when rats attack

This is a weekly simultaneous post featured on Brand Flakes for Breakfast AND the SmartBiz SmartBlog. The posts are geared toward small business.

NBC New York broadcasts a story about rats at a Taco Bell in Greenwich Village. A few years ago, this would have been a local crisis for PR people in New York.

But now, it's instantly national, with blogs, YouTube, and everything else. Brands need to be ready to respond to these types of emergencies. Like it or not, they're going to happen. When you least expect them.

And, as Church of the Customer points out, your website needs to be flexible enough to accommodate a rapid response. A wicked cool flash only homepage may not be as flexible as you need.

It's a good idea to integrate adaptable promotional areas where html could quickly be swapped out - for a marketing promotion, for a new product announcement, for when the rats attack. Just a good design practice. This has less to do with Flash, although there are usually developers around that can handle an emergency html change, and more to do with design. The last thing you'll have time for when the rats arrive, is a complete redesign of your home page.

Taco Bell's site actually allows for this (click on the "Latest News" section.) Jet Blue also deserves high marks - they were able to quickly add a customer's bill of rights and embedded video of the CEO to the site.

So, what about your site? Are you ready for the rats?

snowmen are so last year

Some college kids created a wacky Mario character in the snow, on their quad. Seems so much easier just to stay inside where it's warm.

commercial free billboards

Miami Ad School students have produced some awesome concepts for Sirius satellite radio - promoting the service's "100% commercial free" programming.

the future is orange

Geez, I'm in love with Orange. Ernie Schenck found this - and I guess it's an older ad - but great work, nonetheless. Sorry to our euro friends who have probably seen this 800 times, and are sick of the whole Orange thing. I'll post some fresh American crap soon.

this is big

And we're not talking about the stars and stripes ass on Justus, above. Second Life is testing speech.

I'm still a doubting thomas on the ability of the grid to support such a feature, but if it could - this would change everything - and open a whole new world of opportunities for business. Today, avatars basically communicated through instant message. Which is cute, but limiting.

Real speech would change everything. Real meetings could be conducted. Valuable seminars could be held. Travel could be eliminated. Hookers could scream things. Can't wait. (For the meetings, that is)

fake gucci

Even better than the stuff at the swap meet. This guy is my hero this week. Guy calls publication, desperate to sell ad space. Guy books big double-truck ad. Guy sends artwork for ad, featuring a nice pic of himself. Magazine runs ad, and bills Gucci, as the guy told them. Only - he doesn't work for Gucci. Totally bogus ad placement. Love it.

paper can make you feel warm and fuzzy

Super cool ad for the Australia Post, promoting letter writing. You know, that thing your grandma used to do with a piece of paper and a pen. Before she had the blog. From Adrants.

cbs pours money into second life

Sears, Circuit City, and Scion are only the beginning. CBS just invested SEVEN million dollars in Electric Sheep - one of the more prominent Second Life development companies.

What will 7 mill buy? "infrastructure to enable sponsorship by advertisers", was included as one answer to that question in an interview with the Sheep CEO. That, and of course, a Star Trek virtual theme park.

i heart google

Google might be experimenting with video plus boxes, within your search results page. Google. Worship them more everyday.

not ready for a blog? how about a tumblr

They're like blogs, but snappier, shorter, more web 2.0ish. They're cuter. Hmm. From Micropersuation.

gas up in style

Not sure if this is for real - or if it's a movie set, art experiment, or what - but BP has unveiled a phantasmic new gas station design in LA. Can any of our west coast friends elaborate?

g pure energy rocks in full orange effect

Hooters could learn a thing or two from the folks over at G Pure Energy. Yes, the energy drink aisle is overflowing with guarana drinks. Yes, you've got to compete with the Coke and Pepsi products. So....why not do something different?

G Pure Energy appears to have done exactly that. Three things that make this product remarkable:

1. Unique package design. Actually, beautiful package design. Although I'm pretty sure that the silver shiny box was reserved for press only. Oversized screw tops are awesome.

2. A memorable logo. A really, really, cool logo. Start buttons are awesome.

3. Unique flavor. I'm pretty sure there aren't other energy drinks that come in the flavor of orange. In fact, with the exception of my fave, Tab (which comes in the flavor of pink), most of the energy drinks are slight variations of each other.

Now, I'll need to find some and actually taste it. And it looks like it goes well with Vodka. Mmmmm. I'll have a V & G.

samuel l jackson's typography can kick your ass

This is awesome. A classic scene from Pulp Fiction, realized with motion graphics and typography. What a great idea that should be creative inspiration to spawn hundreds of alternate versions. Think of all the films with countless favorite scenes that could be re-lived in a new way. Type mashups. From HowDesign.

souvenirs returned to their natural environments

Very cool
way to travel. Thanks Eliza!

this week at via

Here's what happened this week at the world's most murderous design and branding firm:

Wednesday, we had two simultaneous shoots at the agency. David directed some portraits for a bank president, for a site redesign we're working on. Justus, Giuli and I had another video shoot with the guys in haz mat suits. Always fun.

I got publicity shots taken by uber shooter Derek Dudek. He actually made me look like a humanoid. With a little Photoshop work, I could actually be presentable.

We produced a quick litty ditty about Britney, and her head, for HeadBlade. Oh, Britney.

We launched a site redesign for Mokai. What a cool product. We'll continue building the site out in the next few weeks, but the new design (David's work) is awesome.

Today, we all ate lunch at a restaurant we've re-named "Murder Burger." Under the previous ownership, the restaurant manager was murdered, cut up on a meat slicer in the kitchen, and put into seven different garbage bags. The place has had a couple of new owners since, and we ate there on a dare today. I stayed away from the ground beef. Mmmm.

I've started writing blog posts for SmartBiz. We're going to have a post a week that will be featured simultaneously on both BrandFlakes and the SmartBiz blogs. Brand Flakes, is syndicated! We're stoked.

how a funky ice cream truck can change your business.

This is the first of what will be weekly simultaneous posts on Brand Flakes for Breakfast AND the SmartBiz SmartBlog. (Which sounds really smart.) The posts will be geared toward small business.

Designer Adam Ellis has reinvented the ice cream truck. In doing so, he's reinvented a street vending business. Boutique flavors, a chandelier on the inside, and a truck that customers can write on, this is the ice cream truck overhauled, inside and out. An awesomely unique truck begs to be explored, and clearly has something different to offer.

Adam's truck reminds adults of their childhood - but with a twist. Ice Cream trucks have pretty much disappeared from the suburban landscape. What Adam has done is taken a good idea that's expired - and reinvented the concept for a different time.

How does this relate to your business? You're probably looking at something within your environment that you take for granted. That blends into the background. That has long been forgotten, or no longer useful. Examine your business - your marketplace, and your environment, and ask, what could we reinvent? What could we do differently than anyone else in our business?

Perhaps it's something physical, like your lobby, your desks, your dress code or your trucks. But maybe it's a policy manual, an email program, or a project proposal. It most certainly is something beyond your standard advertising and branding collateral. Something that you, or your agency probably haven't even noticed.

And don't be limited to the real world. Many brands assume they're covered with a simple company website. The opportunities for reinvention are especially ripe with your interactive presence, and there's a host of new tools to help you make it happen. How can you use your Flickr page in a different way? Can you incorporate del.icio.us bookmarks into your brand plan? What have you YouTubed?

Being different allows you to capture the interest of potential customers, retain the love of your evangelists, and stand out in your marketplace. And sometimes it's as simple as reinventing the ordinary things right in front of you.

Here's to the ice cream trucks in your future.

pepsi showin' the cans

One of Pepsi's new spots shows all of life's possibilities. Or some of life's possibilities. And a bunch of their new can designs.

how to make the oscars entertaining

As television shows get fewer and fewer eyeballs, the award shows seem to get less and less entertaining. This year's Grammy's were almost as engaging as C-Span.

Well, Bruce Feiler has an excellent proposal on how to make the Academy Awards fun to watch, again. If they took his advice, they might actually get viewers away from their computers for a night. Thanks Eliza!

fandom works

Last week was a pretty bad week for Jet Blue. Founder and CEO David Neeleman sent a letter of apology to all of their existing customers on Wednesday. This is on top of his video apology, and previous statements. This wasn't just a letter to the people who were stuck in airports last week, but an open letter to every previous customer (or at least every registered frequent flyer). And for the most part, their fans are forgiving them.

Here's why: Their customers were already in love with the brand. It's easy to forgive someone that you care about, or believe in. Especially when they ask for your understanding, and admit to their mistakes. If Continental Airlines was in the same boat, would their customers feel the same way? I'm guessing no.

So there's a great lesson learned here for every brand. Turn your customers into fans. Love your customers, and make sure they love you back. When the time comes, they'll be there for you. Because what the world needs now...oh, geez, I've really lost it. Time to go shave my head.

why britney shaved her head

From people who know these kinds of things...a bunch of stars from the Fit Expo in Pasadena, California, and the world's ultimate head shaving razor, weigh in on why Britney's dome is so clean.

second life is calling

In our testing, we've found that Second Life doesn't run well on a PC or Mac less than a year old. Unless there's a boatload of processing power. But that hasn't stopped someone from figuring out how to run it on a cell phone.

orange you glad you saw this spot

Here's a really cool spot from Orange, that wireless brand that seems to be reinventing everything in their industry.

It's an awesome spot - but what's even more amazing, as Adland reports, is that the effects were not done digitally. They instead used choreography, and strategically placed holes for actors to jump into. Adland even has some clips showing the making of Belonging. Incredible.

brands out of control

Nice cans. (Sorry)

Nothing says energy like a bunch of big breasts on a can. At least that's what Hooters is thinking. Brand extensions, and business diversification makes sense. But c'mon. A Hooters energy drink??

Here's an imagined slide from the PowerPoint deck to launch this concept: "The energy drink marketplace is over crowded. We have no experience in this marketplace. Our brand would bring no value to this marketplace. It didn't work for the airline business, but this is different. Cans aren't as expensive as planes"

Sure, their restaurants will provide a built in first level distribution plan. But that's it. There are so many legitimate business extensions for Hooters that would make sense. (Why not a car wash?) So, why pick an obvious money loser?

whiskey barrels are boring

Think an empty whiskey barrel is boring? Check out the Jack Daniels promotional site where users can WIN A FREE EMPTY, USED BARREL. (Sorry for the Jack Bauer speak - I got my Jacks mixed up temporarily, in an effort to create excitement.) They've brought boring to a new level.

I'm trying to imagine the conference room where a bunch of Jack Daniels executives rallied behind this, saying "we'll get thousands of people to sign up, and build our direct marketing lists!"

It's not that you can't make an empty whiskey barrel exciting - I really think you can. It's that they didn't even try. I can think of about a 36 cool ideas that might actually excite people about old whiskey factory trash. C'mon, Jack. Found on Promo

kids don't like smoke in their face

Three spots for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
dispel misconceptions related to second hand smoke and kids. The accompanying website, Raise Smoke Free Kids, communicates more information to debunk popular myths. Work by Cactus Marketing, Denver and good ol' Reginald Pike in Toronto.

a history lesson you can handle

Beyond Madison Ave points to the history of brands - a site where you can learn about the history of hundreds of the world's most recognized brands. Just in case you didn't have anything to do today.

when billboards crash

Isn't it great when technology fails? (And it doesn't affect you directy?) Cool.

chicks like to ski, too

The ski industry just woke up and discovered girls. Like the snowboard industry has been doing successfully for years, they're aggressively targeting the women in the household. The keeper of the purse strings. The person who says whether or not we're going to the mountain this weekend. The person who might wear pink snow pants.

grl tags rotterdam

The Grafitti Research Lab has posted video of their most recent experiment , in Rotterdam. This would never work in Boston. From 30gms .

lessons learned from jet blue

37 Signals has posted some really good insight into the JetBlue debacle - including some of the items they handled supremely, and a few ideas they should have considered.

I love the fact that the JetBlue website features an embedded YouTube clip of David Neeleman, responding to the situation. I also love that he comes off like a regular business man. He says umm. He stutters a little bit. I can identify with him, and believe him.

In the end, so much comes down to having a genuine brand - and extending everything that your brand stands for, all the way down the line. JetBlue really seems to be trying. (Easy for me to say, sitting at a comfy desk, and not in a flying tube stuck on a runway.)

worlds worst album covers

The best of the worst

Storm Thorgerson and Stefan Sagmeister must be jealous.

podcasts. the next big ad wave.

This internet thing is going to be huge.

pepsi pinball

Pepsi launches a new fun spot (with one of their many new can designs), to the tune of Elton Motello's/Plastic Bertrand's 1970's new wave song "Jet Boy Jet Girl." AdRants wonders if it's another ad agency conspiracy of male on male love. ("Not that there's anything wrong with it.")

The original song was recorded by Elton Motello, and then Plastic Bertrand redid the song, with new lyrics - to include reference to gay sex. I'm not sure (cuz, I don't speak French, and don't have time to investigate) but I think Pepsi used the original Elton Motello version. So the homophobes can still drink Pepsi, without worry.

I especially enjoyed the spot, after catching a little bit of Tommy on television this weekend. What a visual festival for the eyes. Pinball's back, baby.

what you can learn from nine inch nails

NIN gets the internet. Just like Lost has reinvented the TV experience using newly available tools to their advantage, NIN has done the same in the music industry. Last release, they let their fans remix their music.

This release has a world of mysterious sites and actions, that are giving fans something to engage with. A song from their unreleased album was "found" on a flash drive, in a bathroom at one of their shows. Now, odd websites are launching, and curious audio tracks are being released. And people are finding images hidden in spectographs of songs.

In a recent interview with Kerrang!, singer Trent Reznor says that "the new record is a concept, part of a bigger picture of a number of things I'm working on." And that sums it up. It's no longer just a CD.

Can't your branding plan do the same thing? Does it have to be as simple as a series of ads, and a website? What can you do to make it deeper, more engaging?

this week at via

Here's what happened at this week at the world's most freezing (yes, still freezing) design and branding firm:

Justus, Giuli and I had a shoot that included a shot of a guy in a hazmat suit - pictured above. Always a good time. Such a surreal scene, on the top of a parking deck. I'm pretty sure we made some people in the office building across the way a little nervous. I'm really surprised that officials from Boston didn't drive down and arrest us. Or shoot the poor model in the hazmat suit.

I held a boatload of meetings this week, leading to some really cool new services we plan on offering - real soon.

Loads and loads and loads of production work. So many projects right in mid-stream, or a week or two away from launching. Looking forward to closure on a few of them!

We had our first (and last?) winter storm of the season. Whoopee.

chuck norris kicks slacker ass

A fun spot for Mountain Dew where Chuck does what Chuck does best. Nuff said.

f*ck futons

Gotta love a client who will let you use the 'f' word in a headline. The ad is for Apt, an awesome furniture store in NYC, and was featured on the back cover of last week's Time Out NY. Not sure of the agency.

In case you were confused, they're not selling futons meant for f'ing - but are saying that futons suck, and they have cooler stuff. Nice.

get a virtual wife

Giuli pointed this out on Valentines Day, and I never got around to posting about it. You can get married now in Second Life. And it only costs ten Linden dollars. Conveniently, a divorce costs $25 Linden bucks.

This should open up a world of opportunity for SL wedding planners, producers, and of course, divorce attorneys. I just hope the songs they play at SL weddings are better than in real life. We could all do with a little less Kool and the Gang.

leave your virtual world for a conference in the real world

...but about virtual worlds. That's right. You can go to a conference about virtual worlds, but you need to travel to NYC to do it. Umm...right. Why not do this in Second Life? One of the things I've enjoyed most about Second Life is the access it's allowed me to people I wouldn't likely meet or see in real life. Kind of like an expensive conference used to do.

I understand that conferences are a business, and you need to get people out of their offices, yada yada yada - but why not at least do a portion of the conference about virtual worlds, in a virtual world?

The picture of Justus, wearing his magic dancing pants is for your enjoyment only. They likely won't be featured at the conference.

adidas says you'd have fun in a marathon

Cool series of ads for Adidas by 180 Amsterdam.

One commenter alleges that Nike did a very similar idea in Argentina, last year. So, yeah - everything's been done before - just not in every country. Nice work, regardless.

mini launches hammer and coop

MINI. Just awesome. They've launched their new campaign, to promote the new line of Coopers due for release in a couple of days. It all starts with a trailer for Hammer and Coop. You can see the trailer online - but also in theaters - which is a pretty cool move, for a fake trailer. There are supposed to be new, weekly episodes of the Hammer and the Coop show, I assume, starting on February 17. Lovin' the stache.

uniqlo rocks the house

Uniqlo's new site is absolutely wonderous. (Click on "Uniqlo Explorer" on the home page.) Stunning design and Flash work. So jealous.

jc penney tries to be cool

Saatchi & Saatchi are going to try and make JC Penney cool. (Good luck with that.) The new campaign, "Every Day Matters" will debut during the the Academy Awards ceremony on February 25 and will also feature print, online and in-store efforts. Cuz all the cool kids watch the Academy Awards.

jay-z redesigns cherry coke

Rocawear's design team is responsible for the packaging redesign of Cherry Coke. And Adrants points to a new Cherry Coke spot. Which feels a lot like the Skittles spots. Next up: Package design firms releasing hip hop records. It could happen.

take off the "l" for love...

A lot of people noticed Google's special V-day Google logo, yesterday. A lot of people saw something missing. Others believe the stem is an "L". Personally, I see it as a sign that the NUGE is coming back. Or that he's holed up inside the Googleplex, having everything changed to the Googe.

mow everything

A lawnmower so nice, that you'll want everything to be grass.

And, more importantly, Ad Mad! points out that the gnome in the bottom right corner looks like he's giving us the finger.

street walking girls

An artist in Iceland got tired of the pedestrian traffic lights that only featured males. So he added some boobies, for equal opportunity cross-walking. Cool.

spread the cheezy v-day love

Send the one you admire a personalized cheezy love ballad, courtesy of Symantec.

Download old-school valentines that you can print on your own printer, from Veer.

Send a personalized slow jam style love song, courtesy of Dairy Queen.

That should get you started. You're on your own, after that.

uber parka mega mix

The new, coolest store in the world has a fun way for you to shop for parkas. By mixing music and dancers. And it's not just the home page. The concept is carried very well all the way through to the product pages. Awesome work.

You can also create an obnoxious mix, turn it up really loud, leave the room, and annoy your fellow cubicle dwellers. If you roll like that. I just like to shop for parkas.

barack's website: the bomb.

Politics aside, Obama's website is the bomb.

You can create your own profile, blog, network, and more. Links to his YouTube page, his Facebook page, and his Flickr photo stream. Even web2.0 style icons. Here's someone who gets the internet. Or has people that get the internet. The election that's almost two years from now is going to be mighty interesting. From Adrants.

just don't call it a vagina.

We've really got to lighten up. I can think of about half a dozen offensive words for vagina. But I'm pretty sure that even the high school health teachers would agree that vagina is the polite thing to call it.

But in some parts of Florida, the v word is too offensive. They'd prefer to call it a Hoohaa. So when it's time to promote a charity production of the Vagina Monologues in town, they renamed the production entirely - to the Hoohaa Monologues. Puhleeze.

save the crabs so you can eat the crabs

Save the crabs. Because they have another purpose in life.

lost is real, interactive television

Just not in the way you think. Kudos to Lost for producing such a content rich program. A program where fans can review in detail, freeze frame, and play backwards - for even more content.

The clip above is audio taken from a scene in last week's Lost, and played backwards. There's a message that may lead to a storyline.

I can't imagine how deep these episodes really are, and what it must take to produce - but they really seem to understand how to engage an audience in very different media times. Nice.

(Paul is dead.)

LED ad orbs to take over the world

I can't wait until these are floating above every street in every city, in every state, pumping out video after video of advertising, and clouding the sky with wonderous LED's.

Then, when the sky is blotted out by LED airships and advertising, we could use some of the airships as artificial LED suns. And the sunlight would come with commercials. Today's sun, brought to you by SunnyD.

Ahh, the future.

ads as tools

I love it when ads serve another purpose, relevant to the brand they're promoting. MINI has had a great time with this, including car stickers, stencils, etc.

The ad above is for Hawaiian Tropic. And it doubles as a sun mirror. Or whatever it is you call those reflective things that you put on your chest to spray skin cancer onto your face.

Ironically, one of the commenters points out that MINI did this very same concept a few years ago, promoting their convertible. Cool idea.

the wizards of buzz

Here's a great article to send to your boss, or that person in your company who needs to know about social networks, but doesn't understand social networks.

Then they'll have something to put in that next PowerPoint presentation to the board, and it will make them look great, and they'll get a big promotion for understanding the beat of social media.

And all because you cared enough to give them a Wall Street Journal article.

arm the homeless with cameras

Here's what happens when you give a homeless kid a camera. From the post:

After giving him a brief lesson in the use of a manual camera (it was this beat up old Fujica 35mm), I asked him to shoot all the film, then mail it back to me. In exchange, I'd let him keep the camera. I didn't expect to hear from him again, but the kid seemed interested in photography, and he didn't have much else going for him, so I gave him the camera and the film.

A few months ago, I received a large envelope filled with photos in the mail from the kid, along with a brief letter describing what he had been doing since I last saw him.

One of the commenters in the forum suggests a gallery show. I agree.

this week at via

Here's what happened this week at the world's most freezing design and branding firm:

Paul and Justus nearly launched a new promotion for Virgin Records, including several of their artists. Should launch Monday or Tuesday, and will be pretty cool.

Leigh closed a project that she thought might not ever finish. One of those go on forever projects. It's a beautiful swatchbook for the Flambeau River Papers Company, in Wisconsin. Once printed, we'll post pics. Truly a beautiful piece.

Lots of projects in the "almost done" stage. Started a couple of new things, and absolutely buried in production on current stuff. Nothing new to show, but plenty of headway made. At least that's the story we're sticking with.

A few of us are braving the temps in the teens and going snowboarding tonight. Giuli's taking her first ever snowboard lesson. She'll be sore on Monday.

The pic of New Kids on the Block is for your entertainment. Couldn't think of anything else appropriate for this week. NKOTB rocks, yo.

wash your hands or touch a man

This clever ad reminds guys to wash their hands. It's arresting, but by the time you're at the door, isn't it too late for the message? And if I've washed my hands, I still have to touch the same door knob as the guys who didn't.

Instead, they should have two knobs - one for guys that wash, and one for guys that don't care. This ad just makes me more fearful of public restrooms. But it's still really funny.
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