One of a Kind

What do Cesar Millan, Yo-Yo Ma, Kenny G, and Jacques Cousteau have in common? They are all famous. At first glace, that may seem to be little more than a cheeky answer, but I'm serious. To me, the fact that each of these figures is famous is nothing short of a huge accomplishment. The reason that is intriguing to me is that each of these people is famous for doing something that very few ever become famous for. In fact, I would argue that these figures are the only famous people for their respective fields.

Think of it, how many famous dog trainers, cellists, saxophonists, or scuba divers can you name? Unless you are in some way linked or partial to one of those categories, you probably can't name more than one. But you're probably familiar with these people.

These people made a name for themselves outside of their given fields, and left an impression on a general population that didn't actively lend their attention or interest. The fact that they did so is remarkable, and something that we should all consider how to do in our own areas of expertise.

The Wallet of the Future (update)

Last year, I wrote about my dream wallet; a gadget that could consolidate my keys, phone, and wallet into one device. It looks like that dream might become a reality sooner than later, as many tech companies are coming out with some pretty cool software, apps, and gadgets. Here are just a couple of examples:

How your phone will replace your keys.

How your phone will replace your credit card.

I still haven't seen anything in terms of a digital driver license and other important document, or a good system that will track purchase receipts and loyalty programs. If anyone has seen a good example of any of those things, send me a tweet @brandbadger.

I used to think that we as a society couldn't possible continue making breakthrough innovations year upon year, but it is definitely happening. It's so exciting to live in this age where technology is only restrained by our imagination.

Expensive But Fantastic!

This is quite possibly the worst ad I've ever seen. I found it in Delta's Sky magazine. It's so bad, it's actually quite funny. Click the image to enlarge.


Last week, my 3 year old niece asked my sister, "Mommy, will you take us to Diddneyland?"

I think Walt must have grinned a little in his grave. If not him, then a few brand managers over at the mouse house at least. Somehow Disney has penetrated the American childhood so early that we have 3 year olds who not only know about an amusement park hundreds of miles away, but also have a sense of its enchantment, to the point that they beg their parents to go there. And seeing those cute, pouty faces is often just enough to convince us to pay the $68.00 ticket price (not to mention all of the other costs) for a 3 year old to enjoy the park for a day.

I can't decide if I should be impressed or worried. I think the marketer in me feels one way and the parent in me feels the other.

On an unrelated note, my other niece had a birthday and when we sang happy birthday to her, her siblings shouted "Charmin Ultra-Soft!!!" at the end of the song. Who started that, and how did it stick?

Keeping Busy!

It's been a while since I posted, so I wanted to give an update on what I've been up to with the projects I've been working on.

COMPSTUMES: Unfortunately, after I posted this project to KickStarter I got extremely busy with finals and going to Japan that I was not able to give it the attention it deserved. I did receive pledges from 7 backers, but it was not enough to meet my goal. I'll decide what to do with COMPSTUMES when I get back to Madison.

Orange Shoe: It took a lot of work and a couple of all-nighters to get it done, but my team (Topher, Laura, Carly, and Ernesto) and I finally finished and presented our report. Check out some of my contributions to this project.

Kobe Portopia Hotel: This is the project I am currently working on in Kobe, Japan. My team is working on a new brand strategy for an independent luxury hotel. I have been focusing my efforts on enhancing and unifying the hotel's digital presence. I've also thrown together some new logo ideas. You can see more about my trip so far here.

So that's why I haven't been posting recently. I'll spend another week in Japan, then a week in Utah. After that, I'll be headed to Cincinnati for my summer internship at P&G, which I am looking forward to. Once I get back into some sort of routine I'll be able to post more. Until then!


A couple of months ago, I found out about KickStarter, a web site that matches entrepreneurs with regular people to help fund their businesses. In exchange for a small financial pledge, those who contribute to a new business idea are rewarded by the entrepreneur with some kind of swag (usually whatever the new business intends to sell). The catch is that the entrepreneur has a limited amount of time to raise their pre-established funding goal. If they don't raise enough, they don't get anything for their business.

I decided to pitch an idea to KickStarter, and they liked it and agreed to feature it on their web site! After many hours of hard work, I'm proud to announce that I have officially launched the funding project for my new business on KickStarter. Check it out HERE!

Personality (Part 2)

“It’s better to be a first rate version of yourself than a second rate version of someone else.”
- Judy Garland

It seems silly to me in hindsight, but two months ago I was genuinely concerned that the companies I would be interviewing with would all be looking for "more celebrated" Type A personalities rather than Type B's like myself. That left me wondering, "should I try to act Type A in my interviews, and potentially during my internship?"

When I reached out to Dan Pink asking him this, he told me that I was better off sticking with my natural personality, for three reasons:

1) It's easier
2) I probably wouldn't be good at feigning Type A
3) Any company that hired me thinking I'm Type A would probably not be a place where I would be happy or do my best work.

With this advice, I approached my interviews with the intent to portray my natural personality. Not every company I talked to was looking for a Type B, but in the end I landed a spot at my top choice, P&G.

Thanks to Dan Pink for reminding me of something I've been taught since I was a kid: Be yourself.

Personality (Part 1)

People inside the business world love personality tests. Whether it's Meyers & Briggs, DiSC, the Color Code, or another system, I believe corporations love these things because the task of human management becomes much less daunting if you can categorize all of your employees into four buckets. I believe that these systems have varying levels of merit and practicality to them. My intent in this post, however, is not to compare and contrast them, but to comment on a separate, simpler, and more ubiquitous personality profiling system.

In my working career, and ever since I have entered business school, I keep running across the phrase "Type A". When I first heard this in high school, I had no idea what it meant. Although I didn't formally learn about what "Type A" was until much later, I was able to take from context that it was used to refer to someone who was very driven, impatient, and outspoken. A natural leader. I eventually learned that there was another kind of person, "Type B", but no one ever really talked about them, and I didn't really know what they like.

In the mean time, I kept hearing people refer to themselves as Type A, as if it were some sort of badge of honor or medal that proved that they were cut out for business leadership. I started to get worried because I didn't feel like I had these "amazing" Type A qualities. I must be a Type B, whatever that was. At any rate, B was surely not as good as A, right? Just think of a report card.

Then just two months ago, I was reading Daniel Pink's insightful book, Drive. In it, he explains that the origin of Type A/Type B was not even meant to describe business leadership attributes. Rather, it was invented by a couple of physicians (Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman) in the late 1950s to identify patients who were prone to heart disease. Type A's were found to have a set of complex personality traits, including "excessive competition drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency".

Type B's, on the other hand, were found to be "just as intelligent, and frequently just as ambitious, as Type A's". They just expressed their ambition differently. I found this to be great news, because it validated that as a Type B, I was just as good as all of the Type A's out there.

But there was still the conflict of perception. In Part 2 of this post, I'll explain my conundrum of being a Type B in a Type A world, my inquiry to Dan Pink for his take, and the advice he gave me in return.

Selling Shovels and Stars

Two of my business heroes are Samuel Brannan and Sylvester McMonkey McBean. Brannan was a pioneer who made his fortune during the Gold Rush in California, not by searching for gold, but by selling shovels and other tools to prospectors. McBean, otherwise known as the "fix-it-up-chappie", capitalized on the pride of Sneetches as they ran around getting and removing stars on their bellies.

In essence, these entrepreneurs not only found and met a customer need, but they also leveraged social disruption to their advantage. It was brilliant of them to tap into something much deeper than a mere want for a product or service. Instead, these two examples show the importance of understanding the motives why customers make the decisions that they do, and then finding a way to help them achieve their desire.

Another interesting point about the Dr. Seuss example is that McBean didn't care a bit about whether the Sneetches wanted to get a star or have a star removed. He simply fed off of their fickleness and facilitated their changing tastes. Greedy? Maybe. But also genius.

Earlier this year, Ian's pizza made a killing feeding capitol protestors here in Madison. No matter pro-union or anti-union, Ian's knew that a hungry protestor = $$$.

Guest Blogger Drew!

I've made my guest blogging debut! Check out my contribution to the UW CBPM blog!

Coke vs. Coke Zero

It seems to me that Coke Zero and Pepsi Max are experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. Granted, they are in a difficult spot to begin with. A quick glance on Max's and Zero's Facebook pages revealed to me that there is a lot of confusion surrounding what the brands really offer.

Are they equivalent to the diet versions of the product, a straightway replacement for the marquee brand, or a new drink all together? I'm sure that if you asked the brand managers at Pepsi and Coke, they would try to convince you that it was the latter. But I'm unconvinced.

Of the two brands, Zero appears to be most confused. Max at least properly identifies Zero as its competition, whereas Zero practically begs to cannibalize its own sales of Coke Classic.

The Zero campaign, though funny at times, places a target on itself rather than focusing on its true competition. It will be interesting to see whether they stick with this strategy.

Close, But Not Quite There

I've been reading Daniel Pink's Drive, which has turned out to be a great book about how to motivate ourselves and others. One point that stuck out to me is where the author describes mastery as an asymptote, an algebraic concept in which a curve grows increasingly closer to a straight line, but never quite reaches.

Pink explains that this idea is difficult to accept, because we tend to get frustrated and give up if we aren't able to be perfect at what we are attempting. Understanding that this is normal, however, can help us set proper expectations and avoid becoming discouraged as we seek to master different skills in life.

Condiments that Polarize

I just read an article about Kraft Foods plan to bump up spending on some of its "power brands". One campaign in particular that stood out to me is Miracle Whip's "We're Not for Everyone". As someone to doesn't care much for Miracle Whip, I don't think that this stance harms the brand in any way, it just acknowledges what millions of consumers probably already know. If anything, it will just foster a closer sense of community for those people who do like the product. I commend Kraft on the maturity that comes with the realization that not everyone loves and wants Miracle Whip, and the initiative to go out of its way to make that a selling point.

Converting Customers

I came across a great article in which author Joe Hadfield outlines four lessons in turning customers into converts. I thought I'd pass along the highlights.

Lesson 1: Design Products to Feel Familiar
This is a seemingly obvious but often forgotten piece of advice. Well-known examples of this include the Nintendo Wii and everything Apple makes. Last time I went to Japan, I visited Toyota's Universal Design Showcase, which also exemplifies this principle.

Lesson 2: Hire a Guide for your Demo
When airlines first introduced do-it-yourself kiosks, participation was lower than expected. It wasn't until customer service reps assisted clients through their first time that they became familiar with a new way, more efficient way of checking in.

Lesson 3: Take Advantage of Technology and Timing
If you offer support for a product, try to time your assistance so that the customer has had a chance to open and interact with the product first. Most people who buy phones think they will be able to figure them out, so offering assistance at the time of purchase may be less effective than offering later when they call to activate it.

Lesson 4: Buy Time with Bundled Pricing Incentives
For products and services with a steep learning curve, this lesson helps customers get over the bump of failure. For example, it is better to offer five golf lessons in a bundled package than to offer a free introductory lesson and hope people stick with it.

The Rise of China (part 4)

Here's a fitting video to go along with the past few of my posts. While I don't completely subscribe to all of his points, Jacques has an intriguing take on China.

Martin Jacques: Understanding the Rise of China

The Rise of China (part 3)

It's always interesting to me to see how government policies and changes in law affect consumer trends and overall shifts in culture. In China, one of the most prominent examples of this has been the institution of a one-child policy in 1978.

The result of this change has been an interesting situation known as the 4-2-1 Problem, where one adult child, having no siblings or cousins, will eventually be left to care his/her two parents as well as four grandparents.

Many of the companies we visited outlined a variation of this 4-2-1 problem, and the incredible opportunity associated with it. Because so many children don't have siblings or cousins, they become the sole target of attention and care for two parents and four grandparents.

Embedded in this dynamic is the evolving cultural attitude among many Chinese families that since they only have one chance, they will do absolutely anything and everything to give their child everything s/he wants or needs.

Whether its diapers, food, clothing, or toys, every choice you make for your child - your only line of posterity - is an important one. Multiply that attitude by six providers per child and 17 million new babies a year, and you've got yourself a significant consumer trend.

The Fresh Smell of Weakness

Last year, I wrote about turning weakness into strength. A friend of mine shared with me another great example of this idea.

Mike Birbiglia is a horrible sleeper. In fact, he calls himself the "worst sleeper in America". Rather than let this unique condition hold him down, he's decided to face it head on. In a partnership with Downy, Mike has agreed to spend a week living in a Macy's store window to test the freshness of their sheets.

This concept is a win for everyone. Mike, who is a comedian, will surely get a boost in his career. Macy's will get increased foot traffic in the store, as well as national publicity. And Downy, spreading its message of lasting freshness, will achieve increased awareness, which will likely convert to new consumer trial.

This is a great campaign in which parent company P&G shows that despite having a large budget to advertise in more traditional ways, it can also utilize creative, inexpensive campaigns that have a viral effect on the Internet.

Be sure to watch Mike to see if he sheets stay fresh!

The Rise of China (part 2)

China has long been known as a copycat country. Watches, clothing, movies, software... you name it, you can probably find a fake version of it in China. The U.S. and other affected countries have tried in vain to curtail Chinese knockoffs. Just yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner pushed President Hu Jintao for stronger intellectual property protections.

While China's method of R&D (rip-off & duplicate) remains strong, several companies I visited expressed that this trend is changing. These companies explained that, more and more, China is learning how to be on the forefront of design and innovation.

John Kao, author of Innovation Nation, agrees. He argues that China's mixture of a state-driven innovation agenda along with a surge of independent entrepreneurs has propelled the country to where it is today.

The Rise of China (part 1)

I just got back from winter break, during which I went to China for two weeks on a study abroad with the Center for Brand and Product Management.

Everyone knows that China is in a state of massive transition. As one example, take a look at this picture of Shanghai in 1990:

This is the same shot in 2010:

No longer a sleeping giant, China has sprung into action with full force. It has dethroned Japan as the world's second largest economy. Counting Taiwan and Hong Kong, China currently claims 11 of the 20 tallest buildings in the world.

Why the surge? Why now? What does the future of China hold and what implications are there for America and the rest of the world? These were a few of the questions I sought answers to as I visited companies in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. Over the next few posts, I will share some of the reasons I learned how China is changing the way the world does business.