The New PeterThink

To all of my faithful PeterThink readers I invite you to join me at the new home of Peter's Thinking over at http://peterthink.blogs.com. There you will find a lot of recent posts and fresh thinking about advertising, marketing, branding, technology and culture. Please take a moment to update your blogroll and bookmarks. Thanks


Designer Outhouse?

Michael Graves continues his high design for the masses work with Target by offering designer pavilions in partnership with prefab home-builder Lindal Cedar Homes. These three pavilion designs come in kit form with a variety of options. The only problem is that the pavilion out back will have more design savvy than the over inflated tract home starter castle that sits in front of it.


Oprah's Favorite Things

Materialistic frenzy strikes again today. Oprah is flocking her swarm of fans in a marketing frenzy that grows and grows each year. The phenomenon that is "Oprah's Favorite Things" strikes again today. It's the power of celebrity writ large as an Oprah product endorsement is sure to provide holiday success to manufacturers and marketers. The show would be nothing more than an infomercial if Queen Oprah did not dispense products to her incredibly ecstatic audience. Marketers know that a few hundred free products given to the Oprah show audience will flock huge amounts of word of mouth advertising as audience members tell everybody about the products and where they got them. That is if they survive the frenzy. People are crying and hyperventilating throughout the show. Some products receive an extra boost by having been gifts to or from Oprah and her celebrity friends. It's one thing to see that Oprah loves something it's another level to hear that Madonna gave an item to Oprah or that she personally gave the item to all her friends. Some of the products are clearly personal favorites and some seem to be more like product placements. The behind the scenes maneuvering to get a product on the show must be incredible. The show also provides some great quotes from Oprah. "I just love to bathe and vacuum seal." Highlights this year: A Blackberry A Sony DVD camcorder—the most expensive item she's every given away at $1000 A $400 necklace A Smoked Turkey A Vacuum Packing system A Panasonic portable DVD player All this plus food, cloths, lotions and potions of all kinds. Oprah is smart to do this show only twice a year. That protects both the power of it and her audience's tolerance for it. If she did it more often it would feel more like product placement and simply celebrity endorsement. She does do a similar list in her monthly magazine however that context is more tolerant of new product lists.


Thinking About the Shopping Experience

Interesting discussion over at Signal vs. Noise about shopping for cloths by color. The specific example is an online experience at the J. Crew website. Evidently there is an option to see sweaters arranged by color groups. WhatÍs interesting is brought out in the comments.

Brick and mortar selling experience of retail e-commerce sites can hamper usability enhancements to the online shopping experience. "That's not how we do it in the stores." People shop differently online then in stores. What's possible online is different then what's possible in physical stores. Filtering is important. People want to see merchandise by color, size and in stock status. I have been aggravated numerous times when shopping either online or in stores by selecting a product and subsequently discovering that it's out of stock. (Note to Retailers: I always leave the store empty handed when this happens. I never buy something else instead. Piss off your customer; customer goes away.) Is it so hard for people to put a sign on products that are sold out? Simply putting the name of the color on the price tag can help the colorblind population. No one in a store is going to ask a clerk what color something is. Embarrassment is a powerful demotivator. Retailers who make it easy for people with special needs to shop and buy in their stores or websites are winners. Hey, store manager, have you ever driven that scooter around your Target to see what it's like to shop in it?
People still think it's OK if their business isn't accessible because "No one in a wheelchair ever comes in here." It's most likely because they can't or because it's less of a hassle elsewhere. What if you were the most accessible store in the area? What if you had a special time designated in your grocery store for "Assisted Shopping?" Every Thursday afternoon/evening you'd welcome people with special needs. You'd publicize it and be ready with plenty of trained clerks ready in each aisle of your store ready to assist shoppers in getting products from shelves, answering questions, reading labels, talking to people. What would happen? Would it cost you more? Yes. Would it be above and beyond industry standards? Yes. Would it be profitable? Yes, Absolutely! Word would spread through the target communities like wildfire. If the physical configuration of your customer experience is better than your competition people with disabilities will fill your store or restaurant and your cash register. While it is tragically true that many in the disabled community are living in poverty or near poverty it is also true that many are not. Many disabled people and their families have the same socioeconomic statistics of your target market. Most people enjoy a good meal in a good restaurant. Even people who use wheelchairs use credit cards. But if they can't get into your bathroom, they'll use that credit card somewhere else. Just something to Think about.


Loving Vespa in the Heartland

Incredible: The leading Vespa Boutique(dealership) in America is in Kansas City, MO. Also, is anybody surprised that 30% of Vespa buyers are women. I'm surprised the number isn't higher. Having been to Kansas City I am not surprised. They are more sophisticated than people might think.


Tacky Police

Halloween was last week. Every year more and more people are decorating the outside of their homes for Halloween just like they do for Christmas. Soon the "tacky police" will have to work several months a year. Regardless of the figure, Frankenstein, Santa Claus or Baby Jesus the words "plastic" and "light-up" should not appear in front of their name. I have proposed for years that a "tacky tax" should be levied on plastic light-up figures to just slow people down a little. The problem is that the plastic figures are too cheap. People start with one or two but then after the holiday the stuff goes on sale. Why stop at just one when you can literally get four for the price of one? Suddenly three toy soldiers turns into a full-fledged battalion marching down the driveway ready to greet the aforementioned tacky police. A four or five hundred percent tax would make those $4.98 figures cost enough for people to pace themselves. At least people get a little exercise moving the plastic Halloween figures out of the way so they can get to the box with their beloved icicle lights. Come on people, you have just days to get those lights up. That is unless you were smart enough to just leave them up from last year. I'd already have my lights up but I've been busy shopping for a huge inflated light-up Santa. Bigger is better right? Oh, please!


Clueless Kmart Looks to Martha Again

The clueless Kmart announced today some new ads featuring among others Martha Stewart. Kmart short on any innovative thinking is looking to minority communities trying to carve out a niche they feel they can compete in. Hence the "diversity" in their new ads. They are even introducing the new ads during the World Series. While that makes for good media attention I doubt it has much play with their target customer for those Martha Stewart sheets. Time to revisit some previous Thinking on Kmart.


So Easy Even a Man Can Use It

I love good products that work. I recently heard about the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser from Proctor and Gamble. Always interested in cleaning products that make cleaning easier I thought I'd try it out. I didn't like the fact that it was more than $1.50 more than the suggested retail price at my local grocery store but I thought it was because it's a hot new product. I tried the eraser on a dirty wall that's been resistant to other cleaners. It worked surprisingly well. From there I used it on some scuff marks and some soap scum. It works great. I especially like the fact that it's self contained you don't need a sponge, bucket, paper towels or gloves. As advertised it really makes cleaning fast and easy. I love it when new technologies make it to market in products that work. I often stop to think about how much life has changed because of advancing technology. As I have said before, It won't be long until robots will do most household cleaning. Already we are seeing robotic vacuum cleaners like the Roomba. I'd like to see a robotic Swiffer and a robot for cleaning windows. The future of robotics is less about "look what I can do" and more about "Look how I can make your life simpler." It's gonna be a great future. Full Disclosure: I've not been asked or compensated to endorse this product.


VW Goes Retro

Volkswagen has announced the introduction of the new minibus. Clearly VW is out to capitalize on the retro trend that has made the new beetle such a success. The Minibus won't be coming to America until late 2006 as a 2007 model. VW plans to market the Minibus as a lifestyle vehicle with room for mountain bikes and surfboards. This seems to be at cross-purposes to the retro trend. If VW is serious about appealing to baby boomers who owned the original Microbus they need to optimize the vehicle not for the lifestyle of a twenty something but the lifestyle of a fifty or sixty something. VW has the opportunity to offer the first hip vehicle for the aging (former hippie) boomer population. Why not a version that accommodates people with mobility challenges? Accommodate a matching three wheel electric scooter or a pair of Segways. How about factory designed and installed hand controls as an option? Baby Boomers are going to stay active through their aging. Mobility aides like scooters and Segways are going to become very popular with those with conditions affecting their knees, backs, feet. These and other features that appeal to an older and less ambulatory population are currently in the realm of after market modification companies. As the population bubble advances into the 50s and 60s a huge marketing opportunity exists for companies that mainstream accessibility features. VW has a unique opportunity to make enhanced personal mobility truly cool by combining it with the retro appeal of the Minibus. Additionally, driving aides like navigation systems, sonar obstruction detection systems, rear view TV systems, On-Star safety and concierge services and vehicle monitoring systems like remote tire air pressure sensors are all going to appeal to aging drivers. In fact most of these features are already becoming popular on large luxury vehicles. Volkswagen is uniquely positioned to provide a cool vehicle not just for the 20 something market but for their loyal customers who now need a little help getting around. Why should someone, who started out to college in a VW Bug bought a VW Golf after graduation, drove a couple of Passats through the years and now owns a new Touareg, have to switch to the ho-hum design of an American minivan when they need a scooter to get around? It's gonna be a great future.

Evidently the Cluephone Does Ring at Kodak

Kodak has announced that they will stop making 35mm slide projectors next year. I am surprised that it's taken this long. The professional organizations I have been a part of stopped using slides and projectors at least five years ago. Evidently someone at Kodak can see the writing on the wall (and the sales reports.) This old market company desperately needs a path to the future. They insist on making the mistake of taking their powerful film and photo paper brand and simply applying it to digital imaging products. The opportunity they are missing to link old to new in a meaningful way is huge. They risk loosing all the brand identity and cache that they have built over the last 75 years or so. What's missing? A straight forward story. The turn of the century from the 20th to the 21st represents a defining Kodak Moment for the Kodak company. It's no secret that photography has changed and so to has Kodak. Digital cameras and display technologies have changed the way you capture and share images. Kodak has over 70 years of experience in understanding and supporting photography from the professional photographer to baby's first snapshot. Today we partner those with 70 plus years of experience with design engineers fluent in today's digital imaging technologies to create new ways of capturing the most important moments in your life. Today Kodak combines the best of film and paper photography with the best of the digital age. East, a new name for a new way of taking pictures. From the people at Kodak There's more Thinking on Kodak here and here. †


Nate Berkus for President

I guess it's undeniable. Nate Berkus is a very popular guy. He appeared on Oprah yesterday having redecorated Oprah's office suite. I think Oprah had space envy after her visit to see Celine Dion's huge dressing room space in Las Vegas. The space looks good. Now Oprah is doing an interactive "Ugliest Room in America" contest with the winner getting a free room makeover by Nate Berkus. Viewers can vote on Oprah's website. Oprah is coming late to the party of the power of viewer interactivity via the web. NBC's Today show has been doing it successfully with wedding planning for a couple of years now. My speculation stands. I predict that Nate Berkus is the next Dr. Phil. I think Oprah will feature him for another season and then spin him his own show.


LimoLiner an Alternative to Flying

LimoLiner is a new company offering luxury bus service between New York and Boston. The 28 passenger buses feature lather seats with WiFi Internet access, satellite radio and TV. There's even a private conference room to the rear of the bus. The idea is to attract business travelers weary of the pricier air shuttle flights and the unreliable train service. The price point is less at $69 each way roundtrip. Sure it takes four hours each way but with Internet access, a comfortable seat and the ability to use a cell phone the time is productive. I think we'll see more of services like these. If the NY- Boston run is successful I can imagine the service expanding to NY- Washington. LimoLiner could even use the buses on weekends to shuttle execs, celebs and wannabes to the Hamptons in style. One thing though, with this service it's all about the bus. Too bad they cranked up the PR and the website without any pictures of the bus. By that, of course, I mean the interior of the bus. We all know what the outside looks like. It's the seat and the legroom that just might sell this thing. I wrote about this kind of service as a response to airport delays in a previous post. Today I heard discussion of a potential hovercraft service between Milwaukee and Chicago. We're finally beginning to see alternatives to air travel and it's associated security hassels.


The Great Garage II

In addition to the Vehicle Turntables, Stacking Systems and Specialized Storage systems I mentioned in my first post about the Great Garage, I failed to mention the extension of a longstanding trend into the garage space. The "HisandHerification" of the American home that began in the 70s with the double sink vanity in the master bathroom has grown up to include almost all areas of the home. The spread of his and her closets, separate home offices, bathrooms, exercise areas, kitchen work areas, even his and her living spaces like game rooms, home theatres, sewing rooms, and sitting rooms has been a part of the increase in the size of the new American home. As more and more square footage has found it's way to the garage and three, four and five car garages have become the standard for upscale new houses the idea of his and her garages has become real. "His" garage dedicated to vehicle maintenance/restoration and property maintenance equipment like lawn mowers and snow blowers separate from "her" garage space dedicated to gardening support and children's sports equipment storage surrounding the minivan. Just as the husband and wife have different needs and desires in other areas of the house it is now evident that they have different needs and desires when it comes to the fit and function of their garage space. Obviously, every household is unique and not every house needs or wants separate functional areas, but the trends are clear. The American home is changing and the lowly garage is ripe for a makeover. The technology of the automobile has grown radically in the last 100 years but the garage hasn't changed much. Automatic garage door openers have become standard in the last 30 years. The next 30 years may see the standardization of garage technology like turntables, vehicle stacking systems, modular storage systems even trash compactors. It's gonna be a great future (in the garage.)


Digital Signs in Department Stores

This story talks about the adoption of digital paper in department store signage. Beyond cost savings of printing and placement/change out labor the battery powered signs can be changed automatically by a central server thus appealing to different buyers throughout the day. Appealing to stay at home mothers in the morning and teenagers in the afternoon. I wrote about an application like this back in May. Read my previous post here. Includes a picture of the thin flexible digital paper prototype by E ink.


Air Canada: The Squeeze Is On

This story reports that bankrupt air carrier Air Canada is reducing the number of lemon and lime slices it stocks on flights as a cost cutting move reportedly worth $40,000C. This is another incident of incrementalism in lieu of innovation. Companies all over do this everyday. They look to squeeze costs out of their product or service hoping to continue a no longer plausible reality in a changed world. When the world changes products and services need to change also. When an airline realizes it can no longer offer it's product or service in a profitable way the goal must be reinvention not just minor tweaks and cost cutting. Reexamine the entire offering not just a small portion of it. Air Canada needs to reinvent itself as a Canadian airline. By just cost cutting they are doomed to be just a shadow of what once was and that is a vulnerable thing to be. Competitors can sweep in and provide something new and innovative that will attract people rather than disappoint them.


In Search of Convenience and A Cold Drink

On a recent roadtrip my girlfriend was thinking about the impact of pay-at-the-pump systems on convenience store sales. I am certain that the ability to purchase gas without having to enter the store has severely negatively impacted impulse buys. Many of the modern gas stations along Interstate highways combine fast food restaurants with convenience stores. An interesting study would be to see how many drivers fuel up, pay at the pump and then go through the drive through to acquire beverages. People are in a hurry. The more they can do in their cars the better. Even if the in vehicle waiting time matches or surpasses the in store waiting time people prefer to wait in their vehicles where they can use wireless phones and vehicle entertainment systems (audio and video.) While many vendors are racing to bring Internet connectivity to the gas pump enabling the ubiquitous advertising supported news and sports headlines even email access and MP3 downloads. While MP3 downloads might have potential it's not enough to build a business model around. No one is going to read serious email on a gas pump. Besides people have other portable devices for that. Much like pay at the pump technology has swept through the industry Wi-Fi connectivity will be widely available in the near future. My girlfriend did have a very good idea. She suggested linking vending machines to gas pumps allowing people to pay for vending purchases as part of their pay at the pump purchase much like adding the purchase of a car wash to a gas purchase. Who wouldn't purchase a Coke or bottle of water with their gas on a hot summer day? The key is to locate the vending machines close to the pumps so people perceive it as quick and easy. On our next fuel stop we saw a variation on this very idea. The fueling location we stopped at had a deli sandwich shop. Sandwich menus were tapped to the gas pumps. A simple intercom allowed gas customers to call in their orders while fueling their vehicles. There was no provision for paying for your order at the pump. The intent was to save waiting time for sandwich buyers through pre-ordering food.



A sudden death in the family will limit posting in the next week. Please use the search box to see what can be seen in the PeterThink archive or visit the links at left and read PeterThink on Airlines. Thanks for understanding and I look forward to sharing fresh thinking on marketing, advertising and culture real soon.


Uhmmm Gel

I had my own interesting experience in perceived value last night. While shopping for moisture wicking performance socks to wear while exercising I stood for 10 minutes in front of a huge sock display debating the morality of spending $12 for a single pair of socks. Having decided against such a scandalous financial outlay I found myself (with three-dollar cotton socks) not a half-hour later purchasing $12 gel insoles for my shoes. I am sure the socks would have been more comfortable and a better use of the $12. Since when did washer fluid blue goo become marketing gold. Who doesn't like things with the wonder of gel in it? From shoes to wrist wrests to bicycle seats. Life is better with gel. Thank you Marketers everywhere.


Nate Berkus on Oprah Again

Another Oprah rerun featuring interior designer Nate Berkus today. If the pop in traffic for my original post Harpo productions has their next personality brand to groom and launch like they did with Dr. Phil. Today's show also featured a trip by Oprah to a local Walmart. It seemed like a royal visit. Oprah appeared to have never been in a Walmart. For someone who wants to appeal to the average American having the appearance of slumming at Walmart doesn't seem to be a strategy. Perhaps her audience likes that she is a wealthy queen who doesn't shop with the masses. What do you think? Leave a comment.

The Great Garage

I mentioned the other day that I think the next focus in the super hot home decorating and makeover world will be the car-home interface also known as the garage. While the teen/pre-teen room redecoration trend wave is just now cresting with retailers like Pbteen, Pottery Barn Kids, IKEA, Target, and Ethan Allen scrambling to capture market share, the Great Garage trend has yet to emerge. The jungle drums are beginning to be heard though. New manufacturers are eyeing the market and the DIY/Decorating media are about to discover a new space in the home ripe for renewal. Most importantly the progression of decorating dollars has been working its way through the house. Starting with the living spaces like the living room, dining room and family room people spend their decorating budgets on the public spaces of their home. These efforts have been fueled by the popularity of decorating shows from Martha Stewart Living to Trading Spaces. The next step is often the kitchen in older homes that need updating. In newer homes the decorating budget often flows through to the outdoor space creating landscaping and outdoor living spaces like decks and patios. Next come bathrooms and bedrooms or home office space. Children's bedrooms are where it's at right now. Specifically, the most dramatic transition in a child's life, the change from child to teenager is clearly the point where a redecoration is in order. Once the bedrooms have been done the next logical focus are the utilitarian spaces of laundry rooms, storage areas, and the beloved garage. In many homes the garage represents all the utilitarian functions in the home. There may also be a social dynamic at work here as well. While the decoration of the kitchen and living spaces in the home are often viewed as the territory of the woman of the home, the garage is man-land and men may be feeling that it's their turn to spend on their space and spend they will. As men (and women) are continuing to buy expensive vehicles clearly the need for suitable garage space is a priority. New homes are featuring three, four and even five car garages. Bigger and bigger SUVs are driving up the size of garages. An architect friend of mine who does high end residential work says the garages keep getting longer and longer growing four feet at a time. Soon I think we will begin to see some of the vehicle handling and storage equipment we see in other space poor areas of the world like Japan and Europe.

Vehicle turntables are an obvious addition to the garage/driveway configuration. With speed and convenience a premium in America it's not a big leap to see a market for anything that will help people maneuver their Super-Sized vehicles in tight spaces. If people will buy vehicles with power sliding doors surely they are ready for powered turntables that will rotate their vehicles.

For Baby Boomers who are buying their third or fourth vehicle. (Cooper Mini, Ford Thunderbird, Chevrolet SST etc.) the must have garage equipment may be a vehicle stacking system. These systems are popular in pre-car areas of Europe where parking space is at a real premium. Utilizing space above or below a garage is the answer for those unable to add another parking bay for a sports car or a collector car.

Storage seems to be a common element in all garages. Often its active storage of yard maintenance equipment, workshop tools and materials or sports equipment like bicycles, golf clubs and rollerblades. Often it's deep storage of furniture, files, cloths and clutter. New products and service have entered the market to help in these areas as well. A variation on the self-storage concept, containerized storage services will deliver an empty storage container to your driveway ready for loading. Once loaded the service trucks and warehouses the container for you keeping it ready to return to you at anytime. While these are popular with those who are moving I think the "portable garage" aspect will grow in importance as people makeover their garages. For active storage and workspace many companies are offering products to help store everything from golf clubs to spray paint cans.

One of the latest players is Whirlpool's Gladiator line of garage equipment. Gladiator is a comprehensive system including a slat wall system, storage cabinets, lockers and shelves all with a tough garage like diamond plate aesthetic. The system seems like an odd move for an appliance maker until you discover that a specially insulated refrigerator/freezer, a mini "beer box" fridge and a trash compactor are a part of the system. Seems Wirphool sees a new market for home appliances for the garage. Obviously, this represents the high end of the market. Other manufacturers like Rubbermaid have numerous products to help organize the garage. Even closet organizer manufacturers are positioned to capitalize on garage storage needs.

Technology is important in the Great Garage. Beyond utilities like water, power, heat and air conditioning, telephone, cable TV and computer networking cabling all have a place in the garage. For a variety of reasons the garage will be an important place for the just replaced family computer. In homes with WiFi networks coverage in the garage will be important to facilitate web browsing for vehicle maintenance information, DIY information and shopping (check to see if Home Depot has the right widget.) MP3 players in cars can even download music via WiFi. In the future vehicles with video systems will accept digital movie files over WiFi thus eliminating the need to stock the car with heat and theft sensitive DVDs. The crystal ball for the future holds more technology ideas for the future of the garage. Cleaning robots like the Roomba could be adapted to clean the garage floor unattended. One day small independent cleaning robots will attach themselves and wash your vehicle each night while you sleep. There are even plans for fueling appliances that extract hydrogen from water to fuel up your new hydrogen powered car right in your garage. The garage is about to be Great it's the savvy marketer and trendspotter that's going to be ready. Americans love their cars and their homes so it's only natural that they're gonna go crazy over the place where the two come together. It's gonna be a great futureÖ.in the garage.


Good-bye Kodak Part 2

Today Trendsetters is reporting the introduction of the first disposable digital camera. The two megapixel Digital Dakota will be sold for $11 at Ritz Camera. This marks the beginning of the end of the last bastion of consumer film sales. Prices will drop, profits will disappear and companies will flounder. Kodak needs to start a new brand for it's digital products and scale back it's Kodak line to cater to the smaller professional and art photography market. Kodak means film it doesn't mean digital imaging. [via]


Reality Show to Feature the Drama of Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is the new subject for a reality show for A&E. I think a show featuring Jet Blue would be far more interesting but then why would Jet Blue want to tip their hand and show the rest of the world how to really run an airline.


After the Kids Rooms are Done...

I just saw the new IKEA catalog. I am a fan of IKEA on several levels from their product design process to their marketing and retailing practices. I like what I see and I certainly would suggest that anyone looking for decorating ideas for teenagers rooms, dorm rooms or college apartments should check out the cool stuff available from Ikea. It's affordable and it's cool. The competition is heating up as the home makeover decorating trend fueled by popular TV shows like Trading Spaces and While You Were Out now turns to rooms for children and teens. Specialty retailers like Pottery Barn have staked out their territory with sub-brands Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen. Big box retailers like Target are offering hip merchandise by designer brands that are popular with the 8-18 set. Lots of opportunity to separate a parent from their money in pursuit of the perfect room for their offspring. What's next: I think the lowly garage is the next space ready for the attention of design savvy consumers. Living space makeovers chase clutter out to storage in the garage and people continue to drive bigger and bigger SUVs requiring more and more space. These and other forces (pets, workshops, car repair, boat storage, etc) are putting a lot of pressure on valuable garage square footage. Opportunities exist in products and services that help people do more in their existing space and also develop strategies for designing new approaches to accommodating the various functions traditionally served by the garage. Markets for everything from shelving and storage container systems to vehicle turntables to new technologies such as the application of RFID tags to consumer storage applications will boom when millions of do-it-yourself home makeover mavens turn to the garage. Imagine RFID tagging every storage container in your house giving you the ability to know by way of a database exactly what you have and exactly where everything is in your home. Imagine never having to search through box after box for a particular book or tool or clothing item. The time saved would be significant, as would the cost savings of never repurchasing items intentionally or unintentionally because you can't find what you need. It's gonna be a great future.


Flash Mobs

This Flash Mob thing seems to be catching on all around the world. Today Smart Mobs and boingboing are a buzz with word of Flash Mobs in Paris and Rome joining mobs reported in Seattle and New York. It's only a matter of time before the marketing community adapts the flash mob for marketing purposes either directly by flocking potential customers to a particular business or indirectly by staging a flash mob as a promotion stunt for a product or business.


Watching Kodak Disapear

Kodak is slashing jobs. Is this a surprise to anyone? They can cut them all. They are so left behind in this digital age. What can save them is their OLED display technology. The challenge is rebranding Kodak to mean first class displayed images rather than film and processing. They are today's buggy whip manufacturer looking at automobiles taking away their market.


BA and VA Fight for the High End Traveler

First, British Air announces the end of Concorde service. What are celebrities and the ultra-luxury travelers going to do? That touches off a marketing battle. Virgin Atlantic airline wants to buy the Concorde planes from British Air. British Air fearing the loss of the high-end customers to the competition is claiming that the planes have surpassed their useful life and should be retired. In the mean time both companies are developing new classes of service to appeal to the top of the market. Recently, the struggling British Air has even tried to buy Virgin Atlantic to keep it from merging with another BA competitor. And we all thought the plight of US carriers was interesting. Also of interest is the fact that Virgin wants to fly the Concorde to the Caribbean and the middle-east from it's London base. Selling price is of interest as well. BA has not accepted Virgin's first off of one pound ($1.70US) for each Concorde. This matches the symbolic price paid by British Air to the joint British/French maker of the plane. When the plane was developed both the manufacturer and the airline were nationalized businesses. It was the British and the French people who paid for the development of the Concorde. Subsequently, Virgin has offered one million pounds per plane.

Now Boarding Bring Your Bags

United Airlines has started a new system for getting the sardines in the can that it claims is 30% faster. Rather than fill airplanes by calling row numbers and filling from the rear of the airplane forward United now fills the plane by type of traveler and section of the plane. Boarding frequent fliers first and those sitting in the front of the economy cabin first. This has to cause bottlenecks and problems as passengers in the rear of the plane struggle to pass those in "economy plus" who are trying to get settled. I don't believe for one second that this is "faster." What's really going on here is catering to frequent fliers and profitable class of service customers by allowing them to board first and fill the overhead bins with their carryon luggage. This has nothing to do with the speed of the boarding process it's about carryon luggage. United is catering to the coveted business travelers who are reluctant to incur delays in checking their luggage. If you are a super-ultra-silver-gold-bronze-platinum-titanium-orange-premium club member you'll soon be able to carryon seven or eight bags before the airline even thinks about asking you nicely if you'd mind perhaps checking one or two of your bags. They don't want to anger their best customers. What they should do (after getting real about what's going on here) is offer discounts for passengers who don't require overhead bin space. A $5 United coupon handed to me when I board the plane with one small bag that fits under the seat would go a long way towards keeping me happy with United while I wait for people to stuff the overhead bins with their luggage.


Anybody Got A Favorite?

Ya, well who doesn't like the Gugg? I am researching for a piece on Museum Marketing. Anybody got a favorite museum that's marketing itself in an interesting way? Leave your recommendations in the comments section. Thanks.

A Gifted Friend

I don't usually plug people on PeterThink but I just found out that my friend Steve Herrlin has a great new site. Steve is an accomplished Director of Photography for film, video and high definition video. Steve travels all over the country working on all kinds of shoots. He's especially good with the complexities of underwater and aeriel shoots. I've seen Steve work and his attention to detail is intense. No wonder his footage is so beautiful. I learned a lot about lighting and camera angles from Steve. Even if you have just tried to shoot decent home video you understand something about the complexities of shooting professional film or video. Check out his site and if you are working on a project requiring film or video images hire Steve.


Tools & Taco Shells? - What is Sears Thinking!

Sears has figured out how to die faster. They're going to take on Wal-Mart and Target by foolishly adopting a "me too" approach to retailing. Sears has announced that they plan to build Sears Grand stores. These whoppers at 150,000-200,000 square feet will be freestanding stores that include groceries. How in the world can they compete with price leader Wal-Mart or "cool" leader Target? Did they not learn anything from that whole Sears Hardware thing? Did they really think they could compete against Home Depot and Loews when it comes to tools? It might have worked if it had focused on the Craftsman tool brand calling it The Craftsman Center or something like that. Sears like Kmart needs new ideas and fresh concepts. Embrace what the Sears name means and more importantly what it does not mean. Sounds like a good way to waste a billion dollars.


Has Oprah Discovered Another Dr. Phil?

Is Oprah on to something or, more accurately, someone. Yesterday was a rerun featuring her new favorite designer Nate Berkus a 30 something self taught interior designer. This is to my knowledge her second show featuring Nate and his quick makeovers of viewer decorating challenges. Does Oprah see a Dr. Phil like opportunity here for Harpo productions? Will we be seeing a Harpo produced entry into the already crowded home decorating TV category? With Oprah's participation in the Oxygen Network it would seem a good fit. Martha Stewart even without all her troubles is attempting to do a "Dr. Phil" with her popular pet expert. Seems these personality brand machines/empires are seeing the need to broaden their offerings to both grow their business and protect themselves from the devastation of the misbehaviors of their stars personalities. New Post on Nate Berkus on Oprah


Biohazard Update

The Chicago area reports their first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis. A mosquito borne virus that's even more rare than the West Nile virus. Only 153 confirmed cases since 1964. No treatment available. Potentially deadly. Permanent neurological problems for survivors. New sales for bug spray. It's gonna be a scary future.

A Little Publicity Stunt and We all Bit.

You don't suppose Randall Simon the baseball player that took a swat at the sausage in Milwaukee was looking to do something to get some publicity. Raise his profile a little. Seeing what happened after the Sammy Sosa cork incident he probably was looking to do something just outrageous enough to set the country a buzz about him. He probably thinks it's too bad the woman who was in the costume doesn't plan to sue him. That would have extended the publicity nicely. Maybe his people can place a call and see if they can encourage her to sue him.

NASCAR Rings Up Marketing Opportunities for Nextel

If you aren't tuned into NASCAR you're missing the boat..er Ship. NASCAR is perhaps the fastest growing sport in America. The fan base is huge and growing and the best part is that the fans embrace a marketing saturation rate far higher than other sports. As this story (free registration required) in the New York Times points out, the marketing and advertising opportunities for the NASCAR Winston Cup series are about to explode as the title sponsorship switches to Nextel effective next season. Current cigarette advertising restrictions limit NASCAR's ability to market to children and buy advertising for the events. The article also speculates that a new high tech sponsor may broaden the appeal of stock car racing beyond the south.


Mob Action

Feel like being in a mob? Everyone is doing it. Suppose those bars where mobbers are suppose to meet up have anything to do with this? Viral marketing perhaps. There's real potential here.


No, You May Not Take My Order

Another story about McDonalds and technology. Finally after years of waiting it sounds as though McDonalds is finally taking steps to allow customers to enter their own orders via touchscreen kiosks. I have wanted fast food restaurants to do this for years. It's a win win situation. Customers can save time and aggrivation by accurately entering their own orders while resturant opperators save money on labor costs and wasted food from misunderstood orders. The next step: Accept orders and payments over the Internet. RFID tags in cars trigger kitchens to prepare preplaced orders when customers drive onto the property.

Will WiFi Help McDonald's?

McDonald's is piloting WiFi hotspots in their restaurants in the San Francisco area. While the story points out that the typical WiFi target customer - the business person eager to check their email - isn't likely to want to spend extended time in a McDonalds. I agree and hope that McDonald's isn't missing the opportunity presented by Wi-Fi connectivity. Adding "hotspots" to restaurants can revive them as a cool places to hang out for teens and college students. The key is dirt cheap or even free access even if it's tied to food purchases. For hungry cash poor teens or college students who need cheap Internet access this could be the ideal solution. It's all in the location, marketing and advertising of such offerings. Locations close to schools and college campuses would seem the obvious spots to make hot.


Aluminum Obsession

I have a new obsession. Airstream travel trailers. I love these things and I was stoked to see that various people and organizations are doing custom interiors that are far superior to the standard "grandma's family room" standard interiors most RVs come with. Check these out: Ralph Lauren - As a charity fundraiser the Polo brand has done four themed interiors. My two favorites:
An interior design firm has done this trailer interior. Now this is traveling in style.
Airstream - Perhaps the best option and probably the most affordable is the International CCD versions available from Airstream itself. I like the smallest 16' version. With interior similar to this in the 22' version. There is a large lifestyle marketing opportunity here. Auto makers are going after the GenYers with active outdoors lifestyles with vehicles like the Honda Element. These small SUVs should be enough to tow a 16' Airstream on expeditions to the beach, the woods, the slopes, the concert, the NASCAR track or even the skate park. A lot of 20 somethings have grown up traveling in their parents or grandparents "uncool" RVs. They would be a ripe market for decidedly cool RVs. They may not yet have the money to purchase an Airstream like these but they would rent one for a weekend outing. What if a Snowboarding company offered branded rental "snow bullets" in ski country? What if a mountain bike company offered branded "riders roosts" to take with to the woods for a weekend of trail riding? An MP3 compatible stereo, a flat screen satellite TV system, a DVD player and a WiFi Internet connection and who wouldn't want to spend a weekend in one of these. It's all about image. If the RV manufacturers hope to develop a younger customer base high style interiors are a must. Designs to appeal to both the 20 something GenY crowd and the aging very healthy Baby Boomers who want to stay young are the hope of profits for the RV industry. They need to get about marketing and let people outside the RV subculture know that they have some cool offerings. It's gonna be a great future.


Digital Shoplifting

Yesterday, Smartmobs pointed to a BBC story noting a practice shop owners are calling "digital shoplifting." The story comments on young Japanese girls who send camera phone pictures of new dresses or hairstyles they are seeing in magazines to their friends for their opinions. The Japanese magazine publishers are complaining that this is costing them sales. Does this sound familiar? Yes and no. The magazine publishers fear the napsterization of their content. They see this as individuals "republishing" or "copying" their copyrighted content. They see what is going on with the music industry and file sharing and they are scared. As this micro content sharing proliferates in this form, and the capturing of video, audio and text, content producers will instinctively and reflexively react by tightening the control over their content. Magazine publishers will want to "shrink wrap" their magazines to avoid people stealing the content with camera phones or portable hand held scanners. (I often carry a pen scanner to capture text to my PDA) The result is predictable. Without being able to browse through a magazine people will be less likely to buy it. The "solution" would be far worse than the "problem." This I think is completely the wrong approach. Just as the music industry is making a mistake by seeking to prosecute it's own (former) customers, print publishers who misunderstand the potentials of new digital communication technologies may just cut their own necks by holding too firmly to their precious content. What's needed is a deeper understanding of the social dynamics that are behind this type of micro content sharing. What's really happening here is buzz marketing. When someone sends a camera phone snap of a picture from a magazine seeking to inform and solicit an opinion from another person they are directly or indirectly creating buzz for that magazine. The first question the recipient will ask is where did you see this picture. They will discover that the place to see cool new content or content they might be interested in is in xyz magazine. This is peer to peer marketing. Something I think the magazines should welcome. It's gonna be a great future.


Away and Back

I have been away visiting family. I thought that I would have the opportunity to post while I was away but it wasn't workable. Some observations from my travels: Ten Years - Ten years since I used a paper ticket for air travel. The e-ticket revolution has been a great thing. The addition of self check-in kiosks at the ticket counters has further enhanced the traveling experience. Paper tickets have gone the way of pay telephones in airports. You can find a few but why use them. Searching for Cats - The security people used to paw through everybody's checked bags now with the fancy 1 ton CT scanner machines they scan all the bags before they choose to paw through my bag. Shoes - Security screening checks every passengers shoes. Have they found anything? I've not heard one report of menacing shoes since the notorious shoe bomber. I hope that technology will be developed to alleviate the need to remove your shoes in the airport. Ice Cream - I was surprised to see how many people eat ice cream in airports. Even at 11:15am people are eating ice cream before boarding even short flights. I wonder what the research shows about food sales in airports. Fast Food Restaurants - Fast food establishments are run poorly everywhere. Perhaps it is rocket science after all. Here's a thought. In a place where it rains as much as 4 inches a day in the rainy season you might put a roof over the drive through window so your employees and your customers don't get drenched during transactions. It's an easy one. Take Out - Since it's raining you might want to go get take out food. Here's a thought. If you go to the trouble of printing a take out menu don't forget to put your phone number on it so people can call in their order. And this from a restaurant called "Friendly." The Wireless Life - My 21 year old niece uses her cell phone for an alarm clock. So attuned is she to the ringing thereof. The Folks at Pixar are Geniuses - "Finding Nemo" is a masterpiece. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed my time away and found many observations about travels and family life.


Your Favorite Biohazard Updates

Monkeypox Doctors announce today that the Monkeypox Virus can be spread from person to person by direct contact with lesions and surfaces around an infected person. West Nile Virus Update Illinois has announced a new $1.50/per tax on new tires to help fund mosquito abatement. West Nile Virus is spread by blood sucking mosquitoes. Illinois leads the nation in cases of West Nile.


Bio-Fear Creates Opportunities

Anybody really concerned with all of the germs and viruses buzzing around these days? While the actual threat is debatable the media attention is creating some very real fear and concern. Bugs like SARS, West Nile Virus and the new Monkeypox Virus which has raised the profile of the lowly prairie dog are perhaps precursors of much more serious threats yet to come. Combine these new natural threats, bio-hazard precursors like Ebola, AIDS, Malaria and the threat of terrorist use of chemical and or biological weapons (like Smallpox) and there is the very real effect of creating a culture of Bio-Fear. Akin to the then new threat of nuclear bombs in the 1950s, Bio-Fear will change the lifestyle of Americans in the 21st century. Products and services are comeing to market that will both provide protection and fan the flames of Bio-Fear. Casinos are advertising their efforts to provide excellent air quality to offset the image and reality of their smoke filled establishments. Airlines are going to need to create and advertise bio-safety on their airplanes if they are going to compete. A recent TV report denouncing the quality of airplane tap water has me vowing to carry my own bottled water on future flights. Turns out airlines don't clean the on-board water tanks very often. No wide spread reports of sickness yet. But that's the point and the opportunity here. Witness the recent cruise ship sickness that swept through the already struggling cruise industry. Part of it all is the PR aspect where the media picks up on an outbreak and amplifies awareness of a story that may have previously gone unnoticed. Businesses, services or experiences that suffer a real or perceived biohazard incident need specialists who can remedy the situation. Companies will need medical specialists to treat victims, cleaning and decontamination experts to remedy the environment and PR specialists to communicate what has happened and what the business is doing to restore it's offerings. Even if you are not a player in those fields or related to them (i.e. advertising agency for such specialists) you may see opportunities here. Personal bio-protection products are a growing field. Gas masks at one extreme to soap at the other end all have a role to play in supporting a bio-safe lifestyle that will be a necessity in the 21st century. The key is education. Just as manufacturers took the lead with PR and educational advertising to make it "cool" for kids to wear helmets when they ride their bicycles, companies have an opportunity to create, educate and shape bio-safety practices in everyday lives. In Japan people wear masks when they themselves are sick to protect others. Of course there is the common benefit of controlling the spread of sickness but there also is a benefit to the marketers of all those masks. It's a win win situation. Practices like those need to be promoted in this country. Marketers and advertisers have the opportunity to identify potential biohazards and educate people on how their products/services can help people remain safe. For example: You eat out at a restaurant. Do you was your hands before you eat? Some people do but even they touch all sorts of surfaces between the bathroom and the table. The opportunity is for the makers of hand sanitizing fluid to show people using their product at the table before the food arrives. In this "buy/use this get this" world the challenge is making the outcome (sustained good health) a "buy/use this don't get this" result have real value to people over the long term. It's the same challenge the increased security measures have after months of nothing happening. Is it unnecessary or is it keeping bad things from happening? Be safe, wash your hands.


Freedom Paradise Resort Picks a Target Market

A unique differentiated experience is to be had in Mexico for people of size. Smart marketers have seen an opportunity and an under served market segment. The Freedom Paradise resort has been receiving a lot of press about their "size friendly" beach and resort. There are references to some of the details that make can make a difference to people of size. Details like comfortable sturdy chairs in the restaurants and pool areas, reinforced beds in the rooms, first floor rooms to eliminate the need to climb stairs and other small accommodations are important to the target market. Will people choose to stay at this resort over other resorts that do not cater to people of size? You bet they will. If the management is serious about catering to this market segment they stand to profit significantly. The lesson is simple. Define, design, execute and profit. Define an Under Served Market Segment - In this case, all inclusive vacations for people of size. In America people of size are an ever increasing demographic. Businesses would do well to train their staff to create a welcoming environment for people of size. It's not just about not discriminating it's about profiting by creating a loyal customer base. Design an Offering/Experience - This is a matter of getting the details right. People of size don't go to restaurants that have mostly booth seating or plastic chairs. Should a resort advertise their chairs? Absolutely, for people of size it's beyond an issue of comfort. The issue is dignity and fear of embarrassment. The possibility of a chair breaking and sending a person to the floor terrifies a person of size so much that they aren't coming near a business until they know for sure that that isn't going to happen. Find out what is important to the market segment that you have defined and design in from the start details that are important to them. This is so important in a society with an aging population. Execute - It's one thing to Define and Design a service, product of experience correctly it's another thing to make it all happen. Train your staff, but if they don't execute with excellence the whole offering is lost. Consistency is critical. If it works the first time it had better work the next time or the customers are gone forever. If a person of size doesn't fit in your chairs or worse one breaks even a little. They will most likely never be back to your restaurant and they won't bring their family or friends with them. Opportunity lost. Profit - If a business gets it just right a loyal following is in the making. A loyal customer base is of course the basis for ongoing profits. In a crowded travel industry money is to be made by defining, designing and executing unique, differentiated experiences for all different market segments. It's gonna be a great future.


Things Have Changed at the Mall

It has been awhile since I was at the mall. Wow, things have changed. Times are tough. Several restaurants are closed and some of my favorite stores are gone. Other stores are busy doing whatever they can to hang on. Fossil, the trendy watch company, realizing that people can't afford to buy as many watches, wallets and handbags as the used to is now selling t-shirts. If they can successfully bring the neo-retro design excellence from their collectible watch packaging to their t-shirts it might work for the short term but they best not dilute the brand by offering too much apparel. People go to Fossil for cool watches and accessories. They already have other places to go for jeans. More generally the trend seems to be to clog the entrance to stores with clearance racks stuffed with merchandise. In an attempt to entice shoppers to come into the store. It seems obvious to me that these tactics are desperation. Stores need traffic but a clearance clog seems self-defeating. One or two shoppers browsing the clearance racks block entry to the store. Of course if there is a stroller involved it only takes one. Other potential customers can't easily enter the store and therefore are likely to give it a miss. If it's not easy and comfortable to enter the store I am not coming in. I'll just move on to the next store. Once again it's about the fundamentals of knowing what business you are really in and providing compelling customer experience and service. Discounters like Target are siphoning off the design and fashion conscious shoppers that mall retailers covet. It has to be about the experience.


Oh, Martha

Martha, Martha, Martha, Martha Martha Stewart has finally hit the wall. She was indicted and she has resigned as CEO of her company. If she's guilty convict her and punish her. The interesting part of the story is what her company does to survive. Their Guru is gone but their expertise is not. Once again it is knowing what business they are in. If they feel they are in the Martha Stewart business they are doomed. Simple as that. If, however, they realize they are in the personality branding business they can survive. MSO needs to develop a stable of brands based on personalities other than Martha. They have already begun the process with the pet "keeping" guy. They know how to build people into empires and they are learning lessons about character flaws and crisis mismanagement that are very valuable. Here's hoping they learn the lessons well.


The Catlow

I had a nice night at a very special movie theater. The 76 year-old Catlow Theater is a beautiful historic building on Main St. in Barrington, IL, a prosperous suburb of Chicago. Unfortunately, this 700 seat theatre has been struggling financially. As a second run theatre charging just $4 a ticket this gem has had a tough go the last several years. Just a few miles away a 30 screen multiplex has siphoned off most of the customer base. Still this gem designed in the 1920s remains largely unchanged from it's original construction. Compare 2002 view left with 1930s view right.

The theater has many fine decorative details designed by the famous sculptor and painter Alfonso Iannelli. I've been to this theater a couple of times and I have to work hard to stay focused on the movie as marketing plans for this theater run through my mind. Some Thoughts: Grown Up Films - "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" was a huge hit for this theater. It played for 19 straight weeks! Focusing on adults over 21 will distinguish the movie going experience at the Catlow. In a nod to the movie going experience of days past, show cartoons and even old newsreals before the screenings. Avoid pre show advertising. Staying away from teen focused "blockbusters" and offering interesting films both mainstream and independent will draw grown up patrons tired of the multiplex crush of teenagers and four dollar candybars. Go Luxury - This gem of a theater is located in a very affluent community that loves this theater. The area multiplex theaters are over run with teenagers and huge crowds. I think an excellent 21+ movie going experience can be crafted that would carry a $15-$20 ticket price. A comfortable seat, a free bag of popcorn and a soft drink, a cartoon that makes you smile, a good movie, the availability of food and drink and a ride home. Sounds like a great date night. Doesn't it.

Reduce Capacity - Replace the old 700 seats with perhaps 250 luxury leather reclining seats. Comfortable seats with plenty of legroom. Tables between seats for foodservice. Leather Recliner Seats Event Space - Surely a space with projection facilities, luxury seats, food service and a cool bus(see transportation below) would be a great place for corporate meetings and training events. Rental revenue could be significant. Upgrade - Significant infrastructure upgrades are necessary. Bathrooms need to be upgraded and code compliance issues abound. Reduced capacity will lighten the loads here. (Fewer people = smaller need for bathrooms, etc.) Food Service - The theater owners operate a sandwich shop adjacent to the theater lobby. The lobby space is used for restaurant seating during the day. At show time patrons may take their sandwiches into the theatre. I would close the retail shop and refocus the foodservice facilities to provide food and beverage service for the theater. A simple dinner menu of high quality food with "seat" service would be significant to the whole experience. Free popcorn and soft drinks would add to the movie-going experience.

Transportation - Parking is in short supply for this theater. A grocery store parking lot provides needed overflow parking. I would craft two elements to add to the theater experience. First, valet parking and a red carpet to make the arrival process more like attending a movie premiere. Hire photographers to play paparazzi snapping pictures as patrons arrive. Award the best-dressed patron an award. This is a time to dress like a star to be seen. Second, lease or purchase an old refurbished double-decker bus. Establish bus routes through the community with stops at set locations where parking is plentiful. (i.e. office buildings with idle parking lots in the evenings, etc.) On senior evenings plan bus service to and from local retirement communities. Seniors like movies but many do not want to drive after dark. Swing by a hotel or two. Craft the bus ride into the whole experience. Have ushers to seat you, popcorn for the ride, movie trivia games, show tunes on the sound system, etc. Serve ice cream bars on the way home. Make it easy, fun and memorable. Partner with Area Hotels - Create dinner and a movie packages with area hotels. Use the bus for service from and to the hotel. Business travelers may want an easy way to fill an evening. Get on the bus, see a movie, have dinner and take the bus back is easy and fun. Traveling tour bus groups could be accommodated. "Movie Cats" Friends of the Catlow - Start a non-profit group to support the theater. Offer memberships that include special screenings (premieres), discounted movie passes. Raise money for the upkeep of the historic elements of the facility. Host fundraisers for local charities. Join with other preservation groups supporting other historic theaters. It all builds cache for the movie going experience.

Some fun creative ideas can save this theater and make a cultural impact on the surrounding communities. In a homogenized multiplex world fewer and fewer authentically differentiated experiences exist. It's the small innovative experience crafters that prevail. Just look at the movie that provided a saving influx of revenue for the Catlow. My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out of nowhere and wildly exceeded all expectations. The Catlow could be just the little theater that wildly exceeds all expectations. Owners that understand that the Catlow is in the entertainment experience business is the key. If they continue to be in the movie exhibition business they will lose. Others simply have technical advantage. They don't have a 76 year old gem of a theatre. The great building, like leather seats, a bus and food service, is an element to crafting the entertainment experience. Skillfully using all the elements together can create magic. Oh, and don't forget to sell the soundtrack CDs in the lobby after the show. Catlow photos copyright 1995-2003 Boloney's, Inc. More PeterThink on movies and marketing: What Business are Theaters In? Theaters Missing Opportunities.


Something to Think About

I've put together a list of books I'd recommend to stimulate thinking. I may not be the first person to recommend some of these titles to you but my recommendation may cause your pile of recommendations for a given title to tip over and land on the order button. Think what would happen if you resolved to read one new book each week? You'd have something to think about and some fresh thinking to apply to your life and career. Something to Think About Besides, the affiliate love keeps PeterThink a float. If you don't see anything you like on my list go ahead and browse awhile. Thanks for your support.

Reebok Signs A Three Year Old

A lot of media attention has been paid to Nike's $100 million dollar endorsement deal with Lebron James an 18 year old high school basketball star who hasn't even played in the NBA. Word is that he's the next Michael Jordan. If that's true he may be worth the money we'll see. Can an 18 year old live the role model life that he will be thrust into? Now comes a story from USA today about Reebok signing a three-year-old! Yes a three-year-old! They have signed him up to do ads and promotional TV programming. Reebok hopes to use young Mark Walker Jr. as the centerpiece for a gifted youth contest that may lead to a TV show. The payday for Mark: a college trust fund that may threaten his amateur status in the eyes of the NCAA in 15 years. No word on whether or not he can dunk. What if Nike sponsored teachers? I wonder.


Something to Think About

I've put together a list of books I'd recommend to stimulate thinking. I may not be the first person to recommend some of these titles to you but my recommendation may cause your pile of recommendations for a given title to tip over and land on the order button. Think what would happen if you resolved to read one new book each week? You'd have something to think about and some fresh thinking to apply to your life and career. Something to Think About Besides, the affiliate love keeps PeterThink a float. If you don't see anything you like on my list go ahead and browse awhile. Thanks for your support.

The Next Big Thing - Go to Your Room!

Turns out teenagers and preteens have rooms of their own and lots of money to spend decorating them. According to Fast Company magazine, teens spend $125 billion of their own money and influence another $245 billion in household spending. Marketers already have teens going to movies and buying the latest fashions. Now they're out to make decorating cool. At the epicenter of this new trend is the new TV show Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls that airs on NBC on Saturday mornings. A spin off of the incredibly popular cable show, Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls teams 12yo girls to redecorate a 12yo boys room and vice versa. The results are trendy flop down and hang out teen friendly spaces that appear to be fast and easy to create. You can imagine product placement heaven for marketers. Waiting in the wings looking to receive some of those billions at stake are stores like Target with their trendy designer wares and Wal-mart with their cheap stuff. A new entry into the arena and destined to be a heavy weight as far as capturing and shaping trends is PBteen from William-Sonoma's successful Pottery Barn. Like the parent company and the successful Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen is said to focus on basics that can bring some order to the perceived chaos of teen rooms while providing some fashion forward and trendy goods to flesh out the look. The point is to appeal to the credit card holder (parent) who wants clean and order while the teen wants hip and fashionable. Sounds like a good formula. Time will tell.


Flip Flops, Bras and iPods: the Crowd Goes Wild

Attention members of the Oprah Swarm you're gonna be flocked today. Take a break from selling off your Martha Stewart Omnidirectional stock holdings and tune in. Oprah is presenting another installment of her "Favorite Things" show. In this spring edition Oprah presents some of her "personal" favorite things. Most are recommendations from her circle of celebrity friends and some are clearly the efforts of marketers to get their products showcased on this all powerful promotional vehicle. Oprah presents the Apple iPod as her favorite tech item for spring although clearly she doesn't know how to operate it or how it works. The promotional value of an Oprah endorsement and showcase like this is huge. Small obscure companies can be overnight successes based on an Oprah appearance. This is classic personality brand marketing. Millions of people love Oprah and are ready to love things that Oprah loves. They also want to be seen as in the know amongst their fellow Oprah fans. Oprah handles this promotion with real subtlety. Too hard a "sell" and people will be turned off seeing through it as pure marketing. A personal story about each item and an audience give away which generates huge energy keeps the show from feeling too much like infomercial. The magic here is the true personal story of the celebrity who is making the endorsement. Marketing savvy consumers can see through paid endorsements by celebrities. The ability of people to co-opt the story and make it their own adds to the effectiveness of the marketing. "I saw this applesauce on Oprah the other day. Her neighbor makes it. The lilac is supposed to help elderly who have Alzheimer's." By being in the know about the product and the story the consumer feels connected to their friends by connecting them to their (aspirational) friend Oprah. This only works as well as it does because people feel they know Oprah. People have become familiar with her because she has been in their homes via television everyday for years. The mix has to be just right: the personality brand, their swarm, the product and the story all must align for the magic to happen. For more on Personality Brands Personality Brands and Community For More on Personality Swarm Marketing Everyone in the Audience Gets One


Toyota Tweaks the Prius

After overcoming the ambiguity of the name Prius for it's hybrid gas/electric powered vehicle (Ask four people how to pronounce Prius and you'll likely get at least three different responses.) Toyota has realized that it's time to revise the incredibly bland design of Prius ver. 1.0. While a lot better, I don't think that this version will be good enough to become the next Mini Cooper or Volkswagen Beetle in design appeal. I suspect that the designers and engineers on the project are focused on developing the new technology to the expense of creating an automotive experience for a chosen customer base. Who is the customer for the Toyota Prius? Is this a car for men or women? Is it cool or cute? Do people who drive this car have children? Where do Prius drivers shop for groceries, go for vacations, park their cars? Are there clues in the design of the car? The message I get is that there is no clear target customer. It's mass market design but the mass market isn't ready to buy yet. Toyota is selling their other cars to the mass market. They need to target, design, market and sell the Prius to greater and greater depths of the fringe market. People who live environmentally conscious lives are the obvious market here. They connect the dots of higher fuel mileage/ less dependency on non-renewable fossil fuels sources/ fewer emissions/etc. They car pool, ride bicycles, go hiking, recycle, visit national parks, shop farmers markets, buy in bulk from warehouse stores and plant vegetable gardens. Is their anything about the design of the Prius that supports any of these lifestyle attributes? Be ready for a barrage of advertising and PR for the new Prius. The product isn't focused enough to sell itself within existing consumer communities so they're gonna have to push it hard.


Line Extension Folly of the Year

Vehicle brands are lending their brands to footwear manufacturers. This is going to be a disaster unless the marketers can orchestrate the "Hushpuppy Tip" as described by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point. Unless the fashion industry picks up on these and makes it hyper cool to be seen in them they are doomed. If you own the vehicle you'll be seen as a geek. "They wear those to remember what kind of car they drive." Worse, if you don't own the brand of vehicle you're shouting: Wannabe! "He can't afford to drive a Hummer so he wears Hummer shoes." (A shoe that could truly benefit from the notorious "Puma" ads. Wink Wink) What is Jeep thinking calling their line "Explorer Footwear?" That's good use the name of your competitor in your new product name. The one company that has a chance at making this work is Honda. They are licensing a line of boots and shoes aimed at customers of their successful motorcycle line. This is a well established fashion sensitive hive that just may adopt these boots as must have riding gear. I'll be watching for Nike and Harley-Davidson like marketing mojo here but I won't be holding my breath. For more thinking about shoes read Shoes Glorious Shoes from the PeterThink archives.