Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Remarkable Wal-Mart trivia

Thanks to my bff Theresa for sending me this remarkable bit of Wal-Mart trivia:
  1. Americans spend $36,000,000 at Wal-Mart every hour of every day.
  2. This works out to $20,928 profit every minute!

  3. Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St.Patrick's Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.

  4. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.
  5. Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people and is the largest private employer. And most can't speak English.

  6. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the World.

  7. Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger & Safeway combined, and keep in mind they did this in only 15 years.

  8. During this same period, 31 Supermarket chains sought bankruptcy (including Winn-Dixie).

  9. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.

  10. Wal-Mart has approx 3,900 stores in the USA of which 1,906 are Super Centers; this is 1,000 more than it had 5 years ago.

  11. This year 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will occur at a Wal-Mart store. (Earth's population is approximately 6.5 billion.)

  12. 90% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart.

  13. Let Wal-Mart bail out Wall Street. Better yet... let them run the darn government.
I'm not sure about that. Wal-Mart is famous for the exceptionally poor treatment of its employees, such as withholding critical health insurance. If you think of this retail giant as a blight upon humanity, you'll love the following graphic. Beward of the Wal-Mart pandemic spreading across the continent!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Social Networking Demographics: Boomers Jump In, Gen Y Plateaus

From Steve Rubel's Micro Persuasion Blog:

There's a common misperception out there that all of the blogging, Twittering and Facebooking is being done by twenty and thirty-somethings. That, in fact, turns out not to be true. Baby Boomers (those born 1946-1964) are the fastest growing users of social networking sites and are also increasingly reading blogs too. Meanwhile, Gen Y interest in these services has plateaued. This all according to the latest Consumer Electronics Usage Survey from Accenture.

Read the full story

Friday, March 13, 2009

Know your retro logo?

This quiz appeared in a recent issue of "Taste of Home" magazine.

Name that Character!

Long before screen celebs and pro athletes were tapped as product spokespeople, the stars of TV ads were often animated characters, many of which have become endearing icons that transport us back to our childhoods. Test your food-icon memory. See if you can match these "celebs" with their companies and little-known facts.

  1. The product of a company brainstorm, this single image spoke to the consistent quality of the product - no matter what the weather.

  2. The first representation of this character had crazy hair and a fur wrap for clothing.

  3. The idea for this dapper chap came from a 1916 contest. The 13-year-old schoolboy winner took home $5 for his effort.

  4. In 1925, this company's owner snapped a photo of a handsome waiter at a Chicago restaurant. The waiter was paid $5; his name was never recorded. He remains the face of the brand to this day.

  5. By 1902, this treat was so popular that it was features in the Sears, Roebuck catalog with no description at all.

  6. It's suggested that this icon inspired the ubiquitous yellow "happy face" that grew popular in the 1970s.

  7. In 1928, artist Dorothy Hope Smith sent in a sketch she hoped this company's owners would use as their logo (they did). The original is now stored under glass in the company vault.

1. F - Morton Salt
2. C - Green Giant
3. E - Planters Peanuts
4. G - Cream of Wheat
5. A - Cracker Jack
6. D - KoolAid
7. B - Gerber Baby Food

Monday, March 9, 2009

How to make a snowflake

If I were God (and I fully acknowledge I am not), I would spend all day creating snowflakes. Crystaline wonders thrown like sparkling diamonds against the sky.

Sadly, I don't have a clue how to make a snowflake. But scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of California at Davis do. David Griffeath and Janko Gravner have developed a complex algorithm that describes the snowmaking process. The model requires complex calculations, tremendous computing power, and an entire day to create a single virtual snowflake. Griffeath says the flakes feature "fern-life stars, long needles and chunky prisms, but also fine elements such as tiny ridges that run along the arms and weird, circular surface markings."

To view more of the scientists' beautiful creations, visit Gravner/Griffeath Snowfakes - yes, snowfakes, not snowflakes! If you want to learn more about the actual algorithm, check out
Modeling snow crystal growth: a three-dimensional mesoscopic approach.

In the meantime, perhaps Gravner and Griffeath could start work on creating forsythia and crocuses. I'm ready for spring!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An unstimulating logo

From today's CapitalBeat:

Taking a Play From FDR, Obama Announces New Logo For Stimulus Projects

By Paul Sherman

Taking a play from the New Deal, President Obama announced on Tuesday that projects funded by the $787 billion stimulus plan will be marked with a special emblem (see logo on right from ABC News). "When you see them on projects that your tax dollars made possible, let it be a reminder that our government — your government — is doing its part to put the economy back on the road of recovery," said Obama during a speech before the Department of Transportation.

In 1933, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA) and created the blue eagle logo (see below) that became ubiquitous in shops throughout the country. The NRA aimed to set a floor for wages and prices. The Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 1935.

My take? The new logo sucks. Here's why:
  • It looks clip art-y.

  • It's bland.

  • It's way too busy.

  • Recovery.gov will never be able to be seen at small sizes.

  • Where are the stripes from the flag?

  • It looks like Recovery.gov is for environmental and industrial causes - not for the thousands of people who are losing their homes, or for the greedy and irresponsible bankers who sucked up recovery money and gave themselves big bonuses.
I've never been that big a fan of Obama's logo either; it relies on a tired image of peace and prosperity as well as on the big O - which is always Oprah territory.

But the Recovery.gov logo is truly just awful. If it were up to me, I'd grab that great art deco NRA eagle and run with it. Fast. Because that logo can fly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rebranding the Girl Scouts

From yesterday's Washington Post:

Blogs In, Badges Out as Girl Scouts Modernize

Long associated with images of dorky vests and singalongs around the campfire, the 97-year-old Girl Scouts of the USA is trying to become cool. Or at least cooler.

With enrollment dropping sharply, the organization is experimenting with a total makeover of the Girl Scout experience.

What's in: books and blogs written in girls' voices on topics such as environmental awareness and engineering; troops led by college students; videoconferencing with scouts in other countries.

What's out: textbook-style lessons on the value of helping others; shunning the Internet; moms as troop leaders for teenagers.

Thin Mints are not in jeopardy, but -- OMG! -- badges will be de-emphasized.

"We took a step back and asked, 'What do girls need from us right now?' " said Eileen Doyle, the Girl Scouts' senior vice president of program development. "There is consistency in our goals throughout our history, but we can maintain that while being fun, edgy and challenging for modern-day girls."

Last year, the Girl Scouts hired its first-ever brand manager, Laurel Richie, a former senior partner at advertising powerhouse Ogilvy & Mather who oversaw campaigns for Campbell's soup and American Express. Richie said the group's image was stuck in an earlier era, the main reason for a more than 8 percent decline in membership, to 2.5 million, during the past 10 years. The organization has faced a particular struggle attempting to attract urban and minority girls.

"It's no different from preparing an ad campaign for a classic brand that needs a bit of a facelift to show that it's still relevant," Richie said.The Girl Scouts is not alone among social groups with its declining membership trend. The Boy Scouts, which has lost members since its peak in the 1980s, has worked to balance traditional camping and knot-tying with robotics and other 21st-century pursuits. Adult organizations such as Rotary clubs and Elks lodges also have lost members.

But few have gone as far as the Girl Scouts in attempting to keep up with the times."The rise of a vibrant coed youth culture after World War II meant single-sex organizations felt a little old-fashioned even back then," said Susan A. Miller, a University of Pennsylvania historian who has written a book about the rise of girls' organizations. "It would be silly for them to try to run counter to the dominant culture that girls are embedded in.

"The biggest change is last year's debut of Journeys, a pilot curriculum that will mostly replace the system of earning badges on specific topics. Girls still will be able to earn badges if they want, but Journeys rarely mentions them, focusing instead on broader themes, including teamwork and healthy living. Rather than scouts earning a badge for cooking a single nutritious meal, for example, the books emphasize fruits and vegetables whenever food is mentioned.

Several girls said they appreciated that Journeys talks to them as a friend rather than as a teacher or parent. Washington Girl Scout Maritza Jones, 9, said her favorite fictional character in the books is one with a single mom and a little brother, like herself.

"It's not like a schoolbook, because there are fun games and they talk about people like me," Maritza said. "The girls talk like my friends and I do about movies and playing on the computer and animals and stuff."

Many lessons focus on changing the world in measurable, modern ways. Recycling is still an important part of lessons on helping the environment, but some troops also install solar panels and test water quality in rivers.In Boston last year, fourth- and fifth-grade scouts conducted an energy audit of the city's convention center using sophisticated engineering equipment and then offered recommendations on how to make the building more efficient.

At a gathering in Southern Maryland last week, 13- and 14-year-old girls stopped by six stations dedicated to financial literacy. At one, professionals taught financial discipline by using free T-shirts to lure girls into a credit card offer that was too good to be true. Nearby, girls drew up a budget for a hypothetical family based on its income and needs.

Increasingly, such discussions are taking place online. Once reluctant to direct scouts to chat rooms, the Girl Scouts now encourages girls to use the Web as a resource.

The Girl Scouts and Microsoft have just unveiled a student-driven Web site dedicated to blogs, videos and discussions on topics such as social networking and Internet safety. Called LMK, text-speak for "let me know," the Web site aims to capitalize on girls' love of all things Internet.

On a page about Internet predators, the site's authors emphasize that the risk isn't nearly as great as many parents think. But the next page shows that some seemingly innocent messages can carry hidden risks, using a story of a girl who thought she was invited to an exclusive party of movie stars but was actually being scammed.

Camping and singing will remain part of the scouting experience, and because the Girl Scouts organization has always given wide autonomy to individual troops, leaders and girls will be able to choose which of the new programs to embrace.

Troop autonomy is a major part of the sales pitch to immigrant parents and children, who, research shows, are looking for a different kind of benefit from the Girl Scouts. That research has resulted in several initiatives aimed at Hispanics, who represent more than 15 percent of the U.S. population but just 6 percent of Girl Scouts.

Focus groups showed that many immigrant parents didn't know what the Girl Scouts organization was, and if they did, they didn't consider it appropriate for their children.

"They associated us with the cookies and the camping, and those were both scary concepts," said Amelia de Dios Romero, the Girl Scouts' multicultural marketing manager. "Selling cookies, to them, meant going door-to-door to strangers, and camping was sleeping in the woods with danger there."

In response, Richie, the brand manager, hired Grupo Gallegos, a marketing firm that focuses on Hispanic Americans. Girl Scout leaders began meeting with mothers one-on-one to talk about how the program can help their children integrate into American culture.

Neither Jahaziel Rodriguez, 16, nor her mother, Nury Tamayo, had heard of the Girl Scouts when they moved to Fairfax County from Colombia three years ago, and Tamayo initially was nervous that the group would be more about partying than education or service. Now, she said, she thinks Girl Scouts helped her daughter acclimate to her new country more quickly.

"At first I came here and I didn't know the language or the people or how to do things like apply to college," Jahaziel said. "And they helped me learn."

Many of the Hispanic girls are involved in a new Girl Scouts program called "Twinning," which allows them to videoconference with troops in South America and then travel to meet their new friends. Jahaziel's troop partners with one in Ecuador, which they plan to visit next year."Just like taking programs online," Romero said, "now we're talking the language they're used to."

Photo: By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post

Monday, March 2, 2009

Men vs. Women - in chart form

The most valuable lesson in any screenwriting writing class? Show, don't tell.

Same goes for advertising.

Why? Because we're visual beings for whom a "picture paints a thousand words" is genuinely true - and not just an old, sappy Bread song.

For your consideration, I present these three great poster ads from Israeli Goldstar Beer. I truly laughed out loud - I bet you get a smile from them, too. And they sure beat yet another tome about the biological and behavioral differences between women and men.

(Click on the images to see a larger version.)