Monthly Archives: November 2012

BMW’s Brand-New Twin-Turbo 560-HP Printing Press!

Having trouble coming up with a stimulating idea for direct mail? Maybe you should look at how BMW is pushing the envelope! Never before has a 560-horsepower BMW M6 been converted into a printing press, but there is a first for everything, right?

In a creative attempt to demonstrate how the new BMW M6 can “peel the pavement,” BMW partnered with Classic Color, Toyo Ink, and Sappi Fine Paper. They all reported to Blackhawk Farms Raceway to test out a new, turbo-charged printing press. Watch the symphonic culmination below:

I gather that most companies out there don’t have this type of cash to spend on direct mail projects, but this is an inspiring example of how far outside the box you can go with a simple printed piece. After all, everything comes down to return on investment, and I would guess BMW only has to sell ten of these cars to make up for this stunt.

I hope this helps stimulate your creative brain … Come up with anything yet?

Author: T. John Mehl


Esquire and Netpage Partner for Augmented Reality Edition

Who says print is old hat?

Esquire magazine has always tried to do its part to bridge the seemingly enormous gap between old and new media. The December issue is no different.

Partnering with new magazine app Netpage, Esquire is able to offer some of the same interactivity that its iPad version offers. At first glance, Netpage acts as an augmented reality app, allowing Bradley Cooper to speak to you from the cover for a few seconds. But the real meat of the app allows you to clip, save, and share every page in the magazine. Any ad, photo, or story can be saved in your Netpage account as a high-resolution, interactive PDF.

So how is it different from taking a picture and saving it to your phone? First and foremost, all links, videos, and other interactive elements are still interactive, allowing you to buy products from ads or watch a video paired with a story. Second, you never actually take a picture. Your camera acts as a scanner, and the app references a digital duplicate that matches the scan. The scan doesn’t take up additional space on your phone and is saved in the cloud for later use.

The caveat for Netpage is that it must partner with other magazines in order for this app to be more widely used. Currently, the app works only on this issue of Esquire. Because there are no barcodes leading to websites but rather images that are being referenced, this app can’t work with any given magazine. On the other side of the partnership, Esquire has tried using augmented reality a few times in the past, famously with the Robert Downey Jr. edition in 2009, but has always recorded far fewer interactions than expected, normally less than 10% of its readership. Augmented reality has been a bit tricky to get off the ground, but it’s slowly becoming a part of the average techie’s lifestyle. The more publicity augmented reality garners, the more accepted it will become.

There is no saying if Netpage will yield any better results for Esquire, but one thing is for sure: This is the first time an augmented-reality edition of Esquire has been thrust into the public eye since 2009, and this time many more people seem to be paying attention. The ability to capture pages for later consumption and to push those pages to your social audiences moves AR into a friendlier place in the current media landscape.

If nothing else, Netpage has done an impressive job of giving the print edition of Esquire the additional material to keep up with the mobile-evolving world. To try the app for yourself, purchase the December issue of Esquire and download the free Netpage app here:

Author: Zack Smith

Little Free Library: A Place to House My First Children’s Book

When my children were tots, bedtime reading was always a fun time. I can remember the soft pj’s and the fresh smell of baby shampoo after their baths as we scoured the bookshelf at home to pick a favorite story. It always seemed to be a character book for my two, where I could do the voices of the characters, only to be corrected, usually by my son, if I got the voice wrong. The fun would begin after being corrected, as I tried to get just the right voice of the character, which more often than not led to me singing a bedtime song to them in character. Rarely did anyone go to bed early, but who cared––it was sweet fun.

That was over twenty years ago, and times have changed in children’s book publishing. Children’s e-books now dominate the e-reader market; revenues were up to $27.7 million in May 2012 from $7 million in 2011, according to the Association of American Publishers. Although many households can afford the convenience of e-reader technology, many still love the touch and feel of a real printed book. Printed storybooks are a form of communication that doesn’t just use pictures and words. The entire experience of paper, color, texture, weight, and the look of a frayed edge give the storybook a shelf life of its own. Being able to share these treasures among generations is an integral part of the appeal of the Little Free Library.

Little Free Library is the brainchild of Minnesota natives Todd Bol and Richard Brooks, who came up with the concept of “take a book, leave a book” libraries in memory of Todd’s mother, an avid book reader. Looking like large birdhouses and planted on the lawns of homeowners and shopkeepers, each library can hold about two dozen books. This nonprofit group aims to support a sense of community and reading for children, creating a “habitat for the humanities” by spreading the love of reading the old-fashioned way, by holding a book.

Little Free Library

Neighborhood groups and individuals can volunteer to act as stewards over each little free library and can turn over its collection several times a month. Community members are encouraged to leave one of their own books in exchange––there is no fear of theft because you can’t “steal” a free book. After the library is registered and has its official, numbered Little Free Library sign, it has the privilege of being given its own GPS coordinates. There are currently over 200 libraries in 28 states and 13 countries on the Little Free Library map of the world. This is truly becoming a global cause.

I checked out the kids’ room last night and looked at all the books I have seen through the years and realized I should encourage my tiny town of Glen Spey in upstate NY to place one of these libraries in our local park. I too have always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books, but where do I start? Well, I do have an art degree and have done illustrations, I have a couple of good stories in me, and I am currently in the printing industry and have the technical knowledge to get this made––it’s the perfect trifecta.

I do have some questions about publishing my book, though, so I consulted Google. I first landed on a site called The Purple Crayon––this is a treasure trove of knowledge for first-time publishers, and its curator is a children’s book editor and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. This seems to be just the guide to get me started as I continue on my path towards fulfillment and fame. The next question is: How much will it cost to publish my masterpiece? There are a number of printing companies that cater to the private author. Although much of the publishing industry has been upended by the e-reader market, I want my masterpiece to be old-fashioned ink on paper as well as hardcover, to fit with the others in the den.

I found two sites to help me publish, Book1One and Lulu––both have easy-to-use interfaces that help you get pricing. I was surprised by how simple these sites were to use and by the amount of information they had for me. The sticker shock was less than I expected, considering the personalized nature of publishing my own first book. Now I have all the tools to realize my dream.

One final thought: My goal of publishing a hardcover book can only achieved by the use of technology (and each website had a link to its Facebook page and Twitter feed). Seems the only way to have an “old-fashioned” reading experience is to embrace what new media can offer.

Want to learn more about the Little Free Library program? You can visit its website at:

Want to view the NBC story on the Little Free Library? Visit:

Book Publishing

Purple Crayon:

Author: Tom Caska

Image Credit: Michael R. Perry

Generation Friend

Drawing lines between social generations has become increasingly difficult. Advances in technology, beginning in the early eighties, have created overlapping layers of individuals who fall into multiple cultural generations. These generations are now more likely to be determined by personality traits combined with birth dates, rather than by age alone. I myself am an Eighties Baby (1983, to be exact) and fall on the line between the end of Generation X and the beginning of Generation Y. Additionally, I was part of a new generation of children who saw the full evolution of video games, from Atari and Nintendo (16 bit) to PS3, Xbox 360, and now the long-anticipated Wii U.

The time has come to usher in a new cultural distinction, one that has developed recently and will span many social generations: I call it Generation Friend. Before I go any further, I’d like you to ask yourself the following questions (and welcome you to post your answers in the comments section below):

  • Have you sent a Friend request in the past month?
  • Do you have more than 100 Friends on Facebook?
  • Have you searched for a Friend this month?
  • Have you used the term “Facebook Friend” within the past month?

I answered yes to three out of the four questions (and that’s only because of a Friend cleanup that I recently performed).

Getting back to my main point, I came to this new social distinction recently, after I referred to my brother as a “Friend on Facebook.” This got me thinking: Has Facebook cheapened the meaning of “Friend”? In short, my answer is no. To be fair, Facebook allows users to categorize their friends very precisely. Even though Facebook only recently offered this option in response to Google +, LinkedIn has been letting users categorize their connections from the beginning.

Facebook, just like email, music, and pictures, requires a user to invest time to keep it organized and up to date. We’ve all gone through the Friend-request binges that have led to a bloated list of Friends, but it’s time to roll up the sleeves and cut the loose Friends—err—strings. Maybe Facebook will evolve over time and become intuitive enough to categorize connections by the type of interaction, frequency of interaction, the amount of pictures you’re “tagged” in, and by shared connections. Until then, it’s up to you to de-friend the ex, an old roommate from college, or the person you met in line yesterday at Starbucks.

Author: Michael Hiney

Neuromarketing: What Makes Your Customer Light Up…Literally

Neuromarketing is a relatively new branch of market research which utilizes brain imaging technology to record and analyze customers’ psychological responses to various marketing stimuli. While there are many arguments criticizing both the validity of the science and its ethical implications, this should be seen as a golden opportunity for marketers to build branding that is in tune with the customer psyche.

The Technology: How it Works

Before looking at what it can do, let’s break it down and see how it works. There are three techniques at the center of neuromarketing that, when combined, paint a picture of the consumer mind: fMRI, QEEG, and MEG.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is a technology that is used to monitor normal brain function and provides insight into how the brain reacts to stimuli such as language, pain, and emotion. It is best used to illustrate changes in the regions of the brain and is most notably known for adding brain imaging to the beloved Pepsi Challenge, in which subjects blindly taste Coke and Pepsi and indicate which they prefer. The fMRI added a twist by showing that when customers were unaware of which brand they were tasting, both Coke and Pepsi lit up the reward center of the brain. However, when they became brand- aware, the centers of memory and emotion processing illuminated. This indicated that the taste of both products fills the reward role, but it is the brand that appeals to emotion and thus the purchasing decision.

Quantitative Electroencephalography (QEEG) is a more statistically based method used to monitor brain patterns. It records electronic patterns on the surface of the scalp, converts and records the information onto a computer, and compares large populations of individuals. It is more suited to observing the customers’ minds where it matters most: when they are in stores making their decisions. QEEG is used to watch the brain as a customer is exposed to different advertisements, drives a new car, and even receives an unexpected freebie while shopping. It is noninvasive and provides easily comparable data.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) provides its value in psychology by being able to measure brain activity by the millisecond and provide data in small- time intervals. Out of all the techniques, MEG is used the least in neuromarketing. Its most noteworthy contribution is finding that the emotion processing portion of the brain only lit up when customers observed brands in their comfort zones in a virtual super- market.

The Implications: Threat or Opportunity?

Now that we have the “how,” we move into the “if we should” aspect of neuromarketing. The ability to watch the psychological impact of marketing has been criticized by both the scientific community as well as those concerned with ethics in business.  There is a fear that the ability to see advertising at a neurological level will lead to the manipulation, or even mind control, of customers and be a gross violation of their privacy.

Rather than focus on the potential for malicious use, however, this should, instead, be seen as a golden opportunity to rebuild brands based on what customers actually respond to and what literally makes them “light up.” By gaining so much insight into what stimuli creates meaningful and emotional impressions on customers, companies would be able to build brands using that stimuli, meeting  and exceeding expectations at the neurological level. Drilling down, this will enable companies to find more effective ways to communicate their marketing messages, instead of using resources to create noise that is expensive to produce and a hassle for customers to watch.

It is important to note that the neuromarketing concept is by no means a new or perfect science -scientists and marketers have dabbled in mind mapping with advertising for a number of years. Advances in technology, however, are at the crux of the push to expand this field as they allow more portability and versatility in what researchers can actually see.

Author: Natacha Arora

Twitter Keeping Everyone Connected, Despite Sandy’s Best Efforts

Whenever I have to justify to others the utility of Twitter, I usually land somewhere in the “think of it as a global newsfeed” explanation. I am then normally countered with the very understandable “that’s what I have TV and the Internet for.” Hurricane Sandy, devastating to some areas here in New York City, has finally offered a valid rebuttal. What happens when your TV and Internet disappear?

With the recent power loss here in New York City, all those informational outlets short-circuited. For the first time in a long time, parts of one of the most populated cities in the world were cut off from everyone else. If you happened to have an Internet connection, however, you noticed the social world was keeping everyone informed.

The Pew Research Center analyzed Twitter activity during Hurricane Sandy between October 29 and October 31, when over 50% of related tweets were news and documentation of the disaster. News sources eventually caught on, and instead of broadcasting breaking news, pushed all information to their connections on social media, which then continued along the social web of connections. In the past, a disaster like this could have cut people out completely. But Twitter pulled through when almost everything else failed to deliver.

Other social channels also saw an influx of activity during the storm, with Facebook being used to make sure friends and family were safe and Instagram being used to document and share people’s experiences. One of Facebook’s most posted phrases was “We are ok,” while Instagram experienced its most shared event yet, with over 800,000 photos documenting the storm with the hashtag #Sandy.

Although the cause was unfortunate, it’s interesting to see how the tide to social media changed when almost everything else went under. Hopefully, users will realize that social media can be a viable means of conveying information and news, not just tools for chitchatting and networking. As with any other aspect of technology, social media can be useful––it’s just a matter of using them for your own needs. The hurricane shed some light on the situation, and there may be a shift in the way news is delivered on the horizon.

Author: Zack Smith

How to Encourage and Harness Creativity

In my March post entitled “Only Read This If You’re Really Creative,” I attempted to push aside some of society’s preconceived notions about creativity and suggest better ways to think creatively.

I came across an interview of Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile in Fast Company that works nicely with those initial thoughts. Although this article was published eight years ago and Amabile’s research was conducted eight years before that, her findings are as relevant as ever. “The 6 Myths Of Creativity” discusses—as you might guess—six common misconceptions that we all should do our best to expunge from our thinking.

1. Creativity Only Comes From Creative Types

Everyone has creative potential. It’s important that leaders of organizations recognize that and do their best to harness ideas from those who could be most capable. This is not to suggest that everyone is necessarily good at being creative. Professor Amabile recommends that one should consider the following factors: experience, technical skills, talent, the ability to think in new ways, and intrinsic motivation. It’s this last quality that is hardest to find. Having the passion to come up with ideas is one thing, but the ability to continue to push through—even after countless rejections—is the trait one should look for in a creative type.

2. Money Is A Creative Motivator 

On a day-to-day basis, Amabile’s research found that people don’t think about their compensation. And when people were told that bonuses could come from good ideas, they were less willing to take risks. People preferred instead to work in an environment that both supported creativity and was in line with their skill sets. Leaders need to understand where their employees feel most comfortable. If the work is too simple, they’ll become bored; if the work is too hard, they’ll inevitably become frustrated. It’s important to find the right balance.

3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity

Many creative types claim that they do their best under extreme pressure when a deadline is looming. Professor Amabile, however, found the opposite to be true. Ideas are best when they have time to marinate and develop. They’re more thoughtful and robust. In the advertising and marketing worlds, account people should strive to give creatives the time they need to develop a well-rounded idea. It’ll be worth it in the end.

4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs 

If you’ve ever listened to an Adele or Alanis Morissette album, the thought probably crossed your mind “Boy, being depressed really lends itself to creating brilliant music.” While there are always exceptions, the fact is, there is a direct relationship between being happy and being creative. Interestingly, Amabile’s research found that a happy day often led to a creative mindset the following day. Stay positive!

5. Competition Beats Collaboration

There’s a belief that competition fuels great ideas. And while that may be true initially, collaboration and competition are really the best formula. When a person works autonomously, he or she often misses out on valuable information for that project. The sharing of information and the bouncing of ideas off one another is a more effective approach to building the strongest idea.

6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization

“Leaner is meaner” is very far from the truth. Amabile and her team of researchers followed 6,000 employees in a company that was going through massive layoffs. The fear and subsequent loss of morale affected creativity dramatically. Six months after the layoffs occurred, people were still shaken up. Layoffs are a fact of life, but leaders have to work extra hard to restabilize the environment.

Author: Eric Swenson