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I was reading a story this morning about ResearchGate a social media community for researchers. It’s a place where they can get together online to share ideas, sources and projects – the end game of which is to accelerate project completion. If Facebook is the 800 lb. gorilla, social media plats (short for platforms) are smaller more discrete communities where people can commune and learn. Edmodo is one such for educators. Houzz is one for home remodelers.  And Etsy for people selling their home made crafts.

These category-specific social media plats bring the world’s resources to our fingertips. I remember talking and thinking about this while in a strategic role at (start-up) Zude in 2006.  Then, a few years later, while working for JWT on a “future of work” project for client Microsoft, the topic came up again under the guise of something I named the “logged and tagged workforce”  — an idea where was the project was more important than the workers.

The web opens up worlds of information and data to everyone. Google’s ability to search this information has transformed our lives. But as search matures and we pull back in search of better ways to get stuff done, I’m realizing how random and mis-organized is the Google sphere. Smaller learning and sharing communities are the future. And they won’t be free either.

More to come, once I dump the cache.




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amazon handmade

Everyone loves Amazon. Mostly, everyone. We all feed at the Amazon trough. I bought twice from them yesterday. Once, only to find out the non-Prime product would be delivered in close to a month — which I then cancelled — and a second time a few minutes later when the same product popped up with free delivery in 2 days.

Amazon is loveable, but beginning to make some enemies. With its launch yesterday of Amazon Handmade, direct competitor of Etsy, it made some unfriends. I once accused Google of a “culture of technological obesity.” Amazon, seems to on track for a culture of retail obesity. Why? Because it can. In March Amazon added Amazon Home Services, to compete with Angie’s List and others. Amazon Business, nee Amazon Supply, is an effort to compete with MSC Direct, Grainger and Global Supply. More unfriends.

And let’s not even get into margins. If you sell a product on Etsy to give them 3.5% of sales, plus a minimal listing charge. If you sell on Amazon Handmade you give up 12%.

These new business segments will indeed make extra m/billions for Amazon. But it’s a technology play. Etsy owns the heart. Angie’s List owns the heart. Amazon needs to stay away from retail gluttony. Remember Amazon, business people are consumers when they go home. Don’t go overboard on your overdog status.


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I had an amazing girlfriend in college who used to hand-paint socks. They were cooler than cool. Almost still have a pair…it was a long time ago. B Street Shoes is a concern whose founder Blake Barash had made a business out of hand painting kicks or sneakers. His site on Etsy gets more than 140,000 visits a month and his shoes sell for about 2 hundie. Blake, has found the craft economy. I love to read this kind of story.

My college psych profession tried to steer me into “leisure time counseling,” thinking as technology evolved people would have more time on their hands. The craft economy is an answer to that free time. Rather than ingest digits, saturated fats, TV shows and movies, people are finding it exciting to make stuff. And, in the craft economy the stuff we make is meant to last, not hit the landfill. Woodworking for men of a certain age is all the rage. Cooking and gardening are coming back into fashion. In the craft economy, we have a newfound appreciated of goods and services. Keep it coming.


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Brand planners go about their business in a number of ways. If you’ve planned on 500 brands and identified 1,000 insights, it’s hard to go all tabula rasa on a new assignment. To quote a friend and colleague Faris Yakob of Genius Steals, there’s a lot of recombinant culture invading the planner’s work day. And this can be a bit of a problem.

Etsy is going through a bit of a hub-bub because some artisans are thought to be mass producing products and passing them off as artisanal. When brand planners do this, it also taints the work.

Brand planners look to two places for insights. The product and the consumer.  If we think of the product as comprised of natural resources — all natural, all built with different DNA, different chemicals – it’ hard not to see it as unique. Deconstructed, these unique resources bring forth insights and features from which the brand strategy flows.  A pizza parlor may look like another pizza parlor, an accounting firm may look like another accounting firm, but they really are all different. And by happenstance or design, those differences appeal to consumers in special ways. That’s the big “find” of the brand planner. And never forget we are creating disposition to purchase, not just packaging.

Brand planners find product uniqueness, decide if it is business-winning, then turn it into a brand strategy. (One claim, three proof planks.)

Off the shelf solutions don’t work. Every snow flake is different. Peace.


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I had never heard of a Breguet watch until thumbing through a lovely glossy magazine published by the brand earlier this year. The booklet paid homage to the Swiss roots of the company, its longevity and amazing craftsmanship – Breguet created the world’s first wristwatch and opened for business before the U.S. declared independence. Inside and out, these timepieces are unlike any others in the world. Rolexes are elegant in their simplicity, Breguet timepieces are elegant in their overt beauty and celebration of complexity.

As the craft economy grows, so will grow the market share of companies like Beguet because they embody the movement (excuse the pun.)  The craft economy, signaled by craft beers, Etsy, workworking channels, etc., has also spawned the latest trend, the maker society.  The word “maker” is the latest pop marketing term and started with the very cool Makerbot. Maketbot is a 3D prototyping printer and was shown in a recent 60 Minutes piece creating a working hand prosthesis for a child…for a few hundred dollars. (The 3D printer is really a robot. The making of robots is cool; mass producing robots – not really craft economy stuff.)

Back to Brequet. When a person holds a “thing” in their hand made by another person and is astonished by the craftsmanship, it is an affirmation of humanness. (I encountered this feeling when as a volunteer archeologist in Maine I found a deer rib bone in the shape of a weaving shuttle, ornamented by human hand. Blown away.) Mass produced products do not astonish. Frankly they lack brand panache and brand story.

The craft economy does not delight customers, its goal is to astonish.   Peace.  

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I was running near Southards Pond the other day and saw up in a tree a nice pine board birdhouse. A friend of mine makes birdhouses using his table saw and untrimmed logs. Logs with bark still on them.  They are amazing.  The word rustic comes to mind. I got him on Etsy and he moved some merch. The houses are so unique you want to stop running or walking and get a closer look.

Rather than print out a color picture, laminate it and attach put peel-off telephone numbers, and post it on the trail in a pseudo guerilla marketing effort – a ham handed one, at that – why not put a house up at eye level with a subtle URL burned in it. Small, like a painter’s signature. Make it feel more like art than commerce. I don’t need to do an A/B test to find out which approach would work better. Ham-handed would sell some houses quickly and be removed from the trail. The artful approach would reach “Posters” or influencers (as opposed to Pasters or “the led”) and he would have a longer-term showing and be celebrated by all.

A rustic product needs a rustic approach. Redefine how and where you put your product sale and message. Pick your spots and your tactics carefully. Kirshenbaum and Bond once did ads for Snapple where they put stickers on fresh mangos in the grocery store that read “Also available in Snapple.” Peace.


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Roots Rock.

Someone from McGarry Bowen in an account planner’s group on LinkedIn posed the question “What are some hot trends in the offing for 2013?” My response was roots. In college I read a book that talked about cultural transferences – the complications of modern society that take us farther and farther away from being able to provide for ourselves. As in, Can you put asunder, pluck, clean and cook a chicken with the help of Pathmark? Do you know how to jump start your Prius if it conks out? Can you walk 12 miles in a pinch?

Roots is all about removing the middleman and doing things for yourself. And in doing so, being just a little more self-sufficient, healthy and sustainable. Rather than throw out jeans with a rip, sew them. Rather than toss an appliance, fix it. Have friends over for a meal that you cook rather than order in or go out. Build a birdhouse with your hands. A lot of learning there.

Hike to smell a flower, instead of purchasing aromatics. Listen to simpler hand-made music. Etsy is about roots. Going to school board meetings is about roots. Fishing with your kids, sitting around a campfire, sitting on a stoop in Brooklyn drinking a pint of homemade beer – the list goes on.  As statistics and big data and the web flatten the world, bringing tragedies and goblin to our door, all glamorized by TV and movies, we need to and will return to roots culture.  (Just Google it.) Peace Friday.     

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I like to write about trends that impact marketing. One such, is the craft economy. It’s an exciting movement that is slowly taking hold and can be seen in craft beer, home-made pasta, woodworking and the neat site Etsy.  What makes the craft economy a trend worthy of notice is the bigger phenomenon that has lived here for too long: the junk economy.  Junk food, junk games, mass produced-low quality gear. When ladies can go to Target and pick up a blouse for $6.00, something is wrong.  When it makes more sense to buy a new laptop than fix the old one, something is wrong. When a TV only lasts 5-6 years rather than 15, something is wrong.

I love old stuff.  I am old stuff. I have tee-shirts older than my 20 something kids.  My old Poppe Tyson softball tee just ripped.  Pissed I didn’t buy a better weight of cotton Hanes back in the 80s.

Junk is bad, craft is good. Market with that thought in mind and the messages and customers will follow.  Eric Ripert has built an empire on fighting the junk economy. He is an inspiring hero.  Lose the junk. (Not that junk Terrence. Oh, and Terrence, Pearl Jam is coming to Philly.) Peace.



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This Saturday will mark the third year I’ve volunteered at the Long Island Cask Ale Festival hosted by the Blue Point Brewing Company and put on by Starfish Junction Productions.  I know, I know…dirty job, but someone has to do it.  Each year the weather is great, the brew terrific and the people and vibe — best of all.  This, my friends, is part of the Craft Economy.  It didn’t start with ETSY, but Etsy amplified it  The fun thing about the craft economy is that it’s really only a part of an economy, because its more about doing things yourself than paying others. And the work product is better.

So watching a plumbing video on YouTube to assist in changing your P trap is part of the craft economy. Cooking dinner with natural or at least unprocessed ingredients is craft.  Making beer at home or with a craft beer club, another example.  It’s about doing things for yourself and others (giving a neighbor some homemade spaghetti sauce, for instance) that take time, care and require some learning. Some experimenting.  Smelling the roses along the way.

Now you are not going to see me knitting anytime soon, and I’m still going to buy Levi’s button down jeans, but working with my hands and brain and not sending my hard earned to China or Omaha is where my head is.  Saving the planet along the way by not purchasing packaging and other non-sustainables doesn’t hurt. 

So as I volunteer and savor the occasional quaff at the Cask Ale festival this weekend and talk among fellow beer lovers and makers, I’ll be immersed in the craft economy. I will be among friends. (Oh, and the sour pickle guy will be there too. Yay.) Peace!


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One of my first insights as a young planner while working at Poppe Tyson on a brand called Ravensburger, maker of wooden puzzles and educational games, was the insight that competitors who were flooding the market with what we called “junk games” borrowed from the term junk food. 

Some might disagree with me on this, but I’m afraid a good deal of the products we consume today can be classified as junk. Products for most of the populace are not build to last. Clothes, sneakers, outerwear purchased for under ten dollars at discount stores start unraveling on the way home. But what the heck, they didn’t cost anything.

Carlota Perez, an economist interviewed by Fred Wilson at Web 2.0 last year, says the way forward for our planet is to make products that use less raw material, last a long time and can be serviced by real people earning a wage. This mentality is what I’m calling the Craft Economy.

If we make and consume craft products, we’ll take better care of them.  Craft beer isn’t swilled the way mass market pasteurized beer is.  It’s savored.  Refrigerators that last 25 years, a pair of shoes that are resoled rather than tossed – these are the things of a craft economy. Let’s lose disposable everything. Razor blades. Paper towels. Let’s use more natural products and think sustainability.

The craft economy is coming. And as a trend it will grow faster as economists start building cases for the inherent savings. More Etsy, less junk. Peace!

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