Thursday, January 29, 2009

My dog's better than your dog...

My dog's better than your dog, my dog's better than yours! Remember that old Ken-L-Ration TV commercial?

Well, it's been updated for the 21st century. Dog lovers everywhere will adore this Budweiser commercial - even those who, like me, haven't had a beer since 1977! Enjoy!

Monday, January 19, 2009

You know there's an economic downturn...

... when logo designers create mock logos instead of new ones. I didn't design these, but I admire whoever did. The car faux logos are particularly clever.

Thanks to my stepsister, Liz Holm, for sending these (and some others) along.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rick Sanchez obliterates Joe the Asshole

Three cheers for CNN's Rick Sanchez who uses his own personal bully pulpit to stand up to Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber aka Joe the War Correspondent aka Joe the Biggest Asshole on the Planet.

So once again, let me say: Flush Joe the Plumber!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From today's Wall Street Journal: New Info Shoppers

New Info Shoppers
With E. Kinney Zalesne

With so much attention on psychological marketing these days -- finding new ways to tap into people's heads -- perhaps the single most neglected trend out there is the move towards more hard-nosed information-based shopping and purchasing.

While elites were busy shoveling money into Madoff's black box these past few years, strapped consumers have been poring over product spec sheets, third-party reviews and expert blog sites. This past holiday season they watched every dollar. A special kind of consumer has taken a major role in the marketplace -- the new info shopper. These people just can't buy anything unless they first look it up online and get the lowdown.

These shoppers have the Internet at work, typically hold information-based or office-park jobs, have some college or grad school, and are often making ends meet with two jobs, kids, and pets on a middle or upper-middle-class income.

They have become highly suspicious of many TV ads: in a shoppers survey we did, 78% of them said that ads no longer have enough information they need. So many of them search online for virtually everything. Window shoppers have become "Windows shoppers." They want, in the phrase often attributed to Dragnet's Joe Friday, "just the facts, ma'am."

Of course, there is still a healthy role for big emotional brand appeals and mega-advertising campaigns. For every trend there is a counter trend. But that's not the real new thing in consumer behavior.

A whopping 92% of respondents said they had more confidence in information they seek out online than anything coming from a salesclerk or other source. They believe the information they find, not in the information that is spoon-fed to them, and the vast number of clicks today prove that they really are devoting time and energy to ferreting out detailed info before they buy.

A good example of how information can transform a marketplace is the series of ads a few years ago for the Dyson vacuum cleaner. Founder and inventor James Dyson took a commonplace item and explained how he had transformed it with new scientific principles. Consumers weren't bored with the technical approach. On the contrary, sales took off -- and changed the marketplace for vacuum cleaners.

When we asked shoppers whether they would do online research before buying a vacuum cleaner today, a surprising 58% said that's exactly what they would do. His ads helped turn vacuum-cleaner buying into a largely information-based marketplace.

We have seen many of the big market areas convert to an information-driven model -- cars, homes, personal computers and medical care are areas where nearly 4 in 5 shoppers say they gather information on their own from the Web before buying. "Do-it-yourself doctors" (that is, info patients) show up at their doctor with the Web-derived diagnosis in hand, and a list of the medicines they need prescribed. Customers appear at the car dealership with the wholesale price and the model already picked out.

Information-seeking is not just an activity, it's a way of looking at the world. New info shoppers are proud of the progress they have made in putting facts over pablum. More companies should treat their customers as Dyson did and let them in on the secrets of their unique success. And they should invest more than ever in helping form their consumers into citizen corps, arming them with PCs, cameras and even asking them to use the phone's new video cameras to document their product usage and put them online.

But how many marketers today work back from what this new consumer is thinking and doing?

Not many. Based on the advertising budgets in the U.S. where a typical company will spend 60 times as much on advertising than they spend on generating publicity, most lag way behind in creating a new model of consumers and the steps they take before they buy.

Some industries got it right away. Movies and restaurants have huge word of mouth and impulse components, but they are also very information-driven. Zagat's pioneered the concept of survey ratings and reviews, and smart restaurants use them. We're seeing the same in entertainment, where Metacritic and others provide professional and customer ratings of every movie.

Now this trend is spreading down the product chain. In our survey, 24% said they are doing online research before buying shampoo. The Breck Girl is being replaced by a shopping bot.

And they have questions. How does this shampoo work on different hair types, thicknesses and colors? Are the bottles recyclable? Has the product been tested on animals?

It used to be that the only time people expected 30-page, pre-purchase, inspection reports was when they were buying a house. Now some people want them just to buy a tube of toothpaste.

The point is that advertising isn't just moving to the Web, it's got to grapple with an entirely new kind of shopper and way of shopping. Marketers now have to balance traditional media, online media, and content that is generated by experts, bloggers and consumers themselves. An astonishing 70% of Americans now say they consult product reviews or consumer ratings before they make their buying decisions. Sixty-two percent say they spend at least 30 minutes online every week to help them decide what and whether to buy. Among Americans under 45, that number shoots up to 73%. Seventy-three percent -- that's more than four times the percentage in that age group who go to church every week. For some, smart shopping is more than a hobby. It's a religion.

Information aggregation sites – the ones that don't generate content themselves, but link to others' content, weaving a story about the industry and its products -- will become even more important. Much as the Drudge Report tells its readers where to find stories they will like, so consumer aggregation sites could grow and do the same for car buyers, PC buyers, and other consumer groups. Most of the sites so far have been too cheesy to really catch on.

Information shopping also means manufacturers have to get back to generating more information on their products, even offbeat factoids that are highly memorable if not always useful. Timex sold a lot of watches by showing its watches were still ticking after being thrown into a washing machine. To catch the eye of the info-shopping consumer, manufacturers should start hauling their wares up to Mt. Everest, drop them out of windows, put them in boiling water and reporting on how they do. In an info-seeking world, facts can again become the great differentiator.

New Info Shoppers are bigger than a microtrend. They represent a broad shift in the marketplace brought about by the Internet, higher education, and changing economic times. But the question is when is the marketplace is going to really catch up to them.

Penn, Schoen and Berland conducted a New info Shoppers survey of nearly 300 U.S. adults October 15-21. Margin of error is +/- 5.69 points. Detailed Results available at

Yet again: flush Joe the Plumber!

I won't waste my words. This speaks for itself: ASSHOLE!

From today's Washington Post
Meet Joe The Reporter
Tuesday, January 13, 2009; Page A13

Samuel Wurzelbacher, best known as Joe the Plumber, is reporting from Israel these days as part of his new gig for a conservative Web site, Pajamas TV (
Wurzelbacher did a stand-up next to a large pile of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and offered this interesting take on what journalists, such as himself, should do.

"I'll be honest with you," Wurzelbacher said in his video analysis. "I don't think journalists should be anywhere [around] war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what's happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I-I think it's asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you'd go to the theater and you'd see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for 'em."

Didn't know he was that old. He continued: "Now everyone's got an opinion and wants to downer -- and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers. I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you're gonna sit there and say, 'Well, look at this atrocity,' well, you don't know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it."

Read my previous rants on this asshole: Flush Joe the Plumber Part Tres, Flush Joe the Plumber Part Deux, and Flush Joe the Plumber.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Joe the Plumber, Part Tres

I possess a long and unwavering record regarding Joe the Plumber: I can't stand him. He sadly (for me anyway) never learned the lesson about 15 minutes of fame. Andy Warhol said that everyone will get a quarter-hour of renown. If that's the case, Joe the Plumber is long past his expiration date.

Joe the Plumber announced he was considering running for Congress during the height of his fame. In a Capitol riddled with bozos, Joe the Plumber would most certainly be the biggest clown of all. Fortunately, the election ended and the related circus wound down. We never heard from Joe the Plumber again.

Until yesterday. The Washington Post tells us:

Joe the Plumber is aiming to become Joe the War Correspondent. John McCain's campaign sidekick Joe Wurzelbacker told Toledo's WNWO-TV he'll spend 10 days in Israel reporting for a conservative Web site, "Being a Christian, I'm pretty well protected by God," he said. "That's not saying He's going to stop a mortar for me, but you gotta take the chance."

Uh, Joe? Maybe you hadn't heard? But God is not a condom, and certainly not a custom-made one just for you. God is also not a shield, an invisibility cloak, nor a bulletproof vest. More importantly, God doesn't love you because you're a Christian and He doesn't hate Arabs because they're not. You, sir, are a complete numbskull. (Imagine my best Joe Scarborough imitation while you read that last line.)

The only numbskull bigger than Joe the Plumber are the knuckleheads at What does pjtv stand for? You got it: Pajamas TV! (The marketing consultant inside me violently shudders at this dreadful name.) According to the website, Pajamas TV is "a network of about 100 bloggers that covers news and issues of the day in a refreshingly thoughtful and civil way" - or in other words, it's a bunch of conservative blowhards who agreed to be on a dumb website called Which is, of course, why and how Joe the Plumber got hired at all.

Let's wish him godspeed and safe trip and then let's never talk about Joe the Plumber again. Considering I've blogged about this guy three times now, I guess the embargo should start with me. Sounds like a great New Year's resolution, but let's hope he doesn't tempt me by doing something really dumb. Sigh... fat chance of that, huh?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Designing Logos - Lesson 1

What have I learned about designing logos over the past 12 years in business? Plenty. From time to time, I'm going to post some lessons learned about logo design.

Lesson 1: Always remember who your customers are and design everything for them.

In The E-Myth Revisited, (required reading for all entry-level business owners, btw) Michael Gerber suggests that start-up entrepreneurs almost always name their companies after themselves. Why? Because business owners cannot see a distinction between their inner selves and their companies.

I know this is true because this is exactly what I did - my company is named Julie & Company, after all!

So what are the implications of naming your business after yourself? Business owners:
  • End up working IN their businesses rather than ON their businesses, which leads to burnout, misery, hopeless, and failure.

  • Take every business success or disappointment personally because they've invested their very soul in their companies.

  • Believe the business should reflect their inner being - and this includes most particularly their branding.

Creating a brand to match your internal self is simply ineffective, bad, wrong, dumb, meaningless. Your logo is NOT yourself, just as your business is not yourself.

Which takes us to the primary purposes of a logo: to attract customers to your product and/or services and to then get your more attention and make you more money. That's why you go to all the trouble to brand your business - so you can be successful. Period.

So given this, what is the most important thing you should do when designing a logo?

Make it customer focused. Design the logo to meet the expectations and desires of your prospects and clients. Get in their heads and figure out what look and feel you need to have to get their attention. Then remember that whatever that look and feel is doesn't have anything to do with who you are as a human being - and that's just fine.

Let me give you an example from my own business. I am a graphic and web designer. My clients come to me because they want creative people to solve their business promotion problems. They want my service offerings to be fresh but professional. Therefore, my business needs to look fresh and professional, so:

My corporate colors are saturated hues of rust, avocado, and plum - usually more color than most of my clients want for their own businesses. But this color usage shows that Julie & Company has the creative spark that they need. I once had a client over to my home. She was disappointed that I didn't live in orange, green, and purple land. I don't. My home is much different from my corporate online presence. My home is about me. My business is about my customers.

The Julie & Company website doesn't look like other designers' sites and for good reason. I don't want us to look like everyone else. Julie & Company needs to be distinctive but in the right way. Instead of having a Flash website with lots of gizmos whirling around, I tell our corporate story in a solid, steady, business-like way. My clients aren't Coke or Nike and almost none of them sell to teenagers or young adults. They are instead B2B or B2G firms who generally despise gratuitous animation. Therefore, on my website, I give them straight HTML pages with a little Flash animation, just enough to get them interested but not so much as to make them (of me!) epileptic.

My customers want sober grown-ups with 20 years of business experience to help them - not post-adolescent kids who make every business look like an alternative rock band. Which brings me to another point: don't ask your teenager for approval of your logo. Kids do NOT want to see what ADULTS want to see in terms of branding.

A perfect example: for Christmas, my 53-year-old boyfriend asked for a black belt to wear with dress slacks. He got two belts, one from me, a 49-year old woman, and one from his son's 17-year-old girlfriend. Guess which one I picked out? And guess which one he'll actually wear with his dress slacks?

So be careful asking for your kids' approval. They will almost definitely point you in the wrong direction if you are selling to adults. (However, if you're selling to teenagers or twentysomethings, make them your own personal focus group. Listen to everything they have to say about design because for the kids' market, they'll be absolutely right.)

Bottom line: See your business as you want others to see it and then create a logo that matches that vision. That's the bottom line to your success, too.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Talk about the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Apparently American children have come to believe life is simply not worth without a Nintendo Wii. I actually contributed to this phenomenon by giving my nephew one for his Bar Mitzvah. I thought I was giving him yet another dumb gaming system; little did I know that it is nirvana in a box.

Here are 50 kids losing their bloody minds after receiving a Wii for Christmas. I can't help but feel sorry for the poor souls who didn't get one this year because their poor parents just couldn't afford it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

It still should have been Chuckie T

I still think Chuck Todd should have been named host of Meet the Press, but MSNBC did the next best thing. They recently named him Chief White House Correspondent. Huffington Post reports:
If you count yourself among the many aggrieved fans of Chuck Todd who've wept over him not getting the Meet The Press job, take heart! Todd will be receiving a new, high profile position from NBC News, who today named him Chief White House Correspondent.
Congratulations are in order. But I don't care what title Chuck has at MSNBC. I will always heart Chuck Todd - and greatly admire his work, too.

Uncle Jay Explains 2008

In case you managed to sleep through 2008, Uncle Jay will catch you up on the old year. It's truly a hoot.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Safeway sucks

Yesterday I railed about Bloom's nearly complete lack of customer service and exceptionally high prices. However, after a quick shopping trip yesterday, I'm taking potshots at Bloom's rival, Safeway.

I stopped in last evening to pick up a prescription and ended up buying a few things I'd mysteriously forgotten I needed. (Why does this always happen to me at the grocery store?!) While standing in line, I decided I'd buy a pack of sugar-free Orbit Gum. I've been buying this particular confection for years, usually for about $1.09 a pack. Sometimes it even goes on sale for 99 cents.

Not at Safeway, not anymore. Orbit Gum is now a whopping $1.49 a pack. That's a 25 percent increase in price! Is there some cartel I don't know about that's protecting and ratcheting up the cost of gum? According to Reuters, Wrigley increased prices by 10 percent in 2007:

Wrigley said the increase was due in part to rising costs, but did not specify which costs. Food companies have been hit by higher costs for natural sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup as demand for use of crops in ethanol has sent prices soaring.
Okay, so what about the additional 15 percent increase? That's Safeway gouging its customers. According to, Safeway focused this year on costly real estate investments. "Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Burd said Safeway chose to work less on lowering prices in 2008 to keep its earnings guidance intact in the current economic environment. Now it is planning to cut more prices heading into 2009." It's going to have to as shoppers to reduce their spending during the recession/depression and look for more frugally priced grocery stores.

Hopefully we consumers can encourage Safeway and its ilk to drop prices by taking our dollars to discounters such as Wal-Mart, Bottom Dollar, Target, and the like. Here's one cost-savings tip: buy your Orbit Gum at Walgreens. It's only $1.19 a pack.