The Big Power of a Little

March 29, 2011

Exiting the subway I saw a lump of yellow on the ground. It was attached to a leash and wore a cool vest. You got it: fetish festival. I’m kidding. It was a guide dog: a sweet, yellow lab resting her head on her paws.

Faster than you could say ‘ka-ching’ they had my cash. It was a morning rush hour fundraiser. It worked because of the dog. Plastic dogs wouldn’t have worked. Pictures of dogs wouldn’t have worked. Blind people holding their dogs wouldn’t have worked. A little example worked. I gave, we talked, I stroked the dog (with permission) and left smiling muzzle to toe.

Then I headed to ORC International a global market research firm with an employee engagement division. Account Manager Philip Pringle was addressing HR executives from Siemens, Target, and The Pharmacy Guild to name a few. He too used the big power of a little example.

Philip did a real time survey on the challenges faced by those in the room. He used an Excel document to enter the results which plotted automatically before our eyes. Then he did exactly what employee engagement surveys are designed to do. He facilitated a valuable conversation.

No one likes to be sold  to in a presentation or pushed for donations on the street. What we do like is a connection.

Big Buzz

March 17, 2011

I am envious of skinny girls, especially the ones who eat. Oprah and I have been size 10, 12, 14, and well… I’ll stop there. Which is where most fashion ends, unless you are City Chic. They celebrate size 14 to 24 curves the way 17th century Rubens painted voluptuous female nudes, fleshy and fabulous.

It’s taken four centuries for curves to come back and City Chic is making the most of it. Their vixen themed runway show at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival climaxed with a design by Tealia Scott of Kamikaze Couture. BMG model Laura Wells strutted out in heels taller than I am. Okay, that’s an exaggeration from the gal confined to flats.

Covered in a black veil and wearing fishnets and chains, Laura looked hot. Then she got hotter. She pulled down her veil which rejoined the still almost see-through skirt. giving the audience more wow: curvaceous cleavage and full breasts that jiggled. Buxom bouncing happens so rarely on runways that I gasped then smiled. I was not alone.

David Caird, a photographer with the Herald Sun, captured the glamazon on film and everyone made news. Except for the dress’s designer, Telia Scott which made me even more delighted that she gave us an interview which I will post when wordpress and I stop dueling.

Congratulations City Chic for making the most of your market niche and for understanding that partnering with gifted designers generates great media buzz.

P.S. Bravo to Cosmopolitan magazine for co-sponsoring the show. Their fourteen year commitment to ‘body love’ has meant zero starvation diets on their pages. Yum yum.

World’s Shortest Strategy Lesson

March 13, 2011

Are you a printer or a painter?  Do make masterpiece after masterpiece and try to sell it to everyone? Or are you a printer? Do you reproduce your expertise in multiple ways for a specific audience? Here is a perfect example.

Dr. Larry Ohlhauser of The Healthy CEO is a printer. He delivers his singular message in different ways: keynotes, seminars and his book. They are all called ‘The Healthy CEO’. It’s a savvy strategy beautifully branded. His brand colours are apple green (an apple a day keeps the doctor away) and trustworthy blue (for blue chip companies).

The Healthy CEO wore his colours when I saw him speak: a tailored navy suit on his fit frame and a an apple green tie with navy polka dots.  The polka dots said we are going to have a bit of fun with this health thing and we did.

You have a choice. You can be a painter or a printer. You can add more clutter to the chaos and confuse your clients. You can try to be everything to everyone and feel more scattered and probably more tired.

Or, you can narrow your focus, deepen your expertise and widen your reach. What wil you do? Paint or print?


Thank you Dr. Ohlhauser for inspiring this blog.

*Brand icons are the tools used to deliver your brand’s personality such as colours and, in this case, a Granny Smith apple.  Smart move because we all know an  ‘apple a day keeps the doctors away’.

Go for the Bold

March 10, 2011

I love the Red Cross. When you and I run from away disasters they run towards them. No question, they are exceptional. I discovered how exceptional on Saturday. In a climate where raising funds is hard, they created a business model that generates big buzz and profits.

To learn how, come inside this Melbourne shop. Red tin letters on the wall spell out R E T R O. Clothes and accessories are artfully displayed. Everything is one of a kind but what kind? I grab a tag. It’s a miniature poster of a WWII nurse. It’s beautiful but confusing. Has Red Cross sold their brand name to a retailer? Then, like a tsunami, it hits me.

This is The Red Cross. It’s no longer your grandmother’s thrift shop and girlfriend, or boyfriend, you know those shops: the cluttered chaos and the twin scents of musty and dusty. This store has none of that, thanks to Olivia Cozzolino, a former fashion buyer who is the General Manager of Merchandise. She is the make it happen brains behind the brand’s retail transformation.

In our interview Olivia explains, “There is a big trend for vintage and retro. People are looking for one of a kind hidden treasures.” This is partly thanks to Emmy award winning costume designers Patricia Field of ‘Sex In The City’ and Janie Bryan of ‘Mad Men.’ Both create stunning on screen looks with custom designs and used clothing store finds.

Vintage is hot. Recycling is hot. Disaster recovery is hot, or wet or quakingly dangerous. They are all making news.  Blend these trends in a beautiful, light filled,  fashionably funky shopping experience and the press can’t get enough. Olivia says,  “It’s a great story. In the last 12 months the stores have had a very high profile in traditional media including television and on social media.”

No wonder, Red Cross completely changed the game. They saw what everyone else missed. Fashionistas want unique  new and used goods presented in an environment as beautifully eclectic as they are. They’ll pay a bit more and keep coming back for more.

Hanging archival WWII Red Cross nursing posters on the store wall as art is sheer brand brilliance. They provide personality, vintage credibility and an engaging reminder of the Red Cross legacy. You see the beauty of the past and think about what they do now.  You realize ‘retail therapy’ here means something. Shopping to feel better makes other people better. (Say that three times fast without smiling).

Not for profits cannot outspend to get people’s attention. They have to outsmart which is exactly what the Red Cross did and did beautifully. Well done Olivia and a great team brave enough to go for bold.

O’fence-ive Performance?

March 6, 2011

Life without a car has a benefit. I am face-to-face or face-to-road, when I fall off my bike, with a brand’s performance.  When I was upright, I noticed this sign. Look closely and you’ll see something that doesn’t work.

That’s right, why have a fence pattern on a sign behind a fence? Ah, but wait Grasshopper there is more. Who  is going to remember Keena Fencing after they’ve been pinked. Pinked by a pink so girly that advertising saves it for babies, Barbies and breast cancer.

Pink Fence Hire has pink in their name, pink on the sign and pink on blocks holding the fences. It’s a sensory triple whammy.  Call head office and you dial 1 300 00 PINK. 

Using pink in the construction industry breaks through boring and gets them noticed. How can you break through?

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If it is not your genius it is not your job.
Louise B. Karch