Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dante's Inferno: Poetry Meets Gaming

Remember Dante's Inferno? That really long poem written about 700 years ago? Maybe you read it in your classics class. This February, EA Games gave us a new way to experience the epic poem: by playing the video game of the same title.

The game version of the poem takes plenty of liberties with the work. It re-imagines Dante as a warrior--rather than simply walking through hell, he has to fight his way through it. And his motivation isn't a deeper understanding of sin, as in the poem--it's love. Beatrice, who the real Dante loved, becomes the character's entire reason for going to hell. To win the game, players must rescue Beatrice from Satan's clutches and make it out alive.

As expected, the major changes to the story upset plenty of Dante scholars. But as much as it pains me to say it (and believe that it does), the cold facts are these: Video games sell. Books don't. My hope is that there are a few kids out there who will be so excited about the game that they want to read the literature that inspired it. And in their defense, the producers of the game did do one thing that might help win over traditionalists. They're releasing a print edition of the poem in hopes that it will encourage gamers to read the original work.

--Mo Hickey

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coming Up: Omaha Young Professionals Summit

Next week, Patricia will be keynoting in Omaha at the Greater Omaha Young Professionals Summit. Naturally, she's stoked to be in good company with Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, and William Taylor, author and founding editor of Fast Company. Recently, Silicon Prairie interviewed her in advance of the event to ask her about the creative economy, RenGen cities, and what it means for Omaha's business climate.

Watch the full interview here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sponsored Research--What Young Creatives Want From Work

Hewlett Packard has great interest in the RenGen--especially the younger cohort. It makes sense. Creative people are good customers for many of the products HP sells, in particular high-end color printers which are often recommended by Apple Geniuses. 

So I took note when Thomas Cott shared this sponsored research from Hewlett Packard about what young creatives want from their work.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Indie Film Uses Internet to Strike Gold

It's hard enough to get an audience. Imagine trying to gain a following as a filmmaker when your movie hasn't actually hit the big screens. Difficult? Certainly. Impossible? Not anymore. This winter, indie film "Strictly Sexual" became's most-watched movie of all time without ever having been in theaters.

How did they do it? The romantic comedy, which was written by Stevie Long and directed by Joel Viertel, doesn't boast any big-name actors. And Long said he'd never even heard of Hulu before his Facebook inbox started filling with messages from fans who said they'd watched the film and loved it. All he did was hand the movie over to a distribution company that then put it up on the site.

Despite the fact that it's never been theatrically released, "Strictly Sexual" is doing well for itself--the $100,000 budget movie has profited tenfold. For an indie film--or any film, really--this level of Internet success is unprecedented. So what happened? Was it the film's provocative title? Can the whole thing be chalked up to luck and good timing? Is it just a really, really good movie? In the end, it doesn't really matter. The story is one more example of how artists are not only contributing to the digital culture, but re-defining how business is done. Exciting!

Listen to the full story here.

--Mo Hickey

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Goodwill:Thrifty and Nifty Social Media Experiment

Charities are entering into social media channels with amazing success. Take a peek at Goodwill’s latest foray into social media.

District of Columbia Goodwill collaborated with Stella Pop for a three-part video series on DC Goodwill Fashionista (DC Goodwill's blog). The concept: Redecorate Miss DC 2009's apartment with only things she could find at Goodwill. Many of you out there have actually done this yourselves, right? The three parts of the video series consist of 1) before Goodwill, 2) shopping at Goodwill and 3) the results.

Along with the video storyline, Miss DC sang an original theme song for the series with local Grammy-nominated rapper Kokayi (the song was sold for $2 on iTunes with proceeds going to Goodwill).

Results are eye-popping:

• Retail sales up 7%

• Retail traffic up 13%

• Donations increase of 18%

• 450% increase in online traffic from before series launch; traffic continues to grow

• $150,000 in earned media coverage

Cause communities are powerful hubs of passion. It’s clear that the Goodwill brand means something to people.

Causes form part of the cultural foundation of social marketing--the legacy social networks bound by interest and high-ideals. It’s what social sponsorship marketing was about before it got mangled into a strictly sports marketing platform. Now the push is to content marketing, a digital/human hybrid. Another story.

Hat tip, Joe Paluzzi

Monday, February 15, 2010

Art Guys: Two Artists Pitch A Sponsor

Ever wondered what it's like to pitch a weird sponsorship offer to a marketing team? Meet the Art Guys. They're a couple of Houston-based performance artists cum corporate sponsorship pioneers. Their performance piece entitled "Clothes Make the Man" involved wearing two Todd Oldham grey suits for an entire year. They sold sponsorship to premium brands such as Absolut Vodka and Target. Logos were embroidered onto the suits. This video brings you into one of their pitch sessions with Krispy Kreme Donuts. It's an approach to sponsorship that's both ribald and canny. How'd they sell deals? Cold calling, having a cool concept, packaging the offer, helping the sponsor visualize the opportunity and remaining resilient despite rejection--that's how. It's pretty much the standard sponsorship sales recipe, but with an art twist. Watch and learn.

Originally posted 11-16-09

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Win Them Over Or Wear Them Down?

I own a Kindle. Not an iPad (the name still makes me cringe). But Apple is selling them at a brisk pace, and the Nook is not far behind. Long time readers of this blog know that I love books. So I was struck by news of two recent studies that reach similar conclusions: college libraries are costly to maintain, perhaps too costly. The sooner professors and students embrace e-books, the sooner their libraries can start saving money--but that might not happen for a while.

So what makes a breakthrough possible in the legacy bedrock of the knowledge economy—namely academia? It’s a question that fascinates me. What tips the culture? With all due respect to Malcolm Gladwell, I understand what triggers a viral uptick. But how does a culture finally make the conversion toward radical change, once and for all?

Hint: Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck knew that in his field, like most others, ingenious innovation doesn't automatically win people over. The advancement of new ideas is hampered by the careerism of scientists. "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light," he wrote, "but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

For all the hoopla about change, is progress just a war of attrition?

Thanks, Breamarie, for the photo.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Advertising for the New Decade

Did anyone else notice a motif of emasculated males in this year's Super Bowl commercials? Stranger than the theme itself is the fact that the message seemed to get louder with each related ad. The first--and tamest--of these was for Dove's new line of skin care for men. The commercial, which shows a man growing up, entering adulthood and having a family of his own, quietly instates the image of man as domesticated husband and father, whose many jobs include opening pickle jars.

Then came an ad for the new Dodge Charger. Exhausted, sad-looking men stare into the camera as a voice-over states all the things they do for their spouses. "I will clean the sink after I shave. I will put the seat down." And then: "I will say yes when you want me to yes. I will be quiet when you don't want to hear me say no. I will carry your lip balm." Their slogan? "Because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive. Charger: Man's last stand."

FloTV's ad for their portable live television got straight to the point. The ad depicts "Jason", a man whose girlfriend "removed his spine" when she made him go shopping with her on Super Bowl Sunday. "Change out of that skirt, Jason," the narrator urges.

Stereotypical portrayals of both genders are nothing new when it comes to advertising. What is new is the stereotype being portrayed. The depiction of men as domesticated puppies is noticeable because it's a new stereotype. Where are the macho, super-masculine, physically commanding men of commercials as we know them? It's funny how stereotypes become invisible once we get used to them.

What's behind this new angle? Maybe it's an attempt to appeal to men in a tough economy. The rise in unemployment has shaken the image of men as breadwinners, now that many of them are unable to fulfill this part. We're seeing new cultural roles, gender and otherwise, arise as a result of our socioeconomic circumstances. Something big is happening. And I'm willing to bet it's not because women are suddenly making all of our Super Bowl commercials.

--Mo Hickey

Monday, February 8, 2010

Toyota's Demise Offers Greener Pastures for Sponsorship Seekers

I just returned from Detroit and I’ve got some good news.  Because Toyota is in serious trouble, competitors are gearing up for a spring/summer season of robust promotions. This is good news for sponsorship marketing. Budgets are being enriched to take advantage of the fact that Toyota has collided head-on with social responsibility when it failed to act on consumer complaints.

How can you take advantage?

Begin by understanding what automakers need from a sponsorship deal—context. They need to embed their cars into communities of interest to give the brand context. They need events where people can touch and peek into their vehicles. And they need digital interaction. I’m not talking about a list of email addresses or a logo on your website. No. Instead, I want you to think about ways to dynamically engage your community with the automaker’s brand in ways that truly make sense for everyone.

A good example of how to embed an automotive sponsor in ways that are meaningful for everyone is Subaru’s sponsorship of the Philadelphia Flower Show. Subaru puts its name on the Gardener’s Studio—a place where avid gardeners gather for lectures and demonstrations. In this context, Subaru extends its brand to its favorite target: active people who love to learn by doing. The deal is lush with marketing opportunities for Subaru, including vehicle displays woven into the context of the show. Sponsoring the Gardener’s Studio makes them an immediate “good neighbor” to the community of gardeners who gather to learn at what’s considered the world’s finest flower show.

Where should you begin? Visit your local dealership. See what’s being promoted in show rooms. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. If you’re not sure what to ask, do a little homework.

Need more clues? Note which brands are launching or re-staging. They’ll have bigger marketing budgets. For example, Ford unveiled its new Focus at the Detroit auto show and will be promoting it even more aggressively now that Toyota is wobbling. Same for its Taurus brand. VW is looking to promote its clean diesel engine. Look around, ask around and get ready to start your engines. It’s going to be a great season for automotive sponsorship.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Seth Godin's Linchpin Speaks Volumes

As an author who has used Amazon's Digital Text Platform, I received an email from and Penguin Group (USA) asking for my help. They’re scouting entries for the third annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA), an international competition seeking fresh writing voices. Nothing earth shattering, right? Just another writing competition. Except for this critical detail: self-published novels are now eligible to be submitted. This is huge.

Self-publishing is fast-growing—and scalable. Consider the fact that Bookmaker, owned by, was downloaded over 2 million times last year. has launched over 100,000 self-published books into the market since 2009.

What’s driving this growth? The renaissance generation—RenGen—is. And they're here to change the culture. We're witnessing the transformation from a top-down, military industrial economy to a creative economy.

Even the esteemed Seth Godin is on board with this shift. His new book, Linchpin, heralds the arrival of creative leaders. Seth has taken to quoting poets and inviting his audiences to “embrace their inner Michaelangelo.”

At last. The cavalry has arrived. When a mega brand the likes of Seth Godin adopts the idea that the next wave of prosperity and opportunity will be dominated by those who create the culture, it’s a sure sign that business and civic leaders are ready to hear it. A once-radical idea is finally entering the mainstream, thanks to Godin.

I’m relieved. Elated, even. I’ve spent the last three years alerting audiences to the dynamic that the people who invent, innovate, design, craft stories, blend science with art will write the next chapter of greatness in America. It’s been a little lonely.  Yes, there’s Richard Florida’s admirable work on why cities need to pay attention to the creative class. Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson’s pioneering book Cultural Creatives scouted early traces of the phenomenon. Oh, and RISD President John Maeda, by way of MIT’s famed Media Lab, is especially eloquent on the topic of creative leadership.

But nothing beats Seth’s imprimatur. Just as in the old EF Hutton ads, when Seth talks, everyone listens.  His voice arrives just in time to usher in a new era of business discourse. I’m thrilled that he’s speaking my language.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Five Pillars for Working With Creative People

“I fell in love with him first over the phone.” So begins a personal essay on what it was like to be a young editor working at the elbow of Howard Zinn, who died last week. Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, bravely challenged a lot of cherished ideas about American life and culture.

I often get asked to explain how to best engage a creative talent. Many of the answers lie in this touching essay by Rachel Toor. If you’re short on time and want me to break it down for you, the five pillars are these:

Teach me. Tell me the things I never learned in school about how business really works.  In this case, it was editing and publishing.
Be compassionate. When I screw up, tell me so, but don’t grind me down with it. Rinse, repeat.
Set very high standards. And refer back to number two.
Treat me like a human being. I have a life. I care about things. I am not a drone.
Encourage my contribution. I need to see my hand in the work.

The entire essay is here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Am I A Phony?

Part of why we educate children is to aculturate them. Our collective narrative is shaped in school. Consider the ritual reading of the Cather in the Rye. Everyone my age has read it.

Okay, I admit it. I loved the book. But I began to notice that the rising generation of high schoolers thought very little of Holden Caufield. A few years back, I judged an essay contest where I was surprised to learn that J.D. Salinger's hero was a "whiner" and a "pathetic loser."

Maybe this explains why the Onion's cheeky obituary for J.D. Salinger keeps buzzing around the digisphere a week after Salinger's death. Written in Holden Caulfield's voice, I can't resist quoting it here: 
"In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud...."

The question I have is this: who will replace Holden Caulfield as that voice of America's angsty youth? Or am I a phony for thinking it matters anymore, for chrissake?

Photo of J.D. Salinger courtesy of BeastandBean, Flickr