21 Feb, 2013 – leave a comment

making invention work

When we launched Inventioni.st we had our fair share of haters. It made sense, honestly. We put out a vision lean on results. And we’ve still got plenty of work to do to prove that big ol’ agencies can learn new tricks and do the hard work of developing and maintaining digital products.

But as a former Chicagoan, I subscribe to Daniel Burnham’s maxim, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

Whether you’re a hater or not, if you want to learn more about our work and our mindset I highly recommend a recent HBR piece by my boss, Winston Binch, on why advertisers must become inventors. Here’s an excerpt:

One of our clients, Pop Secret, doesn’t have the luxury of big TV budgets. We worked with them to define a new approach. Instead of putting the majority of the dollars into paid media, we put it into the production of ten lightweight digital experiments designed to connect the brand with home movie watching in pop culture. The campaign is only two months old, and we’ve only released a couple of experiments, but we’ve received $322 million of mostly earned impressions and 1 out of 10 mentions of the brand online are connected to movies. Previously it was 1 and 100. Additionally, we hit a 12-month organic search high in January. We’ve already seen that there’s power in small, PR-worthy, experimental utilities and content.


17 Feb, 2013 – one comment

an open letter to maker’s mark

Dear Rob and Bill Samuels,

In 2006 I drove across the country from Austin, Texas to Chicago, Illinois with my best friend from college. We drove a day out of our way, got lost through winding Kentucky roads, and spent a night in a run down hotel, just so we could tour your grounds the next day. Being young, I fell head over heels so easily on that tour – with the young woman shepherding us around, with the idyllic Loretto scenery – but most of all, I swooned over your craft. It was my first taste of workplace culture so committed to its heritage and so mindful of its legacy. Before we left, I hand-dipped my own bottle of your bourbon in hot red wax and held on to it for years; a fixture on my shelf and a symbol for what I hoped to build one day for myself.

For the sake of each other’s time and attention, I’ll be blunt. Your brand and your legacy are at a crossroads. You’ve rightly listened to your fans but you never should have threatened to water down your product, especially for the sake of growth. Your recent run of television ads, your first, seems schizophrenic. Your bottle dances like the Pixar lamp while flavor-of-the-moment Jimmy Fallon espouses a respect for tradition. “It is what it isn’t” is maybe the most transparent ploy to be everything to everyone in recent memory, and of course it means absolutely nothing. Somehow you have managed to promote a brand with history and substance as one that is the equivalent of a one-dimensional Hollywood set.

Sometimes we can be harsh with those we love. It is because of that love that I cannot believe you set out with these actions in mind. Like many of the brands I’ve worked with, I believe the allure of growth drew you to this shipwreck. Also, I choose to believe you had help. Perhaps an agency or consultant convinced you to follow other brands into Facebook without a clear purpose or voice, perhaps someone wooed you with the power of mass media, dazzled you with focus group quotes and Nielsen ratings. I choose to believe someone made promises of cultural relevancy, and you naively let them make a mockery of you.

In addition to having toured your grounds, I’m also an ambassador. Somewhere there, in a darkened barn, my name is written on one of your casks. Maybe it’s because of this that I take recent events so personally. This is the double edge of being cared about in the world, your brand is owned by your fans, your identity is part of ours. The more flaccid you become, the more embarrassment we feel.

In every email you send, you start with the following: “We’re committed to two things: Making great bourbon, and selling it the right way.”

It’s time to reaffirm that commitment through action. That is the true path to becoming a modern, culturally aware brand. You can do this by bringing the ambassador program into the 21st century and giving your most ardent and true fans a voice in the organization. You can do this by using the modern web to bring the experience I had touring your slice of Kentucky to the masses. You can do this by finding the people in the world that share your values and support their causes and aspirations. It seems a complete missed opportunity to me that you’ve always stood for the fingerprints of the maker, yet play no part in the largest creative revolution since The Renaissance that is unfolding in culture today.

Linger in this crossroads before you choose your path, and choose it wisely. You can be meaningful in the world without succumbing to the freneticism of our market-driven culture and the shallowness of our social media existence. The ideals of craft and quality which opened your doors in the 1950′s are just as relevant today, you need only find your voice again.

Your ambassador and admirer,
Bud Caddell


11 Feb, 2013 – leave a comment

ten digital strategists to watch

Julian Cole put together this list of digital brains for The Guardian (and kindly included yours truly). It’s truly excellent company to be with. Special thanks to Ana Andjelic for suggesting me.


10 Feb, 2013 – one comment

the world’s worst superhero

Worth a follow: a Twitter feed of all the ludicrous acts perpetrated by Florida men. @_FloridaMan


09 Feb, 2013 – leave a comment

a time traveler’s party

Say you’re a time traveler and you’ve already toured the entirety of human history. After a while, the outside world might lose a little of its luster. That’s why this time traveler celebrates his birthday partying with himself. Every year, he travels to an abandoned hotel in New York City in 2071, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and drinks twelve-year-old Scotch (lots of it) with all the other versions of who he has been and who he will be. Sure, the party is the same year after year, but at least it’s one party where he can really, well, be himself.

I just finished Sean Ferrell’s second novel, The Man in the Empty Suit, and I highly recommend it if you prefer your time travelers to have a well developed sense of self loathing, paranoia, and alcoholism.


04 Feb, 2013 – 3 comments

seek discomfort

I saw this image from Stefan Sagmeister’s “The Happy Show” which just opened at the Design Exchange in Toronto.

I love the simplicity of the statement and its meaning.

And it reminds me of some recent conversations I’ve had on the role of planning in advertising.

There are two, generalized, modes of thought. One is that the planner’s job is to study the cultural stream and find a way for a brand and its meaning to slip neatly into that current. The other path is to understand the cultural stream in order to redirect it in your favor. The latter requires considerably more media, a brazen message, and a willing brand. But I guarantee that the latter is also a helluva lot more fun to work on.


25 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment

the next big dating app?

According to a room full of LMU Mschool kids, Tinder is the app that’s sweeping the nation.

Here’s how it works:

  • See a picture of someone in your area
  • Swipe one way if they’re ugly
  • Swipe the other way if they’re hot
  • If you both swap hot, the app lets you connect

Brilliant. And everything Facebook isn’t right now – anonymity, zero effort, and UI genius.


24 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment

hacking with a purpose

You still have a few days to apply to be a Nike+ Accelerator Partner, which comes with $20k, bragging rights, and access to the Nike+ and Fuelband APIs and SDKs. It’s a good idea and something that Nike needs to be doing to catch-up to competitor FitBit which is dominating the emerging space through community co-creation.

But I wonder what the mark of success will be for Nike. User adoption of new services, a fuzzy set of engagement metrics, PR, polish, etc. If I was in charge, I’d be myopically interested in apps and services which demonstrate actual positive health outcomes. To me, this has always been the most important unanswered question of this category and it looks like I’m not alone:

“It’s like the wild, wild West,” said Dr. Atul Butte of the Stanford School of Medicine, who just started using a Fitbit and an Aria Scale. “For a drug company, there’s such a burden to show how [their product] works better. A gadget maker is … not required to show that data and that’s kind of unfair.”

“Probably, like most gadgets, these devices help those folks on the borderline, [those] ready to make behavioral changes and looking for something to tip them into healthy behaviors,” he added.

We’ve entered an era where data is easier to generate and easier to display, but I haven’t seen much maturity in our understanding of how data impacts behavior under specific contexts and with specific mechanics. Critically, we also don’t have a grasp on what unintended consequences these devices might be having (e.g. just by wearing one you might feel healthier and thus make poorer choices). I personally worry that these devices are seen solely as marketing products (aka the new watch) and not as a balance of marketing message and behavioral modifier.


18 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment

success?

This made me smile (and humbled, too).

Pssst. Shawn, we just call ourselves Inventionists now.

Best of luck. We need more of us.


15 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment

quotation

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.

– Ernest Hemingway