The last brandbuilder post of 2007


As we turn the page on yet another year, I just want to say thank you to everyone who reads this blog regularly. I would post to it quasi-daily even if a handful of you bothered to check by every few weeks or so, but it's nice to have so many of you swing by here daily. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You make my day. :)

I wondered how I would end the year - maybe with a Top 10 list or some kind of recap of some of the stuff that happened this year (maybe a Brand "Celebutante" writeup, or a Bonehead CEO roundup, or even a tribute to all of the great branding blunders and successes of the year,) but you know, I would much rather open up a bottle of bubbly, put on a silly hat, and watch the calendar roll back to Jan 1 with colleagues and friends. (Especially since I actually have to work today. Yes, all day.)

Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve, and we'll see you next year!!! (err... tomorrow.)
Update: Doh! Virginia Miracle - formerly of local identity company Brains On Fire - wrote a pretty sweet list of things she learned while at BoF that I thought was good enough to share with you guys:
From the home office in Greenville, South Carolina, here are
the Top 10 Things I Learned (at Brains on Fire) …

10. Blogging is a Muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
9. Meetings should be used strategically & sparingly.
8. No one will die if you leave your laptop at the office.
7. Nurture long term client relationships with ideas. (...) The way to keep (things) fresh is to proactively brainstorm and share at least 1 new idea a week with your client. It keeps everyone energized and focused on the future.
6. Like brands with true personality, Popcorn is Polarizing. A lot of great people love it, but certain people find it abhorrent. If no one hates you, chances are no one is moved to be passionate about you either.
5. Sow 10,000 seeds (this was originally a Guy Kawasaki principle). Small gracious acts will (always) come back to benefit you tenfold.
4. There is no greater way to instill ownership than by giving fans a piece of a brand to give away.
3. Everything is your brand.
2. Don’t be a chameleon. I personally have a bit of a chameleon tendency – I can echo back tone, topics and language of those I am trying to reach or persuade. This is not always a good thing in the agency business. While chameleon behavior can help land new business, staying true to your identity no matter what will attract kindred spirits. Working with partners who have been attracted to you as you truly are is a strong foundation for long term success.
1. Have fun. Fun is contagious and attractive. All things being equal, people will always chose to work with people who are having fun.

And on that note, have a fantastic very last day of 2007. :)

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Taking a well deserved break from drafting some brilliant business proposals for the coming year, I found this perfectly timed bit of advice in what may be Seth Godin's final post of 2007 (no worries, he'll be back in 2008). Read it slowly so it has time to set in:

"It's always possible to find a reason to stay put, to skip an opportunity, or to decline an offer. And yet, in retrospect, it's hard to remember why we said no and easy to wish that we had said yes.

"The thing is, we still live in a world that's filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity -- we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

"Are these crazy times? You bet they are. But so were the days when we were doing duck-and-cover air-raid drills in school, or going through the scares of Three Mile Island and Love Canal. There will always be crazy times.

"So stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand. There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams. That's why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with.

"You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It's never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment -- just one second -- to decide.

"Before you finish this paragraph, you have the power to change everything that's to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great?"

I couldn't have said it better myself. (Well... maybe, but why mess with a good thing?)

It's difficult to break away from the rhythm of your workplace - putting out fires, attending meetings, sending emails, joining conference calls, managing projects, reporting to your boss, analyzing numbers, forecasting, putting together powerpoint presentations, etc. but that necessary routine will absolutely KILL your ability to grow your business and take it down exciting and profitable new roads if you let it.

As you take the next few days to put together an action plan for 2008, add this to your list: Every single day, find a way to unplug for at least 30 minutes. This isn't lunch or smoke breaks. This is time for you to distance yourself from phone calls, emails, meetings, and all of the other distractions that work to keep you stuck in reactive mode.

Find a way to do it. Schedule it if you have to, reserve a conference room, go hijack an empty office or head down to the coffee shop across the street, or just go hang out on the roof of your building or whatever, but do it. Grab a notebook, a pad of paper (or better yet, your shiny new handy-dandy tablet PC) and go jot down your next masterplan.

Do this EVERY SINGLE DAY in 2008.

This is how you get unstuck.

This is how you don't end up wondering why half of the ideas you had a year earlier never came to be. Put time on your side: Make imagineering time part of your daily routine.

Have a great last weekend of 2007, everyone. ;)

Note: Remember not to leave comments via the permalink. To leave comments, go to the main page and select "comment" at the bottom of this post.

photo by the impossibly talented and creative Matt Armendariz

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Every day, I am amazed at the sorts of things people are afraid of.

Perhaps because of my time in the Fusiliers Marins, - and because a handful of my friends are in hot war zones where death could come at any moment from a sniper's bullet, landmine, rocket, mortar shell or IED, - I am not really all that phased by the thought of getting yelled at by my boss or looking bad when one of my projects doesn't pan out the way I thought it would.

It isn't to say that I don't worry about office-related catastrophes. I don't want to look bad in front of my peers. I don't want to get yelled at by my boss. I don't want to do anything that will make anyone I work with or work for think twice about letting me develop and execute their next marketing strategy. I get paid to deliver great work all of the time - not just some of the time. Like everyone else who is serious about what they do for a living, I don't ever want to screw up. I don't want to be wrong. So yes, like most of you, fear of failure is part of my world.

That being said, I make a choice every day not to let that fear get in the way of turning ambitious and often unproven ideas into a reality. Why? Because fear of failure is purely a vanity-driven fear. It's bullshit. Heck, it's pathetic and inexcusable once you're over the age of 30.

Do I put my reputation on the line every time I take on a new project? Absolutely. Do I risk a black mark on my "file" every time I turn the dial a little further and push past our comfort zones? You bet. So what. What's the worst thing that could happen if one of my projects doesn't deliver? You take your licks, learn from your mistakes, and try again.

What I have found is that failure is a much more effective teacher than success. Taking chances and finding out how things work or don't work makes you a more effective leader. You learn to ask "how can this go wrong?" early on in the planning process. It marries curiosity with wisdom, which is always a good thing. Conversely, sitting in an office doing the same crap every day for twenty years for fear of screwing up and looking like a fool doesn't do much except turn you into a warm piece of expensive office furniture.

When you put things in perspective, taking a few chances here and there at work with the goal of improving your company's position, growth rate or bottom line pale in comparison to working in a place where bullets and shrapnel (instead of a few angry words behind closed doors or some unpleasant moments during a presentation) are the threats you face every day.

Facing bullets and bombs every day takes a lot more courage than your boss occasionally taking a verbal dump on you.

Earlier today, ex-Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, just days before elections in her country. Bhutto, a woman, opposed a predominantly patriarchal government in the face of hatred so intense that death threats were a daily reality for her. She could have backed off. She could have thought about the risks and rationalized that perhaps retiring from public life, playing things safe, just flying under the radar and making a living without making waves was the smarter thing to do. The safer thing to do. But instead, she chose to stand for something. She chose to be an agent of change. She chose to give fear the middle finger and stand up for what she thought was best for her country and for her peers. Her murder today makes me very sad.

The kind of commitment, the level of responsibility and professionalism, and the unbelievable amount of courage that men and women like Benazir Bhutto display in their lives and careers help put things in perspective for me: How can I ever be afraid of things like petty office politics and the occasional little career dings when my world is a climate-controled office thousands of miles from the nearest war zone?

When most of us take a chance at work, the risk isn't an assassin's bullet finding us at our desk. It isn't an RPG ripping through our windshield during our morning commute. We aren't going to get shanked or strangled with piano wire in the executive bathroom by a couple of pissed off junior VPs. What is there to be afraid of? I mean really. What is there to be afraid of? A frown? A few angry words? Missing out on a promotion?

When did we become such wussies?

My advice for you today is this: Be engaged. Be bold. Change the game. Leave your competitors in the dust. Rewrite the rules. The worst thing that'll happen is that you'll occasionally screw up , but you'll also occasionally score big, so the score won't look as bad as you think. Most of the time, as long as you did your homework and set out to execute a well-thought-out plan, you don't really have much to lose.

Nobody is going to put a bullet in your head if your last marketing campaign fell short of the expepected ROI. You may go down in flames, but at least you'll have tried your best, and there's a lot to be said for that.

Stop playing it safe. Go on the offensive. Either commit or go home.

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Merry Christmas!!!


Have a blessed and merry Christmas, everyone!!! (Just go easy on the eggnog.)



Microsoft Surface's delicious demo


If you haven't seen this yet, you need to.

Yes, I mean right now.

Granted, once you get past the pretty surface "screen" and look at both the size of the "box" that lurks underneath and the pricetag, Microsoft's new Surface is a little cumbersome and expensive but that is normal for a completely new product of this type. Give the technology a few years to penetrate the market, and two things will happen: 1) prices will eventually drop to more reasonable pricepoints (very much like plasma TVs and flat screen monitors) and 2) the technology will get smaller, more portable and more flexible when it comes to integrating it into our everyday lives. I can't wait for these aps to start working with tablet PCs. That will be pretty incredible.

Is it too soon to add the mouse and keyboard to the endangered species list? Eh... Watch the demo and I'll let you guys draw your own conclusions. In twenty years, I think we'll look back at the way computers used to look in 2007 and we'll laugh at how bulky and cable-reliant they were. (I'm sure 8-tracks were all the rage once too.)
Note: Don't get so caught up in the demos that you miss out on the site's other features. (Go to the bottom of the page and click on "Origins" to get a recap - complete with napkin sketches - of how this product came to be and where it is going. You can also see who is already adopting this technology, where you can demo it for yourselves, and you can meet all the members of the development team via photos, bios, etc.) The site is as simple and easy to navigate as it is well designed, and uses just enough flash to not get on my nerves. (Website designers and product development teams out there, don't feel bad about taking notes.)
BTW, I saw an industrial environment version of Surface demonstrated live in Redmond earlier this month, and I was left drooling and speechless (yes, both at the same time) for a good five minutes. Not only could you scan, modify, highlight, cut-and-paste, send, share and manage documents like images, graphs, tables and text with your fingertips, it responded to speech, worked as a hands-free video conferencing station, could double as media center and triple as a design workstation, and seemed so intuitive that a chimp could figure out how to use it in under five minutes. Pure genius. I could be wrong, but I think the folks at Microsoft finally gained access to Area 51.
Have a great Friday, everyone. ;)
PS: Don't try to leave a comment via the permalink. Instead, go to the main page and click the comment tab at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I manage SYNNEX's Microsoft distribution business in the US and that I therefore have close ties with Microsoft. Althoughthis is unlikely to affect my opinion of Microsoft products or the way I approach topics dealing with Microsoft on this blog, it is worth noting nonetheless.

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Every once in a while, I browse what search engine keywords lead people to the brandbuilder blog. It's always interesting because I can track how people who aren't necessarily regulars find their way to our little conversations. The highest keyword returns tend to be along the lines of functions of marketing department, advertising, buzz metrics, WOMM, business practices and brand strategy. Most keywords are indeed related to the topics commonly found here.

Some searches however, make me wonder about the randomness of search engines when it comes to establishing affinities between a keyword and the menu of pages that gets generated from it. Case in point, a selection of random keywords that have led people here so far in December:

sexy robot
robert birge
bruce lee
coca cola consumption
batman cell phone cake
egyptian riverboat
common paradox
conclusion builder
hot asian naked
how to be cunning#
how hot is boiling
is marketing fun
sexy ass
sitting on toilet
small vs. big
most zald
"dead or alive"
"elephant tricks"
"the cure" 1024 768
anti cheer cheers
apes rude
bingo 2x3x5
black hole digital blasphemy
bumping into someone lawsuit
sexy wake up call
who is the bionic woman's employer

... and my personal favorite: wipe yourself.

Yep, evidently, typing "wipe yourself" in a search engine box somewhere (it could be Google or Yahoo or any million other ones) will occasionally send you here. Proof at last that a) A small but significant amount of search engine traffic on the internets is a complete clusterf%^k, and b) people are spending their web-searching time wisely.

Have a great Holiday weekend, everyone. ;)

PS: Don't try to leave a comment from the permalink. Go to the main page and comment from there. (The glitch is still there. Sorry.)

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Found on Kottke:

How America Lost the War on Drugs, a history of the United States government's efforts to stop its citizens from using illegal substances, primarily crack, heroin, and methamphetamines. Quite long but worth the read.

"All told, the United States has spent an estimated $500 billion to fight drugs - with very little to show for it. Cocaine is now as cheap as it was when Escobar died and more heavily used. Methamphetamine, barely a presence in 1993, is now used by 1.5 million Americans and may be more addictive than crack. We have nearly 500,000 people behind bars for drug crimes - a twelvefold increase since 1980 - with no discernible effect on the drug traffic."

It's not that hard to see how things got off the rails here. Dealing with the supply of drugs is ineffective (it's too lucrative for people to stop selling and too easy to find countries which seek to profit from it) but provides the illusion of action while attacking the problem from the demand side, which appears to be more effective, comes with messy and complex social problems. What a waste. The bits about meth & the lobbying efforts by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical marijuana crackdowns are particularly maddening.

This kind of reminds me of some of the political solutions you sometimes find in failing companies with deep pockets - like hiring some high-priced Marketing "consultant" to rewrite the Mission Statement and the company tagline while pretending that the more money is spent on the project, the more likely it is to have positive impact on the company's bottom-line.

Logic: "We're spending almost $200K on this new tagline and mission statement! Of course we'll see some results!"

Don't even get me started.

By the way, you can replace the above amount as well as this new tagline with anything you want and end up with the same result:

"We're spending almost $--(A)-- on ---(B)---. Of course we'll see some results!"

I can hear the end-of-year review already: "So, Bob, tell us what you've accomplished these last twelve months."

"Well, Chuck, we've spent a quarter million dollars revamping our various corporate logos, and another two hundred thousand on updating our corporate tag-line. It took a little longer than expected due to budget restrictions and it tied up my staff more than we'd feared since we have fewer folks than I'd like to get this done properly, but we finally got it finished - on budget and on schedule. (Smile. Bow. Invite applause.) We are now looking at the next phase of our project which will involve hiring the country's biggest PR firm and hottest ad agency to develop new media, com and marketing plans for all of our divisions. What we need are new ideas. A fresh outlook. A truing-up of our path for the future. We're going to start from scratch and breathe new life into our brand(s). We're also looking at some prescriptive retasking of multiplatform assets in order to maximize our groups' potential aligned mutual self-interest blah blah blaehhhh..."

Translation: I figured out how to spend every cent in my budget on things that sound relevant and awe-inspiring... and need to ask for more money next year so I can pull the same crap again only better... at least until I get recruited by the next board o' suckas.

Whatever. Political solutions may sound great, and they certainly cost loads of money and involve plenty of people with cool titles and Fortune 50 companies on their resumes... but they always flop because they are nothing but a whole lot of hot air.

Like guys who hire in as SVP of this or that and can tell you who they've worked for (I was VP of XYZ at Disney, and then moved to Apple, where I managed their ABC business, and then spent six years at GE serving as Senior VP of Marketing in their (whatever) group, then hopped on over to Apple Computers where I headed their technical services division and then...) but couldn't tell you what they actually accomplished during their twenty-year career.

"What did you actually do, though? What did you change? What did you contribute? What did you build?"

"Um... I was Senior Vice President of Sales at..."


"Illusion of action" is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to the business world. Or the world of politics, for that matter.

We all know someone in our professional sphere of influence who spends most of their day doing nothing but has become an expert in either looking busy or creating the illusion that they actually do something valuable. What we are talking about here is the same thing but on a much grander scale.

Business students, listen up: Just because someone is an SVP or CEO or COO of this or that doesn't mean they a) aren't lazy, b) aren't as dense as a bag of hammers, and c) lack any semblance of common sense and/or professionalism. Some people (many, in fact) really do get promoted to the fullest level of their incompetence and greed. Here's what I am talking about (from CNN Money, by way of the Brains on Fire blog):

"In August and September, as his company is racking up the largest quarterly loss in its 93-year history, Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal squeezes in 20 rounds of golf, including three rounds on three different courses in a single day. In October, O'Neal announces his "retirement," walking away with a compensation package valued at $161.5 million."

"Just hours after US Airways comes up short in its $9.8 billion bid to acquire Delta, CEO Doug Parker is pulled over by police in Scottsdale, and arrested for drunken driving."

"In July, as Bear Stearns executives futilely attempt to prop up two hedge funds that ultimately collapse amid the subprime meltdown, CEO James Cayne spends ten of 21 workdays out of the office, playing golf and competing in a bridge tournament in Tennessee. According to The Wall Street Journal, his fellow bridge enthusiasts claim that Cayne sometimes smokes marijuana at the end of tournament sessions."

"John Griffin, CEO of a Livermore, Calif., startup, pockets about $750,000 of seed capital after lying to investors lured by the company's promise to develop a "dirt eater" to clean toxic soil. After reportedly spending the money on such necessities as a Ferrari, Super Bowl tickets, and steroids, Griffin is sentenced to 30 months in prison. The name of the startup: VaporTech."

'"I like Mackey's haircut. I think he looks cute." -- Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, posting under the screen name Rahodeb, on a Yahoo Finance stock forum. The Federal Trade Commission reveals that Mackey authored this and numerous other posts over an eight-year period, hyping his company and himself while trashing the competitor he hoped to acquire, Wild Oats. "

"HBO President Chris Albrecht allegedly punches and chokes his girlfriend while drunk at 3 A.M. in a Las Vegas parking lot. "

"In July, bankrupt Northwest Airlines begins laying off thousands of ground
workers, but not before issuing some of them a handy guide, "101 Ways to Save
Money." The advice includes dumpster diving ("Don't be shy about pulling
something you like out of the trash"), making your own baby food, shredding old
newspapers for use as cat litter, and taking walks in the woods as a low-cost
dating alternative."

"After Bank of America announces plans to outsource 100 tech support jobs from the San Francisco Bay Area to India, the American workers are told that they must train their own replacements in order to receive their severance payments."

I am not making this up. Here's more:

"In April, just nine months after a Business 2.0 cover story trumpets the wisdom of Raytheon CEO William Swanson and his folksy hit book, Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management, a San Diego engineer makes a shocking discovery: 17 of Swanson's 33 rules are similar - and in some cases identical - to those in The Unwritten Rules of Engineering, a 1944 text by UCLA professor W.J. King. While conceding that he failed to give proper credit, Swanson insists he didn't intend to plagiarize, suggesting that old photocopied material may have wound up in his "scraps." By way of punishment, Raytheon's board freezes Swanson's salary at its 2005 level of $1.1 million and cuts his restricted stock grant by 20 percent."

"In April, while under investigation for allegedly establishing a slush fund to bribe public officials, Chung Mong-Koo, chairman of South Korea's Hyundai-Kia Motor Group, says "I am sorry" more than 30 times during a brief encounter with reporters. To make amends, Chung and son Chung Eui-Sun, president of Kia Motors, offer to donate $1 billion to charity. Spirit of giving notwithstanding, Chung Mong-Koo is jailed for two months and tried on charges of misappropriating hundreds of millions of dollars."

"Dodging investors angry over the pay received by Home Depot chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli, who took home at least $120 million over five years as the company's stock price dropped 12 percent, Home Depot's board fails to show up at its annual shareholders meeting. The session is presided over solely by Nardelli, who sidesteps all questions ("This is not the forum in which we would address your comment") and cuts the meeting short after half an hour. The event's negative fallout, highlighted by demonstrators wearing chicken costumes and orange Home Depot aprons, leads Nardelli to announce days later that, for next year's meeting, "we will return to our traditional format ... with the board of directors in attendance." Nardelli resigns in early January, walking away with another $210 million in severance."

"In the midst of corporate America's scandal du jour - the backdating of stock options to enrich company executives - the Wall Street Journal discovers that William McGuire, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, received options on dates coinciding with the company's lowest share prices of 1997, 1999, and 2000. After a company inquiry finds backdating to have been "likely" (the odds of this happening by chance are around 1 in 200 million), McGuire steps down and agrees to give up about $200 million in proceeds."

"In an effort to top UnitedHealth in the annals of backdating, executives at Comverse Technology are alleged not only to have backdated their own options but to have invented fake employees to receive grants as well. In a 35-count federal indictment, prosecutors claim that CEO Jacob Alexander used a slush fund under the name I.M. Fanton to make awards as he saw fit. Alexander flees the country but is taken into custody in Namibia after a six-week international manhunt."

"Not to be outdone by UnitedHealth and Comverse, cable-TV operator Cablevision Systems admits in a regulatory filing that it granted stock options to a corpse. The company awarded the rights to purchase thousands of shares to former vice chairman Marc Lustgarten, despite the fact that he died in 1999; the options included provisions that allowed them to pass to his estate."

"After leading videogame-console startup Gizmondo to nearly $400 million in losses and a bankruptcy filing, edgy entrepreneur Stefan Eriksson wrecks his $1 million Ferrari Enzo in a crash in Malibu in February.Eriksson tests above the blood-alcohol limit but tells police that he wasn't driving, and that the driver, "Dietrich," ran into the hills after the crash. It's soon discovered that Eriksson's wrecked Enzo is actually owned by a British bank, and two more cars he claims to own, another Enzo and a Mercedes McLaren, have been reported stolen in England. Eriksson pleads no contest to embezzlement and drunk driving charges and is sentenced to three years in jail."

"Former Wal-Mart vice chairman Thomas Coughlin - whose compensation from salary, bonuses, and stock grants totaled several million dollars per year - is discovered to have cooked up fraudulent expense invoices in a scam to siphon off $500,000 over the course of seven years. Coughlin, who reportedly told enabling subordinates that he was using the funds for a secret antiunion initiative, pleads guilty and is sentenced to more than two years of home confinement."
"Mike Smith, mayor of New Lenox, Ill., pays a $1,462 tab at a strip club with his official village credit card. By way of explanation, he says none of the other attendees had the means to pay the bill."
These are people who run some of the world's most prestigious Fortune 500 companies. Thank goodness for the good ones.


Beware the person who makes it a habit to create the illusion of action. Aside from the fact that this type of person is at best dead weight in your organization, they will also invariably drag it down at some point during their tenure. This could be a specialist on your team, a mid-level manager, a department director or a senior exec. Lazy is lazy. Greedy is greedy. Unprofessional is unprofessional.

Learn to recognize the signs of a company killer, and this is one less thing you'll have to worry about.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. ;)

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Back from Seattle.


The view from Microsoft's new digs in Bellevue, WA (yeah, that's Seattle across the water).

Sorry about the lack of posts this past week. I was traveling and attending meetings and whatnot.

Just to give you a quick recap, here are some of the cool things I saw and did while in Seattle:

1) I took a tour of Microsoft's concept House of The Future. (Think: "Open the Pod Bay door, Hal" meets Minority Report, but in a very, VERY good way.)

2) I participated in a pretty kickass simulation in Microsoft's "Information Worker Of The Future" concept office. (Think: CTU meets Minority Report meets your office, only in a very, VERY, VERY good way.) Wow. To see where software is going and how well it will integrate with every task it touches was IMPRESSIVE. (Yes, I am a geek.)

3) I accidentally had dinner at the best French Restaurant in the US (and I know what I'm talking about). I won't tell you what it's called, however. You'll have to guess or find it yourselves. Let me just say this: It's almost on the water, the operators are French (not Canadian), it isn't far from the original Starbucks store,and they have cassoulet on their menu. Nuff said.

4) I had a latte (3 raw sugars, thank you) at the very first Starbucks. (It wasn't the first time, but I always make it a point to go there when I visit Seattle now.)

5) I stopped by the Athenian restaurant for a very necessary oyster shooter. (Again, a pilgrimage.)

6) I bought some incredible hand-made stuff from Raven's Nest - great place to go Xmas shopping for the people on your list who either a) like esoteric stuff, b) already have everything, or c) both. (I mean come on: Who hasn't dreamed of having a genuine hand-carved cedar orca/eagle totem in their office?)

7) I played pool on the 24th floor of Microsoft's new digs in Bellevue - which, by the way, has such a monumental view of Seattle that I had a tough time dragging myself back into meetings. The above photo is only about 1/20th of the whole panorama and doesn't even do that little portion justice. Interesting note: Some of my coworkers may now believe that I am some kind of pool shark after watching me accidentally play two perfect games in a row.

8) I drove a PT Cruiser all over town for three days (convertible and vanilla-colored) and didn't get laughed at once. Interesting note: You can fit 3 people and 4 very large suitcases in that thing. You will use up every available square millimeter, but it can be done.)

9) I flew across the US twice without a single delay, without a single problem, and without a single frown or hint of attitude from any flight attendants. Delta/Song/Alaska Airlines once again - without blowing me away or anything - did an awesome job through and through. Even the TSA teams in their terminals were friendly and courteous. Thumbs up.

10) I ate a bad raw scallop. Or raw oyster... or raw something. I survived, but let's just say salmonella, e-coli and their buddies put up a pretty decent fight for a couple of hours. Bleh.

Anyhoo. It's good to be back.

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I am flying to Seattle/Redmond today for three days of meetings, lunches, dinners and more meetings about all things Microsoft, which means I am probably going to be way too busy to blog until Thursday or so.

I'll be back with tons of stories and experiences to share and review with you, I'm sure.

Have a great few days, and try not to miss me too much. I know it'll be tough... but hang in there. I'll be back before you know it.

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Ah, viral and buzz marketing. Good stuff. Remember the personalized phone messages Samuel Jackson sent out to your friends' cellphones to let them know about Snakes On A Plane two years ago? Well get ready, because The Dark Knight is taking their guerilla/buzz marketing campaign a few steps further.

Pure genius.

From (via Panasonic Youth's blog):

The Dark Knight's Viral Marketing Gets Very Real -

Cakes, Cell Phones and All!

A couple of weeks ago we were following the latest viral marketing campaign online for The Dark Knight pretty closely. An online version of the fictional newspaper The Gotham Times arrived and was followed by numerous websites, including a defaced Joker version of the paper called The Ha Ha Ha Times and even a website for the Gotham City Rail with a subway map of the city. This whole campaign is on the other end of the spectrum of the teaser poster - this stuff is absolutely brilliant. I followed up on this whole viral campaign earlier today and discovered I'd missed something HUGE! The Joker has been recruiting, and I mean quite realistically!

After the bevy of new websites came online and messages started appearing where the result was to wait a number of days, most of us lost the ability to keep track of everything going on. Well a few hardcore fans have been keeping track and they've got one hell of reward - they're now members of Joker's army. This reminds me of the that scene in the Matrix, where Neo gets that phone from the FedEx envelope and it rings right away. Except this is real life folks.

On December 3rd a new page appeared at with a hammer game and some teddy bear toys. Each toy had an address on it located in a number of cities around the US. The note on the game told people to go to that address and say their name was "Robin Banks" (get it, "Robbing Banks") and they'd get something there. It was first come, first serve, and each location was a bakery. What they were given was a cake with a phone number written on it. Now here's the best part: inside the cake was an evidence bag (complete with Gotham City Police printing) that contained a cell phone, a charger, a Joker playing card and a note with instructions.

The note read the following:

"Wow. You really took the cake! Now put the icing on it. Call [number] immediately from this phone and this phone only. Do not give this phone number to anyone else.

Let's hope your fellow goons come through as well as you. Once all the layers are in place, you'll all get your just desserts. I'm a man of my word."

When the person called the number, a lady answered from Rent-a-Clown to thank the caller. Apparently she said she knew who the caller was and then after hanging up, they received a text message. It read:

"Good work, clown! Keep this phone charged and with you at all times. Don't call me. I will call you … eventually."

If you can believe it, the Joker now has real, live people recruited to his army sitting with a phone awaiting his call. I thought this stuff only happened IN movies, not FOR movies!

Additionally, once all the cakes were handed out, a new page was linked where users can sign-up to receive a free screening pass on Thursday night at 7PM to see I Am Legend in IMAX which will include the first 7-minutes of The Dark Knight that was filmed specifically for IMAX. Another link also revealed the first teaser poster.

My first reaction to all of this: HOLY SHIT! That is the coolest thing I have ever seen in terms of viral marketing! They've got people armed with cell phones ready to go out and do whatever the Joker asks. Now I'm just frustrated that I wasn't keeping up with this close enough to grab the cake and cell phone from Denver. However, now I'm armed and ready the moment another clue comes up (at any time of the day) to head out and be the first one.

This viral marketing for The Dark Knight is really getting quite "real" and I mean that it is really picking up and getting tangible. I can't wait to see what happens next! There's still 7 months until the movie even comes out!! Thanks quite a bit to for the photos and info on this.

The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins, is directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Prestige) and co-written by Christopher Nolan, his brother Jonathan, and David S. Goyer. The movie arrives in theaters next summer on July 18th, 2008.

Clever as hell.

Have a great weekend, everyone. :)

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The Ultimate Branding Deck


Click on the dot.

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The final Google trends for 2007 were announced on Dec. 4th, and the results are scary... or terrific, depending on how you look at it: As a human being, it's frightening. As a marketer, this may be the best news ever.

The Top 10 fastest-growing search terms for 2007 were (in order):

1. iPhone
2. webkinz
3. TMZ
4. Transformers
5. YouTube
6. Club Penguin (wtf?!?!?!)
7. myspace
8. Heroes (NBC)
9. Facebook
10. Anna Nicole Smith

(Visibly absent from the list were Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and the rest of the "make bail by noon" celebutante gang.)

Compare this to the 2001 list (the first from Google):

1. Nostradamus
2. CNN
3. World Trade Center
4. Harry Potter
5. Anthrax
6. Windows XP (woohoo!!!)
7. Osama Bin Laden
8. Audiogalaxy
9. Taliban
10. Loft Story

These are two very different lists.

I expected to see at least one non-"product" item show up in 2007, like maybe something relating to Iraq, Iran, Darfour, presidential candidates or even maybe healthcare. Global Warming. Something of substance. Anything.

But no.

Commentary and table courtesy of Jesus Diaz, over at Gizmodo:

Good bye Nostradamus, harbinger of doom and gloom! Hello iPhone, prophet of the second coming of the Digital Age in My Pocket.™ And oh yes, I'm happy to see you too. So long CNN, harbinger of news tickers and dumbified news! Welcome Webkinz, you stuffed rascal that connects to a social networking site you! World Trade Center? Unless it appears in TMZ next to Nicholas Cage and his wig, I say no! And screw that flying broomstick and get me drag queen transforming truckers on YouTube.

I mean, is this really what tickles the human race? Who can possibly remember stupid TV reality shows like Loft Story, Osama and the Talibans when we can entertain ourselves with MySpace, Facebook and Club Penguin? For shame! I would rather play topless Wii. [Reuters and Google]

Retailers and marketers rejoice: You have our complete and undivided attention. Every single item on the list is a brand name (yes, even ANS). Well played.

Mother Theresa and Al Gore, sorry: War, famine, poverty, terrorism, substance abuse, ethnic cleansing, corruption, pandemics and the slow choking death of our little blue planet aren't cool enough to grab our attention anymore.

For better or for worse, I think brands can pretty-much claim victory in the bandwidth war - at least this past year.

Note: As always, don't try to leave a comment on the permalink. To leave a comment, go to the main page and click on the comment tab at the bottom of this post. Thanks. :)

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Chuck Norris Approved!


Whether or not you like this candidate,you have to admit this ad is friggin' brilliant.

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The Brain is an island after all.


This brilliant project lives squarely at the well-traveled intersection of nerdy, creative and cool. Click on the image to see the island in its full topographic glory, or go here to get it from the source. (via Orange Yeti.)

Ain't creativity fun?

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Weekend Update - Roby's War.


Roby's week "en images," as they would say in the old country:

Read all about his latest adventures here.

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