Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Michael Jackon auctioning off the best collection of anything ever.

Michael Jackson may be trying to kick his Peter Pan complex. Or maybe he's just in desperate need of money. Either way, he's auctioning off a huge collection of memorabilia in LA in April. The entire catalog is available online for browsing, or purchase. Since the auction is just days before my big 35th birthday, my wishlist (along with starting bids) is listed below.

  • Life-size Han Solo (in Carbonite) $800 - $12,000
  • Life-size R2-D2 $700 - $900
  • Life-size CP30 $1000 - $1500
  • Life-size Boba Fett $800 - $1200
I'd also happily provide a home for any of the hundreds of arcade games.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pepsico listens to the people

Consumers of Tropicana Orange Juice weren't overwhelmed by the recent redesign parent co. Pepsico released, in which the longtime 'orange with a straw' image was replaced by a tall glass of OJ against an otherwise naked background. And they complained about it (I noticed the change myself, and happen to agree with those that thought it looked a lot like what you might expect from a generic store brand). Pespico has announced, as a result, that the old packaging will return. The takeaway here (if you can ignore the massive wasted cost associated with designing, producing, and then canning the 'new and improved' packaging, more on that below) is that the consumer has mad power. And that companies are listening.

Interestingly enough, Pepsico has been redesigning across divisions lately, with new packaging for the Gatorade and Pepsi lines as well. All courtesy of The Arnell Group. The common minimalizm is evident in all three redesigns. While I'm a minimalistic guy when it comes to, say...decorating my living room, none of these passes my sniff test. We'll see if the other two survive.

The cost, by the way...? This Advertising Age release (posted on the Arnell Group website) suggests a million dollar bill just for the agency effort. When you factor in updating ALL marketing materials (think delivery trucks, vending machines, etc) that cost could easily grow to several million dollars.

UPDATE - 04/02/09

This is all far enough in the rear view mirror now that there is some concrete evidence to the damage (and cost) associated with Tropicana's big FAIL redesign. Sales dropped a fairly astonishing 20% after the new packaging hit the shelves, a hit to the Pepsico wallet of approximately 30 million dollars.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Big Brands Struggle With Social Media

Really good post on Mashable about the challenges big brand companies face in adopting 'new media' as a business channel. The second bullet particularly really resonates (and probably isn't limited to just large organizations). Where does your social media expert fit?

Why Big Brands Struggle With Social Media

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Keeping up with the Joneses (in kilowatts)

Sure, it's probably instinctive to compare your lawn to your neighbor's. Or the condition of the paint on your house. But can the average american's desire to pwn their neighbors translate into motivation to improve their carbon footprint? Counties with serious energy issues, like Sacramento, are hoping so, and are turning to Arlington's Positive Energy to help.

Positive Energy crunches information from a number of data streams (demographic, weather & housing data, utility records, customer behavior) and creates clear benchmarks that mirror each customer's geographic/demographic factors. The customer then receives a report that compares their actual monthly usage to the monthly usage of the "average" neighbor, and "efficient" neighbors. For those of us who thrive on positive feedback, there's even a smiley face rating scale for conservative usage.

Results so far have been positive, with Sacramento reporting a 2% efficiency improvement in customers who received these custom reports. Everyone wins in this equation, so expect this trend to continue.

My last electric bill came today, btw, and it's out of control. Shooting for a smiley face next month.

UPDATE 03/19/09

Got last month's electricity bill today, and it was approx. 40% lower. Obsessively unplugging
appliances seems to have worked. Smiley face for me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Facebook TOS reprieve

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg updated his official blog last night announcing that that, due to the "questions and comments" Facebook received on the TOS changes released Feb 4th, they would "roll back" to the old version. And there was much rejoicing.

Lost in the announcement seems to be the "for now" part. Anyone who thinks that the next version of their TOS isn't going to include similar language is fooling themselves. Facebook didn't change the way they cached your content so that they could keep it (even after you cancel your account)... they were already keeping it. And guess what? They probably still are.

Facebook launched a poll to gauge users reactions, and at of last night, CNet was reporting that 56% of respondents wanted the TOS rolled back. I imagine that a position poll about last summer's redesign would have been far more "anti-change" however, and we all know how that ended.

What really surprises me is how much of Facebook's userbase seems to think that their content on Facebook belongs to them. The original (and now current, temporarily) TOS even says that Facebook may "retain archived copies of your User Content". So was all this uproar just over the fact that they might use it after you've canceled your account?

My position is that this really boils down to semantics, and awareness, and communication. No one reads TOS, and until this colorfully titled article in the Consumerist, I'd wager that very few Facebook users ever really thought about Facebook's intentions for their content. I imagine that the next version of their TOS won't be much of a departure at all, other than how it's worded.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shoryuken indeed.

Today marks the release of Capcom's Street Fighter IV for the Xbox and PS3, some 11 years after the third installment of the series. I've never been much of a gamer, but this is one franchise that gets my support. And not just me, apparently...according to Capcom's own numbers, the Super NES version of Street Fighter II (released in 1992) is STILL their best selling game of all time. Must have hit that ellusive sweet spot between the hardcore fans and mainstream dabblers.

Looks like the IV installment is going for that same vein, with the original cast of characters coming back (plus some additions). Judging from the screenshots on the official website, it remains a 2D game, with what appear to be some 3D effects.

Hard to believe that the first Street Fighter Arcade games were produced in 1987. Is the demographic that this franchise resonates with still gaming?


Thursday, February 12, 2009

as the economy turns for the worse, merchants turn to blogs

Wall Street's displeasure with Tuesday's bank bailout announcement sent the Dow diving to a 3-month low (impressively negative, particularly in today's climate). America's consumers however, seem more optimistic (not to mention proactive) about a turnaround, as retail indicators actually ROSE, after a steady six month decline. Which got me thinking about how much transparent power that select segment of the US population (those who have, buy and/or sell stocks) has as a bellwether of economic trend while we, the consumer, are boldly asked to spend, spend, spend to help the struggling economy back on it's feet.

Small business owners, of course, understand the significance of the consumer's role...and are turning to blogs en masse to reach them, and convince them to spend.

In a release last week by MerchantCircle (the
largest social network of local business owners in the nation with over 685,000 members) they report seeing a 190% increase in merchant blogs in the last year. More impressively, they claim that merchants who have blogs see an "average of 30% more traffic to their website". Traffic that can be monetized, culled for feedback, and turned into longterm customer relationships.

full press release here


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sarah Palin, spokes(mock)person?

Sarah Palin turns 45 today, and I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised that the red letter day would have completely escaped my attention had I not been searching for her specifically on Twitter.

The REASON that I was twitter searching Sarah Palin was not so that I could follow her. Rather, I've been hearing new Jerry's Subs & Pizza commercials on the radio lately that make me want to stab myself in the eardrums, and was curious to see if the twittersphere was all a-twitter with likemindedness. It wasn't, noticeably.

You see...the good Gov and I disagree on just about every issue (shooting wolves from helicopters, drilling liberally in Alaska, etc). While I understand that many people disagree with ME, one thing that most people WILL agree that she's an extremely polarizing figure. So while the majority of radio listeners that hear the new Jerry's commercial don't likely change the channel (as I do) , I still have to question her selection, now that she's faded in (relative) obscurity.

Any one know who their creative agency is?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Facebook turns 5, becomes Myspace

It irks me when people identify themselves as 'early adopters'. Always seems like pointless oneupsmanship. I swear, I've never said it.

When it came to Myspace and Facebook, I was an 'early adopter'. Don't know why they both appealed to me so much, or rather, I can't remember anymore, but I jumped on the bandwagon of both early, and enthusiastically.

I do remember graduating to Facebook though(which just turned 5 today), and rejoicing in the lack of lists and surveys and bulletins and pictures of yourself in the mirror and friend hoarding. I admitted in adult circles that I was on Facebook (certainly never made that claim about Myspace).

I've noticed an alarming trend lately on Facebook though. Everyday, a "25 things about me" or a "25 random songs from my ipod" pops up on my feed. I don't like it. So I'm looking for the next place to graduate to. What's the next big social networking site? LinkedIn? Twitter? FriendFeed to my iGoogle page?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

getting to know your employees - Exxon Edition

ExxonMobil posted $45.2 billion in annual profit in 2008. Not revenue...profit. Which breaks the previous record for annual profit for a U.S. company of $40.6 billion, set by Exxon a year earlier.

How does a company that's constantly paying million dollar fines for environmental damages still post back-to-back record breaking annual profits? My initial guess would be by gouging consumers at the pumps.

My second guess would be this guy, and an untold number of indonesian workers like him. What do you suppose he makes an hour?

woot for the green crowd

I got hooked on woot (the t-shirt version) for a while. I was working at AOL at the time, and we were a pretty hip group (well...with a few minor exceptions). Made the unfortunate decision to set woot as my homepage. I wear a lot of t shirts. My fiance is thrilled.

EcoSteal is kind of like woot for the green crowd, offering "one organic, eco-friendly, or recycled steal at a time". Judging by the discount on today's item, the deals are good. Although I think you DO pay shipping.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Just heard that the SuperBowl last night was the second most watched Super Bowl in history (although I have some friends abroad who perceived a general ambivalence in non US countries). Also heard that there's some measure of solidarity in the sports world that the Steelers record 6th franchise Super Bowl win was in no small part helped by some serious refereeing gaffes.

While I hesitate to play the role of the whining loser, I thought I'd list a few.

1) not having an official review of the last play was inexcusable.
2) santonio holmes' touchdown catch was amazing. his 'lebron james' celebration should have been a 15 yard penalty, no questions asked.
3) roughing the holder? is that even a penalty?
4) bogus roughing the passer call on Big Ben should've been an intentional grounding. tackles is tackles.

In my defense, while I WAS rooting for the Cards, I really just wanted a close game, which I certainly got. I'm also a consistent detractor of refs.

On a slightly more relevant note...word on the street is that Go Daddy cost themselves quite a few customers with this year's commercial (Network Solutions was likely the biggest beneficiary). I get it. Sex sells, but it helps to have a point too.

Animal adoption is an cause that's close to my heart, in no small part due to the rescued pit-bull that's lounging around my feet under the table as i type this. One of the [few] benefits to my current unemployed status is that we've been able to spend a lot of time together over the last few months and, as her adoptive father, it's endeared her to me to a degree i didn't expect...and hadn't experienced before. I'd like to think she's growing fonder of me too.
Our consistent proximity to each other got me thinking the other day about where she came from. I always assumed, for some reason, that my fiance spent countless hours online jumping from one rescue website to another, making untold calls to tiny local shelters in a reasonable driving radius until she finally located her dream dog. Turns out, i couldn't have been more wrong. (a subsidiary of the Discovery Channel) was, even 4 years ago, the one stop shop for pet adoption. They work with shelters and rescues across the country to provide "real-time" access to their available "inventory"
Admitedlly, it's not the shiny flowing resource that today's web 2.0 users (or social media mavens) are looking for. But if you need a pet, it's the place to look.