Monthly Archives: May 2008

How I keep track of my very, very random ideas

Do you have random moments of inspiration?

I find that creativity is incredibly hard to forecast. It sneaks up on me, triggered by some spark. Maybe it’s seeing a great photo, hearing an old song or a forgotten fragrance.

It’s been that way my whole life, and only finally did I get so disgusted with losing the ideas among the noise of life that I bought a booklet to document my thoughts.

I bought them in a 3-pack at a bookstore. Mine is a Moleskine brand pocket journal – supposedly similar to what Picasso and Hemingway used. I like them because they’re small enough and soft enough to easily carry in my back pocket.

Some examples of brilliance that would have otherwise been lost:

CarMD – My idea of a company like a WebMD, only instead offering probable causes for those squeaky noises in your car, or how important that check engine warning is in your 87 Buick.

They all agreed they should go do that sometime. And of course, they never did. – Just a random thought, perhaps worth building a larger story around.

Direct mail a flask to CFOs, supported with the copy, “Having one of those days? Let’s talk about outsourcing.” – An idea for a direct mail campaign for my company that hasn’t a shot in hell of getting the green light, but worth documenting nonetheless.

Try one for a month or so and you’ll soon find yourself lost without one.



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Talking about beer

I’m a bit frustrated here…

I was going to share some great copy with the world here, but I can’t find a copy of it online anywhere.

It comes from Schell’s. They’ve been brewing beer up in New Ulm, Minnesota for about 150 years and today represent the second oldest American brewery, behind only Pennsylvania’s Yuengling. I saw it while touring the brewery (awesome experience, by the way) up in Minnesota over the past weekend. The copy was on both a poster and a T-shirt, supplemented with an 1860’s era photo of some of the original brewers at Schell’s. The copy went something along the lines of…

They endured winter, starvation, an outbreak of cholera, ravenous locusts, outdoor plumbing and bad shoes.

Brewing was so much simpler back then.

And then the copy gets juicy, describing how it requires balls, dedication and a little good fortune to survive in today’s highly commoditized and mass marketed beer industry. It made me downright thirsty for a bottle of Schell’s in tribute to the brand.

The best I can do is find this pixelated photo of the shirt for sale on their site. I could buy it, but I guess the copy isn’t that good.

Unless Schell’s is monitoring the blogosphere or someone out there happens to have the shirt, you’ll just have to take my word for it on the copy. That is, of course, until I go back for another tour.



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Weezer’s salute to new media

This is getting passed around the Web pretty quickly, and for good reason.

It’s Weezer’s new vid, Pork and Beans.

It’s a good track, and it would probably win on its own merit. But the video itself is loaded with new media celebrities and it’s impossible not to share it with your friends. The 3.2 million views in 72 hours is a good indicator.

Simple genius, wrapped in good music. Enjoy:

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Free inspiration

Happy Friday, world.


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Rebel copywriting

Harley Davidson has long been one of my favorite brands.

It’s not that they make the most reliable bikes (they don’t) and it’s not that they are ‘American made’ (a lot of the parts are foreign, which – ironically – has improved reliability).

A really easy reason to like Harley is because they’re brilliant at branding.

The brilliance comes from the realization that they don’t sell motorcycles – it’s more of a license into a different lifestyle. A rebellious one.

It’s not a cheap license – a basic Harley off the line will cost you around $6,500, while, for example, you could be on the road with a basic Honda cruiser starting at $3,200.

But it’s deeper than all this. Price points and loud mufflers are brand components. But the sum of the brand itself is the lifestyle. That’s the product.

So here’s the genius: Rebels don’t make the brand, the brand makes rebels.

And we’re all invited.

Any geek can buy a Harley – it’s encouraged. But once you do – once you’re in the saddle of the beast, that’s when the brand steps in.

That’s when you feel broken rumble of po-ta-to, po-ta-to. That’s when the gentle twist of the throttle tugs at your gut and makes you instinctively straighten your back and firm your chin.

That’s when you’re no longer allowed to be boring. Not while on a Harley. It’s a self-inflicted awareness.

That’s when the images of the open rode and the lonesome rebel fill your thoughts and you begin to feel what all the fuss was about.

And maybe that’s the secret – Harley is inherently designed to under-promise and over-deliver. Try as we may, it’s largely impossible to genuinely express the experience of riding a motorcycle through words and images.

As consumers, we’re delighted every time.

But that’s not to say creativity doesn’t help. Check out what inspired me to write this post – Harley’s brilliant ad campaign that’s in perfect alignment with their brand and carries a message message that’s a dead-on response to our current times.

The copy alone is awesome:

We don’t do fear.

Over the last 105 years in the saddle, we’ve seen wars, conflicts, depression, recession, resistance and revolutions. We’ve watched a thousand hand-wringing pundits disappear in our rear-view mirror. But every time, this country has come out stronger than before, because chrome and aslphalt put distance between you and whatever the world can throw at you. Freedom and wind outlast hard times. And the rumble of an engine drowns out all the spin on the evening news. If 105 years have proved one thing, it’s that fear sucks and it doesn’t last long.

So screw it, let’s ride.




Filed under Branding, Copywriting

Sleeveface– home to uber cool / crazy / weird / brilliant stuff along the lines of this:

Yet another example of a simple, brilliant idea that is hugely popular and built to be viral.

Like what you see? Check out this Sleeveface video.

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Telling your story through your copy

Seth Godin says the best marketing tells a story.

I agree. The best marketing tells a genuine, unique story and lives it every day.

A fundamental of telling your story is your copywriting. With more noise than ever before, we have no time nor patience for average stories.

We require a refreshing, dynamic voice that offers an immediate connection.

Of all the potential meatballs out there, the T-shirt is right up there. So if you’re going to try and sell me a T-shirt when I’m not immediately looking for a shirt, you better damn well give me a sincere reason to stop and think about it.

First, a yawn:

100% soft sueded cotton, Supersoft, subtle color loss, distressed screenprint with applique and embroidery, screenprint and applique on backside, self-fabric interior neck taping, Vintage Wash, Muscle Fit, Imported.

And second, how to get my attention:

What is this? It looks old.
Well, it’s a vintage T-shirt. It’s new, but looks old.
It’s new but looks old?
Well, it seems new, but looks old.
Seems? You mean it really is old?
Well, you know when you’re out buying a couple of steaks and maybe some antifreeze and you decide on a pack of T-shirts at the same time?
You mean it’s like that?
Well, it’s like that…but different.
A lot different.
(Adding to the mystery, the original historic labels were accidentally removed and replaced by our own. Sorry.)
Vintage T-Shirts, for men and women, with short or long sleeves and chest pocket (always handy). Noticeably more substantial cotton than you normally find in T-shirts these days, pigment-dyed to achieve the effect of great age. Although newborn, they start out looking good (and old). And stay that way. And they don’t disintegrate just at the point they’re starting to get good.

The first is from Abercrombie, the second is from The J. Peterman Company.

These are two stories representing two brands. Which one are you willing to engage further? Which one is worth passing on to a friend?


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