Simple Math

When it comes to small vendors there are those who use Square and everyone else.

Nearly every payment experience I've had with Square is one swipe, super fast, super simple.

Nearly every payment experience I've had with any other product is multiple swipes ... waiting ... waiting ... another swipe ... waiting ... failure ...swipe ... waiting ...

I can only guess the reason people use a Square competitor is to save a fraction of a % on commission.

The math is pretty simple: use a quality product that works, that will make your customers happy and will increase your throughput. 

You Say You Want A Revolution?

Posted an article over at Fast Company's Co.Create.  Check it out if you're so inclined.  Here's my opener ...

David Ogilvy, the most quotable man in advertising, once said: "Make sure you have a Vice President in charge of Revolution, to engender ferment among your more conventional colleagues."

And while I most certainly agree with the sentiment, as a guy at an agency (with Ogilvy’s name on the door no less) whose job it is to help colleagues and clients innovate, it gives me pause.


Because the word revolution carries such weight and expectations.

Revolutions are led by George Washington.
Revolutions happen in Cuba and Iran. 
Revolutions are the lyrical hook for iconic Beatles songs.
Revolutions often involve death and suffering.

That’s heavy stuff for an agency guy.


On Crowdsourcing

Some stream-of-consciousness thinking before the sun comes up today.

I haven't given all that much thought to crowdsourcing, which may be odd given my line of work.  

I haven't given all that much thought to Louis CK, which may be odd given my age and comedic sensibility.

Screen shot 2011-12-16 at 6.56.44 AMI was listening to Louis CK on Bill Simmons' most excellent podcast, and without meaning to they touched on an interesting point about the wisdom of the many versus the wisdom of the few.

As I understand it, Louis has a very successful show on FX.  What's interesting about it is that the network has zero control over it.  They wire him $200K per episode, and from that he creates the entire thing (including taking out his salary).  

This autonomy is very rare.  It's also a relatively paltry sum for an actor as successful as Louis.

But the show is hit, and growing an audience with every episode.

So why is it working?

Louis' position is this (paraphrasing):

The more people involved in making decisions (particularly creative ones) the more watered down an idea gets.  In essence, consensus-building breeds mediocrity.  

By the time Bob from legal, Mary from finance, John from ad sales and Lisa from PR have all given their input, the essence of the idea is lost.  And this is nothing against Bob, Mary, John and Lisa - I'm sure they are good at what they do.  But they are not comedians. 

So you've hired an incredibly successful creative (in this case Louis) for his talent but essentially said to him, "we only trust your sensibility to a certain point."  

The disconnect is that by the time Bob, Mary, John and Lisa have stamped the idea, it's not Louis' sensibility any more.  So why hire him in the first place?

Bringing it back to my world, I do have to wonder out loud: Is the wisdom of the crowd all that wise, or is the real value that it make us (me, you, brands, agencies) feel safer about any given decision simply because it's based on consensus?  And as a result, are we breeding mediocrity?  What constitutes authority on any given topic - deep knowledge, a proven track record and passion?  Or simply a point-of-view, no matter how uniformed or unformed, and an Internet connection?

I genuinely don't know.

But I think of some of the great creative and marketing talents of our time, and how they would view the wisdom of the crowd.  Three immediately come to mind.  Clive Davis - he didn't do any market research before signing a scrawny young singer who eventually became Whitney Houston.  Steve Jobs once famously said, "It's really hard to design products by focus groups.  A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."  And finally, Alex Bogusky (always a polarizing character) - Crispin is (in)famous for retaining creative control over their clients' work.  And love or hate the agency, you can't deny they've had a pretty killer run.

That's all for now.

Lessons From The Threadless Crew @ PSFK Salon

FireShot capture #007 - 'Threadless catalog of tees classic t-shirts_ Unique, cool and funny tees_ Browsing graphic tees' - www_threadless_com_catalog_style,tees_group,classicA brief recap of the lessons imparted by the awesome crew from Threadless at yesterday's PSFK Salon in Chicago.  It's all so simple, yet so evasive to many businesses.

I was originally planning on commenting on each lesson, but they are so self-explanatory.

Lesson 1:  We do it with friends.

Lesson 2: Bring the fun. Fun = fearless.  And fearless = exploration.

Lesson 3: Honesty buys you goodwill.

Lesson 4: Act like a human, because you are.

[I tend not to wear T-shirts with images/logos/words, but if I did this would so be it].

Quick Thought On 'Creativity' From PSFK Salon Chicago

Great session this morning at the PSFK Salon. More thoughts to follow. 

But something I wanted to capture straight away was inspired by a comment David Armano somewhat casually made during a panel discussion.

The line of questioning was about samples of Chicago's creative community.  Several panel members gave great examples along the lines of urban art projects. 

But David referenced two local businesses - 37 Signals and Groupon.  Interesting.  Not what we might initially think of as examples of Chicago's creativity.

But clearly they are.  Not in that they make beautiful things.  But rather in how they design innovative business solutions.  That is no less creative than a beautiful piece of art.

Other examples of Chicago business creativity abound. The thriving developer community creating better stock trading algorithms is one that immediately comes to mind.

Anyhow, the point is that creativity comes in all forms.

Now, in terms of what's driving this alternative interpretation of creativity in Chicago ... that's still a mystery to me. 

Maybe it's the output from the University of Chicago and Kellogg business schools.  Maybe it's that Chicago draws from all over the Midwest - and damn if the Midwest doesn't have some killer engineering programs.  Maybe it's the [relative] civility in how we do business.

I don't have the answer.

But it's an interesting discussion, don't you think?

All About Foursquare

This was originally posted on Ogilvy's Travel and Tourism blog.  I realize most of the people who read this blog already know about Foursquare.  But for my father ...


Foursquareis an interesting, fun and [at times] useful service that’s gotten some solid buzz in the last few months.  It’s the brainchild of the folks who brought us the one-time Internet service darling, Dodgeball.  I found this article from the New York Future Initiative which does a nice job of explaining the service, and the creators’ vision for what it might become.

With the ever-growing buzz, I thought you might appreciate the skinny …

What it is

Foursquare describes itself as 50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game, though my personal bias is that [at least for the time being] it’s more game.

How it works

A player checks in with Foursquare when they are out and about at a restaurant, bar, museum, movie theater, etc.  Checking in earns you points.  Points earn status [e.g, I was for a fleeting moment the Mayor of the Bowery Hotel Bar].  You can also earn badges for doing interesting things, like checking in at odd times or out-of-the-way places.

For now points/badges only get you bragging rights, though clearly that will change at some point [e.g., Ian checked in 5 times at Old Town Social, earning him a free cocktail].

How you "play"

Players check in via a slick iPhone app [uses GPS to find your location and things around you], mobile site and text message.  You can have Foursquare ping Twitter when you check in.

Where it works

At the time of this post, Foursquare is  available in: Amsterdam, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C.

My recommendation

If you’ve got an iPhone, I recommend giving it a whirl - nothing to lose.  If you’re a marketer, you should take a peak under the hood so you understand the possibilities when Foursquare [inevitably] opens for [paid] business.  If you’re a business in one of the cities above [particularly in a hipster neighborhood] maybe play around with rewarding patrons for checking in from your store/bar/restaurant.

It’s not there yet, and may never be.  But I continue to hear the buzz …

More Digital Holograms [Verizon + Nokia + Star Trek]

My previous posts on digital holograms proved pretty popular [here, here, here].  So when I stumbled on this from Verizon Wireless + Nokia + Star Trek I figured it was worth a shout out.  I can't claim to understand what Verizon or Nokia have to do with the new Star Trek film, but that's another post for another blogger.

Go to the Star Trek promotional site - the instructions are very simple.

TIP: Rather than print the .PDF take a picture of it on your cell phone.  I used the rather substandard iPhone camera, which worked fine.

Picture 1

Final Update [Promise]: GE Plug Into The Smart Grid: Digital Hologram

Given the huge spike in traffic to this blog since I first posted about the GE Plug Into The Smart Grid hologram [well, relatively huge compared to normal] I feel compelled to pass along this final hologram nugget, courtesy of PSFK.

Basically, same premise as two previous posts, only this time it's your Twitter status that appears via 3D hologram.  I am still blown away by all this. 

PaperTweet3d: Augmented Reality T-shirts from squidder on Vimeo.

GE Plug Into The Smart Grid: Digital Hologram

Thanks to my colleague @johnstauffer and the rest of the Ogilvy PR 360 Digital Influence team for showing me one of the most mind-blowing things ever - an interactive digital hologram courtesy of GE and their ecoimagination initiative. 

It's hard to explain, so just click the links below.  You might think it's some kind of trickery, but I did it myself last night and it is 100% real. 

Was throwing around ideas with people about how to use this as a marketing tool ... Can you imagine debuting a music video or new television show this way?

Watch it, then go here.  Have your webcam and printer all ready to go.  Mind-blowing.

Finally, here's a link to some information on the source code.

Hotel and Technology Roundup

From 2004-2007 I logged hundreds of thousands of air miles, countless nights on the road and roughly 30 international trips (and probably the same amount of domestic).  That's all to say, I know a thing or two about staying in hotels.  And while mercifully, I don't travel much any more, it's still with great interest that I notice articles and blog posts about hotel marketing/experiential innovations.  Thanks heavily to Springwise, here then are a few things I've Flagged For Follow Up recently:

Interactive Surface Technology at Sheraton:  Guests at Sheraton hotels in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle can use Microsoft's Surface technology to access entertainment content, local tourist information and information about other Sheraton properties worldwide.  Springwise recently documented the collaboration.

Picture 1


Westin Chicago Designs Special Rooms to Fight Jet Lag:  Also from Springwise, Westin Hotels and Philips have partnered to design a concept room specially aimed at helping jet-lagged travelers combat sleep troubles.  Amenities include Philips' new blue-light ActiViva lamps, a light therapy box at the work desk station,  a eucalyptus shower fizzer in the room's "Heavenly Shower," a guided-meditation sleep TV program, a special room-service menu and specially designed running local running maps.


New York City's Pod Hotel connects guests with each other before arrival:   Once guests have booked their reservations, they are sent a link to the hotel's PodCulture blog and a  user ID, which allows guests to connect and interact with others who will be there at the same time.

Picture 3


Sheraton (again) Invites People to Experience Their Brand In An Unconventional Way:  As part of their Global Out of Office Day, Sheraton invited New Yorkers to work from Central Park, where it recreated its new Link@Sheraton lounges [a collaboration with Microsoft to infuse useful technology into its hotels].

Picture 5 


W Hotels Gives Guests a Quiet Place for a Cell Phone Call:  This is something I am particularly proud of since I was Nokia's point person on this project.  Simple concept - a modern take on the phone booth, combining Nokia Nseries technology and great looking design.  Visit PSFK to read a short interview with Carlos Gomez de Llarena [the designer from R/GA with whom we worked on the booth design and interaction].

Picture 6

Key Learnings:

  1. Make sure it works
  2. Make it simple
  3. Make it additive
  4. Work with the right partners to bring your vision to life
  5. Help people fight the loneliness of business travel
  6. Make it surprising and fun
  7. Understand the context in which the technology exists
  8. Experiment until you find something that really resonates with guests


The other day someone asked me, “When did email becomea vehicle for thinking out loud?”  I shrugged my shoulders, went back to my office and thought:

  • When did every song – ever recorded – become available for free?
  • When did people start using text message as a form of business communication?
  • When did the first YUPPIE move to the East Village , Camden or Wicker Park ?
  • When did people decide it was a good idea to publish their diaries on the internet?
  • When did business meetings start taking place over free video chat services right on our PC?
  • When did I get my first gray hair?
  • When did people start finding jobs via networks of folks they never met in person?
  • When did it become OK – not just OK, but actually a sport – to pry into the personal lives of celebrities and politicians?
  • When did music lovers start carrying thousands of songs in their pockets?
  • When did FM radio become the Greatest Hits of the 70s, 80s, 90s and Today?
  • When did a semester abroad in China pose the same communication challenges as a trip to the corner store?
  • When did people start fast-forwarding through commercials with the click of a button?
  • When did Twitter become an acceptable way to pitch a journalist?

Is email abuse rampant?  Beyond.  Chalk it up to change.  Some change is good.  Some change is bad.  But all change is inevitable.

Level Vodka Tunnel

I am digging this.  Level Vodka has teamed with fashion designer Hussein Chalayan to create the “Level Tunnel.”  Level started a blog - - to track the progress of the building of the tunnel and its travels around the world. 

To quote the press release:

The Level Tunnel by Hussein Chalayan vol. 08 is a world of its own, which can be experienced by viewing it from the outside and exploring it blindfolded from the inside. It’s a 15 m meter- long, almost 5-meter-high installation made of fiberglass, glass and leather – to mention just a few of its materials. The installation will tour the world, starting in Mexico City in May 2008.

“… The idea is to engage in a captivating sensual experience of scent, sound and touch. I want to match all senses – excluding vision – to emphasize the exceptional taste of Level Vodka,” explains Hussein Chalayan.

Visitors will enter and walk through the installation blindfolded. Inside, they will be sensually and innovatively enveloped with the unique taste of Level Vodka through scent, sound and touch. They will hear music played on a flute made with a Level Vodka bottle. The glass bottle creates a protective shell that results in muted, hypnotic acoustics. Also inside: a breeze carries the scent of lemon and cedar and conjures up the flavor of Level Vodka. Railings coated in the softest leather run through the installation to create an exclusive tactile experience. Before entering the installation, visitors will be fitted with a heart monitor, which displays their heartbeat on the outside of the tunnel.

The blog features a few videos – I really like this making of the tunnel video here.