Friday, July 29, 2011

Vintage Library Gear: It's Hip to be Square

Guest post by Ellen Willett
Photo from LittleLadyCompany
It's a bit of an understatement to say that vintage is popular right now. From roller skates with keys to old-timey mustache styles to rockabilly bands, things that can be retrieved from a bygone age and enjoyed again are hot commodities.

Remember physical library cards and date stamps with ink pads? As libraries went digital, the cards were shoved in drawers and on shelves as antiquated analog systems. Now, they're making a comeback as a wedding save-the date and party invitation trend.

GalleyCat found multiple sources on Etsy when they wrote a brief piece on the trend. Hugely popular wedding blog Offbeat Bride posted the story of one couple who made their own, with the clever twist of including the crossed-off wedding dates of their previous marriages to show that they'd been "checked out before".

Libraries themselves are an increasingly popular wedding location for couples who embrace and want to celebrate their inner geeks and nerds. The classic architectural styles of many older libraries doesn't hurt, either.

The renewed cool factor is good news for libraries, but while the extinct tools of libraries are being re-purposed with great fondness and nostalgia, those looking for a vintage experience at the library itself may be disappointed to find that the library has not remained a dusty old relic. Despite recent budget cuts, libraries have embraced the digital age and have remained a vibrant community resource, with offerings as creative as the Heirloom Seed Library we've mentioned. Check out a fantastic blog by our friends Erik Boekesteijn and Jaap van de Geer with interviews from innovative librarians around the world doing some amazing things.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Power Lunch

Photo by A30_Tsitika
I know this is very last minute, but today at 1PM ET you can tune in and get a glimpse into the future of marketing as 30 marketers, including leaders from American Express, IBM and Coca-Cola, give a 60-minute 'microconference'.

It’s today at 1PM. Cancel your lunch date. Instead, roll your office chair up to your desk, unwrap your sammy, and listen up.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Questions to Ask A Sponsor

This popular post was originally posted in September, 2009. I've gotten a lot of questions lately about sponsorship as some of my clients gear up for their 2012 projects. These five questions are great for discovering where the synergy lies between your project and your prospective sponsor, and this process is a step that organizations often forget in their rush to pitch. Taking the time to find the right fit is crucial to a successful and lasting relationship.

Originally posted September 28, 2009
Time is money. Sponsors are busy. When selling something visionary--like a sponsorship deal to a new event--it's tough to know when to flat out pitch, and when to take a more consultative approach. How do you choose? Don't ask the customer. He/she will always want the fastest, least invasive experience--the pitch. The consultative approach is better for a prospecting call, or "discovery meeting" which precedes a pitch. It's all about discovering if there's enough fit to keep investing time.

Taking the consultative path demands that you master the short-handed pitch: a rock solid elevator speech and a quality document to leave behind that captures the essence of the opportunity and builds credibility.

Next, you'll need to plot out the exchange you envision when the prospect is seated across the table. The following script is for a discussion with a prospect that helps you ascertain whether there is a fit between the prospect’s problem and your service.

Here's a rough idea of how you might structure the conversation:
1. "I had a look at your website, and I see that you are _________, but it would help me enormously if you could give me the bigger picture of your company’s marketing goals in this region. What’s essential for me to know about your company’s current situation?"

2. "It might make sense for me to explain what we do and how we do it to see if we have a fit."

3. "Does any of what I described sound like it could help you achieve more __________ in the community?"

4. "How will you measure the success of our relationship?"

5. "Do you feel it makes sense to keep talking?"

This conversation should take no more than 30 minutes, max. You're in and you're out. Before you leave, agree on next steps. More on that next week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seriously, I Need a Think Pad

Not that kind.

I’m talking about finding a place to live in where I can think and write and endlessly create. My colleagues Will Hopkins and Mary K. Baumann have a stupendous think pad. As loyal readers of this blog know, I’ve been house hunting. It’s been eye-opening in more ways than one.

First of all, you learn a lot about the economy by walking through vacant homes that have been foreclosed on. Some have gutted kitchens left gaping—no stove, nothing. It’s eerie. This has taught me that houses are organic. They need life going on inside of them or they become dead zones. No spark.

Secondly, you re-learn lessons. For instance, people in the real estate business work harder than they appear to and rarely seem to enjoy it. Perhaps the lack of joy in the job has something to do with overall deprivation: lots of time in the car, heavy amounts of detail, and a lack of personal indulgences that might otherwise cheer a person up—like treating yourself to a nice outfit once in a while.

Finally, you find your X factor: that thing you really need. Me? I need a place to think. I don’t need terrific neighbors who become my best friends. Although I am friendly with my current neighbors, I prefer intimate friendships to casual ones. I don’t need a restoration project—I already have too many deadlines. And I no longer need a place to raise my children. They are out in the world.

Place is important. On the macro level, the cities we choose to live in define our lifestyles. It’s why we should demand that they be inspiring. Check out Carol Coletta’s new gig and see why she continues to be at the forefront of urban design.

On a micro level, our immediate surroundings are either conducive to creative work or not. My home must be a catalyst for ideas.

My creativity wish list is as follows:
I need light, room for work tables to lay out projects, spacious empty walls for endless sticky notes and doing pattern recognition. And sunlight. Hours and hours of it.

I need a think pad—to live in.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Reading with Christopher Walken

This week the temps in Chicago are tipping the 90s. Summer’s in full swing.

One of my favorite rituals of the season is the summer reading program at nearly every library from coast to coast. I used to sign my kids up. When my son became an adolescent he used to volunteer to help run it.

In the spirit of summer reading, I bring you this hilarious video of Christopher Walken reading the Three Little Pigs. Thanks to Roger Ebert for finding and sharing it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Making Room for Ideas

I’ve spent the morning catching up on reading. I started my day with a lecture given by two Disney Imagineers. My brain runneth over.

As I sit in the sun-drenched courtyard of the Boston Public Library, I am reminded of why America needs libraries. In particular, beautiful libraries. This picture-postcard quadrangle, with its archways and sparkling fountain, is an oasis of serenity.

For many of us, libraries are about books. But on this breezy afternoon in Boston, I am feeling blessed not for the library’s vast holdings, but for its empty spaces. Places where a person can sit and be.

I think about Walt Disney. His vision for a theme park was hatched while sitting on a park bench watching his daughters play. Some times the very best ideas blossom in the quiet spaces or splashed onto blank canvasses.

For weeks I’ve been procrastinating about a book idea. It’s an unborn child stirring in me that I refuse to name or further imagine. The idea of making time for it in my life overwhelms me. How will I ever fit it in?

So for months I’ve stayed stuck, unable to further conceptualize it.

The longer I sit and free my thoughts, things start coming to me. I jot notes. I sketch out a hasty mind map.

Information is power. But absolute power corrupts. Whoever designed the magnificent Boston Public Library must have understood the need for the citizens of a new nation to dream as well as learn.

You don’t need reminding that your life is harried and overstuffed. But maybe a gentle nudge that invites you to grab some down time and give your imagination a fighting chance.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Flux-capacitor: What's Your Plan for Exploring the Future of Social Media?

This weekend, I met an old friend for breakfast. Over scrambled eggs, we talked about the transitions we’re going through in our lives. When I mentioned wanting to experiment and be more adventurous, he asked—“What’s your plan?”

Huh? What’s my plan? I need a plan to be more adventurous? What does experimentation have to do with planning?

The more we talked, the more it made sense. We’re in an age of great flux. It’s left many people feeling unhinged. To keep the chaos at bay, it’s a good idea to have a strategy or two about how we’ll attack the exploration process to give us perspective.

In a recent post about Google+, Beth Kanter encourages us to approach the changes in the platform with a plan to experiment. And Vincent Mo shares his own strategies for creating circles of friends using Google+.

I’m not saying life is like social media. Life’s way weirder. I’m just saying that things that are more liquid than solid are best approached by having a way of thinking about it that says, “Here’s what I’ll try, here’s why, and here’s what I hope to learn.” More coffee?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Clever Marketing: When a Brand Name Hits the Spot

Photo by SRCrawford
This weekend, I was house hunting in Chicago’s bustling Andersonville neighborhood. Hot and sticky from pounding the pavement and bummed out a bit after looking at condos with closets the size of gym lockers, I needed a break.

I nipped into a little cafĂ© and ordered a Mrs. Howell’s lemonade. Coconut syrup, lemonade and, if you’re not driving, vodka. (I was on bike, so I went for the virgin concoction). It’s now my new favorite. Love the sweet/sour alchemy.

Absolutely delicious. I sat outside and watched the parade of characters that make up this colorful community.

So, why did I order the drink in the first place? The name drew me. It was marketed cleverly. I’m a sucker for a clever name. Most consumers are. Many find amusement in a t.v. reference that reaches way back. The name hits the spot.

So, here’s to summer. And being clever marketers. And to Mrs. Howell, III.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Content Marketing: Collaborative Capitalism is the Future

Content is a commodity, no question. But who stands to prosper from it? There’s the rub.

So far, the ruling model falls in favor of the programmer and platform builders—not the content creators.

The latest revelation, rendered brilliantly by MyCube, that Facebook earned $1.86 billion from user-generated content in 2010 has people in awe. The problem is that the business model is passĂ© — past its prime. It's just another advertising scheme. Why? Because it’s a lopsided model that leans in favor of the platform builder and cuts content creators out of the deal. Overtime, users can find other places and ways to connect, leaving the platform vulnerable.

Far more durable in “content-as-commodity” realm are the collaborative capitalists. My favorite to watch is Bandcamp. It’s one of the Web’s fastest-growing communities for artists. Think Etsy of the music world. Go to an outdoor concert this summer and you’ll hear musicians crow from the stage, “Check us out on Bandcamp.”

I recently sat down with one of Bandcamp’s co-founders, Joe Holt, while I was making a swing through the east coast. Over lunch at a quaint Vermont inn, Joe revealed how Bandcamp’s impressive growth has been linked to its ability to help its members sell their content. All future plans for Bandcamp, as Joe explained it, will be driven by helping members succeed financially and sharing in that profit-making.

Everyone being committed to the other person’s success is the future of business.

Certainly Arianna Huffington knows this. While she started off with a news aggregation platform and unpaid bloggers, the HuffPo sale to AOL put it in another league. The new model is a more balanced business model where everyone has a shot at making money off of content, not just Ms. Huffington.

The slug-fest between Google and Facebook is an interesting one to watch. But my eyes are trained on collaborative capital companies. It’s not only where the action is, it's where the future of business is headed…and fast.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Daydream Believer

Photo by pengrin™
Lately, I’ve spent the wee hours of the day scanning real estate websites looking for a new home. I need to move. This is a good thing. But it’s made me obsessive. This weekend, I’ll take a welcome break from it all.

It’s July 4th weekend. Where I come from, July 4th marks a gateway to the rest of the summer. The weather in the Midwest is temperately warm. Most towns host parades. People fly flags and sip lemonade on their porches.

The other night, I was daydreaming in my kitchen. I pictured all my children and their loved ones gathered at a table laughing and eating BBQ. Why not? I can make that happen. I set down the bowl I was washing and picked up my cell phone. Several texts later and I have a dozen people confirmed for a Monday afternoon cookout.

I’ll make my killer coleslaw and grill steaks. (Oh, yes…red meat is also indulged on this holiday since it’s soooo red-blooded American). Fruit salad and whatever else looks good at the Farmer's market.

Maybe this nation started as some one’s daydream. Flawed and messy as it is, this Democracy is still worth celebrating because ours is a country where daydream believers can still make things happen. I’ll salute that any ole day!