The Blog

Apture – Great website plug-in

Just found this plug-in for websites & blogs – Apture. Check it out at http://www.apture.com/simplified/ – I first saw it on FlightGlobal‘s site. I like the idea of being able to quicky embed content (including Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, etc. from within the site, and make it available without being obnoxious. And, for users who are registered Apture users, they can highight text, and have info pushed to them that’s relevant to what they just highlighted off your site’s content.

From their site’s explanation, “Automated tools or machines don’t know how to tell stories, people do. That’s why we give you the power to select the content you want from the most rich and diverse web media destinations. Express the story you want to tell with the most emotional impact.”

Gotta love modern technology!

The Future of Motoring?

I realize that the Toyota Prius is the current “in” car – you can save the planet while driving a truly boring car – and now Honda has something that I think is not only far beyond the Prius in terms of “hybrid techonology” – it doesn’t look like a toaster on wheels!

When does the sports car version come out?

New Painting – “Wahikuli Sunrise”

I finally got around to finishing my newest painting – “Wahikuli Sunrise”!

Oil – 2008 | 18″ x 24″

View from Wahikuli Beach Park, looking across toward the island of Lana’i.

I’ve done a number of sunset paintings over the years – and thought, it might be interesting to do something a little different. Wahikuli Beach Park is located on Maui, between Lahaina and Ka’anapali. This past August, the last day I was on Maui, I went down to the beach for sunrise with friends – and the calm, quiet morning kind of stuck with me once I left – this is the result. 🙂

Update on PayPal

Fortunately, it looks like the camera buyer is truly an honest person. So, my last posting – wasn’t meant as a personal attack on him – especially since he just contacted me this morning regarding payment for the camera.

But, based on his note – now he can also say “PayPal SUCKS!!!”.

Here’s his explanation for why PayPal suddenly reversed the charges.

“Hello. I’m so sorry for this inconvenience. Prior to making the purchase I instructed Paypal to charge it to my credit card, not bank account, but they went ahead and did it anyway. I don’t know why. The bank returned the funds to me. I will deposit the funds into my Paypal account right away, so that your payment is not affected. Again, I’m sorry for this inconvenience.”

In the end, this all happened because PayPal went off and did things to the buyer that he had no knowledge of. Then, did stuff to me that I had no knowledge of. Creating a horribly transaction experience for both parties.

Now…might they have a good reason? Sure. What I’d like to see – is communication as to why they do things! Just a note saying, “Gee…you know that payment that go received 3 weeks ago? We need to reverse it – it will happen in the next 24 hours, and this is what you need to do about it!”

Hell, even the IRS is able to send me a note telling me when I’m getting my stimulus check. (Now…I just need to find out why I’ve never gotten it!)

So, PayPal – in the end- everything worked out. But, maybe you guys should create a layer for your transactions that actually interfaces with your customers?

Great Customer Service – Another Reason Why I Love Apple!

I’ve had a number of computers over the years – and since we’ve all pretty much gotten to the point where we can’t seem to live without them (unless your like my mom, who recoils in horror at the idea of even trying to turn one on) – one of those feelings we’d all like to avoid is that burning sensation, deep in your gut, when you turn on your computer and…..nothing happens.

Which then leaves you at the mercy of either your computer’s manufacturer, or a third party repair shop if you’re out of warranty and don’t want to feel like you have to sell a body part to pay for the repair. The problem gets even worse if, like me, you live on a laptop – it’s not like there are many “user-servicable” parts on a laptop except memory and maybe a hard drive.

In the past, when this has happened to me, there is the inevitable fight with the manufacturer (where you would swear they staff their customer service teams with ex-help desk personnel, who’s entire mission in life is to make you feel like your personal development never proceeded beyond “brain stem”), trying to convince them that no, you didn’t break your laptop – it just died.

Well, I switched to MacBook Pro last fall…and part of my decision was based on the reviews of Mac’s being almost completely trouble free. And, I’ve had a bout of “Murphy’s Law” hit me when it comes to my Mac. Like this morning. After an evening of working on my art portfolio for my revamped website (coming soon!) – when I got up this morning (proof that Murphy was working – this happened on a Sunday) – turned on my Mac, and nothing happened. At all. Then…the even worse feeling of following the directions by inserting the Install Disk to trouble shoot – and it ate my disk – couldn’t even get it back!

Now with any other manufacturer – the process from this point forward would involve at least 2-3 hours on the phone with somebody that gives you a fake name (something like “Bill Jones” that doesn’t match the thick Indian accent – which I guess is OK, since I can understand an Indian accent much better than many more indigenous accents here in the States), followed by paying to ship it back to someplace that you’ve never heard of, and then days of wondering when / if it will ever be fixed and returned to you.

Why I love Apple. My process this morning was to use my iPhone, go to Apple’s site, and make an appointment at the Genius Bar. Then, drive 10 minutes to Chandler Fashion Mall here in Phoenix. Wait for about 5 minutes, where they then did a quick trouble-shoot to determine the problem (faulty logic-board). They couldn’t guarantee it would be fixed today, but promised they would do their best. 5 hours later, I get a call from them, saying that they’ve already fixed it and I can pick it up. At no time did they ever make me feel like an idiot – and in fact, even apologized for the 5 minute wait I had in the store!

Now, even though this is the second repair I’ve had, I understand that things don’t always work. For me, the sign of a good company is not just how reliable their product / service is, but also how they deal with things when something doesn’t work as expected.

I keep reading about the trouble the airline industry is in here in the US. Now, not only are we having to pay an upcharged fee for a second bag, but some airlines are now charging for the first! And, since you don’t even have the option of bringing those bags on board, you’d think  at the very least, they’d make up for this added inconvenience with better customer service…but you’d be wrong! Now, airlines such as US Airways are now going to charge $2.50 for a tiny cup of flat soda! And, the legacy carriers like United, Delta, Northwest, American and Continental wonder why people don’t want to fly them, and instead fly the low-cost carriers? Well, when your service absolutely sucks – why would you want to pay extra to be treated like cattle?

I just keep wondering – if more companies treated their customers like Apple does…they’d realize that it isis not only more profitable, it might even create a competitive advantage!

AMA Phoenix – 4th Annual Spectrum Awards

This past May 18th, the Phoenix Chapter of the American Marketing Association held it’s 4th Annual Spectrum Awards at the Valley Ho. It turned out to be an incredible event – with the main event being held in the hotel’s main ballroom, and the AMA’s silent auction held outside in front of the ballroom. From what I’ve been able to find out, this years event not only had record attendence, but many great companies (big and small) were honored with awards for their exceptional marketing efforts.

Yes, cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco – have great companies and great agencies that produce some of the best marketing out there – but let’s not forget that Phoenix can produce – or out produce – with the best of them! Whether your a large company with a huge budget (like SRP) – or a small firm (like Shonna James Communications) – in this city, it’s about doing the best work possible – and the “best of the best” were seen at this past years Spectrum Awards.

The Design Foundry entered for the Brand Idendity category, with the work we did for ProVision Communications. And…we were a top 3 finalist!

To be honest – I know a bit about the event, having been on the planning committee for it with AMA Phoenix – a great team put on a great event. But, the point is – no matter how good a job we might have done arranging the event – the true stars were those companies that sumbitted and won!


Newest Painting availble via Giclee

West Maui Sunset – Oil
Original Size: 24″ x 36″

Pricing dependent on size

For ordering information – contact:
dfish@thedesignfoundry.com

Why Do Good People Choose Bad Logos…

I hate to say this…but there are reasons why professional designers exist. And why the field of “experiential marketing” is growing. It amazes me what some people think constitutes a “good logo”. Of course – when it comes to “art” – it also amazes me what some people think is “good” and “bad”. When it comes to art – that’s not a bad thing. It would be very difficult to survive as an artist if what was considered “good” was so narrow, that it forced every artist to create the same works – art should have variety!

When it comes to design – whether it’s a logo, package design – basically anything related to a company / product / service brand, the “art rules” don’t necessarily apply. Good design can have a positive impact on sales – and profit. Bad design – can have a negative impact. And…it takes much more work to overcome the negative than it takes to build a positive perspective of your brand right out of the box.

Apple is a perfect example. The “Apple” logo – very clean. Readily identifiable. The logo is simple – which subliminally reinforces the ease of use of their products, including their operating system, their laptops, their iPods…which builds an emotional connection between the customer and the company. Proof of this – look at how loyal Mac users are. Look at how well iPods have been accepted into the marketplace in such a short time, and how it’s created a cottage industry around that one, small product.

Yet…think of the logos of every local Chinese restaurant you drive by. Think about it for a second. Can you remember the name of that little chinese place on the corner? Difficult…isn’t it. No impact. Yet…P.F. Changs – great branding. Great logo. Typeface sticks in your head. Their raw cost for foodservice products – isn’t that much more than that local chinese place. Yet – their branding, elevates the perception of their restaurants. It creates an experience. An experience that builds loyalty. The loyalty – allows them to charge a higher price – which equates to higher profit.

And…it all starts with the logo. Your logo is the first “face” your customers see. So…yes, everybody thinks they can design a logo. But…not everyone can design the right “face” for your company. It may be cheaper to do it yourself….but in the long run – it may cost you far more than you save. Don’t be afraid to higher a professional service or designer to develop your brand identity, including your logo. In the long run – it’s an investment that will pay off!

AMA Phoenix – March 06 Professional Development Luncheon

This month’s speaker is Rod Lenniger, the COO from iCrossing. Should be an interesting topic – “Advertising – Traditional vs. Internet”. With the Internet having the ability to connect any company to any customer, and search engines are the media used to facilitate that, then we can truly say that now, the customer is in control. This month’s topic is significant – as marketers, showing ROI for your ad campaigns…well, don’t do that – and you don’t have a job anymore. We run the risk of pouring money into advertising vehicles that are becoming “loosing propositions” – rather than “profit centers”. So…time to learn – again – how to “be in the right place at the right time”!

AMA Monthly Professional Development Luncheon
Wednesday, March 22nd
Phoenix Country Club
11:30a – 1:00p

For more information, visit amaphoenix.org

Upper Management Technology Myopia

There is an issue with trying to impliment “new technologies” within the SMB marketplace…one that has plagued me over the last few years. Let’s call it the “SMB Myopia Trifecta”. It is a combination of upper management ignorance, too much focus on immediate ROI, and the common “if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it” syndrome.

RSS, Blogs, Vlogs…could be considered “signposts” on what Marketing is being forced to morph into – we’ve gone from a profession of “pushing the message” to “continual re-education” of our customers. Your customer may know more about your company, your products & services, and your virtues & vices – than your own people. New technologies allow your company to tap into what your customers are thinking – and whether their perceptions match yours. But, the “trifecta” I mention above…ignores this fact. I’ll address each of the issues – and why they need to change.

1. Upper Management Ignorance. “This is a passing fad / It’s too new to make a difference / This doesn’t apply to our industry / This is only good for B2C Businesses”. Nope. Sorry. Wrong! This is the new reality – like it or not. That doesn’t mean that you should just “pick a technology and impliment”. To be certain, it is imperative that you should research whether or not a new technology is a viable choice for your business. And..even if a specific piece of technology doesn’t fit today – it “pays to be prepared”. But – ignoring it won’t make it go away.

2. Too much focus on Immediate ROI – I’ve personally dealt with this one–too many times, and find the “excuse” of upper managment that “it’s too new to measure whether it’s effective” is a hollow excuse. New technologies, such as “Personal URL” direct mail campaigns vs. classical direct mail actually have better, quicker ROI. Yes – upfront costs may be higher – but being able to quickly test, evaluate, correct and impliment allow for better, faster ROI than doing things “the old way”. Take the time to research which technology “best-fits” your customer’s needs – and be prepared to explain how (and when) the company can expect to derive ROI from it.

3. “If it ain’t broke”…meaning, “this is the way we’ve always done it…so let’s keep doing it that way”. Since the only constant in the universe is inconsistant change – your customers wants / needs / expectations are constantly changing. Failing to meet this reality head on – gives your competition a competitive advantage. So – take a little time to research what tools are out there, and be prepared to build a business case as to why “new beats old”.

Why do our CEO’s need to “change their minds”? – Simple, really. If they don’t – their customers will. The other day, a friend of mine asked me when I last used a Yellow Pages. Suprisingly enough – I couldn’t remember. I just go to the web and do a quick search for what I need. That’s what your customers are doing. They are using techonolgy to make informed choices – ignoring this fact means your customers may be more informed about your competitors products and services than yours. And…lack of information about you may not be of benefit in their decision making process.

So – for those SMB CEO’s that feel that information overload, combined with a constant,oncoming blast of new technologies – means avoiding change – the question should be this – “How do these changes impact my business / my customers / my competition?”