Sunday, April 12, 2009

Good News

In a world where there's talk of economic crisis, failed bailouts, crime, and destruction, it's hard to watch or read the news. While there are occasional news stories that are hopeful and uplifting, they seem to be few and far between.

Today, a day when Christians around the world are celebrating good news, I am encouraged to look for the good news in my own life. This morning, my attention was called to a website,, that only reports encouraging and uplifting stories. I think I'm going to make it a habit in my daily web surfing to check out positive news stories. proclaims: "We believe virtue, goodwill and heroism are hot news. That's why we bring you up-to-the-minute news, geared to lift spirits and inspire lives. Add in a diverse team of Citizen Journalists reporting positive stories from around the world, and you've got one happy place for news."

We can't forget all of the negative things in the world, because they affect our lives, but maybe we need to spend more of our time and energy focusing on the positive. It's all in how you look at what you've been given. I plan to find the joy in my cluttered life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More than just cookies.

We all know and love the Girl Scouts of America for their cookies, and actually, the cookie season just ended for the year. Everyone has their favorite flavor. Personally, mine is the Samoa. I should know, because I sold them myself for many years growing up. I made it all the way from Brownies to Seniors and got my Gold Award (Eagle Scout equivalent). I want to make clear that while I had a good time with my friends who were a part of my troop, I was not excited to have to go to meetings and earn patches. My parents were the force behind me staying a member. I’d like to address the cookie sales arm of the organization at some point because they’re a great example of a non-profit fundraising, but I’ll save that for another post.

The subject here is brand image. I think it’s safe to say that as far as the Girl Scout Brand is concerned, most Americans identify “girl scouts” with selling delicious cookies and little girls knitting and sewing. While those pursuits are admirable (I enjoy needle craft and cookies myself), that’s not really what the organization has to offer to young women and adults. I know from experience that selling cookies and doing crafts are indeed a part of what it is to be a Girl Scout, but there’s so much more that can be gained. The organization has a rich history and has had an influence on the lives and self-esteem of young women for many decades, but they have to find their place in the crowded, busy, cluttered lives of 21st century girls.

It turns out that The Girl Scouts of America is trying to change their brand image. The have a plan at least with a whole new section of their website set up.

The FAQ on the Girl Scouts’ website lists the question “Why does Girl Scouts need a new image?”

This is the answer they supply: “Though the public’s perception of Girl Scouts is overwhelmingly positive, our image (often associated with cookies, camping and crafts) does not clearly reflect what Girl Scouting is really about—offering an array of enriching experiences to help girls develop leadership skills that will serve them immediately and all their lives.”

They have developed a new "Core Business Strategy" and even use that corporate, business school term to characterize it. I think it is going to take more than a spiffy new website to convince the local Girl Scout Councils and the American public as a whole that the organization is indeed more than just a cookie-selling machine. I hope the Girl Scouts succeed in their new mission to change the why their brand is viewed. However, it will take a lot of effort, clever marketing, and a fundamental change in the fabric of the organization, how members perceive and present themselves, in order to achieve the brand image they are seeking.

Want to get involved? Volunteer

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Save money. Live better.

Yes, Wal-Mart is the topic of discussion. Personally, I am a Wal-mart shopper and I imagine that a lot of people are with the current economic situation being what it is.

Everyone seems to have their own opinion about Wal-mart’s business practices, but that’s not what I’m interested in. I am far more interested in their recent change of slogan or tagline. Most people remember Wal-mart’s ad campaign that involved the “Always low prices” phrase. I don’t know the statistics on how effective their marketing was with that slogan, but apparently someone felt it was time for a change.
The “Save Money. Live Better.” slogan has appeared in the last year. I think as a marketing tool, it may be more effective. It doesn’t simply emphasize the fact that they are a price leader. Though most consumers who are not interested in the intricacies of marketing would not notice, the slogan also includes a benefit. It shows how those low prices can do good things for the consumer. I think their new slogan is a smarter one. Regardless of their business practices, it tells the final consumer that Wal-mart, because their products cost less than competitors, can help consumers afford to buy more and live better lives because of it. So, three cheers for Wal-mart? Maybe. Maybe not. But I have to give kudos to whoever decided to change their tagline.

Urban definition of marketing

As someone who has been involved in the marketing field, I find marketing-related humor particularly amusing. There’s a lot of junk on, but whoever posted something for “marketing” has the right idea.

If you look up “marketing” on this is what the first entry says:

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say, "I'm fantastic in bed."
That's Direct Marketing
You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous girl. One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says, "He's fantastic in bed."
That's Advertising
You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed."
That's Telemarketing
You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. You get up and straighten your tie, you walk up to her and pour her a drink. You open the door for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her a ride, and then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed."
That's Public Relations
You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. She walks up to you and says, I hear you're fantastic in bed."
That's Brand Recognition

This humorous comparison between marketing and trying to pick up a girl does also point out the differences between the different “fields” that all have an influence on how a product (or person) is viewed. Everyone is trying (some trying harder than others) to get you to see them in a favorable light.

I find it interesting that professionals consider themselves to be in one and only one of those fields (direct marketing, advertising, public relations, etc), but really all of those things are just “marketing.” They all have the same end goal: to get the girl. The whole idea is to get her in bed, it doesn’t much matter how you go about it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What is your business card saying about you?

Most business cards that I’ve seen are on boring white 2” x 3.5” cardstock, have the boring company logo in the corner, and black text listing the name, title, and phone number of the card’s owner. They all look the same. I have a collection of my own and they all fit this description. I suppose for most of us, a stack of plain white business cards is all we can afford or all that our employers are willing to provide. However, there is hope for standing out in the business card crowd.

I found an interesting stack of business cards on flickr.

I highly recommend sifting through them (fair warning: there’s a lot of them). Some of them include a simple gilded edge while others are different materials and shapes. Many are for design firms or for professionals involved in photography, art, or advertising, but I don’t think creativity should be limited to those fields. Everyone should have the opportunity to stand out. I can’t help but also make the point that the purpose of the card should still be paramount: to be a convenient, portable, usable source of contact information for a new acquaintance. I think some of the flickr business cards miss that mark and put form before function, a big faux-pas in my book.

These are extreme examples of creative business cards, but I plan to take some elements from what show and incorporate them into my own personal statement on 2x3.5. Rather than going with the plain black and white landscape-oriented business card, include some color or change the orientation to upright.

Even if you don’t have the luxury of changing your call-me-back card, pleased-to-meet-you, stay-in-touch card, it’s still valuable to see what others have done to think outside the business card box.

For more creative business card ideas... 10 Creative Business Card Ideas

Monday, April 6, 2009

Clutter: My Two Cents

What is clutter?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary...

noun: a collected mass, a collection; a crowded and confused assemblage;

- the crowded confusion of movement and business; turmoil, bustle, stir

verb: to run together or collect in knots or heaps; to crowd together

- to heap or crowd together in a disorderly way

- to throw into mental confusion and disorder

- to utter words confusedly and hurriedly: often, as a habitual defect of utterance

According to Wikipedia

Clutter (advertising): “a term used to describe the phenomenon of a marketplace being full or even overcrowded with products. It also refers to the extreme amount of advertising the average American sees in their daily lives.”

Everyone’s lives have become overrun by clutter. So many things vie for our attention each day. The definitions above emphasize confusion and disorder, but clutter is not always bad. The problem is in wading through the clutter we’re given.

Paradoxically, even though I’m talking about clutter here, this blog is a contribution to the clutter. Is this yet another thing on the web trying to get a piece of your attention? That is not my intent.

I suppose the best way to describe why I’m writing this blog is through a quote I remember from elementary school. “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros features character is celebrating her eleventh birthday and says, “Only today I wish I didn’t have eleven years rattling inside me like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box.” Somehow that image, the visual and audible clatter of pennies in a tin band-aid box, stuck with me. For me the pennies aren’t years, but thoughts and ideas. I have so many small copper coins that run through my head, a strange confluence of all the things I’ve seen or studied or dreamed about. I need to have someway to share those pennies before they threaten to overflow my tin. I suppose the fact that it’s a band-aid tin is symbolic too, but you draw your own conclusions on that one.

For what it’s worth, I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts and musings that center around my own personal perspective and perceptions of the world.

Read “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros.