“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” 
― Stanley Kubrick


The Camel

Here is a little chunk of wisdom that I find particularly clear in helping to understand the landscape of marketing…

“If the camel circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus is coming to Dubai,’ that’s ADVERTISING.  If you put the sign on the back of a camel and walk it through town, that’s PROMOTION.  If the camel walks through the sheikh’s flower bed, that’s PUBLICITY. IF you can get the sheikh to laugh about it, that’s PUBLIC RELATIONS.  And, if you planned the whole thing, that’s MARKETING.”

– Anonymous

Awesome, ain’t it?


If I Ran Aritzia


I cannot pretend to know a FRACTION of the things known by Aritzia senior management.  They have their hands on the levers of fashion, and have proven their savviness by producing one of the most successful retail ventures in history.  So accept my humble admission of innocence as I progress:  I’m only venturing my thoughts…

1.) Refine a more obvious and emotional brand narrative! I’m not saying there isn’t one, but it’s not as obvious as, say, Method’s.  Method is more than cleaning products.  Method is a movement whose allies (customers and products) are in a collective battle with an enemy: dirty.  The crucible is the kitchen and the bathroom.  A victory for the good guys is a victory for the world, and we can all join in.  What fun!  Now I don’t see many fashion brands taking this kind of thing on.  It’s pretty easy to use more conventional approaches to enrollment.  I just don’t know how safe those approaches are in an increasingly competitive global economy.

2.) Plan for a more challenging recession! On Tom Friedman’s forecast, I now assume that lifestyles around the world are flatting, and this is going to mean less middle-market spending to go ’round.  Aritzia will need to find more effective ways of reaching larger #’s of people.   This doesn’t mean pulling back on spending, but rather spending in ways that build a more nimble and adaptable company in the future, that uses the best that technology has to offer in IMPACT as well as cost savings.

3.) Start selling online!  This doesn’t mean hunkering away for 5 years building a giant monolith like Amazon. Let’s consider this through the eyes of a rapid protyper/designer.  Try smaller efforts and get the ball rolling.  Do it well, but do it small and do it fast.  The sooner we get out there, the sooner we can begin collecting feedback and learning from our own experience with it.  It’s always different on the drawing board than it is in real life.

4.) Look to Zappos for inspiration! Oh, I know this refrain may be overused, but there is so much to learn there.  Many are acknowledging their success, but so few are actually following their lead. From the way they hire, to the IT infrastructure their CSR’s have available to them, Zappos does a million little things that make a big difference.

5.) Use social media more creatively! We have all heard quite enough about YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and have grown tired of the endless spam and noise across those platforms. But, very large audiences live there and LOVE IT when brands come up with interesting new ways to use these platforms.  Toss the cliches, but not the media platforms.

6.) Operationalize social media! Social media is useful for more than just marketing and outreach.  Ants Eye View is a consultancy that helps large brands use social media to improve customer support and product development, as well as saving $$ on other operational functions.  They are leading a charge that is destined to become conventional faire.

7.) Tap the trade-in revolution! Making this work as an expression of the brand will probably require a lot of thought and experimentation, but I think there are so many benefits to deliberately building this into the ecosystem.  It’s green (not washing). It’s a way to invite brand fans to come back more often.  And it’s getting hotter all the time.  Whether it’s done via partnership with eBay or more directly on Facebook or Amazon, P2P is not going away.

8.) Merge mobile and in-store! How ’bout mobile apps that allow in-store customers to research and find product more quickly and more richly? By doing this right, customers can be incentivized to actually come into the brick and mortar stores to exploit these tools more enjoyably. Once they’re there, tablet apps in the hands of store clerks could speed the processing of transactions and give customers a more personal experience.

9.) Usher in the virtual fitting room! Embodee and Fitnect provide brilliant new ways to help customers buy online and instore respectively.  These new technologies are affordable revolutions in the customer experience, and can not only increase the profitability of the sales cycle, they can make shopping more fun and memorable. They also allow for a deeper bond between the consumer and the brand as more personal data is collected in the shopping process.

10.) Embrace radical innovators! Sites like Joyus and Polyvore are changing the way people shop.  It’s time to tap into that revolution by finding ways to help some of these clever upstarts be more successful.

11.) Bring rich interactive digital experiences to the store! Microsoft’s Kinect technology and large format displays allow very engaging experiences to happen at very low cost. Augmented reality tools add to the long list of stuff that allows brand-centric art to get personal – and memorable.  I think this is one area that stands to allow some of the greatest differentiation between retail brands.  Aritzia is perfectly poised to break new ground in this realm.

This is just a sampling.   There are so many other possibilities. I can’t wait to see what Aritzia will do in the future…


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Be Wary of Sameness

Wonderland is Waiting

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on this topic on the Wonderland Blog.  Read the article.  It really is restating what sooooo many people in design and branding have known for a long time.  By now, the title should be obvious to everyone.

But it isn’t.

Here’s an excerpt:

When we feel scared or uncertain, it’s natural to lurch toward the center of the crowd, lest we picked off by predators for standing out. It’s our reptilian minds at work – we come by these impulses instinctively.  And where a villian is looking for dinner, hiding in the crowd is a very useful tactic.

Thing is, we don’t face those kinds of villians much anymore.  The rules of survival have changed.  What once protected and even saved us, now threatens us.  It’s true in life, and it’s true in business…

On this issue, I think of Apple and the rush of imitations that are surging to market.  Apple has certainly shown the way to success: artful design matters.  And Steve Jobs has shown a discipline in designing complexity out and bringing in simple elegance as a replacement.  Not a bad model to imitate – Apple is one of the most successful brands in the world.  But imitating is not innovating.  And Apple’s success is heavily based on Innovation, and looking different, as well as being beautiful.

So what brands do you think are innovating and breaking from sameness?  And vice versa, what big players do you think haven’t, but should be getting the message that its time to be different?


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