November 14, 2014
November 13, 2014
A young artist and curator is running a gallery from her father’s button shop, reports Marina Garcia-Vasquez in The Wall Street Journal (11/10/14). When Amy Li finished art school, she couldn’t find a job "at a museum or art organization." So, she persuaded her father, owner of the He Zhen Snap Button Company in Chinatown, New York, to let her open a gallery in his shop. "There are so many assumptions attached to the word ‘gallery,’" says Amy. "This is just a space where I could work as a curator and art dealer."
She called her first show, in 2013, "Without Consent," a reference to her renegade status. Since then, she "has produced 10 art shows that have received accolades in the art world." Amy has managed to attract artists who "respect her professionalism, quiet temperament and dedication to community building." They also like "the button-shop concept: that an industrial workshop could house art, and that an aspiring gallerist works side-by-side with her father." The shop’s location "in a heavily trafficked neighborhood" is another draw.
Featured artists get into the spirit of the thing, with photographer Donna Ferrato using "grommet rings from the button shop to hang her photos on the gallery walls," for example. Amy’s success is that much more remarkable considering that "it’s almost not possible to open a gallery" in New York these days, notes artist Alfredo Martinez. Amy is now considering starting "her own museum in the neighborhood, turning an underused" building "as an art space where local schools can take students to learn about contemporary art."
November 13, 2014
A Chinese company is producing the "Model T" of drones, report Jack Nicas and Colum Murphy in The Wall Street Journal (11/11/14). "Back in the day, you could talk about cars, but pretty much every car on the road was one of the Model Ts," says Matt Waite of University of Nebraska, drawing the parallel. The ‘Model T’ of camera-equipped drones, popularly known as the Phantom, is made by Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology, which is "selling thousands of its 2.8-pound, square-foot devices for about $1,000 each."
This not only makes DJI "the world’s biggest drone maker by revenue," but also "the first Chinese brand to pioneer a major new global consumer product category." The Phantoms are attracting all kinds of interest, having "garnered fans for their aerial footage of extreme sports, fireworks and Niagara Falls, and famous users," including Steve Wozniak, Jamie Foxx and Martha Stewart. They are being used "in filmmaking, farming and construction — all in defiance of the FAA’s effective moratorium on commercial drones."
Founded in a university dorm room in 2006 by Frank Wang, DJI had "90 employees and $4.2 million in revenue in 2011." It now has 2,800 employees, three factories, and this year expects to post sales three to five times greater than in 2013, when it posted $130 million in revenue. This has led to growing pains, including lawsuits and customer-service issues. "Their innovation rose them to the top very quickly,’ says Stephen Burtt, CEO of Aerial Technology, a drone retailer. "But then it was: ‘Oh wait, how do we clean up the trail we just blazed?’"
November 12, 2014
A boyhood fascination with blimps and dirigibles is propelling a newfangled airship, reports Billy Witz in The New York Times (11/11/14). Igor Pasternak, 50, grew up in Lviv, Ukraine and "believes he is on the verge of developing an aircraft that will change the way large cargo can be shipped." He calls his innovation the Aeroscraft, and envisions a "770-foot long, silver-skinned airship, which is kept aloft by helium-filled tanks, delivering fresh fruit to Alaska, dropping triage units at disaster sites or depositing heavy machinery into remote locations."
The Aeroscraft "will take off and land like a helicopter," controlling descent via a system that replaces (non-flammable) helium with oxygen, which is heavier. The craft would have twice the capacity of a C-5 cargo plane, and a range of about 5,870 miles. Igor believes the Aeroscraft will be ready in about four years’ time and predicts it will "transform the distribution of goods the way the Internet has transformed communication." Chris Caplice of MIT isn’t so sure. "It has uses, but they are narrow," he says.
Chris suspects the Aeroscraft may go through the Gartner hype curve, "in which a period of inflated expectation is followed by the trough of disillusionment, which eventually gives way to a middle ground as a product finds its niche." The comparison is to RFID, which has "not quite revolutionized how people keep track of things." Igor is pressing on, however. Much of the development cost has "been covered by government military contracts," but Igor says he plans to derive future financing from sales.
November 12, 2014
Little old trailers from the 1950s and ’60s are enjoying a comeback, reports Steven Kurutz in The New York Times (11/6/14). Kelle Arvay loves her 13-foot 1955 Bellwood travel trailer, with "its rounded aluminum shell exemplifying all that is sleek and sturdy about mid-century design." She keeps it, under a carport, in her yard. "Sleeping in one of these is just great," she says. "Especially at night, if it starts raining. It’s a great sound, the rain on the roof." She owns a 1968 Shasta Compact, measuring just 10 feet long, as well.
Kelle also buys, restores and sells old trailers, and chronicles her passion on a blog, littlevintagetrailer. She’s not the only one making money. J. Wes Yoder bought and fixed up "a ’63 Shasta on eBay for $1,900." Parked in his backyard, he rents it on Airbnb and says it was occupied almost every day for the past year. "A lot of people who stay here talk about how simple it is," he says. Old trailers "are being repurposed in all kinds of ways: as a roadside bakery stand, as vacation homes … as backyard writing or painting studios."
Some see the trailers as a time capsule, and want only original parts. Others, like Mandi Gubler, relish the chance to "transform an old shell," remaking a 1972 Bell trailer, painting the stove white and cantaloupe and installing a pine floor. Marsha Heckman bought and re-decorated a 29-foot Airstream instead of adding onto her home. Given such "renewed popularity, Shasta reissued its 1961 Airflyte," known for its "canned-ham shape," with updated appliances and a bathroom, but otherwise "preserved the classic styling."
November 12, 2014
Previously overlooked for their ubiquity, vintage travel posters are now prized as art, reports Greg Beato in The New York Times (10/26/14). An Australian poster from 1935 recently sold for $1,250 and a 1931 poster "that portrays the bow of an ocean liner in a highly stylized Art Deco manner, brought $50,880." Such posters typically were "printed on cheap paper," but "their glamour" has endured. "These posters were telling you how you should live your life," says Nicholas D. Lowry, an auctioneer.
The Australian poster, "’To the Seaside by Train‘ … doesn’t depict a seaside or a train. Nor does it feature any element that suggests ‘Australia’ in any way … Instead, the poster is built around an illustration of a man and a woman in white, form-flaunting bathing suits … Their toned limbs and radiant smiles are so vital and incandescent they overwhelm the rest of the universe … Travel, the poster suggests, isn’t about going to some physical place. It’s about achieving an emotional state." The poster also advises: "Take a Kodak."
That particular Kodak moment was part of a cooperative advertising agreement, however most people in ’30s-era travel posters looked "more than ready for a selfie." Recognizing the modern-day allure of vintage travel posters, Ritz-Carlton recently "updated its smartphone app with a feature that lets users create their own vintage-style posters by applying the destination titles, stamps and other effects to the snapshots they take on their trips." A much older technology — railways in 1880s France — is credited with the rise of travel posters. They connected the world, says Nicholas, "like the Internet."
November 11, 2014
Why shoppers do what they do at the store. A Hub book excerpt by Dan Flint of University of Tennessee and Chris Hoyt & Nancy Swift of Hoyt & Company. In-store shopping behavior may be motivated by mood, the joy of a bargain, the pleasure of the in-store experience, or impulse. An initial purchase can provide a psychological impulse for shopping momentum that prompts purchases of unrelated items. Impulse shopping, the sudden and powerful urge to buy immediately, has gained a lot of attention in practice, as well.
Some drivers of impulse buying seem to be promotions, momentum, and the presence of others. Practitioners have even begun to draw on neurology and behavioral economics to build on these scholastic bases. Music, lighting, and the overall excitement projected in a store impact the amount of time shoppers spend in a store, as well as their emotional connection to a store. Shoppers also take cues from a store’s social environment, the overall ambiance of the store, and from the moods and credibility of retailer salespeople. Read The Rest of The Book Excerpt.
November 11, 2014
Podcasts are rising as an intimate medium of advertising, reports Steven Perlberg in The Wall Street Journal (11/7/14). It seems some "15 percent of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month, up from nine percent in 2008," and even though the medium doesn’t have "the kind of big reach that, say, TV, can offer … listeners are attentive while they are listening to their favorite podcast shows. And a voice of authority can rub off on the ads, which are usually in the form of a plug directly from the host."
"With podcasts, what you may not be getting in raw numbers — scale — you’re going to make up for at least partially in how engaged the audience is," says Paul Verna of eMarketer. "It’s not like banner ads where you’re just putting them out there and hoping that 0.03 percent of your audience is going to click it." That kind of connection is not "exactly cheap," though. An ad on Serial, one of the most popular podcasts, costs $25 to $40 per thousand listeners. Serial centers on a real-life murder mystery and attracts a million people per episode.
Podcasts have come a long way since "the iPod burst onto the scene in the early 2000s." At the time, they didn’t really catch on as an advertising medium given "the rise of newer channels like Web video." However, these days, "thanks to smartphones and wif-fi," podcasts are "less like downloadable music and more like Internet radio — an increasingly attractive platform for advertisers." The appeal to listeners, says Yale Cohen of ZenithOptimedia, is that podcasts can now be streamed, and the experience is much more like Internet radio.
November 10, 2014
Even though digital maps dominate, paper maps retain appeal, reports Lucette Lagnado in The Wall Street Journal (11/7/14). "In an age of mass-produced digital maps, custom cartography still has value," says Daniel Huffman, "an officer of the North American Cartographic Information Society, a more than 400-member organization whose ranks include paper mapmakers, those who have gone over to the digital side, and some who do both." Daniel believes that the best paper map "is like a poem."
Ryan Sullivan, an Oregon-based cartographer, says he "set out to create the coolest print map possible," with the specific goal of encouraging "young Hispanic residents in Portland suburbs to walk and bike more. (link) Because many of those residents lacked iPhones or access to computers, paper was deemed ideal." "We hoped they could pin it up like a poster in their bedrooms." The maps were distributed "the old fashioned way — by hand." Alan Grossman, another cartographer, approached a map of Memphis in a similarly inspired way.
"I grew up with maps, and I still find a real map comforting and easy to read," says Alan, who also grew up listening to Elvis Presley. He invested about $50,000 in an Elvis map, "showing all possible points of interest, including those that no longer existed, such as the local draft board where Elvis registered in 1953." The map is set on a "pastel peach landscape, bordered by an azure blue Mississippi River," complete with hand-drawn landmarks. When asked if he would also do an app, he replied: "Why do you need an app? Look what’s in your hands."
November 10, 2014
Innovation is an analogy, says John Pollack, author of Shortcut, in a Wall Street Journal essay (11/8/14). No less an authority than Thomas Edison believed that the innovator had "a logical mind that sees analogies." The Wright Brothers, for instance, in designing a flying machine, "saw an analogy to the machine that they already designed, manufactured and repaired for a living — the bicycle. Both were unstable vehicles requiring nuanced balance and control in three dimensions; both fell if they lost too much forward momentum."
The brothers wisely rejected the more obvious "bird" analogy, recognizing that flapping wings "had nothing to do with the intrinsic dynamics of flight; rather it reflected the challenges of propulsion unique to birds." Charles Darwin combined two analogies when developing the theory of evolution. One "drew a parallel between biology and geology" and the other between "breeding in agriculture and natural selection in the wild." This led to a "systematic approach for understanding gradual change in virtually any complex system."
Bill Klann, a young mechanic for the Ford Motor Company, arrived at the concept of the assembly line after "watching butchers at a meatpacking plant disassemble carcasses moving past them along an overhead trolley." This triggered the parallel idea that cars similarly could be assembled "by adding pieces to a chassis moving along rails." Steve Jobs made his breakthrough by recognizing the computer as a digital "desktop." He also advocated for simplicity, which of course is the very seed — or core — of analogy.
November 10, 2014
How we hear music is closely linked to how we experience architecture and design, reports Ben Sisario in The New York Times (10/26/14). "Music is this invisible, intangible medium, but we couldn’t hear or relate to it other than through design and architecture," says Juliet Kinchin of the Museum of Modern Art, curator of "Making Music Modern: Design for Eye and Ear," a year-long exhibit. "Our whole sense of what music is — how it’s performed, how it’s distributed, how we listen — that’s all shaped through design."
The show gets at this connection through "posters, LP covers, sheet music and architectural designs." For example, a poster from 1890 features the Theatrophone, "a long-vanished technology that let people listen to live music transmitted over telephone cables — something like the Spotify or Pandora of its day." It depicts a young woman who tilts "her head slightly as two thin wires dangle from the earphones toward a small electronic box. It’s the same basic pose that in the mid-2000s sold millions of iPods."
The exhibit also features architect Daniel Libeskind’s Chamber Works, a series of drawings he says were his "first rigorous attempts to connect music and architecture … Architecture is based on drawings," he says. "A drawing is a score — it’s a code, a language that has to be communicated to performers who then have a certain amount of leeway in interpreting that structure." The exhibit, which opens November 15, will incorporate "sound domes," that rains "a focused shower of sound on visitors," as they view related works of art.
November 7, 2014
Five keys to retail excellence with big-ticket brands. A Hub white paper by Stacey Rubin of Catapult. Take a look at the 2014 Hub Top 20 report on shopper-marketing excellence and you’ll see that packaged-goods companies dominate the brand side. In fact, the top 10 is solely composed of packaged-goods companies. However, as more durables brands introduce and embed shopper marketing into their organizations, don’t be surprised to see a shake up on that list in the next few years.
Shopper marketing originated in the packaged-goods sector — its frequency of purchase demanded it, and it had the resources to excel at it — but the durables category is now also coming into its own. Historically, durable-goods brands would focus relatively more attention and resources on developing a big ‘branding’ campaign. Oftentimes, the work was not aligned either strategically or creatively with in-store marketing communications. The result was that shoppers were not getting a cohesive message across the path-to-purchase or given the proper motivation to take the next step at each stage. Read The Rest of the White Paper.
November 7, 2014
Being eloquent is about mastering the basics of obscure rhetorical devices, reports Henry Hitchings in a Wall Street Journal review of The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth (10/31/14). "There’s syllepsis, which involves using a single word in two or more ways with incongruous effects. Thus Dorothy Parker on the smallness of her apartment: ‘I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends’. There’s the sandwich effect known as diacope," such as "Martin Luther King’s ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last."
Or, the "epizeuxis, a form of immediate repetition exemplified in British prime minister Tony Blair’s insistence that his government’s chief priorities were ‘Education. Education. Education’." It also helps to master "the way in which we sequence adjectives." Here’s the rule: "opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material purpose — ‘so you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac’."
Shakespeare’s greatness was in his mastery of such rhetorical flourishes, "composing his works with increasing intricacy." According to Mark, "Shakespeare was not a genius," but got "better and better, which was easy because he started badly, like most people starting a new job." His point is that anyone can learn rhetorical devices, and he "moves in 39 succinct chapters through techniques such as hyperbaton (deliberate disruption of a sentence’s logical word order) and enallage (calculated disregard for conventional syntax)."
November 6, 2014
Positive thinking depletes our drive to achieve our goals, writes Gabriele Oettingen in The New York Times (10/26/14). Gabriele bases this observation, in part, on a study of women in which the more positively they imagined themselves losing weight, the fewer pounds they lost. She also cites a 2011 study in which groups of students who were asked to imagine that the week ahead would be great "went on to accomplish less during that week" than students who were "just asked to write down any thoughts about the week that came to mind."
"Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slacking our readiness to pursue it," she writes. The solution, she says, is not to dwell "on the challenges or obstacles," because studies show this "doesn’t work out any better than entertaining positive fantasies. What does work better is a hybrid approach that combines positive thinking with ‘realism.’" The idea is first to "imagine the wish coming true" and then imagine "all the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your wish."
Gabriele calls the process "mental contrasting," and says it "has produced powerful results in laboratory experiments. When participants have performed mental contrasting with reasonable, potentially attainable wishes, they have come away more energized and achieved better results compared with participants who either positively fantasized or dwelt on the obstacles." She concludes: " Like so much in life, attaining goals requires a balanced and moderate approach, neither dwelling on the downsides nor jumping for joy."
November 6, 2014
When it comes to watches, some women like them with complications, reports Kathleen Beckett in The New York Times (11/5/14). Complications, in this context, means "mechanisms that increase a watch’s accuracy or capabilities.” For Andrea Seifert, that means a "flip-over watch with back-to-back dials that can show the time in two zones." It’s not just about the functionality, as Andrea is also impressed with the technology. "What’s unusual is that the two dials are controlled by the same movement," she says.
Women seem to gravitate toward moon-phase watches, in particular. "I love the look of it, and the movement of the moon," says Eva Malmstrom Shivdasani, a creative director. "It’s a stunning watch, so beautiful. I don’t use it for function, I just like the beauty of it. " Marina Lunkina, a publicist, meanwhile appreciates the functionality. She uses her moon-phase watch to time her salon appointments. "Hair will grow faster if you cut it on a growing moon," she says." A waning moon is preferable "if you would like to keep the hairstyle unchanged."
What women look for in a watch, says Beatrice Rouhier of Chaumet, is poetry. "For women, the point is, yes, it is a technical watch — but it is a watch that tells a story. Van Cleef & Arpels is on the same track, having "trademarked ‘Poetry of Time’ and ‘Poetic Complications’ to describe a collection of jeweled watches with complications." Karen Giberson of the Accessories Council, thinks the trend is linked to increasing female comfort with technology. "Things that used to seem geeky or intimidating are now common," she says.
November 5, 2014
Taxidermy holds perhaps surprising appeal among women, reports Kate Murphy in The New York Times (10/30/14). Some taxidermy classes are said to attract "women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Men take the classes as well … but usually with a girlfriend or spouse." Lessons include "skinning, disemboweling, wiring the animal and making a mold … followed by lots of grooming and preening using tweezers and blow dryers, to get the animal looking as fresh and lifelike as possible."
"It’s kind of like sculpture, kind of like painting, almost like hairdressing, almost like sewing," says Nina Masuda, a graphic designer who has "stuffed a starling, a quail and a squirrel." "I thought it would be all scienc-y, and I’m, like, fluffing up this bird’s hair, trying to give it volume." Adding to the intrigue, some classes are held in tattoo parlors and restaurants, and include "how to prepare the meat for eating," although some students reportedly are vegans.
Art supplies sometimes are sourced from services that raise and euthanize animals "as food for reptiles and large cats." Taxidermist Allis Markham objects to using animals raised "in an industrial way" and sources from "pest control operators" or game breeders after the animals have died naturally. Female interest in taxidermy actually dates back to Victorian times, and taxidermist Margot Magpie thinks the appeal may be "the illusion of cheating death." "Making something that’s dead look alive again helps some people come to terms with death," she says.
November 5, 2014
Hollywood is setting examples that other industries should follow, reports the Economist (11/1/14). In some ways, "food and consumer-goods makers" already resemble the movie business, with its focus on "a narrower range of ‘blockbusters’" and endless pursuit of "buzz." Of course, any successful business requires creative people, and understand "how to harness their strengths for commercial gain without strangling their free-spiritedness." Hollywood does this well by hiring "a fresh creative team for each film," giving them control and credit.
Few other industries foster Hollywood’s brand of teamwork, notes Mark Young of USC, or temper it with a heavy dose of job insecurity. Indeed, people tend to "work hard and collaborate well in the movie business in part because" they are freelancers who know they "will not get hired for the next film unless they prove themselves on the current one." Hollywood also embraces "constant revisions," and encourages "constructive criticism" that improves the product. Failures "are tolerated because they are so common."
The movie business is remarkably good at "launching brands that achieve global prominence in a matter of days." It invests nearly as much on promoting its films as it does on the films themselves, and "manages to come up with new brands on a near-weekly basis. The key is to treat the marketing as a core part of the project, rather than as an afterthought." Ultimately, Hollywood fixates on profitability, and, like Silicon Valley, increasingly relies on outside financing, which "protects against crippling losses when a film flops."
November 5, 2014
"As politics has gotten more scientific, the campaigns have gotten worse," writes David Brooks in The New York Times (11/4/14). David attributes this to a "data-driven style of politics" that’s "built on a philosophy you might call Impersonalism. This is the belief that what matters in politics is the reaction of populations and not the idiosyncratic judgment, moral character or creativity of individuals. Data-driven politics assumes … that the electorate is not best seen as a group of free-thinking citizens but as a collection of demographic slices."
Data-driven politics "puts the spotlight on the reactions of voting blocs and takes the spotlight off the individual qualities of the candidates. It puts the spotlight on messaging and takes the spotlight off product: actual policies. It puts the spotlight on slight differences across the socio-economic spectrum and takes the spotlight off the power of events to reframe the whole mood and landscape. This analytic method encourages candidates across the country to embrace the same tested, cookie-cutter messages." They "sacrifice their own souls."
This contradicts the very nature of politics, inherently "a personal enterprise. Voters are looking for quality of leadership, character, vision and solidarity that defies quantification. They "don’t always know what they want, but they look to leaders to jump ahead of the current moment and provide visions they haven’t thought of." Trust is built "not through a few targeted messages but by fully embodying a moment and a people. They often don’t pander to existing identities but arouse different identities."
November 4, 2014
What can brand marketers learn from marathon training? A Hub white essay by Larry Deutsch of Blue Chip Marketing. When friends or colleagues ask me, "How do you run a marathon?" The answer I give them is quite simple: One mile at a time. After seven marathons, I have accumulated enough running time to consider how marathon training might apply to what I do during the day as a brand marketer.
Like great runners, all great brands are built from their core — from the inside out. However, all too often, marketing and sales organizations recognize the need to be more strategic, but default to the more tactical muscle memory. They know they need to advance shopper marketing, but hesitate to swap an old, proven vehicle to develop a new digital or social platform. Read The Rest of the White Paper.
November 4, 2014
Macy’s Herald Square "now encompasses nearly an entire city block," reports Natasha Singer in The New York Times (11/3/14). This means the store "occupies a singular place in American retailing," and the intent is to offer "a vast array of goods at prices so varied that everyone can afford to buy something." Tourists, especially: "Because of its location a block from the Empire State Building, the store attracts roughly six million tourists a year, several million of them from outside the United States."
Tourists from "Brazil, China and other emerging-market nations with growing middle and upper classes" are "hungry for luxury logos." This factored heavily into the four-year, $400 million overhaul of Macy’s flagship, spearheaded by CEO Terry Lundgren. Once completed, next year, the renovation will add "100,000 square feet of selling space" and will be poised to set a new standard relative to Selfridges in London, Isetan in Tokyo, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and El Corte Ingles in Madrid, for example.
In part this involves installing luxury boutiques from Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry, as well as a new upscale cafe serving Starbucks Reserve coffee. "It’s more of a European style for you to relax during the day," says Terry. The store will also be easier to navigate — the original layout actually was designed to cause people to lose their way, in hopes they would spend more time and money. Macy’s has also streamlined its logistics for timely merchandising, and armed associates with iPads to improve internal communications and customer service.
Kirk Lance is building his Mexican restaurants out of shipping containers, reports Elizabeth Garone in The Wall Street Journal (11/3/14). Kirk "was frustrated that he couldn’t recover the tens of thousands of dollars he had sunk into outfitting" a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant, only to have his improvements revert back to his landlord when his lease ended. So he "bought a shipping container for $2,500, retrofitted it and turned it into a new Mexican eatery called Aprisa in Portland, Ore."
"I can pick up the entire building and leave with it if it doesn’t work out," says Kirk, who says he also likes that he is recycling a container that otherwise might have been junked. He sees other environmental benefits, as well: "We are able to operate much more efficiently than traditional restaurants because we require much less energy to heat and cool," he says. So far, his plan has "worked so well that he opened another container restaurant in the city and began franchising restaurants in shipping containers."
In San Francisco, Smitten Ice Cream "took a rusted-out, 40-foot shipping container, cut it in half and turned it into a highly energy efficient ice-cream shop," says founder Robyn Sue Fisher. However, Robyn says the approach can be more expensive than brick-and-mortar, given "all the regulations and the complex, multi-stage approval process" associated with converting shipping containers into retail. Because of this, her three other stores are "brick-and-mortar shops with container-like corrugated walls."