Sunday, February 27, 2005

Keypad Problems

The c, d, e and 3 on my Powerbook are acting funky. If I'm not careful, they either do nothing or type in two or threeee — see? — extras.

Perhaps this will make me a more thoughtful, reasoned writer, but I'm guessing it will just annoy the crap out of me.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Any suggestions on a solution?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Podcasting starts to get easier. I hope.

It's taken me more than a little while to really get my head around how to create and download podcasts. I think I've got it figured out now, but I was relieved — simply because it made me feel less like a dumbass — to hear Adam Curry recently say that one-click podcasting hadn't arrived yet.

Of course, I've always figured it's a matter of a few months — weeks? — before those big tech brain people make it easy for illogical thinkers like myself. Today's New York Times technology section has an article on a company that's working to make that happen. I'm still not sold on their business model, but I am excited that someone is at work on the simplification of podcasting. Get the facts directly from the company — one of the founders of Blogger is involved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Amgen and agency: Hey, it was great for lo-carb beer!

It seems yet another pharma company — and its agency — thinks that if they show twentysomethings skipping across sand dunes, they'll convince people that an injectable drug for severe psoriasis is just what they need. Even if one of the side effects is, you know, death. I'm sure Amgen's campaign did great in focus groups.

Happy, happy people. Crappy, crappy spot. Angry, angry FDA.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Blockbuster blows it. Nobody surprised.

I've never been a big fan of Blockbuster. The lines are slow-moving, the selection pretty uninspired and the whole store environment makes me think of a 7-11 and things like cheese nachos. Along with most of the Wall Street analysts, I also think their whole business model seems hopelessly out of touch with the changes technology will surely bring.

For some reason I can't explain, I still haven't converted to Netflix. I'm sure I will someday. Right now, it's just that somewhere in my head I have a limit to how many monthly subscriptions I should have. And maybe I wonder if Netflix isn't about to be usurped by something else.

Anyway, when I saw Blockbuster boldly tout NO MORE LATE FEES — sans asterisk, sans fast-talking disclaimer language — I, for a moment, thought that perhaps they were truly turning things on their head. To me, I always thought Blockbuster should move to a version of the Netflix model. They could have no late fees but simply not allow you to rent another movie if you had two that were overdue.

But no, it seems Blockbuster figures it's the 1950s and they can still just steamroll consumers. Over at Adrants, they did a pretty thorough dissection of the sordid details. Why would a marketing department try this? Or was the plan initially bolder before it was run over by someone in finance or operations? Whatever. The thing's a dud. In fact, they can be sure to finally convince me to sign up with Netflix once they try to ding me with a late fee. Fact is, their whole approach makes me want to find out just how long I can keep a movie past its due date. It feels rather empowering to test the limits of a misguided strategy.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Conclusive evidence that my peak memory years have passed.

I gave a presentation at the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce today (wait, it's 12:10 in the morning, so it was yesterday) on using the web to build your business and your career. A good chunk of my presentation was focused on the value of blogs and the potential of podcasts.

Speaking to people after the presentation, I realized that by mostly ignoring my notes I had left out out two things I wanted to cover.

First, do blogs replace newsletters, especially e-newsletters? Right now, my answer is no. If you're doing a newsletter, you should probably keep doing it. But expect your blog to eventually replace it. And I think it will be a better tool immediately. Spam filters and people with multiple email addresses are killing the e-newsletter. Here are thoughts from some people who probably have more credibility on this issue than I do. This article also points out just how much work I have to do to make my own blog as powerful and effective as it should be.

Second, at the start of my presentation, I said I wanted to learn five new things myself. Then I never took the time to give my audience a forum that would have allowed this to happen. I did leave time for questions, but towards the end I was rushing to make the presentation fit into its alloted hour. Maybe people who were at today's session can post comments and help me with those five new things I wanted to learn.

Thanks to everyone who attended and to the Chamber and Pat Guenther for the invitation. Hopefully, you enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed talking.

— Dean Gemmell

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jones Soda. More proof that honesty really is the best policy.

Seth Godin links to a Fast Company article brought to his attention byTim Manners. It's about Jones Soda and their realization that people don't really need their products.

To which some might say, "No @#$%, Sherlock."

Of course, the reality is that many marketers — and the article points out an interesting distinction between marketers and brand builders — forget that fact. I love the bit in the article about making sure everyone in the company realizes that if Jones Soda disappeared tomorrow, the world would indeed press on. Do something like, say, find another sugary beverage to drink.

The result of this philosophy has been that Jones Soda connects with people in a way that Coke and Pepsi don't.

Something else for agencies to take from this article: this is yet another brand growing with very little traditional advertising. There's been some, but not much. Hmmm.

— Dean Gemmell

Monday, February 14, 2005

MAGIC. More from the Show in Las Vegas.

A quick recap of some of my day's experiences at the MAGIC show.

I stood in line at the Starbucks in the Convention Center between the girls from the Hustler licensed clothing booth and a man who was wearing a pair of briefs. Only a pair of briefs. Not even socks.

I received a sticker from a clothing brand called F___ You Chopper. It seems their raison d'etre is to sell shirts that say variations of F___ You.

I saw the comedian Steve Harvey. He has a line of clothing.

I heard a rumor that Michael Jordan was nearby.

More seriously, the chance to review so many brands and products at the same time, together, got me thinking about agencies that claim to be "brand builders." What a load.

Communications don't build brands. Products build brands. Crap product, crap brand. Good communications can take a great product to its inevitable brand position faster, but even the most amazing communications won't turn a lousy product into a killer brand.

I guess that's why I won't claim that our company can build the F___ You Chopper brand.

Additionally, I must revise one of my earlier comments. There actually is a lot of cotton here. Owing to the fact that every single line — no matter what their clothes are like — sells T-shirts.

I also saw two men, standing together, who were both over seven feet tall and probably weighed about 400 pounds each.

— Dean Gemmell

MAGIC Show in Las Vegas

I'm at the MAGIC Show in Las Vegas today with our client, Dub Brand. No, it's not a show for the Davids Blaine and Copperfield. It's a huge apparel show — just about every major clothing brand is here. I think MAGIC originally stood for Menswear Apparel International Conference. Or something like that. Now it's just aisles and aisles of brands for men, women and kids. If you want evidence of the true scope of our consumer society, this is a good place to start.

Some things that I've seen a lot of:

• Bare midriffs
• Yoga pants
• Denim
• Performance fabrics

Some things that I haven't seen very much of:

• Modesty
• 100% cotton
• Made in USA labels

— Dean Gemmell

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tell Stories. Make Friends. Why Is That So Hard?

Last weekend, I was at a meeting in Chicago and met a man from Kentucky. I asked him what kind of things would help him sell more of the brand for which we create work.

"People want stories," he said. "Tell stories."

It helped that he delivered the news in his Kentucky accent, but it's stuck with me. Why are most of us, including myself at times, afraid to do this? People don't want bullet points and Powerpoint presentations. They want stories, whether they're in Kentucky or La Jolla.

Turns out the man that many consider this country's most compelling documentary filmmaker was framing the last election in the same terms in a recent New York Times editorial.

— Dean Gemmell

Will He Ever Stop Talking About Martha?

I'm starting to fear that I'm more than a bit unnaturally obsessed with the fate of post-prison Martha Stewart but there's a good, chock-full-of-media-gossip piece on her in this week's New York magazine. It really does seem like the most fascinating media and brand story ever. She'll be released into house arrest on March 6th.

— Dean Gemmell

Monday, February 07, 2005

When Niche Marketing Gets Alarming.

Checking out of the megamarket (Meijer) on Super Bowl Sunday, I looked to see what coupon I would get with my receipt. Usually, it's a $1 gas coupon that I dutifully store and then never use because I can't stand doing anything except pay at the pump.

Being the day of the big game, I was expecting something to encourage me to get another six-pack or grab some more hot sauce. Something burly and American. I began to read.

"The Anusol® products you have trusted for years ARE GETTING A MAKEOVER. INTRODUCING NEW TUCKS® OINTMENTS AND SUPPOSITORIES. Still the same great Anusol® products you trust. Just a new name & package. Look for new Tucks® ointments and suppositories coming this March!"

Goodness. That's not exactly the pre-game conversation I was hoping for. I began to grow concerned about the data that's been accumulated on my buying habits. Is this related to the fact that I'm edging closer to 40? I mean, come on, I'm still a few years away.

Mostly, however, I thought of the miserable existence of someone at Pfizer with this title: Director of Marketing, Suppositories and Ointments.

Granted, I think this name change is a smart move. The Anusol brand name was a bit, well, blunt. But I'm not sure it was worth telling me about it with my checkout coupon. And I'm not sure if this really qualifies as a "makeover."

Whatever. Was the checkout coupon a wise media buy? I guess I noticed, so it's got that going for it.

I'm just not real comfortable with getting news about suppositories while I'm picking up supplies for my special Super Bowl chili.

— Dean Gemmell

Friday, February 04, 2005

You like me, you really like me. No, wait, you hate me again.

I think Martha is making a huge error with her upcoming Apprentice-style show. A few weeks of Martha saying, "You're fired!" and all the sympathy generated by her little prison stay will be gone. Martha behind bars — and the way she sucked it up and started serving her sentence without exhausting the appeal process — made her more likeable to a lot of people. Now she's going to blow all that positive brand mojo for a Trump/Burnett spinoff? Maybe she doesn't get it as much as I thought she does.

— Dean Gemmell

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Converted Traditional Ad Guy Does Web Presentation. Not As Boring As Many Predict.

I'll be giving a presentation through the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce titled "How to Use the Web to Build Your Business and Your Career." Yes, there will be much talk of blogs. Among other things.

I'm hardly uniquely qualified to give this presentation. But what might interest people is that I was once among the skeptics when it came to new media habits changing commerce beyond the Amazons and EBays. Now I count myself among the converted.

What the web can do for a career could be the most interesting part of the presentation. (Hey, we've all got to look out for ourselves.) What's interesting to me is how smart professionals are using the web as a sounding board to establish themselves as industry experts. It's not especially difficult — and it can be a lot more effective than the old ways of networking.

It's Thursday, February 17th at noon at the Chamber of Commerce offices in downtown Kalamazoo. Hope you can make it.

— Dean Gemmell

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Kalamazoo? Curling? Yeah, right, have another one.

No, seriously. I'm organizing a trip to Windsor on March 5th for an afternoon of curling. It's basically a full day commitment so I'm also hosting an introduction to the game on February 20th. That way, people who have never played the sport will be able to make the best use of the time we have in Windsor and get the most out of the day. I could go on and on about how much I love this sport. But let's just keep it simple -- if you live in the West Michigan area and want to try the game, send me a comment and I'll give you more details.

I've got this crazy dream of one day building a dedicated curling facility in Kalamazoo. If you know how much it costs to build a curling club, you know how crazy my dream is.

Here's a little shameless plug for my credentials as curler. Unfortunately, you will have to scroll all the way down to 1988.

— Dean Gemmell