18 September 2009

Local... Social... Activate!

One thing I really appreciate is the "big" trends applied in local, even intimate ways. Recently, I've been noticing my favorite local haunts - a small coffee house, a nice little restaurant - taking steps towards greater engagement with their customers.

In the case of City Market (my source for chocolate croissants), I found a nice handmade sign displaying options for new cup sleeves with a request that folks vote. Where was the sign? Appropriately, placed in the junk-up-your-coffee station above the flatware, so nearly every coffee-drinking denizen would have the chance to weigh in. What a great, low-tech, high engagement way to keep customers involved in the evolution of the brand!

At Berkeley's - where I highly recommend the polenta mosaic for dinner followed by warm donuts for dessert - the proprietors have started building a community via SMS text messaging. Nothing new, per se, but appreciated nonetheless. Not that I'm not already loyal to the place, but the texts do keep the restaurant top of mind for the inevitable "hmmm, do I really want to cook?" evenings.

Got any favorite examples of Local/Social activation you'd like to share? Let us know... And if your examples include chocolate croissants or warm donuts, I'm happy to coordinate on-site research!

15 September 2009

14 September 2009

Big Food, Big Insurance, and Big Opportunity?

Thanks to a friend for bringing up the NY Times article on Big Food vs. Big Insurance. It's an interesting article and raises some intriguing points. As I read it, all I kept thinking was, "What's the opportunity for the food businesses?" This is an early signal of potentially BIG changes... in consumer preferences, in retail distribution solutions, in brand positioning, and so forth. Got thoughts? Talk about them with others, share them here, but keep the thinking going. There are bound to be insights that will lead to opportunity!

10 September 2009

Beatles, Rock Band, and Desire...

Per my recent post on Guitar Hero, it should be noted that my lust for the new Beatles Rock Band game grew that much more after reading a WIRED review of it. First song I learned on the guitar: Day Tripper. Anybody thinking of getting me a random occasion gift should take note!

07 September 2009

Guitars, Guitar Heroes, and Who Gets to Rock

"The new version of Guitar Hero is coming! The new version of Guitar Hero is coming!" goes the chant from fans of the video game. Make no mistake, it's an engaging, exciting, vicarious pleasure for just about anybody. And, it ain't no substitute for actually playing guitar.

I don't own Guitar Hero. Although I'm disinclined to say I never will, it's gonna be a while before I do buy a version of the game or its rival, Rock Band... Though the prospect of The Beatles Rock Band launch is mighty enticing.

Why my resistance? Let me play back a dialog with my now 18-year-old back in the halcyon days of his 17-year-old youth:

"Why don't we have Guitar Hero?"
"Why would we want that?"
"Because it's so cool... I mean you get to play all these great songs."
"But, I'm already a real guitar hero. I play guitar."
"Yeah, but..."
"Maybe you could try playing the guitar I gave you instead of a fake guitar with buttons?" (said with utmost care and love)

Honestly, I'd rather plow my way through a difficult chord progression on the six-stringed axe of rock than push the buttons on a mini fauxtar any day. But -- and here's the dirty little secret -- I do enjoy playing Guitar Hero. It is fun. And... it allows me to rock on with friends, many friends, in a way that actual guitars just don't allow.

Playing guitar has been, and will continue to be, a statement of sorts. It says, "Hey, I am this cool. I put in the effort to guarantee it." Pulling out a guitar, for all it's party-time fun, is an exercise in socially separating the wheat from the chaff. There are those who can play and those can not. Some perform, others only watch.

Guitar Hero and Rock Star magically demolish the distinction between players and spectators. The games are great levelers of talent. Any guitar player will tell you, the particular buttons pushed at any point in a video game rendition of a tune are simply representations of actually playing the song.

Insidiously and enticingly, the particular renditions must be mastered on their own merits. I play guitar, and I am bad at Guitar Hero. I am not alone. And yet, on the occasions I've played the game, it's been an absolute blast to stink it up alongside non-musical friends with mad skills in the game. Wahoo! Everybody plays. Everybody laughs. Everybody rocks.

Maybe the real reason I resist buying a copy is the threat to my cool-dad image once my eldest crushes me in a duel of fake guitars. Perhaps a secret acquisition and weeks of practice could solve this dilemma...

03 September 2009

Lancina Guest Blogging for the "Living Room"

Hi folks! Happy to inform you I'll be guest blogging in the "Living Room" for JSH&A on topics related to public relations, getting the word out about brands and products, etc. I'll put up reminders here about posts there (two or three each week). The gig starts next week, so please check it out!

01 September 2009

Granny, a Hawk, and the Web

This is the story of my granny, a hawk, and the fine art of settling a debate.

Who is this Granny character? She’s a chatty, charming octogenarian. She grew up on a farm (referred to as “The Ranch” in our family history), was a professional woman, and is now savoring the later years of her life from a lovely little country house in northern Sonoma County, California.

Granny’s experienced change of massive proportions during her lifetime: the discovery of the polio vaccine, the growth of television as a mass medium, cellular communications, and the rise of the internet. She takes each shift in stride, essentially making change itself a comfortable aspect of her life.

When she started using a fax machine in her home office, it was with an appreciation of the utility and convenience the device provided. My grandfather, on the other hand, initially resisted using original documents in the fax. He thought it borrowed technology from the Star Trek transporter, whisking the actual document off to distant locales via technology too advanced for the lay person to comprehend. Granny set him straight.

So we get to the heart of this story. Not too long ago, a hawk took up residence near Granny’s, patrolling the pasture for tasty rodent treats. Nobody could dispute its presence due to the piercing calls it made, though a debate raged over which kind of hawk this might be: red-tailed, red-shouldered, or something more esoteric? Granny knew, but others – all younger than she – insisted she was wrong, questioned her eyesight, and so forth. Such conversation has long been a staple in country kitchens, so folks settled in to haggle their way to an answer.

Never one to concede easily, Granny left the swirl of debate in the kitchen and quietly stepped into the adjacent home office. Seated in front of her handy iMac, she did a quick search on “red shouldered hawk call”, clicked through to the first search result, and played the sound file. Talking stopped in the kitchen as people wondered where the hawk was that it sounded so close… There was no question about it being the hawk in question.

Granny emerged from the office, grinning and content. Debate settled. Red shouldered hawk. Score one for the old lady and her technology.

I like the idea of embracing change, and I think of my granny when I find myself resisting it. I love that she figured out a foolproof way to support her claim, by switching the “defining sense” of identification from sight to hearing and using the internet to drive home her argument. I just hope I’m up to her standard when it comes to incorporating the utility and value new technology provides!