Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

Being Grant McCracken

In Ideas, Insight on July 31, 2008 at 9:12 am
Transformations by Grant McCracken

Transformations by Grant McCracken

Cultural anthropology is a term thrown around by marketing types, but I’m not sure it is completely understood (I don’t know that I would be able to accurately define it). But I do know one thing: Grant McCracken is one and he knows what of he speaks. He was recently asked by someone how to get into his field and Grant’s response (posted here) was epic. Highly recommended reading.

In related Grant McCracken news, WordPress Marketing Blogger Network member Ray Cha has a great look at Grant’s recent book, Transformations that is also worth a read.

You can read my interview with Grant McCracken here on another of his terrific books, Flock & Flow.


Maintaining your DINU: Star Wars & Soul Calibur IV

In DINU on July 30, 2008 at 9:11 am

Science fiction / fantasy have given us some of our most enduring and powerful Deeply Immersive Narrative Universes (DINUs). Tolkein’s Middle Earth, Herbert’s Dune, Roddenberry’s Star Trek, and perhaps the biggest of all: Lucas’s Star Wars Universe. The places, characters and events of the Star Wars Universe are ingrained in pop culture. As a result, Lucas and his companies (and an entire cottage industry) have reaped the financial benefits.

Yoda prepares to get medieval on someone in Soul Calibur IV

Yoda prepares to get medieval on someone in Soul Calibur IV

I’m not a hardcore game guy like my friend Rich Gallagher over at Liquid Architecture, but I follow it enough that I was puzzled to see ads for Soul Calibur IV, a game franchise I wasn’t familiar with, that featured Darth Vader and Yoda.  Soul Calibur, which is a popular and critical favorite among the gaming world, is not part of the Star Wars (Gaming) Universe. So why would Lucas allow two of his most important properties to appear in an unaffiliated game? Soul Calibur is a Namco game, not Lucas Arts. I’m puzzled by this seemingly short-term decision.

But let’s be honest, at this point, a cameo by Darth Vader and Yoda in a non-Star Wars video game is not going to bring ruin to the Star Wars franchise any more than the 1978 Holiday Special did.

Vader's got your Force, he's got your Force right here!

Vader's got your Force, he's got your Force right here!


But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the brand you manage doesn’t have the equity of Star Wars. Creating and protecting your DINU is critical to developing a relationship with your consumers. They have to believe in the integrity of the DINU. That’s where the magic is. It’s tempting to create partnerships, cross-overs or other deals to expand your audience, but you have to respect your hardcore fans as well. If you’ve created a niche product with a DINU, eventually it will be very tempting to take it to Target or McDonalds or some other mass channel, but once you do that you risk passing the point of no return. Grant McCracken talks about this in Flock & Flow.

Yes, Bea Arthur was a special guest star.I guess I’m a bit of a purist on this one, I don’t see that Lucas’ short term gain is worth the loss of credibility with old time hard core Star Wars fans like me. Perhaps the kids who grew up on the Second Trilogy – the ones most likely to play Soul Calibur IV – don’t have a problem with this. But it’s not a risk I would want to take with my brand after I had spent so much time creating the best known Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe.

Seth Godin: The power of an insanely authentic brand

In DINU, Innovation on July 29, 2008 at 8:59 am

Seth Godin has a post this morning you should check out. He’s cooking up something new and different and remarkable and he wants you to be a part of it. His new book, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us doesn’t come out until October, but Seth is building something bigger than the book. He can explain it better than I can:

“I’d like to invite you to join a members-only tribe. A tribe for marketers, for leaders, for those focused on building communities or creating products or spreading ideas.

This online community will live on a site we’ve created that will feature blogs, forums, social networking, comments, photos, videos and a job board. And it’s by invitation only until October. Spots are limited and early members get privileges and bragging rights.

Members get a password and the privilege of meeting each other, posting thoughts, connecting to big ideas or projects and more. The site will include excerpts from the book as well as a chance to contribute to a new jointly-authored ebook, with full credit and links to the contributors. The contents of the tribe forum won’t be posted to the public until October, so it’s really the only way to participate until then.”

But here’s the thing: He had me at hello. Seth has built such a powerful, authentic and remarkable brand that I couldn’t sign up for this fast enough. I know the book will be worth the read, his books always are. But I’m sure that this exclusive club will be interesting too. He’s got a squidoo lens cooking on this as well.

He’s a master of consumer pyschology as well. Scarcity, exclusivity, setting expectations, everything here is designed not just to sell books – Seth doesn’t need to sell books – it’s designed to get people fired up, engaged and eager to participate. That’s what Seth is about, but he does it in a way that doesn’t come off like Tony Robbins.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative process and the people who do the creating. Artists, musicians, authors, etc. I’m far more interested in reading/listening/watching/experiencing the things that are done by people I have an opportunity to interact act with on a meaningful level. I don’t mean fan clubs with automated email responses designed to sell you something, but real human interaction. Seth is a guy who gets this. I’ve sent him several emails over the years and he unfailingly gets back to me. I don’t think he does that because he feels he has to, but because he wants to. He wants to make the connection.

I’m looking forward to going on this adventure. I’m sure I’ll learn things worth sharing with you.

Julia Allison & Wired Magazine: Where Andy Warhol meets Web 2.0

In Insight on July 28, 2008 at 10:45 am
Julia Allison from the August issue of Wired

Julia Allison from the August issue of Wired

WordPress Marketing Blog Network member DJ Francis has a blistering post on Wired Magazine/Julia Allison. All credit to DJ for taking a strong stand and breaking down PR in a Web 2.0 world, both the opportunities and misuse inherent in the prevailing digital platforms as well as good old fashioned PR and magazine industries.

The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat: The Rules

In TSMWIF on July 28, 2008 at 10:06 am

Seth Godin had a post this weekend that fits nicely with some of my thoughts regarding sports marketing. He talks about the purpose of sponsoring a sporting event and doing it in a way that builds business (or trust, or affinity). If the goal of your sports sponsorship is to lock in good seats at the event for the suits, you’re probably in it for the wrong reasons.

I’ve worked with some of the biggest companies on some of the biggest sports sponsorships. The most effective programs were always ones where everybody came out a winner. MasterCard’s use of Pele for the FIFA World Cup comes to mind. The media loved to talk to Pele and their were able to do so because we made him available. The consumers had a chance to obtain Pele-branded credit cards and MasterCard was able to create a connection to the sport of football (soccer) that they didn’t naturally have. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was effective for more than a decade.

Eyecube Buzz9 for July 28: Sports-related topics I’m buzzing about

In TSMWIF on July 28, 2008 at 9:22 am
Items from the Shaun White 4 Target Collection

Items from the Shaun White 4 Target Collection

Eyecube Buzz9: Sports-related topics I’m buzzing about

1. Mets and Yankees on the rise: New York, Summer & Baseball
2. Carlos Sastre wins the Tour de France: Spain’s Summer of Dominance Conitnues
3. Shaun White 4 Target
4. Brett Favre: God’s gift to sports talk radio


5. Beijing Olympics: Chinese athlete controversy
6. Beijing Olympics: Showdown in the deep end
7. F1 Drivers Championship: Truly up for grabs
8. Twenty20 Champions League: A sport divided?
9. Nike Hyperdunk Ads: That ain’t right

On the horizon: European football season begins
In the rear view mirror: WNBA: Fights and 50-year olds


Eyecube Buzz9 will appear on Monday

Batman, James Bond and Superman: The Need for Brand Reinvention

In DINU on July 25, 2008 at 9:12 am

The graphic novel that shook up the Batman franchise in the 80s.

With the successful opening weekend of The Dark Knight, the Batman franchise has returned with both popular and critical acclaim.  Perhaps the memories of the final Joel Schumacher-helmed, George Clooney-starring Batman & Robin can now be safely tucked away. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for The Batman to be sure. An iconic comic book that became a campy TV show, only to be resurrected in the mid-80s by Frank Miller and his seminal Dark Knight graphic novel. Yes, let’s remember that it was Frank Miller’s genius that set the stage for the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson movie.  But Batman soon found himself the object of scorn once again as the movies became charicatures.

Now Batman seems to have returned to its darker side, a more serious, more violent persona. This character/franchise arc reminds me of another iconic hero – James Bond.

Bond started out as a truly unique character that defined a genre, and an era. But as the Roger Moore-Bond faded into the sunset the franchise seemed done. It bounced back with Pierce Brosnan, only to once again lose its way as the gadget and stunts overwhelmed what had always been the real source of the Bond franchise’s strength – the villains (and sidekicks). Blofeld, Jaws, Odd Job, Pussy Galore, Goldfinger. All more memorable than Timothy Dalton’s Bond (or George Lazenby’s for that matter).

But once again Bond is back thanks to Daniel Craig and a return to a grittier, more violent Bond.

Which brings us to Superman. Every bit as iconic as Batman and Bond, if not more so. For many (most?) people in the world, if they were asked to name one superhero, it would be Superman. The Christopher Reeve-Superman reintroduced the character (much like the Keaton-Batman) but it too devolved into camp and parody (Richard Pryor?), again much like the Batman movies of the 80s/90s and the Bond films of the late-90s/early 00s.

But here’s where Batman and Bond made a critical choice. Those franchises were reimagined to be grittier, more real and more authentic feeling. Perhaps it is because these two characters are human and could therefore return ‘to their roots.’ The change was dramatic. When you see the Dark Knight or Casino Royale you realize you are seeing something clearly different from what you had seen before.  With Superman Returns the change wasn’t great enough. It wasn’t that it was a bad movie, but you don’t hear anyone talking about the Superman movie franchise. What could they have done? Well, it wouldn’t work now because of Hancock, but what about making Will Smith Superman? Here’s a guy who is box office gold internationally and could have completely re-invented the character. That would have been a really bold move and totally broken away from all the baggage of the Superman character.

Another example: Star Wars.  The three prequels made money, but in many ways hurt the creative integrity of the franchise.  I’m very interested to see how the animated Clone Wars movie will be received. This is a dramatic change and clearly a departure from the previous theatrical efforts.  Grant McCracken posted today about the X-Files movie (yet another example of a franchise with a challenge). He sees the history of the X-Files as a burden that has stultified the creativity and freshness of the franchise.  I agree with him and would have like to have seen a dramatic change for the new movie.

Scarcity, Storytelling and Having Your Business Blowed Up

In DINU on July 23, 2008 at 2:46 pm

John Moore from Brand Autopsy has a great story on a BBQ joint in Texas, Snow’s, that was named Best in the State by Texas Monthly. As a result, they’re dealing with sudden and overwhelming success. Some of Moore’s commenters suggested buying more meat and teaching more employees how to make the BBQ.  I disagree and think Seth Godin would agree with me. Seth recently posted on the issue of scarcity and often writes about the power of telling a story and consumers’ desire to tell one to themselves, the premise of his book, All Marketers Are Liars.

Snow's BBQ Pit Master Tootsie Tomanetz

Snow’s can create a remarkable story for themselves, and their customers, by preserving their scarcity.  The Pit Master, Tootsie Tomanetz, can’t – or at least shouldn’t – be duplicated. She’s an integral part fo the Snow’s BBQ experience. Could they teach somebody else to do her job just as well? Yeah, they probably could, but that’s not the point. Tootsie is the person you tell your cousins and friends about.  Could Snow’s order more meat so that they don’t run out at 9:45am? Sure, but that’s part of the story. Want to be guaranteed you’ll get your meat? Go to Costco.

Snow’s has a unique story and unique business model. They may be the best BBQ in Texas today, but they have a chance to become the Best BBQ in the U.S. Yes, the product has to stand up, but it’s the story that will take them to the next level. But what about the business you ask? I wager they could increase their profits by a factor of five without adding one more Pit Master or selling one more brisket. When you create scarcity that generates the type of demand that has people driving hundreds of miles and staying overnight so they can be first in line, you can start selling all sorts of ancillary products. Snow’s BBQ T-shirts? Could sell those from Coast to Coast. BBQ Sauce, cook books… all without compromising the quality of the product, or the quality of the story.

Geico: Crossing the Streams

In DINU on July 23, 2008 at 9:06 am

I’ve written about Geico in the past, both praising and condemning their advertising and the multiple Deeply Immersive Narrative Universes they have created. Got me thinking, what if they, to borrow a phrase from Ghostbusters, “crossed the streams”?

One of their current ad campaigns features ‘regular Geico customers’ who have their stories told by paid celebrities.  What if they used the Geico Gecko as the paid celebrity? Or, what if the ‘regular Geico customer’ was one of the Cavemen? 

This “meta” approach would be perfectly in keeping with Geico irrereverant approach and a knowing wink to their own place in popular culture. I’m sure guys like Henry Jenkins, Grant McCracken and Jason Mittell would have interesting thoughts about this sort of thing.

The Blog That Cried Wolf

In Ideas on July 21, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Rohit Bhargava (pictured left), author of the always excellent Influential Marketing Blog today posted about something he calls Egommunication, the practice of throwing “shout outs” to the powerful members of the Web 2.0 universe (people like Peter Rojas, Greg Verdino or Susan Reynolds) as an alternative, and often more effective, way of getting their attention. These people are acutely aware of when they are being mentioned on blogs, twitter, etc. and will quite possibly follow your Siren call back to your blog.

One of Rohit’s commenters, Nicolas Maisonneuve, had a cautionary post on this sort of thing which he termed “Artificial Attention Spamming.” 

As a relatively new blogger I can see the lure of egommunication. I would love Rohit, Chris Brogan, Mitch JoelAlan Wolk or some of my other Facebook friends to check me out. But intuitively I know that the communication has to be authentic to be lasting. Can an authentic relationship begin with an ‘inauthentic’ meeting? Yes, I think that it can in some cases. I’m not looking to sell no-down payment home loans or products guaranteed to increase anyone’s sexual pleasure. And these people will ultimately still have the power to decide if a relationship can be started. They come to Eyecube, like what they see and leave a comment or link to this post or add me to their blogroll. Or they look around and decide its not for them. I hope (believe) that there will be some content here they will like, but with so many blogs in the marketing/branding/social media universe, sometimes you have to shout a little louder (or in a different language) to grab attention.