What’s white and white, and white, all over?

Posted by Emily

When you're perusing the grocery store aisles for your favorite carbonated beverage maybe you keep your eyes peeled until you see that famous red label with the white script, or perhaps you're a fan of that soft drink with the green and silver label. No matter your preferences, so much of what we know and love about our favorite brands is invested in their labels. I mean, yes, we love the taste of Coca Cola and that's why we drink it, but the red and white label is just so classically American - I guarantee there would be a worldwide uprising if Coca Cola decided to alter their label in any way. That said, would you be able to recognize your favorite brands if their labels were completely missing and were replaced with plain, stark-white "packaging?" Well, a strategic agent at Carbone Smolan Agency by day and a student at the SVA Master's in Branding program by night has taken it upon himself to paint famously branded objects white. For his "art project" he will select one branded object and paint it white; he will do this every day for 100 days, "removing all visual branding." Try your hand at identifying the label-less objects below and see how well you do!


Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes

Posted by Emily

Photo: mylifeistrue.org

If you need to feel inspired or reminded of the blessings in your own life, you should tune in to the My Life is True project. The thought-provoking My Life is True project invites you into the lives of ordinary people who volunteer their own profound trials and tribulations that resulted from the harsh economic times. Each person's story, produced by KQED, is no longer than two minutes and airs as public radio commentary on Perspectives and Marketplace. It's truly eye-opening to hear from people who have been on the front lines of the recession and survived. This project is a testament to Atticus Finch's famous words: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view; until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."


Encouraging Creativity at Work

Posted by Jennifer

Author Jonah Lehrer has some news for you on those brainstorming meetings your boss thinks are so effective. They don't work. In fact, good ideas are more likely to come out of taking a walk...or a nap. Of course, I don't recommend asking your boss for a pillow and a blanket quite yet...

Lehrer's new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, talks about the science of creativity.

He indicates that scientists are discovering that creativity comes in unexpected flashes and not so much when forced.

In fact, he tells a story about Procter & Gamble's search for a better cleaning product for use with a common household mop. After years of trial and error where P&G chemists had tried to create a better mousetrap, er mop, executives handed the problem off to an outside firm.

Realizing that they didn't know more chemistry than the "innovation powerhouse" that was P&G's chemistry staff, the consultants decided to get out in the field and actually watch people in action. The first thing they discovered, after watching people mop floors for more than nine months, was that people were spending more time cleaning the mop than they were doing the actual mopping.

One day during a site visit, they surreptitiously spilled coffee on the floor to see how someone would clean it. Instead of using a mop, as this person claimed she always did, she grabbed a paper towel and cleaned up the mess.

This little action led these chemists to realize that it wasn't the soap/cleaning product that was the problem...it was the tool itself. This small discovery led to the creation of P&G's wildly successful Swiffer, which is not much more than a mop handle with a disposable cloth on the end. But, it's fast, effective, allows people to see how much dirt they cleaned off their floors, and (probably most importantly) eliminates the problem of having to get the tool itself clean, because you just throw out the cloth when you're done.

He also discusses mental illness and creativity...and the fact that successful creatives are more than 40% more likely to suffer from bi-polar disorder than the general population (that explains your nutter of a boss, right?).

I personally think one of the most interesting things that came out his recent NPR interview was age as it relates to creativity. Studies show there are actually creative peaks based on the field you're in...careful...if you read on you may realize you're in middle age or even past your prime!

  • Physicist/Poet: late 20s/early 30
  • Biologist: late 30s
  • Historian: late 40s

However, he says, the loss of creativity is not inevitable, which is why some people can (and do) maintain their creativity for the duration of their careers.

Additionally, he talks about a recent study where scientists gave two groups of people a set of facts and asked them to come up with some solutions. The only difference is, one of the groups is told, as part of their instructions, to "...pretend you're seven years old."

The group that pretended to be seven years old solved more problems, even though they were only pretending for a few minutes. Simply by remembering what it's like to be a little kid, we're able to be more creative.

So, my takeaway lesson here is, to be my creative best in the office I need to wear a Hello Kitty T-shirt, leave one shoe untied, watch some more Phineas & Ferb, (re)read Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and dig in the dirt...and the ideas will come!


Newsweek Time Travels to 1965

Posted by Emily

Photo: adage.com

I've been breathlessly awaiting the return of Mad Men for far too long and can hardly wait until this Sunday, when the popular T.V. show finally returns to primetime. In collaboration with the highly anticipated season premiere of the 1960's era drama, Newsweek decided to take a trip back in time. The magazine's March 26/April 2 issue - featuring four of the Mad Men stars on the cover - has been published to look just as it did in 1965, complete with actual ads from the 1960's as well as modern ads designed to look as though they were created in the 1960's (click on the magazine to take a look at all of the retro ads, then vote for your favorite). This whole concept is probably one of the coolest "ad campaigns" for a T.V. show I have ever seen; but I wouldn't expect anything less from a drama all about the world of advertising. Now, excuse me while I go put on my red matchstick pants from Banana Republic's Mad Men collection, pour myself a gin and tonic and read the special edition of Newsweek - a girl can pretend!


Ever wondered what illusionists do with their free time?

Posted by Roger

So, what does an illusionist do in his spare time? Well, he creates a giant portrait using pushpins, of course! Brusspup, a YouTube illusionist, used Photoshop to break down a digital photo into five colors and, using 15,000 pushpins, created an amazing pushpin portraiture. Each colored pushpin functions as a pixel in the final image - a testament to creativity and dedication, rather than an "illusion." Luckily for us, the creation of Brusspup's artwork was captured in a seriously impressive time-lapse video. It's truly amazing what a little imagination, ingenuity and persistence can manifest.

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Excuse me, sir, did you know that you don’t have hair on your head?

Posted by Emily

Photo: Adweek.com

I recently came across one of the wittiest ad campaigns for a hair transplant solution called Panorama Hair. Albeit creative, the campaign is also SO SIMPLE. The Canadian company uses mirrors to point out men's bald spots by installing them in the ceilings of subway trains. How clever is that?! On the mirror is a sticker with brief copy that reads "THE HAIR LOSS SPECIALISTS" - along with the company's name, phone number and website. I am obviously not a balding man, so I find this campaign hilarious. But, many folks have taken offense to these ads, calling them cruel and embarrassing. Some critics have even compared the ads to "putting mirrors at chest-height with the address of a plastic surgeon for insecure women." That said, I still think the campaign is humorous. It's not any more offensive than huge billboards featuring buxom, bikini-clad twenty-somethings advertising weight loss supplements. What do you think - funny or mean?


The Scent of a Brand

Posted by Emily

Photo: alice965.com

I've been of "working age" for just shy of a decade and during that time I've had several awful jobs - an ice cream-scooper extraordinaire, a morning shift barista and a cocktail waitress, to name a few - but the worst job I ever had was in retail. I worked at a store called Hollister & Co. and one of my duties as a "floor model" was to walk around the store spraying everything with their signature cologne, So Cal. The cologne didn't smell awful but the store was completely saturated with the woodsy fragrance pour homme (you could smell the store before you even entered) and I would leave every shift with a terrible headache. As much as I hated spritzing, So Cal was an important part of the store's brand. Even if someone had only shopped at the store once, they knew that particular scent as Hollister's - mission accomplished. Little did I know that the first person to grasp the importance of fragrance in branding was none other than Coco Chanel. When she created her signature parfum Chanel No. 5 in 1921, Coco had her salesladies douse her French boutique with the pricey floral scent, top to bottom. However, with technology like automatic scent diffusers people no longer have to manually spray their stores like me and the Chanel salesladies. And, companies are catching on to the trend of scent-diffusing in droves: Westin, Victoria's Secret, Bloomingdale’s, British Airways, J.W. Marriott, Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco, Hugo Boss, Juicy Couture, Ritz Carlton and Jimmy Choo "all brand their retail environments with distinctive aromas (some custom-designed, some off-the-shelf) wafting through the lobbies and aisles." Smell is the strongest of our five senses so this marketing maneuver does make sense, but what do you think of fragrance being a primary factor in branding? Do you prefer to shop in boutiques that smell of daffodil blossoms and patchouli extract? I appreciate nice smells, but everyone's idea of a "nice smell" is different; I think that for major companies, like airlines and hotels, to diffuse their lobbies and cabins with the scent of spring meadows is risky business and could be a turn-off to some.

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No Boys Allowed – This Ad is For Women’s Eyes Only

Posted by Emily

Photo: i.bnet.com

We're all aware that once we leak our information into cyberspace there's no going back. Google knows things about us from the brand of shoes we pine after to our favorite dessert, knowledge they use to bombard us with targeted ads for Jimmy Choos and French Macaroons. The same goes for super stores like Target; swipe your credit card at Target and you're immediately assigned a unique customer ID number used to track every single one of your purchases so they can then mail you relevant coupons and ads (I'm sure you've heard about the father who found out about his daughter's pregnancy from Target?). Well, one company is taking this "invasion of privacy" one step further with high tech facial recognition software. "Plan UK's 'Because I Am A Girl' campaign uses facial recognition software mounted on a bus stop and, if it recognizes a female face - which the charity says it does accurately 90 percent of the time - shows the viewer a video from the 'Because I Am a Girl' campaign urging them to support the education of young women in developing countries." If the facial recognition technology detects a male face brief stats and a URL are shown, rather than the full video, in an attempt to drive the point home about what life is like for women who are not allowed basic rights. Does anyone else feel like this is a scene out of Minority Report? This new technology isn't necessarily taking note of your personal information, it's merely recognizing your sex, but is the advancement of technology and its use in advertising going too far? Will our great grandkids live in a world, like the one depicted in Minority Report, where we're greeted by holograms when we enter the GAP and our irises are scanned so they can provide us with suggestions based on previous purchases? I'm all for embracing new technology, so I'm not going to write this off just yet (I actually think it's pretty cool), but it does seem like our world is evolving into a place straight from the pages of a science fiction novel. Next thing you know we'll be perfecting the science cryogenics and ordering our burgers from androids.


All of life’s problems have been solved!

Posted by Roger

I came across the blog Stuff My Mom Sends Me this morning and learned some really innovative solutions to everyday problems that will leave you wondering,"Why didn't I think of that?!" I feel it would be wrong to keep these solutions to myself so I've decided to share a few of my favorites. I guarantee you'll want to try at least one of these ideas soon as you're finished read this.

I've always been told that a little bit of lemon juice will keep sliced apples from browning but, although this works, I don't like it when my apples taste lemony. Prevent your apple from browning by slicing it and then putting it back together! Keep the pieces in place with a rubber band.

No matter how hard one tries, it's near impossible to keep your linen closet neat and tidy. Try folding your sheets and then placing them within one of the set's pillow cases. Don't worry, if you keep reading I'll tell you how to get that fitted sheet nice and flat.

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to play the music on your iPhone louder than its tiny speakers would allow, but there were no iPhone speakers on hand? I have. Place your iPhone in a bowl for a makeshift sound amplifier!

Storing wrapping paper is no easy feat. It's awkwardly shaped and you can't cram it somewhere or you'll ruin it. Try hanging some wire at the top of a closet and place the wrapping paper on the wire as shown.

Finally! The secret to neatly folding those clumsy fitted sheets. Your mother will be proud.

We've all been there. You squeeze behind your desk to unplug your mouse only to find a snarled mess of black cords and you can't tell what goes to what. You yell for your spouse and while they jiggle the cord above the desk you crouch below the desk watching for movement. This little dance is then followed by a brief game of tug-o-war to ensure that you have, indeed, grabbed the proper wire. Save yourself some frustration and label your wires with bread bag clips!

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The Oscars are second only to the Super Bowl?

Posted by Emily

Photo: johnfarr.typepad.com

We're five days out from the Academy Awards so, naturally, there's ample buzz around the internet about what the celebs will be wearing on the red carpet, whether or not the "Best Picture" nominees deserve their accolades and, of course, Bill Crystal - whom many think is the best emcee to have ever graced the Oscar stage. The buzz that surprised me the most, however, was that the ad space for this year's Oscars sold much earlier than usual, and at a higher price. The price for a 30 second ad during the Academy Awards increased from $1.5 million last year to $1.7 million this year (in 2008, pre-recession, 30 seconds during the Oscars went for $1.8 million). This is interesting because most of what you read about the Oscars is virtual "tomato chucking." People rant about the award show being over-hyped, way too long, dreadfully boring and need we mention last year's Anne Hathway/James Franco train wreck? Poking fun at the Oscars has become a sport, if you will, and the ratings are abysmal - having dipped more than 15% during the past five years. Regardless, companies in search of prime ad space continue to disregard the award show's decreasing popularity and drop the big bucks. But, if you think about it, this makes sense. After the Super Bowl, the Oscars is the only other "big night" on T.V. - millions of people gather together to sit in front of the television on the same day to watch the same thing, some people even throw parties, and hype about the Oscars begins well before the month of February. This year, Hyundai takes the reins as the primary sponsor for the Academy Awards with a reported eight commercials to air during the show, joined by other big-buyers like Coca-Cola and JCPenney. A rep from Hyundai said that the Oscars is the perfect outlet to promote their snazzy new cars because they're looking to reach upper middle class females. Who watches the Oscars? "An upscale audience that's 70% female." So, best of luck to those who purchased Oscar ad space! With the abundance of online and social media promotion for this year's Oscars, and with Billy Crystal at the helm, it's a safe prediction that the 2012 Academy Awards will at least be more entertaining, if not higher rated, than the Academy Award Disaster of 2011.


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