"Intriguing name for a city," was my first thought.
My second? "I wonder if they have a Jewish community?"
Well, Surprise of the day is that it appears that they do, and have had one for quite a while. Here's a picture of Christchurch's Temple Beth-El from 1906:
Not that this is wildly out of the ordinary, but the dichotomy of the Christchurch Jewish Synagogue is kinda cool.
In fact, I think it opens up a world of international merchandising opportunities. Imagine these t-shirts:
"I had my Bar-Mitzvah in Christchurch"
"Ouch! I had my briss in Christchurch"
Today Christchurch; tomorrow, the Vatican!
An obvious ploy to steal some thunder (and traffic, and eventually, revenue) from Google, Microsoft's search idea is a nice twist, but I don't know how excited folks are gonna get jumping through hoops and climbing somewhat rickety ladders to save a couple of bucks from some participating sites. There's a lot of variables at work here; too many, perhaps, to make us wanna jump and shout for joy.
Methinks the future of search--perhaps of many standardized, commoditized activities--can be better crystal balled by downloading an app called PicLens.
PicLens is part of the CoolIris group, which I stumbled upon while searching (there's that word again) for an in-browser preview program now that Browster has gone to the Web 2.0 graveyard. I dig their preview program, but I'm enamored with PicLens, which I believe is the beginning of the future of browsing.
Right now, it works only (only!) for image/photo, video and social sites like flickr, Photobucket, YouTube, Google Image Search, Facebook, MySpace and the like, but what a ride! Instead of pages upon pages of flat squares, PicLens converts the found visuals into a 3D-like wall, which you whip across and up & down with your mouse. Not only is the effect efficient and fast, but the experience is such a blast, you almost forget why you came there in the first place.
Making the mundane fun. Making a chore into play. Way more appealing to us at Surprise Central than waiting for a refund from Redmond.
Lemme know what you think once you find it.
This is the Pow! of the day around Surprise Central...well, for me at least.
Seems that I have become a Trivial Pursuit question.
Now one can take that two ways, but I'm seeing this glass half full.
Apparently, one of Airborne's hard working staff stumbled upon it while playing the '80s Edition of the game with her parents recently. While she didn't remember the question verbatim, it went something like:
"What was the name of the event
made famous by Andy Nulman?"
Obviously, I'm trying to track down the card for posterity's (and framing's) sake. Once I find it, I'll post it here as well.
My next quest: "I'll take 'Loud Guys Obsessed With Surprise' for $100, Alex."
So politically incorrect, but so good...
In a recent edition of Brandweek, Andrew Miller, the managing partner at the Lisa P. Maxwell Agency in Chicago, tells the story of a firestorm-creating controversial billboard his firm put together for a client, a local divorce attorney. Just five words in length, but miles in width:
GET A DIVORCE."
Offensive, yes. But effective? Also yes.
Something arrived in my in-box sealed with the kiss of death.
It was one of those notices for a "Friends and Family/Sample" Sale, with unimaginable deals, where the sender urges others to
"Pass It On!"
Well, given that it made it to my in-box, the sender can chalk up at least one little success.
But that's where the wins end, because I ain't going.
These things are about as exclusive, and as hard to swing an invite to, as a Hilary Clinton rally. Given the hard-fought bargain battles they spawn, they are for people with few friends and who hate their family. While the deals are indeed good, they ain't worth the hours standing in line, the fighting once you get into the less-than-ideal retail location (usually a factory or converted warehouse space), and the even-less-than-less-than-ideal opportunities to try something on (about as dignified as feeding time time at the zoo, but in your underwear).
All this aside, you know that just by urging someone to "Pass It On!" you are minimizing any type of "real" buzz these sales can generate. Today's web-savvy consumers see through this type of hype. "Pass it on" is code for "uncool."
Wanna really spark a stampede? Mark the next sales email with:
"PLEASE KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF!"
Last week, I got a call from my son Aidan. He was at a the CMA, a marketing conference in Toronto to hear Seth Godin speak (while he didn't get the intern job with Seth that he was gunning for, Aidan has remained part of a network that converses regularly with the ubiquitous Mr. Godin), and had stumbled upon an opportunity.
"Dad," he whispered, "I'm at the display and demo area, and there's an empty table here. Do you think I'd get in trouble if I filled it with my business cards?"
While I appreciated his concern about pissing off some people, my initial advice was simple:
"Get in trouble for what?
at a marketing conference?"
Guerrilla marketing sometimes gets a bad rap, but it's the entrepreneurs, the campaigns, the marketers that bend, break or re-write the rules who reap the most rewards (and don't forget that the root word of "guerrilla" is "guerre," which is French for "war," so...).
I remember in the early days of Airborne Mobile, when we could hardly afford to attend conferences, never mind have a booth or be an official "sponsor" of them, we used to pull all sorts of under-the-radar stunts to grab attention and promote wireless entertainment on cellphones.
One of my faves were the cheap wirecutters we attached to a card and called a "Wireless Conversion Kit." The copy read:
"Converts anyone to wireless in a snap!"
"Perfect for cutting your ties to old-fashioned phone lines."
"Helpful for convincing others to convert, especially when applied to fleshy areas."
What we used to do is sneak into keynote rooms or demo/display areas, and place these on every seat or empty spot we could find (one of our covert operators was none other than Mitch Joel, the uber-digital marketer and President of Twist Image, and Airborne's Director of Marketing at the time).
Did it work? Well, after doing the dirty deed myself at a conference in L.A., I was stopped by two people in the halls.
"Are you the guy behind all those pliers?" asked one. She was one of the event's organizers. "If I catch you doing that again, I will have you thrown out of here!" she threatened.
Skulking away sheepishly, I was approached again.
"Are you the guy behind all those pliers?" I was asked again. It was an executive from Disney named Tripp Wood. "I think they're great. I love 'em. In fact, I'd like to set up a meeting with you and see how we can work together."
I was at his office the next day and the end result was a contract to come up with a mobile game for the film Monsters, Inc. That meeting with Tripp spawned a friendship that lasts until this day, as well as a five-year professional relationship with Disney that brought us our first big client, immediately established Airborne's credibility, and gave us the heat to sign up clients like HBO, Maxim, A&E, the NHL and The Food Network within a year.
So back to Aidan. My closing bit of advice to him was when opportunity knocks, don't be afraid to answer. But be yourself, and do something more than just lay down a pile of cards, which will be about as effective as tossing them off the CN Tower. So, as a music marketer and blogger...this was his end result:
Well, not exactly the "end" result.
He generated a couple of leads that he's following up on this week.
On the road, and trying to change the world, once again...
As you read this, I'll be busy hosting a highly-focused, boutique conference in Toronto, namely Strategy Magazine's Mobile Marketing Workshop. As a pioneer in the field, my company Airborne Mobile has been at the forefront of mobile media since the year 2000, but these days, with major brands and ad agencies starting (and that's the operative word: STARTING) to understand the value of this most direct and personal channel as a marketing tool, the stakes are a lot higher than the act of downloading wallpapers and ringtones.
One of the inherent early problems has been the lackluster nature of most mobile campaigns. While the industry is now (as I like to say) "learning to crawl before it can limp," there is a definite need for some Pow! to engage the customer and ensure that mobile marketing is embraced and not eschewed. The future starts now.
Well, let's see what the day brings...
Yesterday, its was Joy Apparel's unique one-to-one t-shirt concept. Today, Surprise Central is proud to present Wilkes University, a small school with a big idea about one-to-one recruiting.
Now, every school I know claims to be focused on the individual, but Wilkes U goes out and grabs 'em by the short ones with a personalized ad campaign that calls target candidates out by name and zooms in on their particular achievements and passions. For example, to attract Nicole Pollack to its freshman class, Wilkes made her a media star, plastering her name on billboards, pizza boxes, gas pumps and an MTV ad. (Nicole said yes, by the way.)
They didn't stop with her.
That's Liz Wendolowski's "great debate" message above. Here are some more:
"Hey Kristen Pecka. Only your closest friends at Central Catholic call you Pecka-lecka-lecka. Choose Wilkes University and add 2,362 more people to that list."
"Scranton High senior Nicole Pollock: Our goal at
Wilkes University is to be as much a mentor as your mother has been. (Now, if we could only make her ravioli.)"
Each ad ends by asking the candidate to "call a Colonel," the school's nickname, at 570-408-6030. The campaign, which only cost $120,000 and is attracting world-wide attention, was put together by a Philadelphia-based agency called "160 Over 90," (named
after a high blood-pressure reading) and personifies what Darryl Cilli,
the agency's executive creative director, describes as the “human reaction” that advertising
seeks to provoke from consumers.
Mission accomplished, Darryl. The only way to get more of a human reaction than this is to physically abduct each potential freshman. Hmmm...
(And perhaps you can cut a deal with Joy Apparel for some frosh week t-shirts for all these guys...)
Ah, the ingenuity of the Great White North rears it head once again!
Actually, it's way more interesting than that. What these guys do is sell you a t-shirt with a hand-drawn portrait of a random stranger on it (these portraits are very well done, and well worth wearing).
To keep the community growing, at the time of your order, you upload your own headshot, which is converted into a hand-drawn portrait, which is then put on the t-shirt that some other random stranger buys. And then...well, you get the drill. (By the way, that's Kristina Ferraro above and my namesake, Lucious Andy, below.)
What makes this even more endearing is that Jeff Woodrow, who conceived this idea, donates 5% of profits to a different charity every month, and a la Sally Struthers, packs each t-shirt with a card that tells you all about the person emblazoned on your (sweatshop-free!) garment.
Great concept, and indeed spreads the warmth, but I think that Jeff's only scratching the surface with this one. Just think what could be done if you could harness the process for mass gatherings of people where t-shirts are sold, a la music festivals, political rallyes or street parties. The meet-and-greets could be more entertaining than the events themselves.
Hosted a fundraiser for cancer last week (Sheila Kussner's amazing Hope and Cope group) and had the chance to meet Mel C, a.k.a Sporty Spice of the Spice Girls. Now given my age and taste in music, the Spice Girls were never in heavy rotation on my charts, but I must say I came away with more admiration for Melanie than I thought I would.
No attitude, sweet and highly accommodating. A pleasure to deal with, and charmed everyone that she did. Say what you want about her quintet, but they are still the top selling girl group of all time, and the fact that Melanie's not sitting back but taking a solo act out on the road, grinding it out in small clubs and actually showing up to help raise money at fundraisers says a lot about her character.
So Mel, you may not sell me any CDs, but you are definitely on my Hit List. Hope your solo career benefits from the good karma you exude.
(P.S. Big shout-out to Howard Kay, photographer of the stars, for the above snap.)
I am often asked for free advice.
People sometimes even listen to my response.
On an even rarer basis, I am pleased with what comes out of my mouth.
Well, thrice last week, the incredible happened. People asked, they listened, and I liked.
Here's what was said:
1) To the question of "How do I know if this project will burn out my team?", I responded with this equation:
Size of Project x Capacity of Your Team
Size of Your Team
If the answer is greater than 1, then you are in Burnout territory;
If it's less than 1, you can breathe a bit.
2) To the question "Should I hire an internal P.R. team for my project, or outsource it?", I spouted this somewhat off-color ditty:
"In-house always beats outhouse.
It's better to work with those
who actually give a shit
rather than just take one."
3) And finally, when asked for a definition of shameless self-promotion, I came up with this newly-coined term:
Confucius I may not be, but hey...at least they got their money's worth.
Every year, the Newark Public Library puts on an exhibition of historic, cool and arty shopping bags; an extension of what many museums around the world have done from time-to-time. These days, the Green movement has made shopping bags somewhat of "a bad guy," so if you're still gonna make them, they had better be worth the hassle...and make some noise.
Great example of that, and of truly walking the talk is the bag below from Goodfoot,a shoe store that caters to sneakeristas, the hard core who buy, collect and sometimes even wear the cool, limited edition stuff from Nike, Puma, Vans et al.
My son Hayes and I (I know, I blew open the demographic) each bought a pair of Adidas from them last week, and while the selection and mode of display (with tilted mirrors to show each shoe's art-like sole) were stellar, you can't really say were were offered concierge-level treatment...which makes their shout-out bag even more apropos.
Turned a lot of heads while we walked down the street ...and given the Pow!, this is one I'll actually recycle by using.
Faithful FOPs know my admiration for Roger von Oech and his groundbreaking creativity primer "A Whack on the Side of the Head." As I've mentioned here before, when I was in University, my buddy Sheldon Davis and I were disciples of Roger's. He was a Surprise marketer's dream (yes, I was a budding one even back then) and as students, we eschewed the boring texts our profs assigned us and read Roger's stuff instead. I've been influenced by the man ever since.
I've read 'em all since, folks, and I've re-read this one over the weekend and a quarter-century later (!!!), it doesn't just stand the test of time, it is even MORE relevant today.
What's more, I passed along a copy to my son Aidan who, at 20, is about the same age as I was when I first picked this up. And guess what...even that Gen-Y-er digs it big-time.
This is like the Bible of Business Books...well, at least the "How To Win Friends and Influence People." A Whack has already sold over a million copies around the world in 17 languages. If you haven't read it yet, do yourself the favor. Rarely is such profound advice this much fun.
Congrats, Roger. What an accomplishment. Let's meet up here 25 years from now for your golden anni...and Pow!'s silver.
The Buggles sang "Video Killed The Radio Star" (which was the first video ever shown on MTV, but I digress...), but these days, the song's message would be modernized to be "The Internet Killed The Magazine Star." In fact, with the mere act of reading this, you may be putting another nail into the coffin of print publications.
Now as most FOPs know, I dig magazines big-time. I read 'em, rip 'em and enjoy the tactile feel of having them around. While it's a field that's indeed hurtin', magazines are far from dead. And according to Landon Jones, the former managing editor of People and Money magazines, one of the components of keeping them around is the element that drives this here blog.
In an article in Brandweek (yet another magazine), Jones says:
"Magazines need to get their mojo back. New technologies do not erase the enduring strengths of magazines to build brands, tell powerful narratives and define the national conversation.
"I would get rid of tired, focus-group formulas driving cover design and feature content. I would work on putting irreverence and Surprise back into magazines. Haven't we seen enough Top 10 lists?"