Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.

2005-01-31

Unrelated but Important

A New Range War
A change in the law, and wild horses face slaughter


Amanda Marsalis for Newsweek

Icons of independence and a living reminder of the old West, mustangs have always excited fierce passions. But the passion turned to anger after Republican Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana quietly inserted a rider in the federal budget that lifted the ban on selling wild horses for slaughter. The revision forces the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell "without limitation" every captured horse that is 10 or older or has proved unadoptable. The new rule applies to 8,400 horses in captivity, and many more in the future. "This consigns thousands of horses to death," says Howard Crystal, a lawyer for the Humane Society. Last week Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia introduced a bill to restore the old protections. "When Americans picture the West, I doubt they envision wild horses' being rounded up and sent to slaughterhouses to be processed into cuisine for foreign gourmets," says Rahall.

Supporters of the bill claim that this is simply to control and manage the wild horse population. What's inherently wrong about this bill is that it neglects to ask "Why?" The root of the problem is neglected.

Wild horses compete for grazing land, land that is used by the beef industry. One would wonder why we aren't questioning the impact that millions of cattle have on the land, water, and air.

For more information on how you can stop the slaughter, visit IFWH.

2005-01-30

100 Bloggers

Rick and I are enthusiastic about our upcoming contributions to Jon's '100 Bloggers' project.

I will be writing a chapter convering blog basics and Rick is designing the the new site. Who says work can't be fun? What an honour!

Stay tuned for new developments...

2005-01-29

Those Tarnished, Indistinguishable Arches

When I came across today's Fast Company post on Ronald McDonald's new stint as promoter of all things aerobic, I was really intrigued.

"So Ronald McDonald got promoted. He's now Chief Happiness Officer at McDonald's. Congrats, Ronnie! What a well-deserved promotion. And overdue too.

But this isn't some deal where he's been kicked upstairs to make balloon animals all day; his job duties have changed as well. Ronald's going to be going into schools to promote the joys of physical activity.

The timing of this news is curious, coming just a couple of days after that tobacco-style lawsuit against McDonald's was revived by a New York state appeals court. And as much as McDonald's wants to say that Ronald won't be talking burgers and fries in any appearances, his mere appearance certainly brings Big Macs to mind more than say, fruit. "

I really intrigued by this, yes, but more by David's question:

"... if you had to design a campaign that exuded more ... let's say ... sincerity, what would you do? If you're McDonald's, how do you get out of this box?"

We spend a great deal of time vehemently discussing the nefarious qualities of fast food and soft drinks, but if you - and I mean you - were the founder or CEO of a business that made its fortune selling these products, how would you deal with a society that no longer can tolerate (for health or philosophical reasons) your products in the quantities you are accustomed to selling?

There are some obvious answers here, none of them I presume to be easy or cheap.

1. You could offer something else (something that won't be as likely to inspire liability)
2. You could continue selling the core products but limit your liability by offering "healthy" alternatives and band-aid solutions to show you've changed your proverbial ways
3. You continue to go on doing exactly what you are doing and hope to absorb the cost of impending suits

Obviously, the second choice is the palpable one and is the way most fast food, tobacco, and other criticized industries have handled their previous wrongs.

So let's say you're McDonalds and you've chosen door #2 - In doing this you have admitted that "yes" your business has made its money in ways that have promoted unhealthy eating habits - or, if you aren't ready to admit this, then you confess that your product is not good in amounts qualified as unhealthy by the medical industry.

You've just admitted something big, bad, and ugly. Now what? You're still selling the products that are creating a nation of fat people. Do you mean to say you sincerely believe your company cares about health and fitness? How do you fit that into your mandate? Okay Ron, you're up to bat. You are only a hamburger loving' clown, but hey, now you are also a professional nutritionist. What else can we pull out of the bag?

The sad problem with corporate accountability is in the botched rebranding strategies taken - mostly around the issue of sincerity. If Ronald is saying "eat your carrots," that's not Ronald. That is not fun. And McDonalds is supposed to be fun.

I remember the Sunday meals at the Golden Arches with my grandparents. This didn't occur every Sunday; It was treat. It was a place, in retrospect, of reward - likely for our good behaviour sitting through a insufferably long sermon. We grew up with an associated fondness for McDonalds - mainly because it wasn't a dietary staple for us, but a treat. Like puppy dogs and parades, the Golden Arches is emblazoned in my mind as a part of childhood.

I cannot imagine what McDonalds is going through trying to reconfigure their place in society; the meaning of a brand that is tarnished with law suits and bad press.

This makes me sound very sympathetic. I am not. But I do wonder what any one of us would do if we were running an empire once angelic - turned - demonic and had to make the choice to stop what we've been doing for years.

Call me crazy, but I definitely feel like a lot of people associate McDonalds with the comforts of a simpler America. And the disillusionment with McDonalds is in correlation with all that once was the America of childhood.


2005-01-28

Friday's Variety Show

I am wrapping up a huge PR project and am going to rely on some interesting little tidbits for the afternoon.

Friday's Random 10 Play List

Let it Go * The Rankins
Somewhere Out There * Lucy Kaplansky
Violina * Lisa Gerrard (of Dead Can Dance)
I Can't Wait * The Sundays
Rear View Mirror * Patty Larkin
Place to Be * Nick Drake
The Way We Get By * Spoon
Traveling Soldier * Bruce Robinson
Andy * Neko Case
I Hear You Say So * The Innocence Mission

I also found a great article on The 10 Worst Corporations of 2004 via Feministe.

The ten include:
1. Abbott Laboratories
2. AIG
3. Coca-Cola
4. Dow Chemical
5. GlaxoSmithKline
6. Hardee's
7. Merck
8. McWane
9. Riggs Bank
10. Wal-Mart

Does anyone have any thoughts on the "award-winners?" Like to add a name or two?

And finally, our quote of the day...

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."

- Stanislaw Lec


2005-01-27

Day Dreaming

Entrepreneurs are a bunch of real dreamers

ONE fifth of businessmen and women spend around 25 hours per week dreaming up new business concepts, mainly outside the office, according to a survey out today. This means eight weeks a year are spent on coming up with bright ideas.

The most common places for having a business idea included the car, bedroom or while out socialising.

The study also dispels stereotypes about Monday mornings - a fifth of those interviewed said they had their best ideas at the start of the week. More than half of those asked thought morning was the best time for creative thinking about new business ideas.

One of the most underappreciated activities is day dreaming. Some of my best ideas come in the form of those elusive thoughts that, if not written down, can enter the psyche only to dissolve in an instant.

This is why I carry a notebook with me wherever I go. We literally have notepads in every part of the office and home, including the washroom where, so I am told, magnificent thoughts of colossal importance occur.

Brain storming sessions are not enough. They are too structured. Great ideas and creative blasts happen on the fly. And they are as fundamental to achieving your goals as all those spread sheets and graphs.

How do you cultivate those diamond ideas? Does your business do anything out of the ordinary to help keep creative thinking alive?

2005-01-25

Dialogue and Identity

We are expected to form our own opinions, outlooks, stances to things, to a considerable degree through solitary reflection. But this is not how things work with important issues, such as the definition of our identity. We define this always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the identities our significant others want to recognize in us. And even when we outgrow some of the latter - our parents, for instance - and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues as long as we live.
- Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity


I love this quote. Especially now, in the age of "authenticity."

The author challenges us to redefine our narrow, narcissistic vision of authenticity, understanding that identity is not created in a vacuum - but rather is molded and shaped by the forces of our self in relationship with others.

There is no true self devoid of others. No internal conversation free from the external pedagogy.


In the same way, businesses cannot impose an identity through one solitary voice, but rather should nurture identity through the encouragement of diverse and independent conversations.

2005-01-22

Shape-shifting Values and Meaning in Society

Small Poem

poetry cannot change the course of the world
no more than dogs barking away rain
fish dreaming of clouds


© Aleah Sato

For those of you who don't know me that well, I am also a poet. If I could choose to do anything - absolutely anything - and make a living at it, it would be working as a poet.

Writing poetry and being taken seriously is an arduous task. Calling yourself a poet is even more ridiculous. Most poets refer to themselves as writers and are fairly resigned to the fact that they will never make money with their craft of choice.

Further to this, most publishing houses stopped accepting poetry, as illustrated in this article by Behlor Santi:

"It's too bad," says Rankovic, "but just about the time I became a mature poet-in the late 1980s-publishers became obsessed with the bottom line." Big New York houses stopped publishing original poetry collections, leaving the job to university and small presses. Since most poetry collections don't exactly put Random House and HarperCollins in the billionaires' club, the decision to not publish and promote them makes financial sense. Why publish something that the public doesn't buy?
Santi then goes on to list periodicals that insist on compensating poets for their contributions in the same way they would compensate someone for an article or short story.

In the end, improving the state of poetry depends a lot on you, the poet. Think beyond lit journals, consider yourself an artist and a businessperson. You should live life fully, write about your life fully, and not starve.

This stunned me - I, too, have learned to believe that my craft was useless and I deserved nothing for the time and love I put into it.

This mindset of impoverishment happens all the time. It is how cultures get eradicated. It is how traditional arts are lost to the fray.

One of our designers is getting ready to embark on a work/study vacation in Belize. Part of the vacation is spent immersed in the traditions of the indigenous peoples, learning from them the crafts of the land, along with providing compensation to the community for their time and teachings (all monies are shared among the villagers).

This had me thinking about dreams, either the dreams of our own making - from childhood - or our collective dreams of craft and tradition. I believe that our sense of purpose and identity are rooted in the dreams we created in youth as well as those we've inherited from the family/society we grow up in.

North Americans are increasingly restless with the void we have handed ourselves as adults. It is evident in the resurgence of tradition as seen in trends like "home-made," "primitive," "natural" and "organic." It is threading its way through our hobbies; knitting is incredibly popular. I'd venture to say the push for "older, simpler" ideals is the vehicle of (misleading) ideology among conservative politicians.

Point being: dreams have incredible weight. Meaning creates value. Value, as it has been, is being reassessed by consumers.

When I write poetry, I should look at it not for what it lacks (monetary value) but for what it provides - the meaning that shapes my life and hopefully the lives of others.

I'm curious, what delights you? What would you do if value only implied meaning?

2005-01-20

Random Question and Quote of the Day

"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes, this makes planning the day difficult."
~ E. B. White

What initiatives are you taking in 2005? How will they change the world or make for one hell of a good time?

They Do Stuff...

This brilliantly funny little gem comes to us via Fishbucket.

HUH
"We do stuff"

Our consulting ideas will entice and excite you. Our professional design solutions will give you the confidence to succeed. And our web site will make you think we know what we're doing...

...Are you confused yet? Of course you are. And that's just how we like it. Our marketing professionals are constantly coming up with new ways to make you feel inferior and stupid. Because you are. And we're not. We're new-age, eMoving, marketing consultants...

...We have really smart people who are always thinking up totally cool shit. We have a meeting room with a big, round, expensive table. When you hire us for marketing and consulting projects, we spend lots of time sitting around the table having meetings..."

Of course, after laughing (a lot) it occurred to me that there is some heed to be taken here.

Is your web site clearly telling people what you do?

Let's face it, most of us in the marketing/branding/design/ad business have faced the difficult task of formulating a good elevator speech - that sound byte that summarizes what we do in plain, simple terminology.

You have done that, right? It can be challenging. When you want to just say, "I help you promote your business," but know you must follow it up with a concise sentence that encapsulates several processes, it's tough.

Graphic design is ambiguous. Marketing is ambiguous. Communications is even more ambiguous.

The humor in this site is its unabashed truth.

So tell me, what the hell do you do?

2005-01-18

Learning How to Ask and Receive

One of the hardest things for any of us to do in life is to ask for help. This is especially true in business where we are supposed to be a pillar of self-sufficiency and unmitigated triumph. We want our clients and peers to see us as indispensable. We want our friends and family to know that everything is going wonderfully and business is always streaming in.

We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and yet, so many of us are mired in a "hoarding mentality," terrified that we will lose our abundance. In turn, we create a form of spiritual poverty that permeates everything we touch.

As in our personal life, there are highs and lows that we all face running a business or a freelance enterprise. Our ability to know when to ask for help - be it in the form of leads or referrals - is crucial when the bills are piled high. But the ability to ask is far more important than just a temporary life preserve.

Reaching out to others is an exercise in personal development.

I've found the best leaders are those who have struggled in some capacity - sought help - and showed tremendous gratitude in their continued path. In learning how to ask for assistance, humility is cultivated, yes, but also the important lesson of learning how to accept with an open heart and mind.

[One of the most amazing qualities about a former boss of mine was her ability to really receive and appreciate compliments. Her reaction made everyone around her feel good, as if they had received the compliment, too.]

In my former life as a fundraiser, the biggest challenge was not to develop new funding sources - it was convincing the leaders that it is necessary to make the ask. I conducted a major gift solicitation at an organisation that had never considered this before - thinking it would be impossible. And yet, while some donors turned us down, many were more than happy to be give the amount requested. They even went so far as to say, "I've been wanting to do more, but was never asked."

We spend a lot of time thinking (and talking) about new, innovative approaches to gaining new clients and retaining old. And while there will always be a need for this, sometimes we forget to just simply connect and ask. When is the last time you called a colleague and asked for a referral? How about a client?

We all know the worst that can happen ... And we can recover from a "no."

Nurture a habit of reciprocal growth and be the first to take the chance on mutually beneficial give-and-take.

Oh Bill, You Foxy Thang!

This was ruthlessly snatched from Angie McKaig, but a must see for all...

Be sure to scroll down...

2005-01-17

Monday Finds

Lots of meetings today - but here are some gems to tide you over...

Rising Tide of Industry Scandals Hurt Us All
via Adrants

Trust between consumer and marketer is nearing the breaking point. Honesty is in short supply. Truth is the only medicine that will turn this train wreck around.

Sounds like a good plan. And for those of us inundated in jargon,

Tech buzzwords may sound neat, but what do they mean?
By Allison Linn, Associated Press

"Solution" used to be a fine word. If you had a problem, you needed a solution.

But now, "It's used so much in the tech industry that it's lost its meaning," laments Schellhardt, the director of editorial services for the public relations firm Ketchum in New York.

Enjoy!

2005-01-15

Gaining Loyal Customers - One Cali Roll at a Time

Last night we had our usual Friday dinner out - this time deciding to try a new sushi bar on the other side of town. Toronto has a sushi bar on every block - they are almost as plentiful as Tim Hortons.

We knew when we walked in that we should have made a reservation - the place was crawling with kids - and we were seated at an aisle table, right in the line of fire for errant coat sleeves and scarves to graze our heads.

Not exactly the best first impression - although we did note the friendliness of the staff. And hey, it's Friday in the city. You take your chances.

As we casually sipped our sake and ate our average sushi, we had pretty much written the place off for another visit. That is, until our meal was completed and the waitress came over and sat a California Roll down in the middle of the table and said, "Compliments of the chef."

WHA?

Something free and for no good reason?

Okay, so the roll probably cost them about $1.00 to make. Still, we were elated.

From there, dessert was brought out. And this was not the usual run-of-the-mill Japanese red bean ice cream dessert. No, this was actually pretty good.

But maybe it wasn't that it was all that good. Maybe, just maybe, we had been so bowled over to get something for free, that the rest of the meal seemed awesome.

Yep, underpromise and overdeliver.

After we left, we talked about what we give our clients - just because. What's our California Roll, as it were?

For that matter, what's yours?

Bon Appetite!

2005-01-14

Blogs as the new "business card"

Mark seems to think so....

The Delicate Art of Ad Deception

On our way home one evening, Rick and I caught yet another one of the Toronto Transit System's "Hero" ads.

To give you a brief overview, the TTC has received a lot of criticism for their less-than-adequate service. Whether it's due to the tight budget restrictions or unionized workers, is anyone's guess. It remains that the TTC has a long way to go to match the quality of mass transit in cities like London.

Knowing these issues, the TTC ran a series of ads portraying acts of "heroism" by employees.

This would all be well and good if the acts were in deed, heroic. The Eye, a local weekly newspaper, did a good job exposing the ads for what they are - delusive.

They're familiar to any TTC rider: posters lauding brave TTC warrior Elsie Vaters, a streetcar driver who saw a child wandering DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO ONCOMING TRAFFIC (capitalization theirs), and stopped her car to pick the kid up. Or, on a new wave of spruced-up posters, husband-wife team Deborah and Brad Ireland, who, when spotting a kid wandering on the railroad tracks, stopped their train, called for help to have the power shut off and then scooped him off the tracks rather than running him over.

But that doesn't make you a hero, it makes you a citizen...

Campaigns like the TTC's aren't just irritating, they devalue heroism and undermine acts of exceptional bravery or compassion. It's something you see everywhere: people being crowned with laurels for doing things they not only should do, but are in fact getting paid to do.
-- Just doing their jobs, JOEL McCONVEY


"Some would call him a hero..." Really? Cause it ain't me.

And consider WalMart's latest desperate grasp to promote their employment policies by taking out full page ads in national newspapers.

Wal-Mart ad puts on a happy face

The company purchased a full-page ad in the Tribune and more than 100 newspapers around the country Thursday in hopes of changing what it claims is its unfairly tarnished image. The ad was presented as a long letter from Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott disputing criticism leveled against the company by unions and rivals. Scott said he wants to "set the record straight with the real facts."

"The bottom line is if the charges are true Wal-Mart should quietly rectify the problems in communities where there are problems," said Paul Levinson, chairman of Fordham University's department of communications and media studies. "If Wal-Mart hadn't launched this campaign, people in areas not affected wouldn't even know about any problems."
When facing criticism, it is natural to want to somehow counter the attack. But we know that to focus on a defensive position, we paint ourselves into a corner. We not only remind the audience of our deficits but also, as in the above scenarios, can resort to weasel wording in lieu of honesty.

Be careful to do your homework and present only honest information in ad campaigns. Assume that your audience will be able to detect false promises and desperate attempts.

2005-01-13

In the news...

For reasons which seem obvious, Edinburgh design agency, Tsunami Design Limited, is changing its name. The move is part of a larger trend revealing a new sensitivity to the Japanese word for tidal wave (literally: harbor wave). File this word along with the name Adolph as one that will forever be linked to specific and horrific events.

Story from edinburgnews.com

Also, Adidas America Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch, claiming that a recently introduced line of merchandise represents trademark infringement. Apparently, the stuff has 3 stripes on it.

Story from brandweek.com

Rick

2005-01-12

The Female Body in Art

This is very off topic, but I am interested in your opinion...

I was recently having a conversation with an art friend of mine about the use of the nude female body in the visual arts.

As it stands in fine art photography circles, it is highly discouraged for young photographers to use the nude body as their subject, let alone the female body. It is even more discouraged, and I dare say cliche, for male artists to do so (for obvious reasons).

However, it is also just as obvious that for every nude photograph, painting or sketch, there are at least a dozen buyers, likely more. And there are far too many voyeurs, unwilling to buy the wares they are ogling.

I won't even get into advertising's use of nudity because that MO isn't based on art appreciation or the pursuit of higher art forms.

What I am interested in is this - Do you think there is still a need for the body, particularly the female body, to be explored in art? If so, what are the messages you feel are valid or are currently lacking?

Or, are you simpatico with the current high art scene which says nudity is SO yesterday.

Okay, back to business...

The Meaning of Blogs

Since I have been singing the praises of blogs and the connections we make with our fellow bloggers, I thought Caitlin's question via Cat Out Loud was a good counter-approach...



Me, to Jon as he comes upstairs to bed and passes my landing:

"You really have to wonder. Here is someone who has spent 51 minutes on my weblog so far.

"Jon: "Maybe they were on the phone."

Me: "But they had 16 page views."

Is the blog world all smoke and mirrors? One wonders.

How many of us have begun to treat our blog(s) like an extension of our own self worth, either as activists, entrepreneurs, or professionals? It's as though the blog, in more significant ways than a simple web site, has become our own art form - subject to the random judgments of passersbys.

On one hand, this can create a lot of meaningful dialogue. On the other, and what the archaic tend to criticize, they can be nothing more than hyped-up journals of personal diatribes.

One of my original reasons for blogging was to generate new business. Realizing this is a slow build process, I began to use this forum as a way to learn from peers, to assemble a network of global contacts, and to maybe, just maybe, form lifetime alliances.

I'd like to think the process has already begun. I know far more professionals than I ever did, left to in person networking. Our site is generating more hits than ever before, and therefore making it possible for more prospects to reach the business.

But there I go singing the praises again.

When Cat asked the question, is the blog world all smoke and mirrors. The answer is yes and no.

Blogs are complex because people are complex. We have met people who are gems and those who have misrepresented themselves. We have met the love of our life, only to play the cuckold. We have had great leads on new projects, only for the deal to collapse.

Blogs, stripped down, are just people looking for something - and they have the capacity to both disappoint and surprise.

2005-01-11

Takes One to Sell One

If you've ever been in sales, and haven't we all, you will encounter the odd sales person who pulls out all the tricks of the trade, desperate to find that one angle that will convince you to "upgrade" or "renew" so they meet their quota.

I just got off the phone with one of those pesky callers, and started to wonder why - when so many business folks have heard every pitch in the book - why a new approach is never taken.

I'm a no-nonsense buyer - and I only want it after doing my own research and figuring out that, yes, in fact, this product is a good investment for this particular point in my life (not down the road).

I just love to deal with low key companies that have taken the time to realize this about me and give me my desired space.

In turn, they get my loyalty.

It's THAT simple.

2005-01-10

Authenticity at all costs?

"Rebel * Rebel," yelled Bowie, and many of us fell in love with the idea of personal expression, being true to oneself.

Blogging can be an act of rebellion. Blogging, like other mediums, provides a platform for the expression of personal beliefs, ideas, and day-to-day observations.

But as we have learned over the past few weeks, freedom of expression can come with a hefty price tag - like your job.

When you are an employee, you agree to act as an agent and as a promoter of your company's brand. Whether you are a VP or an entry level employee, the manner in which you conduct yourself is a reflection upon the overall value of the company.

Problem is, most employees do not know this, or care for the most part. Oh, they know to show up to work on time, be friendly with customers, and dress the part - but what percentage of employees even know what the concept of corporate identity or brand is?

Some very savvy, well constructed brands are driven by businesses that have figured out how to infiltrate the staff by treating them with the same respect given to higher level staff. Think Starbucks and the seriousness with which they treat the hiring process of even counter help.

Most medium sized companies have yet to figure this out - New employees are hired with the impression that their job description is the "weight" and they know that they must perform specific tasks within the description, and with a level of competence.

Easy enough.

They are given an employee handbook - no cussing, hitting, showing up smashed, running over the boss, etc - simple enough, right?

Most of us go to work and think, "I'll be the employee until 5 pm, then I can go back to being the real me."

All of that was pretty fine and good until the Net starting making it possible to announce our antics globally.

Before, Jimmy may have ended up in the slammer for DUI and it may have impacted his having a job to return to - But now Jimmy is blogging about what a giant wiener the company's president is ... We know the outcome.

This brings up a number of problems.

* When is your private life truly private?

Is it reasonable to monitor someone's behavior after they leave company property?

* What can a company legally do during off-hours if an employee is speaking about his/her experience there?

I'm sure current laws are being amended as I type this...

* If people cannot feel comfortable speaking candidly about their employers, how many potentially criminal activities will be concealed; how will employee satisfaction / productivity change if a person can't vent their frustrations; how will working conditions change?

The fear of being "fired" has always been a possible liability, but now it's even more invasive, the way companies can peer into our communications.

As freelancers or business owners, our "boss" is our client base. With every blog post, we take the chance that what we say may not be well received. Some of us have stepped lightly or taken the high road by keeping our thoughts benign. Some have opted to speak openly about numerous smoking barrels - nevermind the aftermath.

I'd like to think in the quest for wisdom and enlightenment, truth shall prevail. Problem is, everyone has his / her own version of that truth.

Will you take the chance just to speak from the heart, or are you confidently rail sitting to avoid ostracizing clients or being fired?

2005-01-08

Charity at Any Cost?

The Red Cross has decided to decline an offer to receive donations through an agreement with Overstock.com. Such agreements are common: a charitable organization lends its name and logo to a business or an event in order to garner a portion of incoming profits as donations.

In this particular case, The Red Cross feels it cannot monitor the auction items with enough vigilance and thus, the association is not worth the value in potential donations. It's a tough call -- considering the terrific need in the wake of the Tsunami catastrophe -- but the right one. Integrity is built into the brand of every non-profit. The trust needed to ask people for money on faith must be bulletproof.

This brings to mind the ethical line that non-profits must walk. PETA, the animal rights organization, has been accussed of objectifying female sexuality in their promotional materials. We all know that sex sells, but when we sink to the lowest common denominator, we lose credibility.

Similar ethical issues can arise in the course of everyday business. Are there industries or companies that create a conflict of interest when they come knocking on your office door?

Story from Cnet.com

Cheers,
Rick

2005-01-07

What if You Threw a Pageant and Nobody Came?

Srubbles ponders the relevance of Miss America Pageant when no network will bite.

This is a heartwarming bit of information. Is the public really over these types of archaic debutante balls, or have we just gotten tired of the passe forms of natural beauty when human oddities and physical manipulation are far more titillating?

Reality tv has had a definite impact on society's addiction to the body and has changed the nature of the body to one that is manufactured.

Beyond increasing incomes for plastic surgeons, I wonder how else the shift in relying on science to cure "ugliness," obesity, or other perceived imperfections will impact industries like cosmetics and beauty supplies, diet, and personal hygiene.

If (When) they come up with a way of manufacturing body type, including smell, taste, skin tone etc, could we foreseeablely order a model of our own appearance with as much ease as we choose a model of automobile?

It's not that farfetched a concept. Where else have you seen evidence of medically altered appearance versus natural appearance?

2005-01-06

Small Moments Like These

Just returned from a lunch with a fellow blogger who happens to be in Toronto. I am reminded of how synergistic good conversations can be and why I chose to blog to begin with. It is about people. The best conversations happening out there don't forget that simple concept. The most successful businesses pay attention. Those with tunnel vision lose their audience and customers.

Has anyone else met up with fellow bloggers? What was your experience? What evolved?

I am looking forward to a mutually beneficial, professional relationship with a newfound friend.

2005-01-05

Google is Broken

I'm not a SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert, but I do keep informed of the variables that impact search engine ranking. Any web design/development team should be informed as the structure and navigation of a web site will impact searchability and user experience.

In the course of monitoring some of our web sites, I've recognized that Google's results are, in many cases, quite different from its competition. You can see how dissimilar the results are using the Thumbshots Ranking tool. Google might say that this is as a result of their algorithm being unique, and that they are providing the superior service.

A quick comparison of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) provided by Google, MSN and Yahoo does not support this superior service position. The results from Google are just as likely to produce nonsense pages, or those that are unrelated to the key word/term search.

There are many inconsistencies in the technical details that search engine professionals are currently discussing. There are a few web sites devoted to the topic. Many of these discussions stretch back to the infamous Florida Update.

So, Google continues to dominate the marketplace. Why? Because people already trust the Google brand. The value of their public offering is proof enough. Some conspiracy theorists might question the timing of all this in conjunction with the IPO. Not I...

But things move fast online. A quick search - using Google - of "google broken" found 3,930,000 references. MSN Beta is set to challenge, and Netscape (once the dominant browser) stands as an example of how Microsoft can eat up the competition.

In a battle of these billion dollar brands, who will win?

Cheers,
Rick

2005-01-03

In Search of a Kinder, Blonder Internet

Desperately seeking Spears
Celebrity eclipsed geekdom as blonde bombshells saturated search engines in 2004.

The verdict is in. Blondes are the most sought after on the Internet, according to Yahoo and Google. The names dominating the top search terms for 2004 were Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, and Pamela Anderson. Web searchers were clamoring for celebrity from the world’s top two search engines - Google, with a customer base of 300 million unique visitors, and Yahoo, with 160 million. While Google’s top search item was “Britney Spears,” “American Idol” topped the list at Yahoo.


Forgive me for sourcing this, but I am amazed at these search rankings. It certainly gives one the impression that people are seeking the "less complicated," the fantasy.

It's an odd juxtaposition of market fluff against spiritual meaning.

Now where did I put my wig and falsies...

Obligatory 2005 Predictions

Roll out the crystal ball, it's time to guess what trends and events will come for 2005.

Here's a random mix...

The term SOA will have been beaten to death and the software industry will invent or recycle some equally vague term to replace it.The term has zero differentiation value at this point and marketing teams across the globe are looking to coin a replacement that will give them something more interesting to say about their middleware than "we move messages around really well." If "Business Agents" become the buzzword de l'année, I expect Mary Jo Foley to hunt me down and kill me.


from Don Box's Yet Another 2005 Prediction List


Less Macromedia Flash

Flash seems to be slipping further and further away from relevance. Whereas at one time most new sites would involve Flash somewhere along the line, it now only seems to crop up for kids sites, streaming video, and advertising. Perhaps I’m wrong, but these days it seems very labour intensive for very little gain.

from All in the Head's Predictions for 2005


Oil will stay high, forcing every airline company out of business save JetBlue and Southwest.

Sound far-fetched? United, Delta, AMR Corp., US Airways, and even Continental can’t handle a big uptick in oil with their crummy balance sheets. If oil stays high, they could—and should—all fold. JetBlue and Southwest will then divide the gates and become extremely profitable ventures.

from the New York Metro


I believe the "open content" concept is going to enter the public consciousness more fully this year.

Currently, the concept is understood by only a handful of people online; by the end of the year, "open content" could be nearly as much a common buzzword as "open source" is now.

from So Many Predict So Much, Wired News

Bye-Bye, Gates

Bill Gates retires from Microsoft and devotes himself to his worldwide philanthropy efforts.

from PC Magazine


Embrace Authenticity

Who wants to serve Velveeta to guests when you can offer handcrafted cheese made from local, organic dairy milk? Why wear clothes from the mall when you can purchase the handiwork of a local designer-U.S.-made and sweatshop-free? Buying products with an aura of authenticity allows people to take control of their purchases so they truly know what they're getting. They can be unique and shop at businesses they feel akin to politically, ethically and aesthetically.

from Hot Trends for 2005, Entrepreneur.com

What are some of your predictions for the new year?