London 2012 is Over. Which Brands Won?
London 2012 is Over. Which Brands Won?

Team Great Britain, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas and countless others won athletic gold in London, but which brands came out on top during these games?

The Peacock
In the U.S., NBC’s brand saw mixed results with soaring ratings delivering a huge and positive impact to their bottom line. Unfortunately, the hashtag #NBCFail was ubiquitous during the games and reached a crescendo last night as Bob Costas pulled the ultimate bait-and-switch promoting an appearance by The Who, but only after a pilot for a new sit-com. NBC pays billions of dollars to have the U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympics, and must make hard decisions about how to recoup that investment. It is still hard to see how going out of your way to aggravate your viewers is a winning long-term strategy.

The Swoosh
Although Nike wasn’t an official Olympic sponsor, they almost don’t need to be. The swoosh logo was shown on screen thousands of times on athletes’ shoes and apparel. Their guerilla marketing campaign “Find Your Greatness” was brilliant in both strategy and execution by featuring everyday men, women and children finding greatness on a less-than Olympic stage, but still in a town called London.

The Ultimate Branding Machine
One of the less-heralded Olympic partners was BMW Group who found smart and relevant ways to keep their brands and their cars top-of-mind. In addition to TV spots touting their sponsorship, BMW riffed on Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket by driving a Golden Bimmer around London giving free tickets to those who shared photos of themselves with the car. During the closing ceremonies, Jesse J and two other singers were transported into and around Olympic stadium in three Rolls-Royce Phantoms specially built and badged for the event. BMW’s Mini joined in the competition with remote-controlled Mini’s carrying javelins back to athletes finding a way onto hallowed athletic ground that is supposedly free of commercial clutter.

Proctor & Gamble, Omega Watches and several other official and not-so-official sponsors of the games were highly visible with TV spots, online video, and social media memes. The brands mentioned above stood out most to me during these games, but branding is seen through the eye of the beholder.

Which brands grabbed your attention and won Gold in London?

Should a car tweet?
Should a car tweet?

I eagerly awaited the delivery of my 2012 MINI Cooper, tracking it day by day on the boat from Southampton, England to Brunswick, Georgia. When it finally arrived, I was practically giddy.

Meanwhile, most of my coworkers glanced in the parking lot and shrugged: “Uh, what’s the difference?” After all, it was my third red MINI.

But I was excited about this one because of the addition of a new feature called MINI Connected.

What is MINI Connected? Watch the Official MINI Video.

By now, most of us are used to some level of iPhone integration with our cars. Many of us have cables that allow us to control our music from the dashboard, Bluetooth to make calls and that sort of thing. But MINI Connected takes the bleeding edge of automotive technology to a whole new level.

It consists of two components – an enhanced navigation system built into your dashboard, and an app you download from Apple’s App Store.

It’s a little bit unwieldy, because you have to launch the app on the phone, plug it into the dashboard cable, and leave it on the console.

But to hear BMW engineers tell it, that inconvenience is by design. Texting and driving has become an incredibly dangerous habit on our roads. And c’mon, tell the truth: you know you’ve checked a Facebook update at a traffic light.

What MINI Connected (and its similar but not identical sister, BMW Apps) aspire to do is give you some of the functionality of your smartphone, but delivered in a way that’s safer and more car-friendly. Meanwhile, it reduces that temptation to reach for that cell phone and check just… one… more… message.

It includes about a half dozen features, with more being added. Part of the beauty of this is that now adding new functionality is as easy as updating your iPhone. Suddenly, the electronics in your car aren’t a total dinosaur three years after
you buy it.

What can MINI Connected do? You can do a Google local search and program the results into your nav system. You can use Google Send To Car to pre-send various addresses from your home computer to your Cooper nav system. You can subscribe to RSS feeds. You can listen to web radio. I couldn’t be happier to have access to one of my favorite stations, Birmingham Mountain Radio, wherever my travels take me. Or, you can listen to your iTunes, with the Cooper suggesting a mix of music, based on your current driving style.

And you can check your Facebook and Twitter feeds. On a three-hour road trip, I find Twitter especially useful for keeping up with the news. You can read friends’ updates and “Like” or retweet as desired.

Wisely, BMW engineers have made it impossible for 70 MPH motorists to tap out status updates while driving. Instead they helpfully offer a rather hilarious selection of pre-written tweets, based on activity on your iPhone and your car:

“It’s 92° outside and I’ve just talked with
Lewis Communications on the phone.”

“I’m listening to Nirvana and will arrive on
Peachtree Street at 9:32 PM.”

When disconnected, the iPhone lets you carry vehicle stats with you – how much gas is left in the tank, how many miles of range you have. But for me, the most compelling feature is a brand new one. MINI Connected now includes MOG, a music service similar to Spotify. Now, I can drive down the road and listen to virtually every CD on the planet, for $9.99 a month. It takes a toll on your iPhone’s data usage, however, so I’m grateful to be grandfathered into AT&T’s unlimited data plans.

I love the way BMW and MINI are continuing to bring value to my new car with app updates. I suspect that in three years, most cars will come with a 4G LTE connection, and we won’t need smartphones as a bridge.

But if this is where the future is heading, I Like.


Crowdsourcing. All you have to do is utter the word around creative people and you’ll watch a room quickly divide into proponents and naysayers.

Critics love to point at examples like Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Brammo logo project, in which hundreds of designers slaved for a mere $1000. Some designers will tell you that it devalues their thinking; all you have to do is search for the #nospec tag on Twitter to see hundreds of comments opposed to crowdsourcing and specifically to the Brammo contest. (It goes without saying that Bogusky got far more than a thousand bucks worth of buzz out of the competition.)

Another hotbed for discussion of the crowdsourcing movement has been Edward Boches’ blog, where you’ll find more than a few of my comments on the subject as well.

But let’s put aside the debate over crowdsourcing as a source of cheap labor. Let me offer you a better example. One that I think is more pure, more joyful — and in my opinion more promising, as a place where the crowdsourcing movement can lead.

One of my favorite musicians in the world is a singer songwriter out of Austin, Texas named Darden Smith. Check him out. To me, the songs he writes feel like Austin: smart, simple, contemporary, yet firmly rooted in the Texas tradition.

But as much as he enjoys recording CDs and touring the US and UK, Darden gets his greatest joy these days out of something else. It’s a program he created in 2003, called Be An Artist. Professional musicians go into the schools, work with the kids, and before the end of the day, the kids have written a song together. And to hear Darden tell it, sometimes they’re pretty darn good.

But what’s important isn’t the song that results. (Although if you want to check out a few of the songs from Darden Smith’s Be An Artist project, click here.) Is a class full of 2nd graders going to write a better song than a perennial Grammy-winning songwriter team? Um, not every time. And probably, not as often.

But that isn’t the point.

To quote Darden: “Everyone is an artist at something. Everyone is creative. Art surrounds us, from the clothes we wear, the car we ride in, to the music we listen to and the buildings we live in. There’s no escaping it! The Big Three: attention, intention, & the love of doing something. If you have those ingredients, you’re making art.”

Smith isn’t crowdsourcing songs in search of a chartbusting hit. He writes pretty damn fine songs already, thank you.

His motivation lies not in the song that results that afternoon, but in what they’re really creating: a generation of kids more interested in the arts, and more confident in themselves as creative people.

It’s all about the engagement.

Clarity hurtling towards you at 21,000 mph
Clarity hurtling towards you at 21,000 mph

According to some British scientists, on May 19, 2031, an asteroid about the size of Manhattan is predicted to center-punch the Earth, effectively eliminating all human life within a few months.


So, we probably don’t have to put quite as much emphasis on that global warming issue. (What is Al Gore going to do?) Not to mention those who are currently building a house don’t need to opt for the more expensive 30-year roof.

21 years left.

So does knowing the exact amount of time you have left change anything? Does your list of “somedays” take on a newfound urgency? Are you now going to quit your job and go help the less fortunate around the world?

I say if that’s what you want to do, you should pursue it with unbridled vigor. For me, knowing now I will never retire actually provides a little more clarity. How many times do you attempt to look way off in the future and you feel like you somehow won’t live the life you have at present. Well, no need to worry about that anymore I suppose.

Now we all have something in common to worry about: May 19, 2031. So let’s all just stop worrying about everything else that is suddenly not so important: the economy, our 401K’s, the death of advertising, or TV or NASCAR. We’re all going to be just fine. You know how I know? Because if you’re reading this, you are probably in the advertising (uh, sorry…the “communications/social influence”) business. Which means you’re in the greatest, most exciting and interesting career on the planet. You make a living on ideas. That is NEVER going to change. Sure those ideas will manifest themselves in new ways, but who cares? Great ideas will always be great ideas up until that fateful May Monday in the not too distant future.

So take a look at what is on your desk right now. There are a million excuses not to make it the best it can be: “I don’t have enough time,” “I’ve got too much on my plate,” “It will cut into my Facebook time,” “The AE is clueless,” “The client won’t like it,” “The creative director is stupid,” “The strategy is wrong,” “There is no budget,” “They’ll never buy it,” “I can’t make a difference,” “The category is shunned by the shows,” “My computer screen is too small,” “I am a hack,” (okay, I admit I still believe this one). The difference between good work and GREAT work is the unwillingness to give in to the voices. So just take things one at a time. Pick your projects, clients, etc. that will most help you make a difference. And have fun. Most importantly, make whatever you do GREAT. Make it memorable. Make it funny, or serious or compelling. Just make sure to get it done by Sunday night, May 18, 2031. I can promise you, this time there’s no way you’re getting an extension.

The passion of volunteering
The passion of volunteering

I have volunteered all my life – not sure if it started with Brownies (a younger version of the Girl Scouts) or whether it was following my Mom around “helping” her with countless charitable organizations she worked with during her life. So I guess it’s in my blood or, “The way I was brought up” as many say.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that I get so much more out of volunteering than I could ever give, and it’s just something you do, because it feels good. So I guess it’s not surprising, that the civic organization I’m most passionate about right now was started by my Mom. She helped start McKemie Place, the only overnight shelter for single women within a three county area based in Mobile, Alabama. She started McKemie Place with such passion because she didn’t want these ladies to sleep on the streets one more night. Was every single detail in place? Absolutely not. But she was determined to figure out a way, sooner rather than later, and made it happen. She could pretty much do that with anything she set her mind to do.

Not long after the shelter opened, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer and she lived only a few short months after her diagnosis. The bad part was that McKemie Place didn’t yet have an operational fund structure set up – so for the next several months it was struggling to make the monthly operational fund budget. When I began working closely with their director to help, there were possibilities on numerous occasions that we may have to close for random nights because we couldn’t make payroll. I think that’s where the passion truly kicked in for me. These ladies were not going to be left on the streets – I knew the data and research and I knew what could happen to them. We had to find a way to keep the shelter open every night.

Before I knew it, I was co-chair of the charter advisory board. It has been a long but inspiring six months since then. Many a night I wake up and wonder…what in the world am I doing? How can I do this as a single, working Mom? I don’t know if I can do it… Even though I’ve been on numerous boards, I’ve never started one! What was I thinking?

I was thinking about passion and the passion that I had gained from the experience of not only working with the ladies as guests at McKemie Place, but the countless other volunteers, foundations, government entities, etc, who had stepped up to the plate to help us pay the bills each month. Not to mention the way that the team at Lewis jumped in and took hold of the reins.

I believe it all started with my Mom. She had passion like there’s no tomorrow. She taught not only me, but countless others so many things. Do I think you can teach passion? I don’t think so, but you sure can show folks what it looks like. When you see it, you want a part of it and it’s contagious.

Social Media as Conversation
Social Media as Conversation

While people spend countless hours each day checking social media sites, their reasons for doing so aren’t always as “cutting edge” as those of us in the marketing world would like to believe. A recent study published by Pew Research Center found that 91% of people active on social media sites say that simply staying in touch with friends is their motivation to use.

Too many marketers refuse to acknowledge that the way those of us in the communication industry use social media isn’t typical, as compared to the average consumer. If companies and brands using social media are really looking to drive ROI through these channels, they need to start offering information as valuable as a post from a friend.

Early in October, I received a call asking me to handle the marketing for an event at The University of Alabama. Seven UA departments were collaborating to bring Soledad O’Brien to campus, and if you haven’t guessed already, the first issue brought up was how social media needed to be the main component in our marketing strategy.

The primary social media channels being used were UA Ferguson Center’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, which had significant followings of more than 3,000 students. My challenge was to figure out how to engage students with the Ferg to drive the desired result: a packed house for the night of Soledad’s speech. I did a little research and found that most students were looking to feel like they got some sort of one-on-one time with Soledad during her visit.

After this discovery, I made two very simple additions to the marketing strategy that drove positive results on both social media accounts—not to mention a standing room only crowd on the night of the event:

I. We asked students to submit questions for the Q&A session held after her speech via Facebook and wound up with hundreds of submissions.

II. We set up and promoted a Twitter hash tag so students who weren’t able to attend could still participate. We had over 50 students tweeting on our live chat the night of the event.

These simple tweaks were not only effective in engaging students for the Soledad event, but have served to revitalize the Ferg’s social media presence. Tweets per day are at their highest level ever, Facebook comments and unique page-views are higher than they have been in months and we even had students solicit our team via Twitter asking to write a post on the Ferg Blog, which rarely sees any activity outside of UA employees.

Why not take this example to heart and show your online community that your focus is on what they want rather than what you’d like to tell them? Try sharing information they see value in rather than the self-serving, one-way marketing updates we are all guilty of sending out far too often.