Target Shoots the Messenger

Ad Biz, courier bag, Cultures & Fringes, Design & Creativity, Lamitron, Pop Culturisms, RootPhi, Target, Timbuk2, Wal Mart

This past June, Treehugger reported that Timbuk2 was going to team up with RootPhito build a messenger bag by pressing (laminating) recycled billboards, grocery bags, posters, and the like.  The bags will be called Lamitron, and their development process has been closely watched by influential bloggers including Cool HuntingWired and PSFK.

Here are a few prototypes:

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I dig it.  I dig it so much that I have postponed buying a new courier bag until these roll out.  Think about it, an ad guy walking around with a bag made of deconstructed ads. 

I signed up for their email and was immediately notified that Lamitron bags would be available for purchase as soon as Timbuk2 and RootPhi ironed out the production process.  That original email is lost, but it included an image with yet another example of what the bags could look like (ever mindful that they are all custom):

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(sorry for the fuzzy image…I had to do a screen capture)

As you can see, one of the primary materials RootPhi and Timbuk2 were playing with was the always hip, always branded Target shopping bag.  Cool idea, right?

Not according to Target.

Today, Timbuk2 sent out another email notifying all those interested in Lamitron bags that Target tossed them a cease and desist order.  It read:

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Note the Lamitron bag in this email.  The right panel, made of a Target shopping bag, has been blurred. 

Obviously, Timbuk2 is taking this cease and decist letter seriously.  Their tact and tone indicates they do not want to poke the beast for fear of legal repercussions, but come on…

Shame on you, Target.  This is a new era, and you know that.  Your marketing efforts are some of the most progressive in the world.  You have a keen understanding of how to engage customers in new, interactive ways.

Timbuk2 may be another “company” rather than a “customer”, but what they offer you is a way to keep the Target brand relevant, fresh, and at the cutting edge of fashion and design.  Why in the world would you ask Timbuk2 to remove your logo from their bags?  It is a critical step in the wrong direction.

I have not control over the process, but I’m hopeful that, in an act of passive aggression, Timbuk2 and RootPhi stop by Wal-Mart on their way to the printing press:

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Pizzaganda

Ad Biz, austin onion, authenticity, home slice, pizza, Pop Culturisms

The best marketing is authentic.  It doesn’t need to be polished by admen; rather, it is an organic, pervasive manifestation of the company’s culture at every customer touchpoint. 

Two local pizza shops are cases in point.

College Kids

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Austin Onion taps into one of the two most lucrative markets for pizza in the country: college kids.  Their shop on 5th Street is equidistant between the two primary bar districts of downtown.  Drunk tourists from 6th and drug-induced 20-somethings from 4th are both just a short walk away from by-the-slice heaven.

However, their hours of operation and quality ingredients are not that unique.  Several pizza trailers roll into this area every night to help calm the munchy giant.  What Austin Onion has as their secret weapon is a gang of employees that are really cool.

For one, the owner is involved with 9th Street BMX.  These guys haven’t grown up yet, as you can see here.  Therefore, it is only logical that the business culture of Austin Onion exhude the same sense of…how would you describe it…loose morals?

Regardless, the kids love it.  The storefront is dingy, almost as if the people work here, party here, and pass out here.  Punk rock screams from the cheap stereo sitting in the corner, and the dress code can be summed up in three words: full arm tattoo.  This shop has a line out the door almost every night of the week, and their lunch business is doing almost as well. 

Then there is the delivery service.  Here’s an idea of what will show up to your door:

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Moms w/Kids

Home Slice, started by two of my neighbors, was opened about a year ago and aims to appeal to the second most lucrative market for national pizza sales: moms with young kids. 

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In the case of Home Slice, the target audience is hipster moms (and dads), sometimes known as Grupsters.  Their approach is subtle so as to not alienate childless parties, but a trained marketing eye soon discovers that every decision has been made in an attempt to make Home Slice the alternative to Chuck-E-Cheese.

For the opening night, the couple that started the shop, Jen and Joseph Strickland, made an effort to request all of their friends come to hang out, drink beer, and act fabulous.  Oh, and bring the kids.

This set a precedent that remains intact today.  The place is teeming with kids – well-behaved, Ritalin-free, unplugged kids – who are attracted by the Pitchfork-approved music on the radio and killer graphics painted on the walls.

The owners of Home Slice have reaffirmed their commitment to cool, progressive families by making them the centerpiece of almost all their business affairs.  For instance, Home Slice is known to throw a party on their back porch from time to time, but the events are always intended to draw in a combination of Grupsters and kids.  The kids watch a pie eating contest and get balloon animals.  The parents get an excuse to eat pizza a drink beer in the middle of the day.  Clearly, it’s a win win.

Here’s what they did with the kids play/coloring book:

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As proof that cool family is more than just a target audience, the Stricklands and co-owner Terri Hannifin recently chose to close shop for a week for what they called a “cultural field trip”.  From a press release:

They’re taking 22 people from their staff to New York City to give them a chance to try New York style pizza in the Big Apple.

“It seemed like a perfect time to take a family vacation. We have a great crew here. They are hard workers helped us make this restaurant successful and we wanted to treat them to an exciting field trip to New York City,” owner Terri Hannifin said.

The owners plan to take their employees to lunch and dinner at several pizza places and have them go on a scavenger hunt.

Back home in Austin, the waiters share tips and are known to break out in chorus whenever Weezer’s Sweater Song comes up on the iPod queue. Their love for their work rubs off on the vibe people get when they come to eat.  Happy smiles, happy kids, big tips.

How cool is this?  Whereas Austin Onion targets party kids by becoming the party-pizza-parlor, Home Slice targets progressive families by establishing their own family traditions.  And is “target” even the right word?  Call it purpose, call it attraction, call it branding…whatever it is, it works.

Crank This

Community Marketing, connections planning, Entrepreneurialism & Innovation, hip hop, Mr. Collipark, Pop Culturisms, Soulja Boy, Trends, Web 2.0

Hip Hop – the music and the business – has been struggling over the past few years. According to Fox News, “though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid a whopping 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in 12 years no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the [2006].”

It looks as if this industry needs a fire starter, or at least someone who owns a pack of matches.

Enter Mr. Collipark.  First name, Mr.

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Mr. Collipark literally wrote the book on how a young rapper can break into the business of hip hop.  To prove he can walk the talk, Mr. Collipark went out found Soulja Boy: 

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Soulja Boy is part Mississippi teenager, part Flava Flav, part crunk (I frickin’ hate crunk), rhythmically unoriginal, and lyrically boring, but that’s not the point.

The point is Soulja Boy is a Millennial.  For him, music isn’t just about sound, it is about community, it is digital, and it is open for interpretation.

According to mun2, Soulja Boy “began posting his songs on the music-based social networking site Soundclick.com, before creating his own website, SouljaBoytellem.com, and, most recently, exploding on MySpace where he’s received over 11.5 million visits and accumulated 400,000 friends.”  Soulja Boy even came up with a dance for his hit song, Crank That, and put a video on YouTube to teach people how to do the moves.

Within a few months, MySpace rated Soulja Boy the #1 artist out of 30 million independent artists on their site (in terms of traffic, plays and downloads).

But all of this was still underground.  The Hip Hop industry had not found him.

Enter Mr. Collipark.  Driving down the street one day he sees a group of kids doing the Soulja Boy dance.  He rolls down his window to hear a song he has never heard before.  After doing a search for the song online, Mr. realizes just how strong the following is for Soulja Boy, so he promptly sends Soulja Boy an instant message and heads for his house. 

I’m hesitant to transcribe what Soulja Boy posted on his blog after his meeting with Mr. Collipark as it’s a little risque for a corporate blog, but you can read it here.

The rest is short history.  Rather than package Soulja Boy and spit him out like a Hip Hop artist circa 1995, Mr. Collipark took the social network Soulja Boy had already established and expanded it.  Polished videos were soon on MySpace and SouljaBoyTellum.com.  Ringtones, message boards, photos, and schwag were all available on his home page.  Best of all, snippets of Soulja Boy’s rise to fame were posted on YouTube as a daily podcast giving avid fans unparallelled emotional connection with the artist.

Crank That Video: 9 Million Hits

Crank That Dance Instructions: 12 Million Hits

From Vodcasts to Soulja Boy TV (coming soon):

Radio stations soon picked it up Crank That because Soulja Boy finally broke into “the industry”, and in the matter of months a bunch of rich white people watching a UT football game saw this on the sideline:

Like any modern day mogul-in-the-making, Soulja Boy is a social-network celebrity. His official YouTube video for Crank That has attracted nine million views in just over 30 days while an earlier home video that teaches viewers how to do “Soulja Boy Dance” has been requested a whopping 12 million times.

Bravo Mr. Collipark, and bravo, Soulja Boy.  You have built a network and sold an artist that won’t even have an album in stores until October 27th.

In the opinion of this author, as well as this one, Mr. Collipark and Soulja Boy aren’t so much producer and artist as they are connections planner and creative director.

One final note, as I’m finishing up this blog, a guy outside my office window is listening to Crank That.  His car windows are down so that all of us can listen, or dance, to Soulja Boy. 

American is the Coolest

American Apparel, Bob Hope, Cultures & Fringes, Made in USA, Pop Culturisms, Trends, USA, Voltron

The year was 1984.  The day was December 25.  I was crying.

My hopes of a year filled with wonder and excitement had been dashed, and I blamed Santa.  He had not given me a piece of plastic critical for maintaining a competitive edge with friends at school:

Instead of getting the coolest of all cool toys, I sat next the the tree and clutching yet another Transformer. It was alright – better than my brother’s He-Man action figure – but it was no Voltron.

Oh, Voltron.  How I coveted thee…I had to maintain composure, express gratitude, and make it through the day.

The holiday season of 1984 will go down in infamy for two reasons, neither of which has anything to do with Japanamation.

The first was the Cabbage Patch craze. My family avoided it as we had no girls younger than 45. The second was the Made in the U.S.A. campaign that was launched just after Thanksgiving that year. Here is a snippet of that work (the only I could find).

Few campaigns from my upbringing are as powerful as this one started by the Crafted With Pride in U.S.A. Council, a conglomerate of American textile companies angered by what was inevitable. As America entered a post-industrial state, it sequentially shipped all of its industrial base to newly-industrializing countries. Clothing was the first to go. Soon everything else would follow.

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“Made in the U.S.A.” became a battle cry for blue-collar Americans and lunch-pail conservatives. It became synonymous with flag-waving, trade unions, and a belt that was quickly rusting.

Flash forward 20 years to a New York Times article published this past week.  From the article:

“Made in the U.S.A.” used to be a label flaunted primarily by consumers in the Rust Belt and rural regions. Increasingly, it is a status symbol for cosmopolitan bobos, and it is being exploited by the marketers who cater to them.

For many the label represents a heightened concern for workplace and environmental issues, consumer safety and premium quality. “It involves people wanting to have guilt-free affluence,” Alex Steffen, who is the executive editor of www.worldchanging.com, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues, said in an e-mail message. “So you have not only the local food craze but things like American apparel, or Canadian diamonds instead of African ‘blood diamonds,’ or local-crafted toys.”

With so many mass-market goods made off-shore, American-made products, which are often more expensive, have come to connote luxury. New Balance produces less expensive running shoes abroad, but it still makes the top-of-the-line 992 model — which the company says requires 80 manufacturing steps and costs $135 — in Maine. A favorite in college towns from Cambridge, Mass. to Berkeley, Calif., each model 992 features a large, reflective “USA” logo on the heel, and an American flag on the box.

American Apparel, which carries the label “Made in Downtown LA” in every T-shirt and minidress, famously brought sex appeal to clothing basics that are promoted as “sweatshop free.” In the process it won the allegiance of young taste-makers.

If Bob Hope were alive today, I’m sure he would have a thousand jokes to talk about this turn of circumstance.  In the matter of a generation, “Made in America” has switched from blue to white collar and from protectionist rhetoric to progressive idealism. 

For more information on the “Made in America” movement, check out the following:

Still Made in the USA 

From NYT:

Ms. Sanzone, 47, who lives in Alexandria, Va., started [this website] three years ago to list and promote American-made products, for environmental and economic reasons, she said.

Unlike many “Buy American” Web sites, which feature images of weeping bald eagles or quotations from Pat Buchanan, Ms. Sanzone, a Democrat, keeps her site nonpartisan. In the last month, she said, traffic has jumped fourfold, with new visitors including vegans, green shoppers, “Free Tibet” activists and visitors from the Web site democraticunderground.com. Many said the recall of Chinese-made toys inspired them to act, but many also told her that they were starting to expand their focus beyond toys.  

To support the “Buy Rad a Voltron, Already” movement, send checks to:

GSD&M’s Idea City

828 West 6th Street

Austin, Texas 78703

Fake Lucy

Pop Culturisms, Research & Insight

A great reportwas broadcast on NPR yesterday regarding everyone’s favorite, 3-million-year-old, hominid fossil Lucy.

It turns out Lucy is going on tour and will be exhibited in Houston starting next week.

One would think this would be similar to any other historical artifact running the American-museum circuit, be it Ramses’ tomb or Elizabeth’s carriage, but the very idea of shipping Lucy across the globe as many paleontologists up in arms.

Benard Wood, professor of human origins and George Washington, stated “If Lucy is removed from a box and then put on display, and put back in a box and then put on display again, as sure as night follows day, it will be damaged. It’s not something that might happen. It’s something that most certainly will happen.”

Many others have stated to the press that Lucy should be left alone, locked in a museum in Ethiopia (not even they put it on display), and her replica should be put on tour in its place.

Such accusations put Joel Bartsch, the president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, on the defensive.  He defends the decision to have it on tour for many reasons, including the facts Lucy is in a fine condition for transport and ticket sales of the exhibit will go to the benefit of the Ethiopian people (who could use the cash, needless to say).

What struck me was his third reason:

“Being in the presence of the original of anything … takes the message that the object is trying to tell you to a different plain. No matter how good the replica is, it’s still a replica, and that leaves people cold.”

This is a profound point.  I don’t know if I would be willing to shill out any amount of money for a replica of Lucy, let along the $20 fee Houston will charge.  Sure, it would be nice to have a replica available in my local museum, but if we are going to go to the effort of fabricating and replicating Lucy’s skeleton, I would imagine she should also have a place on my coffee table.

Authenticity is such an important factor for the world of marketing and advertising, be it an exhibit in a museum or a label of soda on a store shelf.  Not to minimize the impact of Lucy on our understanding of humanity, but brands stewards across the globe face the same issues with their label.  The issue of authenticity in today’s market, where replicas are available within days of the original hitting the shelves, brings this issue to the forefront of many a boardroom conversation.

I did some digging for anything out there that may show the impact of authenticity vs. fakes.  I came across a study published in Marketing Letters title The effect of experience with a brand imitator on the original brandThe abstract reads as follows:

Imitating the look of an existing successful brand is a common occurrence in today’s crowded marketplace. It was found that a negative experience with an imitator brand increased the evaluations of the original brand. A positive experience with the imitator was shown to have the opposite effect, and there was a decrease in the evaluations of the original brand. Subjects also indicated they would be likely to purchase the positive imitator over the original at only a 10 percent price reduction.

So, if I were to like Lucy’s replica, the original Lucy could potentially devalue.  Same goes for Coke.  Same goes for Nike.  Same goes for Polo. 

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Kellogg is Destroying My Childhood

Analysis, Pop Culturisms, Trends

“Mom, can we have Frosted Flakes?” 

“Mom, we wanted Fruit Loops!”

Tucan Sam, Tony the Tiger, and the trio that is Snap, Crackle, and Pop may soon be removed from their stage that is Saturday morning cartoons.  Such an act by Kellogg would ruin what has become a right of passage for children across America: can you whine loud and long enough to get your parents to bend and buy you junk cereal?  If victorious, you may go onto steamrolling over their every decision.  If unsuccessful, your assumption that they’re boss is reconfirmed.

All kidding aside, this is an interesting move by Kellogg.  Per The New York Times:

Froot Loops’ days on Saturday morning television may be numbered.

The Kellogg Co. said Wednesday that it will phase out advertising its products to children younger than 12 unless the foods meet specific nutrition guidelines for calories, sugar, fat and sodium.

Kellogg also announced it will stop using licensed characters or branded toys to promote foods unless the products meet the nutrition guidelines.The voluntary changes, which will be put in place over the next 1 1/2 years, will apply to about half of the products Kellogg markets to children worldwide, including Froot Loops and Apple Jacks cereals and Pop-Tarts.

It seems that America’s desire for redefining health and wellness has entered a new phase.  Just capturing the major moments of the past few years, we have moved from a fast-food nation to banning trans-fats in many restaurants.  We have shifted to organic food, local food, or at least “natural” food (no hormones).  These trends may be fashion, or they may indicate that America is ready to voluntarily cinch up their collective belt for the first time in at least a generation.

It also seems that the threat of customer reaction is yielding more company proaction.  Like Jet Blue’s blunder that turned into a Bill of Rights, the lawsuit that has been hanging over Kellogg’s head for 16 months is turning into a pledge to no longer market Tony-the-Tiger dolls to kids.  In fact, NYT notes that the result of such actions by Kellogg is that the two advocacy groups who filed the lawsuit (the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and two Massachusetts parents) are willing to drop the lawsuit against Kellogg.

I have no doubt that more brands will follow Kellogg’s lead or face similar legal battles.  I also have no doubt that America’s youth will find some other cause to challenge their parent’s authority.