Thursday, October 21, 2010

Party People

I am huge fan of practicality with a side of whimsy, and I received a gift recently that truly fit the bill. I was given a set of Vacu Vin Glass Markers Party People.

Everyone has run into the "Is this my drink or yours?" dilemma. When you have wine or beer glasses or even just glasses for soft drinks and more than one person is drinking the same drink it's a common problem. The Party People can come to your rescue. They stick to the side of your glass and are a fantastic conversation piece because each one has it's own "personality". The gang includes Sneaky, Deep, Curious, Macho, Naughty, Veggie, Honest, Cuddly, Devilish, Cool, Jolly, and Mysterious.

Clearly the Party People are not a necessity. Life would go on without having a cute character stuck to your glass, but they're fun and the do genuinely solve common a problem. They certainly brighten up my boring clear wine glasses.

Inspiration in Contrast

In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer.

It’s interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa.

But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design.

Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.

— Steve Jobs
The above quote comes from a diverse collection of thoughts about inspiration and creativity.

I'm back.

I've realized that there are still so many things I encounter in my everyday life that inspire or intrigue me and beg to be shared.

The collection of quotes in which I found the Steve Jobs one above struck me as an interesting display of contrast. There's a wide variety of thoughts about creative pursuits and their relationship to culture and society.

I have found that my personal view of the world centers on the realization that one cannot have light without darkness, success without failure, good without evil. In order to do something "different" and artist must know from what he or she wants to differ. The realm of art, design, and creativity would not exist without the presence of contrast in materials, challenges, purpose, thought, perspective, vision. Similarity is equally important, but I think the contrasts in life provide the true flavor and fulfillment many of us seek.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Biscuits and Basketball

Many people outside North Carolina may not know about a particular promotion Bojangle's, the chicken and biscuits fast food chain, does for UNC basketball fans, but I think it's rather brilliant.

The set up is, if UNC scores 100 or more points against an opponent during a game, Chapel Hill area Bojangle's offer 2 sausage biscuits for a dollar the next morning.

At the end of last nights game, UNC was crushing Marshall. With a few minutes left, UNC was within a few shots of the 100 mark. Many fans were on the edge of their seats, in hopes of getting those 50 cent biscuits in the morning. The hopes for biscuits made things exciting during what would have otherwise been an unexciting conclusion to the game.

The marketing scheme is a win-win. It works for both UNC basketball and for Bojangles because fans stick around for the end of a game when they otherwise wouldn't and also get excited about Bojangle's product. The promotion has been going on for several years, so even casual UNC fans know to cheer the team on when they're approaching 100 points. I think Bojangle's sponsorship/promotional dollars are being well-spent on this approach to marketing. The 'Biscuits' promo seems to be much more worth the money than any court-side banner or marquee elsewhere in the arena.

For businesses to make such a promotion work there has to be the right combination of loyal fans, a strong athletic program, and a suitable product. I think Bojangles and UNC have figured out the formula.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

AT&T Challenges Verizon

We've all seen cell phone commercials. There's a multitude of them and it seems that each company has it's own gimmick, theme, or celebrity. Recently I have noticed a couple TV ads that stand out. They're from AT&T and feature actor, Luke Wilson.

I noticed the ads because they are fighting back Verizon's recent claims. Verizon puts great deal of emphasis on their "4G" coverage, and how they out-do AT&T. I noticed (before the new AT&T commercials came out) that when Verizon shows a comparison between the map of their coverage and that of their competitors, they only show 4G. They never compare the total coverage area. In other words, it seems to me that Verizon may have a greater number of super awesome spots, but they have a lot more spots that have mediocre or poor coverage than they're competitors. AT&T has taken to pointing this fact out to the rest of the world.

There are several commercials in the series, but my favorite is the "Postcard" one, which shows Luke Wilson tossing postcards that represent all of the places that AT&T has coverage. I like the ad because the commercial specifically addresses Verizon's claims, it's not an overly complicated concept, it gets its point across visually and it does something clever that I've never seen any other commercial do.

It has a part one and a part two. When you see the commercial, after 30 seconds, it moves on to the next product's advertisement. Then, before you've returned to the program you tuned in to watch, you see Luke Wilson again for a few seconds, continuing to toss out postcards. Brilliant! It reminds the customer about the product without bombarding them. It's pleasantly unexpected and not annoying. It turns 60 seconds of advertising $ into a couple minutes because during those other commercials in between you assume Luke has been tossing postcards the whole time. I think the whole thing was not only clever, but results-oriented. (Too many commercials are neither, but that's another soap box.)

I thought the commercial was great, as well as the other one's in AT&T's recent line up.
What do you think? See for yourself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poptarts v. Toaster Strudel

I think Pillsbury's Toaster Strudel should give up trying to directly compete with Kellogg's Pop-tarts. Don't get me wrong, I think Toaster Strudel is delicious, but the strudel lacks many of the main features that make Pop-tarts so great.
Toaster Strudel must be stored in the freezer and then heated and frosted before it can be eaten. Pop-tarts, on the other hand offer much more convenience. They can sit on the shelf right next to the dry cereal and oatmeal, and can be easily taken with you to be eaten at a later time. In fact, when I was in high school, i used to bring the brown sugar ones with me to school and eat them mid-morning as a snack.

The TV advertisements for Toaster Strudel are aimed at kids, the same main target that Pop-tarts are marketed too. Toaster Strudel is never going to be a Pop-tart. They should quit trying to beat Kellogg's and go for a different demographic such as young professionals with "more sophisticated" taste. In fact, they could be marketed as the perfect breakfast food for pairing with a hot cup of joe. We all know that coffee has become a social craze through Starbucks and other coffee competitors.

I think Toaster Strudel is a great product and a delicious breakfast food, but Pillsbury should go for a different market segment rather than trying to take on Pop-tarts head-on.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are Catalogs Still Effective?: An L.L. Bean Case Study

We're fast approaching the season for holiday shopping. The places I first think to shop are the internet (especially if I need to do some research on a product) and browsing in local brick and mortar stores. However, the current L.L. Bean catalog appeared in my mailbox last week and got me thinking about whether catalogs are still relevant and effective for modern consumers.

L.L. Bean, a well-known company that has been around for quite sometime, started off only selling their particular kind of shoes, ideal for nasty weather and keep toes warm and dry. They have expanded their products over the years to include outdoor apparel and accessories, casual and classic clothing, and are famous for their monogrammed totes and back-packs. Though they have retail stores, it seems that the bulk of their sales, historically, happen through their catalog (and more recently their online catalog option).

I think L.L. Bean is successful because they provide high-quality products and have developed a loyal group of customers. In fact, I know of the company, because my aunt and uncle have always been fans of their products. I also think they maintain their relationship with customers through their catalogs.

Having a catalog appear in your mail box every several months can be annoying if unsolicited or from a company you have no intention of continuing a relationship with. However, if a company with a good reputation and a more subtle approach seeks your attention, it's not so off-putting. L.L. Bean catalogs have a piece of artwork on the front, rather than a celebrity or star product. They are organized so that you can easily flip to the section you're interested in, and they're not overly sales-pitchy.

I like catalogs because they allow you to browse from your couch in a way that the internet can't. The internet, for the most part, only shows you items directly related to what you typed into a search box. A catalog can put things in front of you that may enhance your daily life, but you didn't know you needed (which is a great benefit to the catalog company). In general, I won't buy clothing items from a catalog, but I certainly have looked up items on the internet for more details, after a catalog introduced them to me.

Catalogs are not dead yet. For certain companies, like L.L. Bean, they have a way of keeping products in the consumer's field of vision and drive loyalty and sales. They are expensive to produce, and not appropriate for every company, but some can certainly still make them work to their advantage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Party in the USA

When I hear Party in the USA on the radio I immediately change the station. Partially, it's because just don't like the song, but also Miley Cyrus annoys me because of how her fame has been used to create products.

I'm sure I will never understand why anyone finds Miley Cyrus appealing, but she seems to have legions of fans. Personally, I think there are many young women out there who could out shine Miley both in talent and style, but my biggest pet-peeve is how the "Miley Cyrus" brand has been used.

There countless Hannah Montana and more recently her alter-ego, Miley Cyrus branded products. Hannah Montana items include everything from dolls to wigs. Miley has transformed into being a pop star instead of just playing one on TV, and she now has a clothing line prominently featured in Wal-Marts across the country on top of everything else. I can understand using a celebrity name as a branding tool, both for the benefit of the performer or personality and for the retail industry. However, I think there is a line that has been crossed in this case.

I don't think her product lines are simply a part of being a teen pop celebrity. Taylor Swift has been equally successful. However, because Miss Swift's class and wider appeal, I think her career will go much further than Miss Cyrus. I suppose Miley's handlers are trying to capitalize on her boom of pre-teen (and getting older) fans, but I think it may be detrimental to the rest of her career (if she has one). Celebrities that "play hard to get" and seem classier seem to have more longevity in their fan base and successful careers throughout their lifetime. Maybe Miley could try the classier approach, but maybe instead she'll burn out, fans will get tired of seeing her products, and we'll all be spared her musical "genius." Harsh I know, but her over-merchandising and her songs annoy me.