Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

DINU Brand – Quote of the Day

In DINU on April 30, 2008 at 11:05 am

Courtesy of The Onion’s A.V. Club:

“I make one film as a filmmaker, but the audience, based on that film, makes 100 movies in their minds. Every audience member can make his own movie. This is what I strive for. Sometimes, when my audiences tell me about the mental movies they have made based on my movie, I am surprised, and I become the audience for their movies as they are describing them to me. My movie has only functioned as a base for them to make their movies.” — Abbas Kiarostami

This is an excellent interpretation of what I mean by a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU). It goes beyond the original creator to incorporate the visions and products of others.

Burger King – Narrative Dissonance

In DINU on April 29, 2008 at 3:02 pm

I’ve been planning on writing about Burger King for a little while. I really love the narrative they have created over the last couple of years. Sure it started with the legendary Subservient Chickent, but then they reintroduced the King character as a human with a giant, plastic King head and things got really interesting. They went in all kinds of clever directions: putting him in Xbox video games; having him date Brooke Burke; assuage pannicky customers who were in the midst of a Whopper Freakout; or even as the target of moms who felt threatened by one of his new offererings.

Hip, irreverant, edgy. That’s a clear departure from most other mainstream quick serve restaurants. So I was a little disappointed to hear about BK’s UK PR initiative: the £85 burger.

Burger King has worked so hard to create a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe. People believe in the King character. It’s original, no one else has a “spokesman” like the King. But an expensive burger, how is that defensible? What if Pret a Manger or EAT comes out with a £90 sandwich? It’s not even a particularly original idea, as Selfridges apparently had a similarly priced sandwich not that long ago.

I’ve really come to trust Burger King from a marketing standpoint, so I hope that this announcement is merely a rouse and they’ll turn this into something extraordinary.


Barneys + Target = ?

In Innovation on April 29, 2008 at 9:13 am

I love Target, shop there all the time. I think they’ve done a great job of positioning. I think of them as affordable luxury, or at least affordable style. I like Barneys very much too, though I don’t shop there much. To me they are aspirational luxury, or aspirational style. 

So what do I see walking down the street after work yesterday:

(Apologies for the appalling photo, clearly my camera-phone skills need work).

So, this is pretty interesting. Designer Rogan Gregory has put together a collection for Target. It caught the eye of Barneys Fashion Director Julie Gilhart. And so now a preview of sorts will appear at Barneys Co-op before it goes mass at Target. According to FashionWeekDaily: “The collection, which marks the first time Barneys has carried Target merchandise, will arrive in New York and Los Angeles on May 8 and 15, respectively, and will be carried on the Co-op floor. The pieces will only be in stock for five days-after that, shoppers will have to wait for the mass debut.” (Hat tip for all this to

As I said, I like Target and I like Barneys, but I’m not sure this is a Chocolate-Peanut Butter marriage. How will regular Barneys shoppers feel about Target merchandise? It may be fine, I’m guessing there are plenty of Barneys regulars who buy stuff at Target, assuming they don’t live in Manhattan. And yet this feels like it’s bringing Barneys down a bit and at the same time, I don’t know if the majority of Target shoppers, especially those not on the coasts, know or care about Barneys.

Will this be the start of a trend, where high and low (or mid) retail form partnerships?  Bloomingdales & WalMart? Nordstrom’s & K-Mart? Hmmm.


Measuring Innovation, or How Long is a Piece of String?

In Innovation on April 29, 2008 at 6:18 am

Good article by the Freakonomics gang the other day. They asked a handful of really smart people how innovation could/should be measured. As you can imagine, a consensus was not reached.

Sure, innovation is often the result of systematic R&D efforts, but sometimes it’s just dumb luck and unintended consequences (wasn’t Viagara originally intended for heart patients?) The beautiful, and maddening, thing about innovation is that it can come from anywher and anyone. I’m not sure how possible, or beneficial, it would be to try and quantify it.

Smart Marketing – Ben Shot Me

In Insight on April 28, 2008 at 8:45 pm

About a month or so ago I contacted a blogger for work and we got off on a tangent regarding photography. I’m just starting to get into it, and he does it regularly/professionally. It was a nice email conversation and I thought nothing more of it.

Today I received issue #2 of Ben Shot Me, The Magazine. Photographer Ben Allsup has started putting his photos together into a DIY magazine and, and no small cost to himself, decided to send me one. I’m not family, I’m not even technically friends, but he decided to go out on a limb and mail me a copy. Awesome.

The thing I really like is that the magazine also contains stories that make the impact of the pictures deeper and more human. Great stories about watching the Polar Bear Club take their New Year’s Day plunge, or about Pamela and Kyle Peterson and their Pet Transport Service.

I’m a big believer in the power of images, but sometimes, when combined with stories, the images are enhanced. I feel the same way about The Sartorialist. I love his photos, but I find I’m always hoping he adds a little caption explaining the backstory of the photo.

Ben Allsup’s magazine also reminded me about the post I did on a little while ago. Yes, Ben could just post his photos on the Internet, it would be a lot cheaper. But having this magazine gives them permanence that the Internet cannot. I’m sure his kids(s) will have the magazines long after the hard drive has been erased.

So, a big well done to Ben, who understands that the best way to spread the word is to reach out to everyone and anyone, you never know what will happen.

The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat: FIFA World Cup 2002 – South Korea/Japan

In TSMWIF on April 25, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Fourteen of the first 16 FIFA World Cup tournaments were held in either South America or Europe (with Mexico and the U.S. being the exceptions). For the 2002 event, FIFA, the world governing body of the sport, made the unprecedented move of not only awarding the tournament to Asia, but also having it hosted jointly by two countries. The decision was favorably received not just by the Asian Football Confederation and its members, but also by FIFA’s marketing partners who would be able to showcase their brands in new, emerging markets and territories.


Certainly the region had seen major events in the past, with both South Korea and Japan hosting Olympiads in the last 20 years. But this time around it was different in several ways. First, the geography of the event made traditional media channels – print and broadcast – a difficult proposition for fans in the United States, Europe and Africa. But unlike previous major sporting events in held in Asia, broadband and mobile phone technology allowed fans to have instantaneous information regardless of their location. The second critical factor coming out of the 2002 FIFA World Cup was the beneficial knock-on effect it had for “non-traditional” locales and their opportunity to host global events. Last year the West Indies hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time. In 2008 Beijing will host the Olympics for the first time and in 2010 South Africa will host the FIFA World Cup for the first time.


What does this mean for marketers? Access to new markets is only valuable if you have the distribution to service this new pool of consumers. But even then, simply throwing open your doors, whether they be of the brick and mortar or virtual variety, is only part of the solution. Considerable consumer education may be necessary, and traditional advertising may not be enough. New consumers will need to be courted through a variety of channels. Being a sponsor of an event that engages consumers through their passions is a strong proposition, made even more so by leveraging public relations. Brand ambassadors, consumer events and online engagement can all help build brand awareness and affinity, which can lead to true business building impact.


Just as important as the consumer education is the brand education. Understand the needs and limitations of a new consumer segment as well as you’ve studied the new opportunities. You may even need to adjust your product to fit local customs and economics.

More on the DINU Brand Concept

In DINU on April 24, 2008 at 8:38 am

Rather than use this blog as a vehicle to distribute fully formed, ready to go concepts, I feel this is a good forum for developing ideas and hopefully receiving feedback from readers who can build upon the idea, and together something better is developed. I’m still wrestling with the concept I termed, “Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe” (DINU). While I obviously believe it has merit, I don’t presume that it is a 100% original idea. I’m sure on some level it comes from the same vein as Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars which is subtitled: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. Also, the super sharp and genuinely hospitable (must be a Canadian thing) Grant McCracken turned me on to Henry Jenkins and his Transmedia Storytelling.

Telling authentic stories across a variety of media channels is definitely part of the DINU idea, but there is another element that I believe is crucial and has only become so in the last year or two. Brands (people, teams, products, companies, cities…) need to not just develop a story, but also provide an opportunity for others to take that story to new places. The users experience with a brand is unique and their perception of the brand is just as important as the marketers in today’s world. Sure, you can put out ads and change your logo, but today consumers can do that to your brand as well. The key is creating an environment that is so authentic and compelling that when consumers do generate their own content that utilizes your brand, they do so in a way that is in line with your existing messaging. I can almost guarantee that no matter who you are – Google, Nike, Apple, Starbucks, WalMart – there is a consumer out there that can create something better than what you or your agencies are currently doing.

So, here are the first couple of steps to building a DINU brand:

1. The core product itself has to be good. You can’t fake that.

2. Take the time to develop a narrative framework. You don’t have to fill in all the blanks, in fact you don’t want to fill in all the blanks. There should be some mystery, some intrigue for people to discover later, or create their own mythology.

3. Be open to consumer content, incorporate it into your narrative. You’ll have a much deeper connection with the consumer if you develop the narrative, and the brand, together.

4. Be adaptable. New technologies, new storylines, new brand utility, you don’t know what opportunities will arise so create a broad Universe that can accomodate multiple viewpoints as long as they align with the overall narrative.

I’m sure this idea will continue to evolve. I hope to have more examples of DINU brands posted shortly that will further this conversation.

The Media and Sports Properties – Fighting the wrong fight

In Insight on April 22, 2008 at 10:50 pm

In a Monday NY Times article the battle between media, both mainstream and bloggers, and sports franchises/leagues over access was laid out. In a nutshell, the media want more access and the ability to report sooner. The teams and leagues, who have become media channels in their own rights, want to hold on to some of their content.

One of the specific issues was how many photos a media outlet could post from an event. This struck me as analogous to a divorce where the couple is arguing over who gets the betamax and 8-track tape player. Ultimately consumers aren’t swayed by the quantity of photos, or even how quickly ‘official’ content is made available.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

The most popular sports blog is Deadspin. Their motto: Sports without Access, Favor or Discretion. They don’t rely on exclusive interviews or costly rights fees, they just produce amazing content that people want to read. They’ve developed a community that fans want to participate in.

I’m a fan of the English Premier League football team Arsenal FC. Since their weekday games happen during midday here in New York, I can’t watch the games. Yes, I could follow them on or ESPN’s Soccernet, but I’m more likely to follow the in-game thread over at This weekend’s game had 310 posts.

One more example? A typical in-game thread at Sons of Sam Horn can have 900+ posts. No photos, no video, no high-priced, celebrity, former player analysts, just a bunch of die hard fans sharing an experience.

Fighting over access is missing the point. The mainstream media does a great job of covering the teams, so do blogs and so do the teams and leagues themselves. There are plenty of eyeballs for everyone. The key is delivering unique, compelling content that people want to engage with. That could be analysis, video, audio, pictures, stats, mobile games, blogs, forums or any number of things.

Focus on creating an inviting environment and providing unique content and you won’t need to fight over the other stuff.

Forget ‘my’, the web prefix of the future will be ‘our’

In Ideas on April 22, 2008 at 6:09 am

An article in Sunday’s New York Times talked about the preponderance of the ‘my’ prefix in web marketing. We all know them: MyYahoo!, MyCoke, MySpace, the list goes on. Add to that sites like YouTube and Ubid or even products like the iPod and it’s clear that the online marketing imperative of the last 10 years was to personalize and individualize the experience. There has certainly been a shift in consumer habits, ironically brought about in part by MySpace. Sure, people still want to customize their experience, but they want to do it within a community. Social media, the sharing of thoughts, words and video, is now the dominating concept on the web. Yet many marketers don’t seem to have caught up yet. How much longer before we see:

OurSpace, UsTube and WePhone

It’s not a matter of developing new products or services, though I suspect we will see that,  but rather a subtle repositioning as we transition from the personal to the social.

Barack Obama: DINU Brand

In DINU on April 21, 2008 at 5:51 am

As I think more about this concept of the Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU), I wondered if this was an idea that worked for things like science fiction stories (Star Wars) or video games (Halo) especially well, but maybe not for the vast majority of brands, properties and franchises. But the more I thought about it, the more I see it across a wide variety of brands.  I think presidential candidate Barack Obama is a great example of a brand that quickly developed a DINU with truly remarkable results.

The development of Obama’s DINU has worked because not only has he been consistent with his message, but his supporters have embellished and built upon the foundation in a way that has meshed incredibly well. But, first, let’s take a look at what was most people’s first exposure to Obama, his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention:

So he’s established his universe: A dynamic speaker with an odd name who is going to change the way the game is played. He’s piqued your interest because he’s offering something uniquely different. But not so different that you can just dismiss him. So, now, you want to know more about him, dig deeper into this Universe. Just about this time his first book, Dreams of My Father is republished. More of the Universe is revealed, more foundation is set from which to build upon as we learn his backstory.

Fast forward to 2007 and now Barack Obama is running for president. As an anti-establishment candidate, he deftly embraces social media and the power of consumers who not only are sick of politics as usual, but are hungry to produce, not just consume.

First, we see Obama Girl:

Not perfectly on message for the Obama campaign, but it opens the doors. Now, things that were never associated with political campaigns are available. People have license to participate.

The media begins to provide threads to the narrative as well, as Andrew Sullivan pens a defining piece in The Atlantic:




Obama himself continues to build the DINU, as his second book, The Audacity of Hope starts to get traction. More parts of the Universe come into focus, and new territories open for exploration. As the primary season begins and Obama scores a suprising victory in Iowa, the narrative changes. The unknown, no-hoper, suddenly becomes a vessel for the hopes and dreams of many, and we go from Obama Girl to something entirely different:

Wait a second, now we have to reevaluate what we thought about consumer-generated campaign videos. and a host of Hollywood celebrities collaborate to produce a video of a quality that the campaign itself would be proud of, but the fact that it wasn’t created by the Obama campaign fits perfectly in his narrative. This campaign is about his supporters, not about him. Again, new territories are opened for the narrative.  Soon, remarkable campaign posters are created, again not by the campaign, but by artists like Shepard Fairey, the guy behind Obey Giant:










Or clever tweaks like this one:


Obama, Irish? Only in a DINU do people have the permission to do so (note – as some commenters noted, Obama may in fact have Irish blood through his mom. But still, you get the point). Somehow you want to believe that yeah, he is Irish (or Jewish, or Chinese…) because Obama has embraced the concept of consumer generation. Each time he does so, he gives persmission for someone else to build new parts of his DINU. How revolutionary is that for a political candidate? Where are the spin masters and handlers, managing his every word and image? How can they let this happen? Because they have accepted and embraced it as part of his narrative. This is so powerful and a big reason he is in the position that he is in right now. Yes, people bought in to him, but he bought in to them just as much, and in doing so he strengthened and grew his Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe. His story just sounds like a movie doesn’t it?

His speeches, their words and cadence just lend themselves to music. Music and politics have had an interesting history over the last two decades. You’ll recall Bill Clinton used a Fleetwood Mac song to symbolise his younger, hipper campaign when compared to George H. W. Bush. Now, Obama has re-invented the music connection and once again deepened the narrative with his ‘Dirt off your shoulder’ moment, a reference to a Jay-Z song. It took someone about a day to then put together this mash up.

Barack Obama has created a DINU not only delivering a consistent message across a variety of channels, but by laying the foundation for others to build upon it. In that way he is comparable to George Lucas, who built the Star Wars universe that has been so richly developed by others.