their branding and marketing efforts.

Tooms presented a number of ways to make Thought Leadership work; her most tightly framed pass-along was, “Be vertically famous.” Pick a particular subject, a single arena of expertise…and work to become the (world’s) (nation’s) leading specialist in the subject.

Online marketer Larry Chase made vertical fame No 3 on his list of “13 Essentials for Thought Leadership Marketing.” He wrote about it forcefully and colloquially:

Let’s face it, you’re not going to be Britney Spears (not that you’d want to be). What you want to do is figure out to which audience you wish to be famous. At a Search Engine Strategies conference recently, I heard someone introduced as “a rock star of SEO.” You want to be king of a mole hill and be known by all in that very particular industry. This is what I call “concentrated fame.”

That SEO rock star is going to be just another Joe to someone in the tool-and-die casting business. But that’s OK. It’s much better for you and your firm to a mile deep rather than a mile wide.

Too many marketing programs are wasted because of that mile-wide effect: A little bit here, a little bit there and before you know it, the vital substance of your brand is spread way too thin and it evaporates. By concentrating your efforts on a single tactic, you can focus all media toward making that tactic work, and deepen (or heighten) the impact of your brand.

Making your brand the thought leader in a specific industry category is still a viable goal. Even if you don’t achieve it, you can climb a considerable distance toward it. Thanks to Tooms for reprising its value at OMS Houston.

Photo: “Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming, USA” by Carol Polich. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Socially Byzantine

Speaking of the Associated Press, another AP story reported that ...Alicia Istanbul recently had her Facebook account temporarily canceled because of her unusual surname.

To avoid any concern whatsoever about “fake names,” the Marietta, GA, jewelry designer is re-registering on Facebook with a new name: Alicia Constantinople.

AP Photo: John Bazemore

Monday, May 18, 2009

Louder! Louder!

You don’t have to believe me – believe the Associated Press: When it comes to “aloha shirts,” louder is better. There’s a full (if brief) list of dos and don’ts in a recent story by Nicholas K Geranios. He does a great job of laying out the greats and the near-greats of the burden we really big guys have to carry, fashion-wise.

The article also mentioned Greg Chambers who founded the Mad Gringo company and from whom I buy an occasional shirt. (Some of his are a little too laid back.) On the other hand, Chambers tells a GREAT story including at least one line in Geranios’s article:

And if you stretch beyond three [shirts], people start in on the “It’s so sad to see someone give up like that. His poor wife!” That would be me, I guess – and Barbara.

We were at dinner Saturday evening, at Chatter’s, when another couple was seated next to us. He was wearing a slightly less loud shirt than mine, which was a 90s’ Hilo Hattie with bathing beauties all over it. We complimented each other on our exquisite taste but I could tell I won the prize: I’d out-louded him.

I can’t show you the shirt – I don’t have a photo handy – but I sure do have this picture of the one, the only Hilo Hattie. (There’s an excellent story about her career here, by Dee Buckingham.) Part of it goes:

…in 1971, while she was at the the Merry Monarch Festival, Evelyn and Richard Margolis of Kaluna Hawaii Sportswear approached her for permission to design a line of ‘Hilo Hattie’ clothing. Kaluna, already a million dollar business, purchased a manufacturing plant in Hilo, bought the rights to Hilo Hattie’s name, and, as they say, “The rest is history.”

The firm and its retail outlets are still in business.

That AP list? Do:
■ Do: Buy at least one size too large.
■ Believe that louder is better.
■ Compliment another guy on his rockin’ shirt.
■ Wear them with a solid blazer for formal occasions.

■ Ever tuck them in, unless you are Thomas Magnum.
■ Wear them with a necktie.
■ Wear a shirt with matching pants or shorts.
■ Wear a matching shirt with your spouse.

Some sad new: The story appeared in the Fort Worth, TX Star-Telegram. Several respondents posted quite negative comments about aloha shirts. Tsk, tsk.

Some glad news: Catherine Mallette of the same newspaper is asking for “aloha shirt” submissions – the winner might get a future feature out of it. I told her about the 37 loud shirts I own, though I’m not too sure that’ll impress her. Ta…

A big loud “thank you!” to Donna Giles for sending the article along. The photograph is from Buckingham’s series in the Hawaii Reporter about “Women of World War II Hawaii.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Which Carver?

For quite some time, I’d noted this full-page ad in Marketing News. It’s for a research firm, Data Development Worldwide, “one of the largest market research companies in the country dedicated solely to worldwide custom market research.”

Every time I’ve seen it, I have to tip my hat to the company because it’s advertising, you know. That is, on its own, a great thing for a research firm. On top of that, I have noticed the ad. There’s that headline, “It’s not the wood. It’s the carver.”

A fine idea. At first glance, you have to logically agree with the ad saying that raw data isn’t enough, that something else is necessary: “shaping it into insightful analysis and actionable results.”

Seeing it more than once, however, finally led me to think too much about it (a big danger for the unoccupied mind, let me say).

DDW is also saying that raw data can be carved into almost any pattern. Woodcarvers do it all the time, sometimes even with the same piece of wood. I can shape a good piece of walnut into a pair of pistol stocks; but another (better) woodworker can carve that same slab into an intricate ball-within-ball puzzle; and a clever Boy Scout could whittle it into a whistle or a neckerchief slide.

Figuratively, DDW has “shaped” that uncured chunk of tree into the lovely wooden roundel or tabletop shown in the ad above. That’s not to say, though, that another market research firm couldn’t turn Mr Deadwood into a chest of drawers.

As I said, I admire DDW for advertising at all.

It’s possible that effective advertising probably ought not to be considered too closely – that’s what some clients do, you know…analyze a creative thought to death. A long-ago colleague of mine, John McHugh, used to say that his Irish mother “cooked vegetables ‘til all the evil came out.”

Pick this firm or another to interpret your raw research information. But I gotta wonder if the DDW ad was created just to match the company Managing Director’s name: “Chip” Lister.

Best for Sunday…

Friday, May 15, 2009

More RES

Adding to the various Wood Group Renewable Energy Services attractions, two new ads are currently appearing in magazines worldwide, like Renewable Energy Focus and North American Windpower.

Prism Design and I did concepts, copy and production; specific credit goes to Stacy Allen for excellent work. Each of the two ads addresses a different set of Wood Group features, advantages and benefits for the windpower industry – that “All together now” headline is particularly fun.

The strong Wood Group Gas Turbine Services brand we created two years ago is still clearly transmitted by KEEP ON TURNING.

Having way better photos to work with, as I noted below, made a lot of difference: The wind biz uses too many stock shots because fresh photography is so hard to come by. Again, thanks to client Chris Whitley and the RES team for the excellent photography, the opportunity and the support.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

RES Energizing

Last year, when Texas wind farms generated 6,700 megawatts, the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2008 was in Houston. Hurricane Ike’s effects didn’t count.

This year Texas is topping out at 7,907 megawatts from more than 40 different projects. And WINDPOWER 2009 was held in Chicago, in McCormick Place – a big venue for a now even bigger event. Naturally, Wood Group Renewable Energy Services went to Chicago too. (BTW, no other state comes anywhere close to Texas. Y’all. And WINDPOWER 2010 comes back to Dallas.)
Client Chris Whitley and his team lined up a significant package of wind power-related services and programs, major advances over 2008. These formed the foundation of new materials that we – Signalwrite Marketing and Prism Design – created for the business unit: Print advertising, cut sheets, new booth graphics. Thanks very much indeed.

I’ll show you the ads in a day to two but I wanted to get these fresh photos in front of you pretty quick. Last year (here), RES used a different exhibition property. This year, the RES team pulled out all the stops, adapting the more imposing Wood Group Gas Turbine Services booth with new copy and new photographs.

More than anything else (graphically), having fresh corporate photography to work with makes a huge difference in the presentation: Look at the wind-related images from Wood Group’s wind power projects around the world. The client supplied the new images.

Whitley says: In all honesty this was my first time leading such a project for such a large show (over 22,000 in attendance – the largest wind power show in North America) and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. We chose to use a graphic that depicted the installation of an offshore wind turbine as a backdrop to where the booth personnel would greet passers-by. You could literally see people stop in their tracks, turn to us and ask to be told more. I loved watching the effect that a single picture had on so many people – it was amazing.

The RES team also put in the extra time and effort needed to work the floor of McCormick Place last week – no wonder they needed more energy.

This year, the US can now claim the world’s largest wind energy capacity (25,170 MW), taking the lead from Germany, with 23,903 MW at the end of 2008. The nation’s fast growth has smashed all the previous records: Installed wind capacity in America grew by 50%. So have the opportunities for RES. I appreciate Chris Whitley letting us continue our involvement in wind energy…thanks to Wood Group here and abroad for the work.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Wedded 1977 and still going:
Barbara Nytes-Baron +
Richard Laurence Baron.
Thanks for all the laughs so far.
Much love...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Swine Flew

Despite the government’s attempts to rename the Swine Flu strain (a pretty decent approach to calming unneeded panic), there’s a good brand story out there on America’s store shelves that has absolutely nothing to do with this strain of influenza. Except an awful pun.

Last year Frito-Lay introduced a new line, Flat Earth snack foods, purposely targeted at women. The up-to-the-minute brand transmits its message this way: These “Impossibly Good™” crisps make it possible to have great taste and nutrition.

The packaging and the advertising, coming out of the brand position, features a winged porker. In case it has to be spelled out for you, the play-phrase is “When pigs fly.”

It’s one of those phrases I’ve always enjoyed, even if its applicability to veggie crisp snacks isn’t immediately obvious…flying pigs, flat earth, etc. On this Frito-Lay line, there’s a reversed-out silhouette of the flying pig on every package. The print advertising I’ve seen, in Better Homes and Gardens, features a cute little Yorkshire with white wings.

The product’s gotten generally positive reviews. Though commentators suspect that giant food producer Frito-Lay may not be putting all its cards on the table health-wise, you can read several reviews for yourself, here and here.

Flat Earth is also one of the sponsors of “Only in a Woman’s World” – another involving example of how to niche-market via the worldwide web. In fact, Frito-Lay has constructed a good 360° brand effort in these veggie crisps. It’s marketing to a group of consumers that’s sensitive about health and better eating habits.

Typically, this tranche doesn’t include Paris Hilton. Asked about the virus by its common name, she’s already commented, “I don’t eat that.” She’ll probably achieve understanding when pigs fly; I trust you’ll get the title pun sooner.