Friday, March 27, 2009

Ludwig Wittgenstein The Shack Apologist

Serendipity! I am reading an article in either Atlantic Monthly or Harper's (I am always chewing one of them to bits) in the Book Reviews Section - which I swear every month I will skip, and I always read....

This review is of a book about The House of Wittgenstein, ala, Ludwig, the youngest son and one of my favorite Philosophers. I don't know which came first for me, Bertrand Russell or Wittgenstein, it's like the chicken and the egg. I was fascinated. This was not the Plato, DesCartes, Hume, Hegel who I had been writing papers about for 3 years! This was short, logical, beautiful.

Wittgenstein refused his share of his families' considerable fortune. He had but one published work in his life. Much of his writing was rescued from the "peat cottage" where he spent his final days.

There we have it. No longer shall I be calling the home choices of the brilliant but misunderstood, "shacks".

Serendipity again: this morning I read an article on called The Hipster Depression. The takeaway for me was this, "Bohemia is not an alternate reality"; 'the scene depends on a host of socio-economic forces. My friend was nothing if not Bohemian. I like to think I am too.

That REALLY got me to thinking because I read an article earlier this week that was referenced on a Tweet. The takeaway from that article is that Branding is dead. It is no longer a top-down phenomenon but personal. Brand loyalty and ultimately purchase decisions, are based on personal recommendations (socio-economic forces?).

When I think of my own purchase decisions, this is often all too true. I'm a Cool T Shirt Addict. I never would have heard of Trunk, Ltd., or Ed Hardy if my sister hadn't told me I'd love them. I wouldn't have known about my beloved Juicy Couture terry pants if I hadn't seen an ad for online, RIGHT NEXT TO an article declaring sweat suit couture "dead". That was 5 years ago and 9 pairs of pants later. Juicys are NOT sweat pants!

It looks as if the "Online Community", the personal recommendation, IS becoming the new branding mechanism. For instance, I collect dolls (no laughing, OK, go ahead). I am always on Ebay looking for dolls, and things to put on my dolls. Not one of these dolls would I have known about had I not followed the bread crumbs on Ebay. I'd have allot more money too. I HAD TO HAVE a Pullip doll a few years ago, so cute! Until I got her and any pose I put her in, she fell over and her wig fell off because her head weighs a pound and her body weighs an ounce. I sold her on Ebay.

Another take away from the Branding is Dead article: a physical store, such as Macy's, is increasingly a show room. The actual purchase is then made online. I do and do not get this. Why pay for shipping if you're buying a set of china or a bed frame? On the other hand, if I see expensive shoes or jeans (or china) I'll skip the in-store purchase because I can probably get the same thing for less online.

Not always. There is the Rachel Pally Long Full Skirt presented to me in an email from I fell in love. I spent what I spent on knock-offs until nothing was cutting the mustard - and I broke down and paid full price. It's worth EVERY PENNY. I wear it all the time. I'd wear it every day if that was Bohemian and not creepy. I AM loyal to the Rachel Pally and Juicy Couture Brands - but ONLY due to the online and email marketing done by I simply cannot afford to shop on that site often (LOVE the sales), but it is my Go To Site for great clothes and ideas.

Then I think of one of my favorite place in the world, The Moravian Bookshop, in Bethlehem, PA I live a couple of hours from there so I don't get to go there that often. It's an amazing place, books, housewares, bakery! They have a web site with a shopping cart - but not everything is catalogued and available for purchase on the web site. Gosh darn it. That is a case where the store IS a showroom for the virtual realm. They sell a line of stemware that is relatively inexpensive yet very attractive - and not available in my town. When I break a piece, I'd love to be able to go online and replace it - at The Moravian Bookshop. I'm loyal to that store.

Branding kind of is dead. Who spends a significant amount of time watching television or listening to the radio (Applebee's outdoor advertising is still killer!)? Online communities and their word of mouth plus their ad space = the new brand awareness.

Oh, and a shack is not a shack. It's a peat cottage. I feel much better, but still ashamed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Birthday and Thanks for the Molotov Cocktails!

Saturday I turned 40. I forwent the Botox. I couldn't justify the enormous vanity expense right now. Maybe some other day. We stopped at UPS to pick up a mystery parcel Friday morning. It was 2 old Anchor Steam bottles filled with SOMETHING and stopped with 2 old wine corks. Maybe it was free Restalyne? I think it was Molotov Cocktails.

It was a singularly strange weekend.

While I was having a Happy Birthday Cocktail the phone rang, and with that ring, there went the weekend.

It was a friend (he collects the strays of the world) of my Dad's who is WAY down on his luck and always has been. He has some health issues, mostly mental as far as I can tell. He is variously a Druid, a Native American, a Vietnam vet.... All of it may be true. I've heard stories about him doing a Native American dance 'n chant around a fire in his yard. Glad I missed it. I was at a party there once. I am pretty sure I was served, and ate a bite of, human flesh. My husband swears it was bear. I was told it was prime rib. OF WHATTTTT!!!!!

He and his wife, a wonderful, smart, well-read woman, live in a shack, an actual real, live, honest-to-God, shack in the woods. She used to be a teacher. I don't know what happened there - why she chose the eventual life she chose. It's none of my business. There really ARE people who live outside the box. I know more than my fair share of them. Some of 'em are scary lunatics. AVOID.

This man's wife, my friend, died suddenly Friday afternoon.

**ASIDE**My Dad knows another dude who is definitely from an important military family. The OSS has been verified. I'm certain the Army tested out the LSD on him. He's not too bad, just nuts. His wife, she's evil. They live in a shack too. No way am I visiting that shack, let alone cleaning it.

I have spent countless summer and fall evenings knocking back more than a few beers with her (the teacher, not the Devil's Hand Maiden), talking about literature and ideas. Thoroughly enjoyable times. I'm not too fancy for a shack and cheap beer. I'm such a heel too - I haven't been to see her since my Mom became ill, for a number of reasons, mostly because I didn't have time. LAME. She has sent books home for me to borrow, that I haven't read and haven't returned. Note to self: read those books and quit it with the HuffPo in the evenings!

What does this have to do with advertising and marketing? Nothing. Sort of.

Saturday morning I rode to the mountains with my Dad to pay my respects. The road to my Dad's hunting lodge was closed due to a hydrofluoric acid spill. Heck, why not, it couldn't get any creepier could it? I'm surprised we weren't involved in the accident that caused the spill!

We made it to the mountains in twice the time. We dropped off a chicken and stuffing dish, enough to feed a small army. I asked her husband if he needed help. He said "yes" so I spent my 40th birthday helping her sisters clean the shack for the memorial service. I challenge any gym to have a better work out than vacuuming a home with a Dirt Devil!

I asked him what he had planned for food the service. He told me he had no money whatsoever so he no food planned. Oh dear - not on my watch. There will be no party of any sort without church-clean and plenty of food. My chicken and stuffing was not going to cut the mustard for an entire memorial service! I ordered sandwich and desert trays from the grocery store (then called my Dad at his cabin to tell him when he could pick them up and pay for them). I can't believe it but I used a phone book! There was a computer available but I was too stressed out to even think of it.

We made it in home from the mountains in twice the time. My sister was at my Dad's so we could go out to dinner for my birthday. Forget it. I needed a shower more than anything (that shack was pretty dirty) and then a drink. We ordered pizza. I had a drink before the shower. In fact, I had ½ a bottle of wine. It wasn't cheap wine either. It was Special Birthday Wine. I didn't even taste it.

We spend so many hours thinking of how to get ahead, how to be the witty innovators, the cool kids. This Creative Class or whatever you'd like to call it - we are a walking advertisements for living outside the box. Are we though? Do we even want to? I guess it depends which box we're talking about, or shall I say, "shack"?

At the end of the day, we are advertisers and we are consumers. We innovate by what we consume. We're walking advertisements for ipods and iphones, Doc Martens and vintage clothing.

Sure, I'll sit around drinking Schlitz in a shack, but Heaven forbid I'm not in a pair of Juicys with my super funk glasses, Havaianas and vintage cut-up t shirt.

Before this economic melt down or whatever moniker it's going by today - Heaven forbid I miss that Prince concert, no matter if it was half-way around the world. I never left the country for a Prince concert, but I thought about it.

I've been called a princess by people who have allot more money than I do. I'm really not. You won't catch me butchering a deer.... or drinking those Molotov Cocktails, but you're darn tootin' I'll break my back to scour a shack in the woods, including the toilet.

I think it all depends on your audience. Who are you selling to? How do you reach them? Especially NOW? Newspapers are going, going gone; network television is less relevant. You could reach ME on Huff Po but all I see there is yellow teeth, Acai berries, and flat bellies.

You could reach the Shack People via the internet as well. There were TWO computers in the shack. I'm sure they go online and open email. They have to have opted into a great many lists. And that's just the Shack People (and I could be one of them any day, so I have nothing against Shack People).

Ima shut up now - however, I truly think the new advertising/brand building tool will be some combination of internet tools, Facebook, Twitter, Google, blogs and email blasts. Whaddya think?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hello Kitty Loves Philly Beer Week

I was so concerned that we wouldn't make it to Philly, the hotel, and the Special Event at Comcast Center to kick off Philly Beer Week by 7:00 p.m. last Friday. We made it in the nick of time - to wait in a line stretching ALL THE WAY AROUND THE BLOCK. Thankfully it wasn't too cold; it was actually kind of nice - one might call call it, "breezy" except it was really windy. There were television crews set-up outside! A thousand (may I call them?) Yuppies! I was going to meet a rock star for sure!

Let me be blunt. The event sucked. Yes, the midweek email blast was brilliant marketing. I cannot have been the only person in that line who was spurred on by the email. is a tourism site. Clearly the message was for out-of-towners: get a hotel, make a weekend of it, or a week; eat at our restaurants, drink in our bars, support our local economy.

Allow me to elaborate: Once inside the Comcast Center we were kindly provided with a plastic "beer glass" and let loose to check out the scene. There was a band setting up, we were graciously informed that there was "more beer downstairs" - good thing since there was barely a drop upstairs!

Downstairs was a Food Court, yup, a Food Court, just like you'd find in any mall... maybe a TAD more upscale. Hey, a Food Court is a Food Court! There were approximately 20-30 independent brewers set up at card tables. I like a craft brew. I'm fine with a Food Court. I enjoy playing cards. But this was a mish mash that simply did not add up or work out.

The brewers, I learned, were asked to donate their beers for the event. I'm not clear (it was loud) if they were inevitably paid, but the mere donation suggestion, or the blunt reality of not being paid seems to have soured (good pun but I didn't mean it) the mood of the brewers. They were very friendly to the public but they sure didn't seem to be overjoyed about being there.

The samples were minimal. The card tables were arranged as attractively as possible had they been given an hour's notice. The marketing materials were MINIMAL. I have to think the brewers had more than one hour to prepare. WHO coordinated this event???? It sure wasn't Hello Kitty!

My point is this: the price of the tickets combined with the "service charge" (what service would that be?) was enough for my husband and me to have gone to a nice brew pub and downed a few with a couple of appetizers without leaving our neighborhood. We didn't even notice until we were leaving (early) that there was yet another card table in a dusty corner with complimentary snacks.

Why I ask, WHY bother to employ brilliant marketing techniques in order to draw a sold out crowd to your basic Chamber of Commerce Mixer? I didn't even meet a rock star :~(. By the way, that band setting up where there was little beer to be had? They were awful. I hope they weren't paid if the brewers had to donate the beer. We left in a hurry when they started to murder Good Times, Bad Times.

There very simply was NO EVENT. It was a "make your own event" event.

So let's talk about Hello Kitty instead. A few weeks ago I got a direct mail piece from MAC Cosmetics in the shape of Hello Kitty's face - all done in shades of black - very punkchic. I was happy to know I'm not the only geek out there who is fascinated by Hello Kitty (is it because back in the late 70's our Mom's wouldn't let us have those unbearably cute little Hello Kitty pencils?).

Yeah, I like MAC almost as much as I like Hello Kitty so I was on the web in record time to check out the colors. I decided not to buy via the internet because who knows what the colors REALLY look like. I knew I'd be in Philly eventually, where I could browse the collection in the boutique.

That's exactly what I did for my second Philly Beer Week event. The Hello Kitty colors were not for me, but man, the little pleather stuffed HK was adorable :~). The MAC piece was Better Brilliant Marketing. I couldn't get it off my mind. I made a bee line to the boutique first thing Saturday morning. Hell, it wasn't even open when I got there! I didn't buy any of the Hello Kitty Collection (including the stuffed toy) but I DID buy some other colors.

The mail piece could not have been inexpensive to create but it had to have been worth it. It drove traffic to the MAC site, it drove traffic to MAC counters in department stores, it drove traffic to MAC boutiques. The cash I spent on colors was not in the budget but I didn't care. That matters these days. Caveat I am NOT promoting irresponsible spending. I knew if I bought a lipstick and a pigment powder, I could still eat this week. I'm thankful for that. The point is, you still need to market because people are still buying things that are not in the budget.

So you already had to like MAC; you also had to already like beer. I'll be back at MAC. I won't make the mistake of attending Philly Beer Week again. One would think it goes without saying that if you are going to invest in marketing, you'd better have something there to back it up with. What a waste. A bare minimum of effort at coordination could have made Philly Beer Week - from kick off (dead in the water) to the last beer brunch on Sunday, a memorable, relatively inexpensive and FUN event that out-of-towners will want to attend every year.

If you've got a marketing budget for a possibly HUGE recurring event, please make an effort; put on a show. You don't have to spend a mint to look impressive (my dress for the kick off was from Goodwill but I got compliments on it. Motorcycle boots and all). It's Beer Week, not a Presidential Inauguration! The Philly Beer Week Committee and the City could have printed a couple thousand Guides To Beer Week (on newsprint), handed them out at Comcast Center, dropped them in hotel lobbies and bars... and created some buzz, some excitement, some sense of inclusion/purpose... a sense of an actual city-wide event. That's what I THOUGHT I was attending.

I cannot resist a couple of jabs at the COMPLETE lack of Beer Week coordination: I searched up "Philly Beer Week + Saturday Events" at the hotel. I was interested in two. There was the Beer Bus Tour of South Street. That's all it said; no further information. Ok, thanks, guess I won't be seeing you there! Then there was the Neighborhood Bar Crawl near our hotel. There was a starting bar and meet-up time. Based on evidence, that was a Sure Winner because there was actual information provided.

We headed over to the starting bar a little early to check on the scene - make sure the other crawlers wouldn't want to kick my butt for wearing motorcycle boots. The place was PACKED but it did NOT appear that there was any organized event going on... because there wasn't. I informed the server that we were there for the bar crawl and thus did not need menus. She informed ME that the bar crawl started at a different bar and ended at the bar we were in. Well Bananas! Everyone misread the posting on the net, because they were all there for the bar crawl. The owners quick put up a sandwich board announcing the bar crawl but by then it was too late - everyone, including us, was off to make their own fun.

I only wish I had bought the Hello Kitty pleather stuffed toy. I would have put her on a leash and "walked" her around town to bars. THAT would have been fun, relatively. I'm not even kidding.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday At Last

TGIF has never been so true. Something really serendipitous(?) happened to me this week. I was sitting here at my desk, analyzing click data, completely overwhelmed by the economic "situation". I was desperate for some sort of exciting, yet relatively inexpensive diversion from the day-to-day. I am WAY too driven to actually allow myself to RELAX at home - but put me in a decent hotel room, with room service JUST IN CASE - I crash.

As always, I digress. I received an email from with regard to the kick off of Philly Beer Week this weekend. My fingers could not move fast enough to get a hotel booked and an itinerary mapped out (is that not a WEE bit "driven"? Does there need to be an agenda?).

Was this brilliant email marketing or desperation on the part of the organizers due to lack of interest?

I had not heard of Philly Beer Week. This is only its second year - but still.... I think it was brilliant; so last minute: I didn't have enough time to "think it through" and therefore back out. It was exactly what I needed at that exact time: a weekend away, not too far from home, but far enough that I had to board my dog Ryan. He'll be four years old next week. The vet has him on a diet because he needs to lose "those last five pounds". The diet isn't working because when he gets hungry he just weases some cat food.

We've been doing quite a bit more email marketing at LMI this quarter. If you've got a list it is a great alternative to printed direct mail: no printing costs, no postage, no mail coordination.

I figure it has the same probability of getting tossed as a post card. I open all kinds of "spam". We all opt-in to lists with our favorites because we want to know what is going on; a sale? a restaurant review? a weekend away from the economic "situation"? Now that I think about it... I'm more likely to open and read an email from my favorite "marketers" than I am to sit down and rifle through a pile of mail after a really long day; could be that marketing budgets are being slashed and I am not receiving the volume of "junk" mail at home. See printing costs and postage! I still love a catalog. Keep 'em coming!

Back to Philly Beer Week. That email was extremely successful; not only did I book a hotel, I also bought tickets to the opening ceremony at Comcast Center. The Craft Brew Festival or whatever it's called is sold out. That was probably free money for Comcast Center because it will be a miracle if we get there by 7:00 :~(. We'll definitely be spending other $ too - we have to eat, and drink beer.

Then there is my shopping habit. Believe me, I know, this is NO time to be indiscriminately shopping, but I will.... even with the Botox in *gasp* two weeks!
I planned outfits and stuff - all based on motor cycle boots, because they are as classic as penny loafers - they just have allot of attitude. BUT my weekend bag won't fit enough clothes and shoes for me to be completely coutured. I have my heart set on something a little nifty, if not age inappropriate, from Urban Outfitters I can always wear my pajamas home if I don't find something cool and on-budget.

Let's hear it for email marketing! HIP HIP HOORAY!

I'm going to try Twitter from Comcast Center if we make it there. This is when I wish we weren't locked into a Family Share Plan where all of us signed up at different times. I WANT AN iPHONE! or at least a phone with a keyboard. I have a netbook but the battery will surely be dead by the time we get to Philly.

I'm going to map out an alternative to Comcast Center. I will be sorry to miss the pomp and circumstance - and high probability of Ad specialties in the form of mugs, t-shirts, hats, free six-packs??? Wish me luck :~).