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:




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):


(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:


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:



Nerd Nation Was Here


There is a civil war going on amongst the geeks.  How was I not told?

It turns out the geek community is split right now.  Since hipsters have recently adopted so many of the traits of geek culture – the dress, the hair styles, the nervous ticks, the social awkwardness, the lack of hygene – true geeks have been working to reestablish their authority.

It should be noted that such a discussion would have been very helpful to my status in elementary school.  Alas, all of this is two decades too late.

Moving on, the battle line has been drawn.  Those labeling themselves as “true geeks” have decided that one must be studied and committed to the sciences and technology to be truly considered a geek.  Anyone that dabbles only in the worlds of entertainment and/or liberal arts is an impostor – labeled geek chic – worthy of disintegration by ray gun…if ray guns existed.

TRUE GEEK                                              GEEK CHIC

geek.jpg       geek-chic.jpg

To ensure their rightful thrown remains intact, the true geeks have cultivated a number of behavioral traits (or markers) that anyone labeled geek chic would find inaccessible.   The primary marker of a true geek today is geek humor.

Geek humor is rather complex.  Some subcultures do not understand the humor of other subcultures, but that’s for another blog post.  The one thing most true geeks can agree on is xkcd is funny as hell.


xkcd is a comic started by Randall Munroe.  Born in 1984, Munroe is a programmer and graduated with a degree in physics.  Before and after graduation, he acted as a contractor for NASA.  He also likes to “go to goth clubs dressed as a frat guy so [he] can stand around and look terribly uncomfortable. At frat parties [he does] the same thing, but the other way around.”

True geek?  Yes.

Munroe’s comic came to life after he realized his stick drawings along the margins of his notebooks needed their own gallery.  He started xkcd by scanning his work.  Here’s a sample:


I don’t get it, but I’m not the audience.  There are a lot of true geeks out there that eat this stuff up.  His audience has been growing by leaps and bounds, and today xkcd is so lucrative that Munroe has left his gig at NASA to draw full time.

A few weeks ago, Munroe posted this comic:


Again, I don’t get it, but xkcd readers did.  True geeks immediately noticed coordinates in the banner at the bottom-left frame:  42.39561 -71.13057 2007 09 23 14 38 00

Interpreted, these are coordinates to a small park in North Cambridge, MA, on September 23, 2007, at 2:38 PM.

The xkcd forum lit up.  People starting talking about what these coordinates meant.  It was soon understood that this would be a gathering of massive, geek proportions.  People started making plans.

Jason Tocci, author of Geek Studies, got wind of the event and made his way there.  Here is a bit of his report:

As I walked into the park, I saw some college-age guys milling about, making eye contact with me to see if I was there for the event. They greeted me as I approached; one was from Long Island, and another was from Russia. He flew here just for the event, and had to get help from others on the XKCD forums in obtaining a visa…


By 2:30, hundreds of happy geeks were scattered across the park. A small group was competitively trying to see how far they could extend tape measures before they bent (as suggested in this post). A few were in costume or carrying props; I spotted one furry, a guy in a cape, a few people dressed as stick figures (e.g., tape over a white outfit), several people with foam or papier-mache weapons, and two people holding up “citation needed” signs (as in the Wikipedia reference from this post). The folks with fake weapons had playful battles for onlookers.


The center of the playground was especially densely packed with mostly college-age men and women shoulder-to-shoulder in t-shirts referencing XKCD, Penny Arcade, MIT, and countless obscure jokes about science, math, and video games. I hurried to the center of the throng, taking pictures as I went, as people started a ten-second countdown to 2:38. After the cheers that followed, some started chanting “Ran-dall, Ran-dall,” calling for the creator of the comic to appear. I noticed a giant, unfinished version of the comic strip that started it all, affixed to the fence against the basketball court.


Randall Munroe appeared next to the strip just as people were calling “Speech! Speech!” All heads turned and the crowd quieted as he shouted, “Thanks for showing up.” Laughs, and he explained that the original strip ended wrong; apparently, wanting something enough does make it happen. Cheers, and he explained the next step: This means the comic needs a new ending, so he brought some markers. “It’s like Wikipedia,” he shouted, and in no particular order, people made their way to the strip to finish it in their own ways.


To me, this is a truly beautiful thing. 

This meetup shows how an audience can be empowered by the Internet and, more specifically, social media.  There are true nerds all over the world, many of whom want to find like-minded people.  Yes, we have seen this many times before with flash mobs and MMORPGs, but who would have thought that a comic strip, a web forum, and mapping coordinates would be what is necessary for true nerds to organize? I would love to know if Munroe had any idea what he was starting when he posted that comic weeks ago.

I wish I could have been there.  I wouldn’t have fit in, but maybe that is to be expected.  Who fits in among those who do not fit in?  The xkcd meetup proves that, even in the face of competition from the geek chic, the true geeks have staying power in American culture.



Cultures & Fringes, scavenger hunt, travel

I got hold of two interesting posts today that seem to tell a larger story.

The first was from Freakonomics.  Stephen Dubner got Arthur Frommer, travel magnet, to sit down and answer some reader questions.  Two stood out:

Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when traveling?

A: They fail to prepare themselves by delving deeply into the history and culture of the destination in advance of arriving. They wander as utter novices, unable to understand the sights and institutions brought to their attention. And all the lectured commentaries of their tour guide simply add to the confusion. Advance reading — a few nights at the library — is the key to a successful trip.

Q:What are your thoughts on Xavier De Maistre’s Voyage Autour de ma Chambre, in which the French writer urged that before we jet off to see the world, we should apply the same curiosity and attentiveness to our immediate surroundings? Do you think our obsession with travel blinds us to local pleasures?

A: I’ve always found that the best travelers are the very same people who are intensely interested in the history and culture of their own home city.

My takeaway is that innate curiosity prepares one to be a good traveler.  Time and curiosity prepares one (in Frommer’s words) to expand oneself.

The second post came from PSFK where Jeff Squires wrote up a piece on a new form of travel:

Urban Dare is a new competition that takes teams of two and sends them out into the city to complete various challenges in what is essentially a modern scavenger hunt. Part photo hunt, part trivia, part dares, teams solve clues to reach checkpoints where they must complete challenges and document it with a digital camera before receiving a ‘passport stamp’ and moving onto the next checkpoint. To solve the clues and get around town, competitors are encouraged to utilize any wireless technology they have at their disposal – this includes calling a buddy with Wikipedia and Google maps already open and expecting their call. Typically, the races last between 3 and 4 hours and teams cover around 6 miles. Transportation is limited to walking, running, and public transportation – no bikes, cars, or taxis.

As I’m sure Jeff knows, Urban Dare is part of a larger trend in travel: the urban scavenger hunt.

Cloud 9 offers a similar hunt.  Ultimate Quest has started a scavenger program in L.A.  Scaventures builds them out as chances for corporates to build team moral.  Singles clubs like this one in Chicago are starting their own.  Even brands have taken up the cause, including Nike (great site) and Subaru (corny site).

In my opinion, Frommer has it right – we need time and preparation to enjoy travel – but the catch is most people who can afford trips to foreign lands lack time.  There in lies the demand for a type of travel where people can learn about a place – sometimes on the run – in way that is familiar.  It’s fast, often based on technology, always based on gaming, with an outcome of personal expansion.

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.


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: 


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, before creating his own website,, 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  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.


“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, 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 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

Friend is a Four Letter Word

Cake, core tie, friend, Pew, Rubel, significant tie, social network, total network, Trends, Web 2.0

What does “friend” stand for in a world connected by a series of tubes?  This has been an ongoing debate for the better half of a decade, but the growth of Facebook has reignited the burning question of what it takes for me to consider you a friend (or the other way around).

The most recent post I have seen on this subject is by influential blogger Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion.  He states:

[Having friends] is becoming more about quantity and less about quality.

This can be a very good thing. I am friends with people in social networks from other countries. Technology makes that possible.

On the other hand, these same technologies enable anyone to add me as a friend, even though we’ve never met.

It leaves me all confused about what friendship will look like in 10 years. It seems like it’s declining in quality, even as technology scales it in quantity and helps our networks spread far and wide. What’s your view?

This is a very good question, and thanks for asking.  Personally, I don’t think we should be using the term “friend” to discuss the impact of social networks like Facebook.  The term we should be using is “tie”. 

Several years back, the Pew Internet and American Life Project published a report entitled The Strength of Internet Ties.  It was a brilliant piece and available for free download here.

Pew’s approach was to ask participants about three types of connections they have with their respective social networks (both real-world and web-based). The first and most important type of connection they measured was “core tie“.  Core ties can be defined as the people who are in our inner circle.  For instance, my core ties would be people like my wife, my parents, and a close set of friends and advisors with whom I can share pretty much anything on my mind – hopes, fears, happiness, sorrow, etc.

The second type of connection Pew measured was “significant ties.” These are the people outside a person’s circle of trust but with whom he or she still has close connections. Examples of my significant ties are my coworkers and the guys I play disc golf with – I know them well enough to invite to a party but not necessarily well enough to talk about…well…let’s not talk about it.

Both core ties and significant ties are considered part of a larger, third type of connection called “network.” My network includes everyone I have some level of interaction with, like the waitstaffs at my favorite restaurants, the neighbors I wave to from my front lawn, and the homeless transvestite who receives 15% of the mayoral vote each time the city holds an election. No, I didn’t make the last one up. He likes to drink his morning vodka out of a coffee mug while wearing a skirt on my lawn, and he’s part of my network.

To (hastily) sum up Pew’s research, the Internet expands our total network but rarely expands our core or significant ties.  True, we may converse with mom via email, but we would have connected with them regardless (e.g., if we didn’t have email we would have called them).

As a result of access to the Internet (and social networking sites), my total network looks a bit like this:


Note, the terms “Industrial Network” and “Post-Industrial Network” are my terms, not Pew’s.  It is my opinion that the Internet and social networks like Facebook are part of a larger, more fundamental change in the ways we connect with other people.  For more info on this, you can read the .pdf I attached here.

Moving on, the graph above makes it clear; the Internet may expand my “total network” but has little impact on the people I connect with on a daily- or even weekly-basis.  The question of “friends” shouldn’t come into this discussion because “friend” is highly subjective (e.g., is the transvestite as much of a friend to me as my wife?)

Therefore, let us table this discussion of what a “friend” is and discuss the impact of social networks on a persons “total network”.  The question should be what are the benefits of increasing a person’s total network?  There are many, I’m sure.

Additionally, let us remember what Cake had to say about the word friend:

My Football Club

Co Creation, EA Sports, FIFA, PK 35, Trends

Way, way back in 2003, a football club went under new management. 

The amateur club based in a suburb of Helsinki, PK-35, was suffering from a losing streak that disappointed its loyal fan base.  Realizing that something had to change, coach Janne Viljamaa decided to give control of the team up to the fans.

Viljamaa still acts as coach, at least in title, but each week he posts anywhere from 3 to 10 questions regarding the training, player selection, and tactics for the next match.  Over 300 fans then provide him with instructions via cell-phone text messages and emails.  The voting has shown to provide favorable results for the team.  For example, in the first year of the scheme fans voted to replace a key player on the team.  Viljamaa took the advice, and the replacement scored a last-minute goal in a critical game towards the end of the season.

Fast Company, who filed the original report, noted “Skeptics who dismissed the idea have spent the winter eating their words. After finishing first in Division III, PK-35 won a promotion and will play in Division II when Finland’s season kicks off at the end of April.”

However, at the end of the day Viljamaa called the shots.  The fans had a say, but they didn’t have control of the team.

Flash forward to 2007.  A few months ago, journalist Tim Glen Jones decided he had enough of being a fan only with an opinion.  He wanted to own a team, but he needed some help.

Tim started My Football Club a few months ago with the specific purpose of recruiting 50,000 other fans (at 35 pounds per member) to purchase and run a British football league.  The objective is to raise over 1.5 million pounds, purchase a football team, and retain a managerial staff that follows the decisions made by the members.  Wisdom of crowds meets British football.


The concept has received a lot of buzz overseas.  In the matter of a month the organization received the needed 50,000 members and is now soliciting more so that they can eventually by a team with more prestige. 

Additionally, EA Games caught wind of the new development and chose to sponsor My Football Club.  There is a strong chance this partnership will manifest into an extension of EA’s popular FIFA Manager– a virtual game where you build a team from scratch and nurture your players.

See more here:

Ingenuity Trumps Consistency for Jones Soda

Brewtopia, Co Creation, consistency, Cultures & Fringes, Digital Media, ingenuity, Jones Soda, Trends, User Generated Content, van Stolk, Web 2.0

Dino Demopoulos, author of the blog Chroma, uncovered a great article about Jones Soda published in Beverage World this past Friday.

The article starts out with a brief, inspirational history of the company followed by a mission statement:

Peter van Stolk, CEO, Jones Soda, has an “ability to straddle the line between corporate head and maverick—he maintains the attitude of a creative entrepreneur while steering an 11-year-old company to strong double-digit growth in a down CSD market—is reflected in the brand itself. With youthful flavors like Blue Bubble Gum and Fufu Berry and eccentric black-and-white photos of consumers on its labels, Jones Soda retains a quirky, scrappy image. Yet the brand that got its start in tattoo parlors and skate shops now can be found in Panera Bread and Barnes & Noble, retail environments more likely to attract soccer moms than fans of the X Games. So how does a brand that built its fan base on a simple premise—“Run with the little guy…create some change”—stay relevant when it has a highly publicized [contract with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Quest Field] and is predicted to be a global company by the end of 2008? 


“We’ve got to make sure we stay core to our roots,” asserts van Stolk. “Our mission statement is, ‘It doesn’t matter about soda. It matters about our consumers.’ We have to stay true to our goal to create emotional connections and be relevant to our consumers.”

How many times have we heard that one?  It matters about our consumers…create emotional connections…be relevant…etc…etc… 

It brings out a bitter strain of cynicism in me whenever a CEO speaks like this.  The talk is rarely walked. However, van Stolk and Jones Soda are truly delivering on their mission statement.  Here are just a few things they’ve done:

Find and audience:

  • To build a cult following, van Stolk placed Jones Soda in unconventional retail outlets, such as tattoo and piercing parlors, skate and surf shops and clothing stores.
  • To back up this produce placement, Jones Soda was one of the first to enter extreme-sport sponsorships – Tony Hawk was the company’s first athlete – and is now sponsoring cutting-edge tattoo artists like Kat Von D (the woman behind the TLC’s new show L.A. Ink).

Let that audience co-create the brand:

  • Jones Soda solicits suggestions for the next off-beat flavor from their loyal customers.  For example, Whoop Ass energy drink was a result of consumer-generated branding long before Doritos took the plunge.
  • Even the quotes found under the bottle caps usually come from Jones Soda loyalists.
  • Customers can go to to create personalized labels for 12-packs of soda to be shipped directly to their homes.
  • As part of its deal with the Seahawks and Qwest Field, Jones Soda will have photographers roaming the stadium during games taking pictures of fans and players. Those images then will be available for fans to buy and customize their own 12-packs through Jones’ patented process. In addition, Jones Soda is releasing specialty packs with Seahawks players and team logos on the bottles.


There is a lot going on here.  I applaud van Stolk for being on the cutting-edge of integrating customers into the process of branding, but it doesn’t look like he is slowing down.  His decision to tap into the popularity of tattoos puts him at the front of a changing culture (I think I read somewhere that over a third of all people ages 18-30 have a tattoo and the numbers are rising). 

Additionally, his decision to take co-creation to the stands at Quest Field is an amazing idea.  The idea of co-created bottles is not something Jones Soda owns, Brewtopia has been doing it for a while, but I have never seen a company move beyond the digital space to bring co-creation opportunities to customers in the real world.  It will be interesting to see if these photographers roaming the bleachers generate more interest in co-creation.  The very concept of co-creation alludes much of America – Jones Soda may help change that.

The final thing I’ll note is van Stolk seems to approach everything a bit differently.  Whereas Coke is focused on protecting their special sauce (and even make commercials about how much it is protected), van Stolk states “The thing I really like about Jones is that we’re not a flavor. Nobody associates Jones with a single flavor. So we can do anything we want and the limitations are what we put on ourselves.”

For the world of beverages, ingenuity has never reigned supreme over consistency.  Perhaps the this is a sign things are changing.

Auto Industry Driving a New Form of Capitalism

Co Creation, Community Marketing, Digital Media, Fiat, Fiat 500, mass customization, Scion, Trends, User Generated Content, Web 2.0

Sorry for the pun.

As you may have noted from my previous posts, I’m big into mass customization and co-creation (MC/CC).  Although consumer-generated media is the buzz term of the moment, its impact on the fundamentals of capitalism will be limited.  CGM is an evolution of company/customer conversation, not a revolution of company/customer transaction.

The transactional revolution will begin on the production lines and in the boardrooms of major corporations.  Currently, the very idea of letting a customer manipulate a product prior to purchase goes against much of what we were taught in school (protect the brand, be “on” brand, be consistent with your branding efforts, etc.) 

But within the automotive industry, we are seeing some great efforts at opening up the production- and marketing-models to customer control. 

The revolution began in 2003 when Toyota’s chairman, Hiroshi Okuna, uttered the words “I can’t offer any relevant input.  This is a vehicle design and concept that is clearly not for anyone in this room.”

With those words, Okuna admitted that it was time to consider a new model of car design (and a new brand) if Toyota hoped to appeal to a new, younger and more demanding demographic.  Toyota would have to give up partial ownership of the brand to the customer.  Acting as a leader and visionary, Okuna gave the idea a seal of approval.

Over the next few months, developers brought Okuna a revolutionary concept – a car that could be mass customized to customer specs prior to delivery.  It would be a production- and distribution-system that would come with a new brand: Scion.  Since it launch, Scion has been huge success, and many other car manufacturers are following Toyota’s lead.

Read more about the Scion and its impact on the basics of capitalism here (another chapter of my book):


The latest example of a car company driving a new form of capitalism is Fiat and their 500 (or Cinquecento in Italian).  This story has gone largely ignored in American circles because we won’t see the car on our streets before 2010 (and we’re ethnocentric, but I digress).

classicfiat.jpg    classicfiat2.jpg

The Fiat 500 has been around for a long time.  Much like Beetle (German) and Mini-Cooper (English, until recently), the Fiat 500 was designed for congested Italian roads in the middle of the 20th century.  It was a popular and practical car throughout the 60s and 70s, but it’s influence tapered off as the 80s approached.  The production of the 500 ceased in 1977. 

Because of the international brouhaha over car size, Fiat is bringing the 500 back from a 30-year hiatus.  It’s small, sporty, and cheap.  It’s also the most mass-customized and co-created car to come out of Europe.

For quite some time Fiat has had a really cool, multilingual website up for people interested in the 500.  See it here.

John Todor, contributor to the Customer Think blog, recently wrote up a summary of Fiat’s efforts to both engage and respond to customer demands:

Fiat has engineered a way to get customers engaged on- and offline. I believe they are on their way to nurturing mutually meaningful relationships.Customers are:Engaged in the design. 500 days before the launch Fiat invited potential buyers to a web site to design accessories for the car. 8000 did so! Now there are over 100 accessories available. Accessories customers find relevant and appealing. The most popular, a clear glass roof. Second most popular, Italian colors as racing strips. Italian pride (emotion).config.jpg

Engaged in the Launch. Customers generated the themes for advertising. Think about it! Who knows how to reach potential customers in a more meaningful way than customers who are already involved?

launch-welcome.jpg    launch-2.jpg

Engaged in Customization of their Car. Ford and Chrysler offered online “build your car” tools for years. Fiat has taken it a step further. They add emotions.


Engaged in their Web Presence. Each visitor to the Fiat website can customize the look and feel of their own web site. This isn’t just appearance. It enables customers to get the information that is meaningful to them—front row and center. (All the bubbles I added into this post from Fiat’s website are stand-alone widgets that can be drag/dropped anywhere on the site…very cool technology.)

Customer involvement helped sell 57,000 cars in the first month (July ’07). I predicted the way Fiat is continuing to involve customers in the ownership experience will lead to a growing customer base. Perhaps more importantly, they are nurturing highly engaged and committed customers who are very likely to be passionate evangelists.

The one area Todor didn’t touch on was the fact Fiat opened up the advertising and marketing of this product to consumer generation.  I love it.  Product and promotion. Complete exposure to customers.  Here is one of the two winning campaigns:

“Many of the great ones who had change the world are gone forever. 

Luckily, some do come back.”

1.jpg    2.jpg

What a great approach, no?  Buzz?  Yes.  Demand?  You bet.

The first 500 sold out in two hours.

Fiat’s sales goal- 57,000 500s over the course of year – was tapped in 30 days. 


Its a problem anyone would be glad to have.  Fiat has mass customization and co-creation to thank for their enviable dilemma.  Capitalism, as we have known it since the dawn of industrialization, is on the verge of major change.


Co Creation, Design & Creativity, Digital Media, digital photography, Geek Culture, innovators, Social Marketing, Trends, User Generated Content, Web 2.0

I went out and picked up a new copy of iLife this past weekend.  I’m not one to review softward, but the new iPhoto was a welcomed departure from the cumbersome version still found on most Macs today.  The new features are great – such as being able to view the photographs within a folder simply by dragging your cursor across that folder – but my overall impression is this version of iPhoto is more of an evolution than a revolution. Something seems to be missing.  You should definately see the online demo of iLife/iMovie/iPhoto for yourself.

Then today, after some inspiration from a friend who sent me the link to Philip’s new Drag & Draw, I began looking online for other software applications that could help me navigate my ever-growing list of photographs on Flickr, iPhoto, my cell phone, my work laptop, my laptop, my wife’s laptop, etc.

I came across this.  It is the first YouTube video that actually compelled me to raise my hand to my mouth in astonishment:

This is a photo revolution. Mr. Jobs, you still have some work to do.