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29 posts from March 2005

Now it's Easier to Find Creatives who Want to Share

I have hesitated to include pictures from around the web on my blog because it's so hard to get permission from the artists and photographers. But maybe it will get easier soon.

MediaPost : "Yahoo Partners with Creative Commons" by Gavin O'Malley

Yahoo!'s Creative Commons Search site,, explains: "While most stuff you find on the web has a full copyright, this search helps you find content published by authors that want you to share or reuse it, under certain conditions." To develop the new stand-alone feature, Yahoo! worked closely with Creative Commons, a nonprofit devoted to facilitating the creative re-use of intellectual and artistic works.

Sharing Useful Tips for a Happier Life

It's been a couple of years since Steve Shapiro visited Houston on a road trip to gather material for a book on creativity in America. His visit stimulated many conversations around FastHouston. Now he has a new project called "Goal-Free Living." There'll be a book soon and there's a blog now, including the valuable observation that sometimes to break an old bad habit, you have to find a new passion to crowd it out: "...discipline is not always the answer. Sometimes you need to find a passion that will pull you off of the sofa..."

The Music of Science

If you don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, you can check out the fun at

Link: - It's All Relative: Songs to Make Physics Easier.

"All songs about physics are funny," says Dr. Smith, who hopes the National Science Foundation will provide him with funding to expand the site. "I don't think it's possible to write a serious one." The foundation has given similar funding in the past: Priscilla Laws, a research professor at Dickinson College got partial NSF funding for the album "Physics Pholk Songs."

Thanks to Tim Manners of Reveries for a heads-up on this story.

The Branding Controversy

I try not to clip long excerpts, but the comments below are priceless and build so nicely to justified indignation. Christopher Kenton of Marketonomy wants to reclaim the term "brand" for the advertising realm. He's argument is well-thought-out but wrong. It is meaningful to distinguish between 'brand image' and 'brand experience' but in the end, a company has to live more in the derivative world of brand consequences than in the artistic world of brand impressions. Speaking as someone who's worked for many companies where the advertising was at devastating odds with the real experience of customers in the company, I think we stand to gain more as marketers by insisting that 'brand' = the total customer experience based on encounters with the company.

Now I'm going to read the Marketing Management article he mentions and comment on that later. In the meantime, please click on the link and give BusinessWeek a boost for publishing this intelligent claptrap.

Link: What, Exactly, Is a Brand?.

Your brand is your name, your logo, your burning scar on the side of your product. The expectation that consumers begin to attach to your brand is something else. It's an important something else that has value and that you should consider an important asset worthy of investment, but it's something else. In fact, a brand has a few something elses that are important associates of it and create value for your company.

BANKABLE VALUE. There's brand experience –- the sum of all impressions consumers gain from interactions with your company. How does your receptionist answer the phone? How courteous are your truck drivers? Such experiences strongly influence another brand associate, brand image, which is often closely tied to brand reputation. What does your market think of your brand? How does it make your customers feel? Will they use it again? Will they recommend it to friends? If your brand image is hot, and your brand reputation strong, it can improve your "brand equity," or the bankable value your brand has acquired from its ability to attract and retain customers. All of these things are important, but they don't constitute brand. They're derivatives of brand. The more they're confused, the more susceptible businesses become to trendy theories that lead them over the cliff, like the one Heidi Schultz rails against in the American Marketing Assn.'s Marketing Management. The notion that customers "own" your brand.

AN ANCHOR.  It's a seductive thought for companies that value their clients, but a misguided one. Your customers own their impressions, and you can influence those impressions with the quality of your product, and the experiences you foster. But your brand is just the symbol that anchors those impressions to the product you create.

The Economics of Customer Creativity

Leave it to The Economist magazine to note the profitable advantages of having customers who want to participate in new product development--it's free.

Well, it can lower the cost of innovation, but only if companies show the proper appreciation of the customers who contribute. GE has a group of customers they call luminaries and they bring them together and encourage them to develop long-lasting relationships with each other. GE is investing in these customers, and although these customers may not be paid in cash for their ideas, GE clearly cares about their success and supports them. (Not a free lunch, although some people know how to eat well and eat cheaply.)

Anyway, I recommend this entire brief article which is actually an interview with MIT's Eric Von Hippel, who has a new book about this topic: Democratizing Innovation.

Link: | The future of innovation.

At the heart of most thinking about innovation is the belief that people expect to be paid for their creative work: hence the need to protect and reward the creation of intellectual property. One really exciting thing about user-led innovation is that customers seem willing to donate their creativity freely, says Mr Von Hippel. This may be because it is their only practical option: patents are costly to get and often provide only weak protection. Some people may value the enhanced reputation and network effects of freely revealing their work more than any money they could make by patenting it. Either way, some firms are starting to believe that there really is such a thing as a free lunch.

Serving New Markets by Seeing Them on their Own Terms

Perhaps the hardest job in marketing is to see your opportunities with clear eyes, unclouded by past success, as the Proctor & Gamble Director of Corporate Sustainability, George Carpenter, discussed with the Development Gateway Foundation, over at GreenBiz News.

...while only the rich lobbyist and stockbrokers had cell phones in New York, if you went to Mexico City, everyone had cell phones because the regular phones did not work. Not only was the adoption rate faster, but the developing countries will never build the same hardware infrastructure we did.

Based on these observations, we thought that there is a way to think about consumers we do not serve today, that if we design products specific to their needs and aspirations and the realities of their life, rather than transferring products that were designed for Europe and North America, that we could create large new markets. That was a hypothesis. The key was that we were going to develop products specific to those consumers -- not try to sell them what was left over from the North.

Since then, we have launched several products for the bottom of the pyramid market. The first one was in nutrition; it is a drink mix that provides micro nutrients to children. It was developed when UNICEF approached us to develop a fruit drink with appropriate nutrients for children.

What Comes After the Yellow Pages

Last month I observed that the new 'picture of the block' visuals for A9 was a welcome and innovative addition to our shopping options. Looks like there are more coming our way. I'm going to start frequenting A9 for ideas as well as purchases.

Link: Questions for's Barnaby Dorfman, VP of A9 via Zachary Rodgers at ClickZ

Q.How can small businesses use A9's yellow pages and the visual detail pages? A.We're encouraging businesses to provide information to us. The yellow pages industry has a problem of data becoming stale. We've created an interface that allows businesses to visit the site and update that information directly on the site. In addition to making changes, they can add a link to their site. Businesses can also upload their own images, pictures of the menu, marketing collateral, whatever they want. With the click-to-call service, consumers can either talk using their PC or we can do a third party call. It's all about reducing the friction.

Q.What do you see as the value to consumers of the visual component? A.Through these images you can see the parking situation. You can see adjacent businesses. You can even read the signs in many cases. I live in California but grew up on Upper West Side. It's fun to look at the butchers in the old neighborhood. It gives you this palpable sense of nostalgia. We believe the 47 million customers who shopped with us in the last 12 months will find value in this.