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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mocking Family
and Friends

Cheap Laughs for...er... Cheap!
Discovered a new (new to me anyway) online comic called "Yirmumah" by DJ Coffman and Bob McDeavitt. It's well written and illustrated, and it's a been a lot of fun gorging myself on the archived pages over the holidays.

Most online comics sell a bit of loot to help raise funds to keep their site up and the lights on over the drafting tables. You'll usually find things offered through CafePress.com, custom t-shirts, or the occasional signed pencil sketch. But Yirmumah offers a new twist on the old fairgrounds fare -- caricatures.

But, this is not the crappy stuff typically found on your state fair midway -- Coffman's Yir-Caricatures includes your likeness drawn in whatever setting you want, doing whatever you choose, in his own comicbook illustrative style. ...And it's CHEAP. He's only charging $5 for a black and white drawing and $8 for a color version (you pay that much for a SODA at the fair!) For an additional charge, he'll put you in the scene with multiple people -- your best friend, worst enemy, or sexiest centerfold (um... not that I know anything about that personally, or um...anything like that... I'm just saying...)

Yir-Caricatures also offers the opportunity to become a comicstrip legend -- DJ is adding any of the characters he draws to his 'flip file'. That means anytime he needs a an "extra" in his strip -- for background scenes, crowds, the guy at the next table in the coffee shop, etc. he'll choose a likeness from one of his caricatures. You could have a walk-on role in the Yirmumah comic -- that's pretty cool.

If you're interested (or should that be if "Yirintrested?") just click over to Yirmumah.net to see samples and pricing. DJ even started a "caricature blog" to let you know who's up next in the queue and how production is progressing.

It's a great idea from a guy with some great talent.
I've decided that whenever I'm acting like a sarcastic S.O.B., the thoughts and pictures in my head look exactly like DJ Coffman's cartoons -- get outta my head! Get outta my head! (any lawyers out
there think I might have an infringement suit against this guy?)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

King Don of Kingdomality
Hello, I'm Don and I'll be your
Benevolent Ruler this evening.

Although the Kingdomality quiz has been online for years it's still worth another look, because now it's a book (no extra charge for the rhyme.)

When I originally took the quiz (several years ago) I think I was a Knight or a Prime Minister. When I retook the test last week and it turns out I've been promoted to "Benevolent Ruler" -- who's yer King Daddy, baybeee?!
It appears they've added quite a bit of content to fill out the book. There's now a whole section on "Dragon Slaying" (problem solving), and they've expanded the personality descriptions and how they interact with one another.

The book comes out in January, and I'm looking forward to reading it. I thought I'd give you a heads-up, so that you can add it to your reading list... Just another example of what a Benevolent Ruler I am!

Here's the description of my personality type:

The Benevolent Ruler might be found in most of the thriving kingdoms of the time. You are the idealistic social dreamer. Your overriding goal is to solve the people problems of your world. You are a social reformer who wants everyone to be happy in a world that you can visualize.

You are exceptionally perceptive about the woes and needs of humankind. You often have the understanding and skill to readily conceive and implement the solutions to your perceptions. On the positive side, you are creatively persuasive, charismatic and ideologically concerned.

On the negative side, you may be unrealistically sentimental, scattered and impulsive, as well as deviously manipulative. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.

You can take the free online test to see how you would fit into the mix of a medieval kingdom.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

JibJab's Grumpy Santa says save
the cookies and put out some cash!
The team that brought us all the funny election animations have set their sights on Santa. Apparently eons of giving away toys has finally added up, and jolly Saint Nick ain't so jolly anymore.
Grumpy Santa

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Day Late and a Calacanis Short
I liked Jason Calacanis' "new" idea better
when Seth Godin thought of it a year ago.
I hate to send anyone over to Calacanis' weblog -- although I check it every other day or so to see what else he's gotten wrong and who else he's trying to bait into an overblown argument to generate links to his blog.

Yeah, I KNOW I'm playing his stupid game by linking to him in this post, but I hate when people claim the ideas of others as their own.

Calacanis posted a contest requesting ideas for what readers would do if they ran Google.

I think it's a GREAT idea.
As a matter of fact, I thought it was a great idea waaay back in August of 2003 when Seth Godin did it first.

If Calacanis is interested in potential ideas for Google's next move, perhaps he should simply download the free PDF Seth created after choosing his favorite ideas (I'm rather partial to the idea listed on page 68.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Frontline Online
PBS' Frontline Documentaries
available for online viewing

Two excellent programs on trend manufacturing and persuasion marketing are now available for online viewing (free!) --

The Persuaders
Synopsis: Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists—most of whom work for one of six giant companies—spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. Increasingly, these techniques are migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders.

In "The Persuaders," FRONTLINE explores how the cultures of marketing and advertising have come to influence not only what Americans buy, but also how they view themselves and the world around them. The 90-minute documentary draws on a range of experts and observers of the advertising/marketing world, to examine how, in the words of one on-camera commentator, "the principal of democracy yields to the practice of demography," as highly customized messages are delivered to a smaller segment of the market.

Merchants of Cool
Synopsis: They spend their days sifting through reams of market research data. They conduct endless surveys and focus groups. They comb the streets, the schools, and the malls, hot on the trail of the "next big thing" that will snare the attention of their prey--a market segment worth an estimated $150 billion a year.

They are the merchants of cool: creators and sellers of popular culture who have made teenagers the hottest consumer demographic in America. But are they simply reflecting teen desires or have they begun to manufacture those desires in a bid to secure this lucrative market? And have they gone too far in their attempts to reach the hearts--and wallets--of America's youth?

Good stuff!

Monday, December 20, 2004

This Secret Santa was
a Little TOO Secret
Oh well... maybe next year.
I just learned about this site -- it's a pretty cool concept and I think I'll sign-up for next year. It's an idea with great possibilities, but needs to be a bit more viral. I'm really surprised I didn't hear about it sooner.

Big opportunities for the site owner to make a bit of an income using affiliate programs, especially if he/she can increase the number of participants and encourage the majority of them to make their purchases through a collection of Secret Santa links.

This is an idea that ought to be added to the Blog To Riches book.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Filching NetFlix
Mimicing the Business
Model of the Moment
Aside from Blockbuster's recent attempts to turn some NetFlix biz their way, I've discovered a few other companies that seem to be adopting similar membership/payment styles:

Bag Borrow or Steal is a handbag borrowing business that charges from three different levels of monthly membership fees in exchange for the loan of designer purses. Keep your selection as long as you like, and then return it for the next style in your "virtual closet" wishlist.

Zooba.com is taking book-of-the-month clubs in a new direction. After joining for $9.95 per month, you create an online reading list from their available titles. Your first book is shipped immediately, and then one follows every month thereafter -- each one selected from your personal reading list.

The simple twist here is that you own the book. It's basically your standard book-club membership, except instead of sending you a selection card to return every month, you simply assemble your monthly selections in advance via your online reading list. It's a brilliant application of the almost trendy NetFlix business model. I didn't know whether to be disgusted or in awe of their common sense genius. I decided upon "awe" -- it sure beats seeing another one of those "12 books for a penny" promotions!

You can join Zooba by clicking this link.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

True Artist
Quality content compensates
for naughty navigation
Not just your everyday illustrator -- Aaron Jasinski is also an accomplished musician. Aaron's website is beautiful, but I feel he got a little too stylish on navigation. The controls are almost too delicate to be functional -- but definitely worth the trouble.

Be sure to start playing his Aaron's music before moving on to browse his paintings (how thoughtful of him to provide a custom soundtrack!) the music will continue to play as you click over to the illustrations. My favorite paintings are his contemporary interpretations of the astrological zodiac signs.

It would be nice if the music tracks would continue to advance as each song ends, but they don't. You'll need to go back to the music page and click on the next tune you'd like to hear.

Very cool, and I'm very jealous.
...the talented bastard...

Monday, December 13, 2004

NY Times Magazine's
The Year In Ideas
An annual compendium of ideas from A to Z. (Or at least Y. And, frankly, also missing J, O, Q, R and X.)

This past Sunday's NY Times Magazine did a great job of collecting some notable innovations of the past year, but I think a few are missing... how about you?

Another incredible collection of creativity is the Dictionary of the History of Ideas. It's an excellent archive of innovative advancements through the ages.

...I haven't stretched my alliterative muscles in awhile, and they were due for a workout. :)

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Sweet Sounds of iSerenity
There are plenty of computer screensavers that have a slideshow comprised of pretty pictures. Some even have nice sound files attached to them. The problem is, you can't really work on your computer if you want to see or hear them -- any motion of the mouse will usually stop the screensaver and you'll be back to staring at the stinkin' spreadsheet you need to finish by the end of day.

Looking for a moment's peace?
Need two seconds of tranquility?
Seeking serenity?
Look no further -- iSerenity.com is the place to go for a library of peaceful background noises that play directly from your computer, and work in the background so that you can hear the sounds of serenity without feeling unproductive.

The iSerenity library currently includes; rain, wild wind, roaring ocean, bubbling brook, crackling fire, crickets, whale songs, and many others. My favorites are the 'sounds of New York' and 'whimsical windchimes'. I thought the most unusual offerings were a hairdryer, vacuum, and typewriters.

It's basically like those atmospheric/ambient noise audio CDs that you can buy -- but each iSerenity choice is accompanied by a pictorial slideshow, and they're FREE.

Nothing to download, nothing to install, and you don't even have to register an email address. Just visit the site and click on whatever sound of serenity you prefer! It works great in the background (just keep their browser window active) and continues to play while you work in whatever program you wish.

iSerenity is a great companion to the DailyZen.com site, and have the perfect sounds by which to contemplate DailyZen's meditation of the day.

An excellent way to find a moment's peace and get your head back in the game.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Free Refills
A freshly brewed pot of
creativity from the Idea Barista
The Marketing Playbook co-author, John Zagula, added an important 8th entry to my original list of seven reasons why ideas are like coffee, and I thought it worth revisiting.

8. Creativity Is Caffeinated
Ideas Give You Energy! A great idea just seems to fill you with energy and excitement. Sharing that idea with someone who "gets it" packs twice the punch. It's like drinking a double-espresso -- the extra shot gives you a bigger boost!

Here's a few more to make an even dozen...

9. The Filtering Comes Last
When brewing your coffee, you should start with whole beans. Those beans are then roasted, ground, and (right before you're ready to brew) put into a filter. Same goes with ideas -- start with great big, raw, (whole bean) concepts. Pick 'em right off the plant without regard to the rest of the process. Don't start the filtering process too early -- you'll miss out on some quality ideas and your finished brew will suffer.

10. You Can Get Coffee To-Go
Nothing says you have to drink coffee at your kitchen table or the corner cafe. Simply fill-up a travel mug and take it with you. It stays hot and fresh, and is at the ready whenever you require a dose of caffeinated goodness. Ideas travel well too! A ballpoint pen along with a pocket notebook, index card, or (for those high-tech souls) a PDA, all provide the perfect "to-go" mug for carrying your hot ideas with you no matter where you travel.

11. Select From Many Blends
Breakfast Blend, French Roast, Colombian, Espresso, etc. You can find a coffee for almost any taste. Sample different blends of ideas -- outrageous, optimistic, futuristic, nostalgic, restrictive, unlimited, gargantuan, lilliputian, foreign, alien, domestic, imported, etc. Creative blends far outnumber coffee blends!

12. Variety Of Applications
Coffee flavoring is used in ice cream, cakes, candy, liquor, sauces -- even breakfast cereal! The applications would amaze you. Try taking a single idea and applying it to a variety of formats. Apply an idea for a new toy to office supplies, medical procedures, the space program, (breakfast cereal!) and see where it leads you.

I'm really enjoying this "Idea Barista" concept and I'm having fun applying the principles of idea generation to coffee.

It's inspired me to create a special "Idea Barista" coffee mug.
I plan to create it so I can use CafePress.com to order a single mug for myself, but I thought some of you might be interested in owning one as well.

Send me an email or post a comment via the link below, and let me know if you're interested in getting your own Idea Barista/Creativity Is Caffeinated mug.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Buzz Debate
Ragezz On

Not enough honey in the hive to make this
BzzAgent lie about cool (or crappy) products.

NPR's The Connection aired a discussion with the author of the NY Times article and Dave Balter, founder of BzzAgent.com. Audio is archived and free.

The current debate over Word-of-Mouth (WoM) advertising seems to keep coming down to the assumption that campaign participants are paid to lie, manufacture positive spin on bad products, or somehow otherwise asked to be insincere.
It's simply not true.

The primary example being given is of Sony/Ericsson's efforts to hawk their camera phone through a bit of theatrically scripted 'dramatic marketing' (DRAMArketing?) . The practices of companies like BzzAgent are diametrically opposed to those employed by Sony.

A BzzAgent's opinions are are real, unscripted, peer-to-peer interactions. I can't speak to what other WoM organizations may practice, but as a BzzAgent myself I'm happy to report that I was never asked to do anything remotely devious or underhanded.

Word-of-Mouth marketing is
"Open Source" marketing.
Companies can generate loads of buzz (good or bad) by simply getting their products in the hands of real-users and allowing the natural progression of information-sharing to spread from peer-to-peer. One need only witness the Firefox browser's seemingly overnight popularity and current cult-like following. Only Mac users seem to be this passionate about an object of their desire.

Mozilla freely allowed the public to download the Forefox browser and word spread from peer-to-peer, like... er... like "fire."

What I see BzzAgent attempting to do is track and measure the way this message spreads from a campaign they organize and monitor. A limited quantity of free product is distributed to their list of pre-qualified BzzAgents, (they can selected by region, age group, sex, etc.) and those agents are asked sample the product for themselves, and (if the agent feels it's worth talking about) to file reports of any activity in which they tell someone about the product -- positive OR negative!

As far as being "paid to promote" -- BzzAgents are awarded a small amount of points for each report they file. There are no deposits to Swiss bank accounts or offshore holding companies.

The points are not withheld and awarded only for positive reports. As one who wasn't too fond of a recent book (I didn't like the paper it was printed on, nor the quality of printing, and I thought there were better resources already available). These points are awarded equally despite the buzz generated being positive or negative.

Once enough points are collected, they can be exchanged for other items (primarily books) which also seem to be items that might generate additional WoM.

I think BzzAgent is smart enough to realize you can't control buzz, nor have they tried to -- at least not in any campaign in which I've participated. In my opinion (and since I AM a BzzAgent, and seem to be the only one reporting on it that has actually experienced a Bzz campaign, received their marketing materials, read their specific campaign instructions, filed a report, etc.) what they are attempting to do is QUANTIFY it.

BzzAgent evaluates their agent's efforts and produce reports on the spread of the WoM they generate. This has value to their clients and they charge accordingly for their efforts.

For me, BzzAgent is a means of getting first-access to the 'cool new stuff' that I like to talk about with my firends and write about in my blog. If I wasn't a BzzAgent, I'd still be getting the next Seth Godin book and telling my friends about it -- as a BzzAgent, I get it a couple weeks earlier and I get my copy for free.

As for being rewarded with BzzPoints, I usually end up redeeming them for additional copies of the book I buzzed, and giving the copies away to friends I know will enjoy it as well.

If a Bzz Campaign has a GREAT product, I'm happy to tell others about it -- if they have a CRAPPY product, I'm gonna tell people it's crappy. There's no lying or deceit, only the opportunity to tell my friends about cool (or not) stuff.

If BzzAgent ever DID try to control the message I shared, or even penalized me for spreading a negative message, I'd buy into the "paid to promote" theory -- but until then (at least in my opinion) Word-of-Marketing is simply "open source" marketing.

Editors note: To help stop the perception that BzzAgents must keep their identities hidden, I've added the BzzAgent logo to my blog.

To those that think I have some ulterior motive to the items I review and recommend, I actually have more of a vested interest in you buying a book from one of my Amazon links than any BzzAgent campaign in which I've participated. I would no more give a positive book review in the hopes that you'd buy it from my Amazon link than I would give positive buzz to a product which did not deserve it.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Moore Fun at
John's Blog

GoDaddy's Big Daddy Responds
Excellent discussion going on at the Brand Autopsy blog
here, here, here, and here discussing the big daddy of domain registrations -- GoDaddy.com's -- intentions to spend big bucks on a tiny SuperBowl ad.

These guys and gals contributing to the discussion are passionate about GoDaddy's service and position, and are reluctant to quietly let GoDaddy join the hundreds of lame SuperBowl ads that have aired over the years that have not only failed to generate business, but could arguably be the reason their financial coffers when kaput. At last count, FOX was pricing :30 Super Bowl spots at $2.4 million bucks each!

At current GoDaddy.com domain registration prices ($8.95 for .com domains) -- and Bob Parsons' (GoDaddy President and Founder) own calculations of one domain being registered at GoDaddy.com every 7 seconds -- that's a lot of dot-com-dinero to spend on a single thirty-second Super Bowl spot!

At least I'm happy to hear
from Bob Parsons himself that the spot will not include the words "Who's Yer GoDaddy?"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Fast Friends
Tattoos and Cartoons
A couple online buddies have made it into the finals for Fast Company magazine's Fast 50 of 2005.

Hugh MacLeod (the 'cartoons on the back of business cards' guy from GapingVoid.com) was nominated by yours truly and made it into the second round of selections on the strength of his sardonic insights into the current state of marketing and advertising -- as well as his solutions for improving it. His "How To Be Creative" manifesto is one of the most-downloaded documents on ChangeThis.com.

Karen Post (The Branding Diva) is another nominee I'm happy to endorse. Her new book "Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands The Stick In Your Customers' Minds" is part guidebook, part workbook, and benchmarking tool against which to create and compare your own branding efforts. My hope is that her status as a contributing writer to Fast Company's monthly branding column doesn't prevent her from gaining Fast 50 status.

Visit the Fast 50 nominee pages listed below and read their stories. If you think they're half as cool and I do -- please take the time to jot down a line or two and be sure to cast a vote in favor of adding their names to the 2005 Fast 50.

See Karen Post's entry
See Hugh Macleod's entry

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Kevin Roberts Has A
Big Red Rubber Nose
"Lovemarks are the Clown Suit of the advertising industry."

I'd like to think I arrived early at the "Don't Drink The Lovemarks Kool-Aid" party, but I'm just happy I stayed until the clowns showed-up.

The big throw-down is happening at GapingVoid.com -- don't miss a minute of the Lovemarks-Cluetrain Deathmatch!

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