Monday, May 30, 2011

Blog Sponsorships Enter the Big Leagues

Blogs are becoming big media by offering conferences that help digerati come together to share ideas.

Take last week’s TechCrunch event in New York, for example. The sheer size of the sponsor roster TechCrunch Disrupt was staggering—including heavy hitters such as GE.

When I heard that they sold 2100 tickets at anywhere between $2,000-$3,000, it made me realize that one conference alone could be topping out at $10 million in revenue. Crazy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Volkswagen’s Big Sponsorship Deal with MoMA

Volkswagen is spending big on arts sponsorships. This week, the German automaker and the Museum of Modern Art announced a two-year, multimillion-dollar sponsorship in New York. Is this a push to capture market share lost by Japanese automakers? Could be. But it's pure VW to stay relevant by continuing to weave its iconic brand into the culture.

The deal will fund a range of programs: an exhibition of international contemporary art at MoMA’s Long Island City, New York, branch, PS1, in 2013; a series of installations in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden; an expansion of online education; and the acquisition of two works by Belgian artist Francis Alys, whose current retrospective at the museum is sponsored by Volkswagen.

The company and the museum declined to disclose the total amount of the sponsorship. (I’m still digging to find the final price tag.)

The press conference announcing the sponsorship came a day before the opening ceremony for Volkswagen’s $1 billion factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen has also partnered with a community college in Chattanooga to outsource its training programs, a move that is part of a more complete immersion into the community beyond factory walls.

More on the deal here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hidden Marketing Assets: Out-of-Office Email

When I teach workshops on Sponsorship Marketing, I harp on the power of the “hidden asset.” I’m referring to those gem-like branding opportunities that can make an ordinary list of rights and benefits pop. That’s why the Out-of-Office email campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi caught my attention.

When their art director went on paternity leave, the folks at Saatchi & Saatchi decided to get creative with the out-of-office message and sell it to a production company.

It worked!

After all, what better way for a company to reach their target audience than by appearing directly in their inbox without even trying?

In fact, the experiment was so successful, an entire Out-of-Office Email Service is in beta.

It got me thinking….what if there is room to communicate differently with our email messages? Sometimes, I prepare my standard out-of-office email and yearn to bust loose with something truly radical:
“In her latest crime novel, Patricia goes back to rural Ireland where a younger, breathless version of herself goes missing. Five days later she turns up older and wiser, but no less breathless.”
Amidst the deafening roar of social media, email has become somewhat intimate. Does getting creative with it constitute “surprise and delight” or is it brand suicide?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Dangers of Filtered Information via Google and Facebook Exposed

Without your realizing it, a lot of information that you get from the web is edited for you. Facebook chooses which friends appear in your news feed. Google results are tailored based on 57 signals that Google reads about you.

The sheer volume of information and content out there on the web has forced filtering. In the old days the information we consumed was controlled by editors. Editors are being replaced by algorithms on sites like Facebook and Google and pretty much most of the other big sites you use on the web.

Even though most people are oblivious to the use of algorithms to sift what they search, it’s widely believed that they are a good thing. Less is more. Right? Eli Pariser of gave a talk at TED that challenges the use of algorithms and the cultural impact of filtering information. (Video is 9 minutes long.)

This is by far the smartest thinking I have seen when it comes to this subject. Attendees agreed. To wit, he gets a standing ovation.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Power 7: A Checklist For Future Business Models in Arts & Culture

Open talk about new business models in the arts is a cultural signal. It’s a watermark that tells us the tides are shifting. Digital culture is eroding some of art’s traditional value proposition.

That’s not what worries me.

This does: Even if the arts can come to occupy a new role in people’s lives, will they will be able to communicate this role to attract new users—especially younger audiences?

Cultivating younger audiences will be important. They are the future. But using marketing messages and tactics from the past to reach them might mean that your organization—no matter what its business model, will not be around to see them join your ranks.

In 2009, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and my research team joined forces to investigate ways that other major brands were making themselves relevant to young cultural consumers, especially those between the ages of 22 and 30. You can download findings for free.

Business models are evolving in part because of a strong push from young arts leaders to rethink the traditional 501(c)3.

Why rethink the organizational structure?

Because this rising generation has already changed how it consumes culture and interacts with institutions. It’s just that the organizational structure has not yet caught up.

How do we get it right? Read the full article at ARTSBlog.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Step Into My Sweat Lodge: A Deviant Approach to Selling Ideas

Photo by purincess
When you sign up to be in the marketing business, you become two people: a data wonk and a creative Svengali, able to conjure genius ideas on a whim.

My problem is that my creative self is more like a character in the novel Peyton Place: “Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all…”

This winter, she abandoned me entirely. And with her went my confidence in selling new ideas. It forced me to break the rules. In the process, I discovered a new way to sell which I want to share with you.

Here’s what happened.

After completing a successful campaign for George Soros’s philanthropy to help heighten public interest in privacy, I sat down to work on a smallish piece of business for a repeat client. I created a brief for what I thought was a bulletproof concept. The earth shook when I presented it to the client’s team and faced blank stares.

Demoralized, I gathered the team’s feedback and went home to retrace my steps. I wrote the client and suggested we take a fresh approach, and invited her to my studio for a working lunch.

I was breaking a taboo.

There’s an unwritten rule in the agency world that it’s a bad idea to involve the client in the creative process. Consider also that classic sales training treats selling as a predatory activity. Prospects are prey. Sales people are hunters. This attitude is not only cynical, but it gets in the way of forging authentic emotional bonds many of us need to do breakthrough work.

When my client arrived, a miracle happened. Read more.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Information is Everywhere, Perspective is More Rare

Today, I will be giving a talk at the annual gathering of Qualitative Researchers. What a thrill to be among very smart people who uncover the insights that help us innovate.

I spent the day yesterday holed up in my studio preparing. When I awakened this morning it dawned on me that part of the job of any research is to synthesize down what we discover. And that may be the greatest gift of a talented researcher.

Take, for instance, the researchers who discovered that for years we have misunderstood what motivates people, mainly because we relied on survey data that was under-synthesized. When qualitative researchers dug into the human subtext, a more complete picture emerged. The findings earned their place in HBR’s “Breakthrough Ideas of 2010”. (pdf)

There is no scarcity of data. There is a paucity of perspective. I am stoked to share the day with people who are all about gaining the human perspective to help business evolve.

Just think what I’m going to learn.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Finding A New Way to Sell Your Idea

A few weeks ago, I got a request from the professional organization I belong to asking if I’d like to become one of their official bloggers. I was thrilled. But I was also buried in so many content demands I nearly declined. Instead, I took a deep breath and assessed the situation.

There is so much content out there. Who needs more blog commentary, really? I’m already blogging in lots of places.

So if I blog for MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group) what can I add to the conversation that will truly be helpful to other marketing executives?

This post contains my answer. In the months to come I hope to share intimate, honest stories about what it really takes to position, package and pitch something new. Something bold and original, where the failure rate can be high.

I’m delighted that I said "Yes!" to this opportunity. I hope you find value in my debut post.

And if you have a minute, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Will the Future "Like" Libraries?

Today, I'm at the University of Minnesota giving a talk about cultural change and how it will effect libraries. The incomparable George Needham is also here speaking about information derived from the OCLC Perceptions Report. Not only is this audience absorbent, they are posing great questions.
Some data points from George's talk:
-20% of Americans have felt adverse employment impact;
-The impact has been felt most by younger workers;
-86% of the negatively effected were shedding consumer behaviors that were once core   lifestyle choices-entertainment, eating out, buying books and;
-81% of the economically effected have library cards to save money.

People are re-discovering libraries to save money and are more willing to trade time to save money.

Comic Life and the Creative Impulse

Most days, my life isn’t funny. But I’d like it to be.

That’s why Comic Life caught my attention. It’s an app that creates graphic illustrations using photographs that you can upload from your computer. The program offers many templates, fonts, colors, sizes, and styles that can create any number of comic illustrations.

My son tells me funny is as funny does; it’s all in your perspective.

The creative in me is itching to try Comic Life out. You know, create a funny world.

Anyone out there using Comic Life? Liking it? Does it make life funnier?

Read the full review from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Portrait of an Arts Entrepreneur: Artisan Businesses Now an Economic Indicator

If you need evidence that the pallid economy is regaining its color, just ask mural artist Doug Coggeshall. Last week, I caught up with Coggeshall for coffee between estimate meetings with clients. After 25 years, he considers his custom mural business serving metro-Chicago's most prominent residents "a canary in a coalmine" for the economy. Coggeshall felt the impact well before we reached the frothy tip of the credit bubble.

In 2008, the recession kept Coggeshall's business on a near-starvation diet. "You begin to wonder what cat food might taste like," he jokes. Despite his many devotees, Coggeshall admits that, "I'm selling a luxury. The society benefits from having art; it helps us understand who we are. But you don't NEED it." It was also the end of an era fueled by a consumer culture obsessed with lavish home decorating.

Lately, his phone's been ringing again.

The downturn forced him to innovate and expand his palette of projects. For example, he's painted sacred spaces and has been brought in to cut costs by camouflaging architectural flaws to save the expense of remodeling. For instance, when a client couldn't locate rare tiles to complete a backsplash, Coggeshall hand-painted an entire wall to look like detailed tile work at half the cost.

Despite the ups and downs, Coggeshall lights up when I ask him to describe the best thing about his small business: "When I stand inside the full surround of a very large piece and get lost in it. It makes me dizzy with pleasure."

Given the volatile nature of the economy, I ask if he's ever been tempted to throw in the "trowel". He shakes his head resolutely. "I painted my first mural as a little boy. I have to paint. It's not a hobby. It's a career."

Now that business is picking up, all from referrals, Coggeshall claims that the recession made him "feel stronger, more powerful" for having gotten through it.

One artist's story only renders a thumbnail sketch of a larger economic landscape, but artisan businesses are not a stray indicator. Consider also that Sotheby's and Christie's both report sizzling markets for art in China, according to China Daily. When people have the means and are freed from debt, they return to art.

With his mural business on the rebound, Coggeshall is feeling good about the future. "I love my work. I will paint until I drop." Smiling broadly, he shakes my hand and breezes out the door to get back to the business of making spaces beautiful.

Originally posted at The Huffington Post

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On My Nightstand: Marketing to Women, by Marti Barletta

Well, it took me long enough. I’d been meaning to pick up Marti Barletta’s seminal book on marketing to females for a while. But when I got the opportunity to meet with her recently, she gave me a copy. What a gift! It’s loaded with actionable information and descriptive case studies.

Consider the facts:
Women make up 51 percent of the population. And 86 percent of women are either the main decision makers (32 percent) or joint decision makers (54 percent) of household financial matters. Women make 80% of all consumer buying decisions and 53% of all investment decisions. Over 60% of all new car purchases.

So I wonder: why is it that the market place is still so male-centric?

Here’s my assessment:
Is it because the cultural underpinnings of how we market to women demand that we maintain a certain organizing mythology? Consider the princess mythology. The recent royal wedding was the penultimate expression of this myth.

In contrast to the mythology is Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, which brilliantly subverts the prevailing fashion industry concept of feminine beauty, presenting it as something that is not only fake but corrosive to the self-esteem of young girls. This multi-award-winning campaign has parent company Unilever backing away from its basic premise. If it wants to sell products to women, it’s got to prop up certain cultural dynamics that keep women feeling insecure in ways that make them want to buy things to fix the problem.

In the long run, brands that want to truly win with women need to partner with men and women to establish a new premise. This opens broad frontiers for cultural brands willing to seed the culture to adopt new values. Based on Barletta’s extensive research, it’s a task worth undertaking because the upside is a gold mine.

If you’ve been late to the party like me, and have not read it yet, do. I encourage you to pick up Marketing to Women. It’s an important book.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

RenGen City Revisited: A Philadelphia Love Story

I spent most of last week in Philadelphia. It's a fascinating city for many reasons. I wrote about it in my last book. It's got a culture of ingenuity that goes way back to the founding of the nation. To tap into this vibe, companies like Apple are hothousing service innovations in Philadelphia. Why not? It's the cradle of invention.

Think about it. Benjamin Franklin came well before Brian Tracy or Tim Ferriss. Franklin invented "lifestyle management" books with Poor Richard's Almanack. "Waste not, want not." "A penny saved is a penny earned." 
Philly's also got a population that looks like the future.

As we march into the eye of the dissolution that precedes the coming renaissance, in many ways cities like Philadelphia and Detroit are ahead of the curve. They have faced down their social and economic challenges earlier and are incubating new businesses and mashups in art, technology and urban life to foster unique enterprises. For example, I encountered the very cool Maiden Media, a digital agency that gave a workshop in Apple's Briefing Room.

Place is going to be important in the next 10 years as we re-tribe and re-build. As Anijo Mathew, professor of design explains, "Now, 'place' is more than 'space'. It's not just a location, but inextricably linked to people and the things that happen in that location that are meaningful to them."

At an Arts & Business Council event, I heard Philly native and Tonight Show musician Kevin Eubanks back up that thinking. He gushed about how different Philly was from his days growing up and openly contemplated moving back. Its food, art, and music scenes are all first rate. And it's all walkable and overseen by the elegant image of founding father William Penn, whose statue is perched atop city hall, reminding citizens of their pioneering roots. It's a place steeped in the American impulse to make things happen.

What's not to love about that?