Friday, January 30, 2009

Stimulus Package

Everywhere I turn, I keep bumping into some rif on the Stimulus Package. This morning, I saw a local barber slide a hand made sign into his window. It read, "Stimulus Package: Shave and a Haircut $25." The phrase Stimulus Package seems to be ranking right up there with "bailout" as a phrase that's getting adopted into the popular culture. It's a nice change of pace from the previous administration when terms like "misinformation," otherwise known as a lie, were the buzzwords with currency.
Photo courtesy of DJ Bones

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ledbetter Bill More Photo Op than Breakthrough

Today, Lilly Ledbetter defeats wage discrimination against women, right? Don’t count on it. The Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Bill gets signed into law today. But I doubt that this will be more than a photo op. Not because Lilly’s story isn’t powerful. (She proved she was paid 40% less for the same work.) And not because President Obama is insincere. But because it’s just not breakthrough enough. It’s a rule that’s made to be broken.

Gwen Ifill nailed it when she dubbed President Obama a “breakthrough” personality. He crushed race barriers to the point where Americans now accept a lot of black talent in high positions. Look at his cabinet. Change begins with laws, but throughout the American story, it is individuals who galvanize a moment in history so there is no going back.

Who can do the same for women? Madeline Albright made headway. Hillary had her day. But if women are truly going to break through to earn equal money, power and influence—a breakthrough female will have to take center stage and bring with her lots of other talented women. That last part is essential. Executive women have a track record of not surrounding themselves with other women because they fear they will be judged negatively for doing so. How twisted is that?

Consider also that Barack Obama holds the most powerful job in the world today in part because of programs and policies that put teeth in civil rights laws. The 1965 Affirmative Action policy rightfully opened doors for generations of African Americans. That laid the foundation for Obama's presidency to even become a possibility.

Is there an equivalent policy that puts teeth in the Ledbetter Bill? I’m looking, but not finding it.

It’s funny. I still get arguments from men that pay discrimination doesn’t really exist. I’ve developed a muscle to suppress my laughter in these situations. The painful truth is that women, and deep down men, know it’s true. That’s why Obama’s campaign ad telling Lilly’s story hit a nerve with Republican women. It ran on Fox and pulled Republicans to crossover better than ad in the entire campaign.

When I watch my daughter doing her homework, I imagine that some woman in her generation will be the breakthrough female. I have to believe that. Or I can’t go on.

Yes we shall?

Photo Courtesy National Organization for Women

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inauguration Slide Show: Catherine Karnow

I'm always prowling for fresh insights into human behavior. Last week, I had an opportunity to team up with award-winning photographer Catherine Karnow. She travels the globe for National Geographic photographing rare, and often surprising aspects of world cultures. We use her photos for print pieces for our clients looking to position global issues or seed ideas into other cultures.

Catherine attended the inauguration and returned with these powerful photographs. Through her lens, we witness an emotional shift among Americans who attended the inauguration. See for yourself what a "new day" looks like on the faces of average citizens.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama Paraphernalia Can't Get Much Better Than This

By guest blogger Katie Darr

Last time I blogged for Patricia, I documented my story of attending the Obama rally in Chicago. That night, I witnessed an array of Obama paraphernalia from simple t-shirts and banners to custom painted cars. I thought the Obamamania would die down after his striking victory, but I was wrong. Lately I’ve stumbled across some of the strangest items modeled after our 44th President. CNN lists earrings, facemasks, and thimbles. Several sites serve up freshly baked Obama cookies.

Although there are some strange things out there, nothing quite compares to the lifelike Obama action figure that can be yours for a mere $69.99, as long as you can wait the several weeks it might take to ship from Japan. It seems that other countries have also found a way to capitalize on Barack’s celebrity status.

This six inch action figure has it all: Presidential attire including two different ties, several heads to change the facial expression, removable hands to swap with other poses, an American flag, a picnic blanket and food, a stool, and of course, weapons to defeat our greatest foes. That’s right, this action figure comes with a assault rifle to take down terrorists, a sword to battle ninjas, and a light saber to conquer the very real and imposing threat of Darth Vader! I always knew Barack and Luke Skywalker had something in common. Can this action figure use the Force, as well? If you order one, please let me know!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Where Are You On Obama's Map?

Our culture scout, the incomparable Brandy Agerbeck, settled in to watch the inauguration and couldn't stop her pen from moving. She dove in and created this map of the issues addressed by President Obama in his inaugural address. Where on this map does your work fit? Where does your organization fit?

Our interests and commitments must lie somewhere on this map if we are expected to be a part of things. And based on all the energy being generated by this administration--we'll all want to be "in" not "out." Not just because our collective future depends on pulling together, but because belonging to something greater than ourselves is so deeply rewarding. For the RenGen, the generation now charged with re-inventing our society, the alchemy is setting up perfectly for the coming renaissance.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sponge Bob: The Documentary

Nickelodeon just inked a deal with production company O'Malley Creadon to produce the first-ever SpongeBob SquarePants documentary to celebrate the series' 10th anniversary.

Acclaimed filmmaker Patrick Creadon (Wordplay and I.O.U.S.A) will co-produce, direct and write the documentary, along with co-producer Christine O'Malley. The one-hour original television documentary will chronicle SpongeBob's journey to pop culture stardom. It will be telecast across MTV Networks' various TV platforms in July to commemorate the anniversary of the series' first episode.

Get this: the reason Nickelodeon tapped the award-winning documentary makers was that "Patrick and Christine have a talent for finding a greater cultural significance in their film subjects," said Marjorie Cohn, Executive Vice President, Development and Original Programming, Nickelodeon and executive producer of the project.

The museum-izing of pop culture is a trend I call, "Now museum, now you don't." It's when Boomers who created pop culture look to leave a serious legacy. Consider as an example George Lucas's popular Star Wars touring exhibition. It's a way of making a deeper mark on the culture. Advertising and marketing are rarely enduring. In fact, a curator would likely categorize it as "ephemera." But embedding your brand into the culture gives it relevance with a longer shelf life.

Photo of kid's sidewalk drawing of SpongeBob courtesy of Mark Lauer

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Microsoft Word Doesn't Know Who Obama Is

I got up early to blog about the inauguration. I scrapped three posts. What to say? In the process, I discovered that the spell check function on Microsoft Word doesn't have "Obama" in its lexicon. Instead, it offers "Osama" as a possible correction. It's not unlike the stories we've heard about the Clinton staff removing "W" from all keyboards before handing over the keys to the Bush administration. Someone should let the folks at Microsoft's Washington Office know that Word sorely needs an update.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sponsorship Monday: Intel Poised to Sponsor

Intel is launching new products despite the weakest economy on record for consumer electronics. Product launches translate into robust sponsorship spends.

Product lines launching:
The high-end Core i7 processor, a new generation of stripped-down "netbook" computers with Intel's Atom processor; and a line of web-connected TVs powered by Intel chips.

What's "Inside" Your Package?

Be prepared to offer a heavy Internet marketing component, and a way to deliver plenty of peeps. Also important will be to showcase the new product's attributes. So setting up these products at your events for test drives, a few choice give-aways to bloggers who may be among your loyal follower are all great things to pitch.

Who to Contact?
The chief decision maker is Intel Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Sean Maloney, 52, who began his career at Intel in 1982. He believes that for the giant chip maker, designing and manufacturing new products will cause a recovery. "You need to recover using new technology -- that's how you generate new cycles of purchases, and that's very much in the bloodstream of our company. We don't give up in tough times."

The Sponsor's Situation:
Intel used to market heavily to the IT sector. It was a B-to-B play. Now, Maloney wants to shift toward creating consumer demand for "Intel Inside." He explains that "the industry is going mobile around mobile computers, and a lot of those purchase decisions are made by consumers. So reaching consumers is more and more important." The upshot? If you have an audience with a a good mix of early-adopter consumers, blended with some IT professionals, your pitch stands a good chance of finding a friendly ear at Intel.

Forget the bad news surrounding this market. Add Intel to your prospect list and sally forth.

photo of Sean Maloney speaking at CES in Las Vegas

Friday, January 16, 2009

U.S. Airways Sails into Twitter as Smooth as the Pilot onto the Hudson River

It was a typical day in Twitterland. Chirping here, there and everywhere about an endless array of issues. Conversations were flowing effortlessly, until every now and again the Twitter whale (too many tweets) reared his happy head and you are forced to smile and stop for a moment. “News” about an U.S. Airways plane in the Hudson River began rolling in slowly at first. Someone exclaimed they had seen a plane crash into the river, a few official stories from the traditional media trickled in and Twitterers were commenting on the CNN coverage, as my breaking news alerts lagged behind.

When someone posted an arresting picture from the of the survivors in bone chillingly cold water on the wings of the airplane, but happy to be alive, we as Twitterers felt a sense of togetherness, rare in this unprecedented world of disparity. We were literally and energetically on the same page. We knew we were leading the crest of the wave of communications about the US Airways crisis.

In a Twitter minute, U.S. Airways figured out that Twitter is the ideal crisis communications tool. Shortly after the U.S. Airway pilot was being declared a hero, U.S. Airways registered a Twitter account and urged users to call the number they provided if they were concerned about their loved ones. It was a smooth move in my opinion. It almost makes up for the fact that a fan of U.S. Airways, @usairwaysgirl, was on Twitter before they were. But when they did enter, they did it with grace and style. When the next crisis inevitability comes, they will have an army, instead of 40, “followers” who will help them spread the word.

Signing off...Amy Dean

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Does Technology Reduce Us to Grunts?

Before dawn, I will make my way to O'Hare Airport, bound for New York. I love Gotham. But I hate travelling in temperatures this frigid. It makes me peevish, so I want to travel light and reduce the schlepping.

I pack my gadgets: Laptop, laptop power supply, cell phone recharger, headset, noise-reduction headset, Blackberry, Nikon camera, iPod with Belkin recording device, and cell phone. I have little room for the two books I'm reading, not to mention my health and beauty aides. The digital age hasn't freed me. It's made me a pack mule.

How to Make Yourself More Interesting: Lighten Up!

I've blogged about emotional labor before. It's the invisible work that goes into a service job which requires the worker to absorb the customer's emotional turmoil. Funny, but once I get turned on to an idea, I see it everywhere.

Consider Penelope Trunk's blog. If you don't follow her train wreck of a blog, let me tell you--it's thrilling. One minute she's canoodling with a farmer, the next minute she's smoothing down her skirt for a pitch to venture capitalists. I happen to admire her eye for human detail.

This week, Trunk rants against the fantasy non-fiction book, The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. She mentions the importance of building true blue relationships--the ones that really pay off in a person's life--which are time consuming to build. True. They require sincerity and compassion--neither of which can be delivered convincingly in a 120 character Twitter post.

Trunk hit a nerve. Lots of people commented.

Later, I came across an article about the modernist architect William Massie. He recently shed his traditional architecture practice for a job at the Cranbrook Insititute. Now, he builds pre-fab houses on the side. Massie describes what it's like "to feel free of demanding clients." He reveals, "They are not good co-conspirators."

Chatting with my inner circle of business buddies a while back, no one complained from the lack of work, despite the weak economy. The buzz was about how stressful the work was getting. So intense. Too much for too little. These people are entrepreneurs not prone to whining, so it struck me to hear them vent in this way.

As our economic situation gives rise to emotions like fear and panic, I suspect we are staggering under the emotional weight of life and work. People just need more from each other, that's all. If you are competent and have a knack for getting things done, more people will turn to you.

I grew up thinking it was important to be responsible and serious. Now, I'm seeing that the trick for thriving in these times may be the opposite. A lightness of being may be called for. Despite my affinity for deep, intelligent people--perhaps it's humor and horseplay that make us more interesting in these times.

Knock, knock....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gobbling Power Peeps: Twitter is like Pacman

Meet Amy Dean, our guest blogger this week. Amy is an associate here at LitLamp and works with the consulting group. Right now she's hustling on the Information Privacy Project. Amy's a PR sharp shooter, capable of generating ideas at the speed of light. And while she can't leap tall buildings in a single bound yet, she hasn't ruled it out. As our in-house Twitter expert, Amy has mastered Twitter as a media outreach tool.
Look forward to more "Tweet Beat" posts from Amy in future.

When I was a preteen, I spent hours in front of the Atari playing Pacman, dodging goblins and gobbling “Power Pellets.” In the microblogging mayhem of Twitter, collecting “Power Peeps,” is the name of the game.

Users amass “followers” they can pimp to the world in a show of how worthy they are of being listened to. While multi-colored ghosts don’t float around Twittersphere, time usurpers, spammers and hackers do. I weave patterns around the ghouls in search of interesting insights, intriguing information and inspiration from like-minded people that fuel my day. I’ve found a magical place where people merge their work and personal lives to become a collective consciousness that shapes the culture with sweeping waves of conversation. I feel like an ambassador for the human race.

When I first joined Twitter, I was in a hot hurry to build a network. I clicked furiously to find people to follow. I began to realize that when I followed people, they followed me back! I quickly maxed out at 2000. (Twitter forces your number of “followers” to catch up.) While some users choose to grow their networks organically over time, I’ve taken the alternative path. I let people audition.

As the ticker tape of tweets pass before my eyes, I cherry pick the rule breakers who serve up mundane details about their life or are self-serving. No one is immune. In fact, I deleted the political reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times because all she did was post her blogs. I could use an RSS feed for that. The social networking manager of Ford failed to start my engines. And, anyone who talks about their coffee is immediately booted.

Ultimately, everyone wants to follow and be followed back. Of course, it stings initially when someone unfollows you, as Twitterer Liz Strauss bravely pointed out. (I lost two when I asked people to tamp down their missives about their coffee cravings.) But I try not to take being “removed” personally.

Everyone has different reasons why they use Twitter. Finding users to follow is like tuning your radio dial. Ask yourself, what do I want to use Twitter for? Entertainment? Business? Mommytalk? Then, create your follow list to fit your purpose.

If you are on Twitter, why? If not, why not?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Honda Sponsors Sundance Despite Economy

In 2009, Honda is sponsoring properties that help it promote its “power of dreams” campaign. First up, Sundance Film Festival. The New York Times reports that Honda's plans call for a film short produced by the auto maker's agency to run before “Mary and Max,” a claymated feature which is the first film to be screened at the festival.

Honda will also provide transportation, a perennial PITA for attendees at the Sundance, in one of 12 new Insight hybrid small hatchbacks. Another new Honda, the FCX Clarity, a fuel-cell car, will be on display at the festival.

So far, nothing remarkable, right? But it is noteworthy that despite weak sales in the United States, (down 34.7 percent in December compared with the same month of 2007) Honda is sticking with its “power of dreams” campaign which started in September 2007. It's a branding campaign, not an advertising/sales driven effort. As Honda spokesperson Barbara Ponce explained, “This is not a ‘Go out and buy a Honda’ campaign." Ponce, who manages corporate advertising and signs off on arts and entertainment sponsorship deals at Honda's U.S headquarters in Torrance Calif., said the Sundance deal is more about “communicating with our customers about what our brand stands for.”

As the consumer market stays in the deep freeze for big ticket purchases, some brands are trying to preserve that part of their budgets that are most directly aimed at selling. It is interesting that Honda has taken an artful turn and decided it's better to inspire desire than push product.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Do You Picture The End?

Ever since I became an entrepreneur, I've stopped fearing death. Perhaps it's the stress. Or maybe it's just that I've acquired a taste for uncertainty. Then there's the idea of a very long nap that really appeals to me. But there are times when I try to picture just how I'd like it to end.

This month, Pierre Mendell, a remarkable poster artist and graphic designer, died in Munich. He was 79. He managed the visual identity of The International Design Museum Munich for almost 30 years, creating his last poster--for an event the museum will host this February--mere days before his death. When I read about his passing over at the Daily Heller, I thought, "That's it!" A perfect ending to a life well lived.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Social Media Site Has Cause Marketing its Core is a new VC-funded social media platform that is getting traction. It facilitates interaction between people, the brands they love and the causes they care about. Here's how it works: SocialVibe allows people to choose a brand to support by adding a badge to their blog, website or Facebook wall. This earns them chances to get brand perks and points within SocialVibe. The points that members earn are then turned into cash for the charitable cause of their choice. SocialVibe is aligned with some powerful brands. Coca-Cola, Adobe, NBA, Sprint and Nestle, and on the cause side, Komen for the Cure, WWF, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Invisible Children, One Laptop per Child, PETA and Donors Choose are all partners.
Launched in August, the site has generated over $100,000 in cash for causes. Not earth shattering, but the model is a unique and viral spin on cause-marketing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Can Creativity Change Government?

Creating content is the lifeblood of the RenGen. Citizen-created content is re-structuring the established media, and that includes innovations in public media that will impact how we are governed. Get this, the Participatory Culture Foundation is working on a new online infrastructure for producing and distributing public media called Miro. It will expand the field of open source video online globally through open source software creation and their translation service, they are also working to create local platforms to connect communities locally.

Partnering up with Mozilla and Change Congress, the Miro project calls for the new administration to make government more accessible to everyday citizens. Americans have been promised a more “open government” by President-elect Obama. Miro claims it can help fulfill on that promise. To advance the agenda for more openness, PCF has drafted a petition titled, “An Open Transition” that lays out three principles to ensure an effective transition.

The 'Copenhagen Interpretation' of quantum mechanics says that the presence of the observer changes the nature of the observed. Isn't it also likely that creating content about a certain subject changes the nature of the this case government?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top 5 Issues on Marketers' Minds

On my way to the gym this morning, I walked past a giant mound of dirty snow. Ugly? Yes. But it stands as a monument to the season--the season of hunkering down. The holidays are behind us. What lies ahead is the long march toward the spring. While this is not my favorite time of year, it's always my most productive. Minus the distractions of good weather and sunlight, I can set about thinking and creating. My best ideas are hatched in these conditions.

And so it is for marketers. This is the winter of our discontent to be made glorious by our own creativity. To wit, a key finding of this year's survey of the Marketing Executives Networking Group's (MENG) members is that 72% of respondents indicated that innovation efforts would stay the same or increase. This is significant given that most marketing experts agree it’s imperative to innovate during a recession and further exemplifies that MENG members are leaders in their respective industries.

It’s also no surprise the economic climate showed greater interest in the survey as more marketers expressed concern on how a recession would impact priorities moving forward. For example, half of executives believe their marketing budgets will be decreased in 2009.

Fine. The most inventive designs typically emerge from situations with multiple priorities and a limited budget.

The Top Five Trends Among Chief Marketing Officers:

1. Insight and innovation viewed as keys to combat down economic and business cycles; Marketers indicated market research and development would either stay the same or increase in 2009.

2. Customer satisfaction and customer retention remained the top two marketing concepts followed by marketing ROI, brand loyalty and segmentation, which represents a “Back to Core Principles” approach to marketing.

3. The issue of global warming showed the largest decrease in importance (dropping 14 places in the rankings), while green marketing showed a statistically significant 5% drop.

4. Twice as many marketers are “sick” of hearing about Web 2.0 and related buzzwords such as “blogs” and “social networking” compared to last year’s survey; however, marketers still admit they don’t know enough about it. This was evident in the results of a social media study MENG released on November 6, 2008, showing 67% of executive marketers consider themselves beginners when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes.

5. Despite well-publicized quality issues over the last year, China ranked the number one greatest area of opportunity for marketers with international responsibility. India was a distant second with only 17% of respondents.

Interesting to note, marketing executives also still feel Boomers represent the best opportunity for customer targeting. However, the perceived importance of Generation X and Generation Y grew significantly compared to 2008.

That mound of dirty snow will slowly diminish. It will take at least 3 months. It's my timer. By the time it disappears, I intend to have a full arsenal of new ideas, projects and fresh possibilities. May they bloom like crocuses

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sponsorship Monday: Jamba Juice Sponsors a RenGen Knitfiti Event to Launch Oatmeal

Oatmeal is hot. At Starbucks it's a best seller. And now Jamba Juice is way cool for launching their new oatmeal product with a RenGen spin. Last week, Jamba Juice debuted its new Steel Cut Oatmeal with Fruit in Chicago. Jamba's Chicago launch of the oatmeal was tied in with a city-wide oatmeal run. They delivered their signature slow-cooked organic oatmeal to local non-profit workers across the city. I consider oatmeal to be the ultimate quick comfort food. But Jamba Juice extends the product's care-taking spirit by serving it to those who serve others. Voila-- instant compassion brand!

As part of the launch, Jamba Juice also sponsored "knitfiti" events in-store in which civic-minded guerrilla artists "hit" public property with handmade knitwear. A Jamba store located on Chicago's North Michigan Ave. is the first to feature a live installation of the knitting art. Other Jamba restaurants will follow suit in mid January to tie in with the national roll out of the oatmeal menu item.
photo courtesy of Elbogirl on Flickr