Monday, November 26, 2012

Henceforward .. and Forever! Hail to the American Stamp!

This afternoon, sale of the U.S. Postal Service's Emancipation Proclamation Forever Stamp will go on sale at

The phrase “Henceforward Shall Be Free” is taken from the Emancipation Proclamation. Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, VA, worked with graphic designer Gail Anderson of New York City to produce the stamp. To evoke the look of posters from the Civil War era, they employed Hatch Show Print of Nashville, TN, one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America.

The Postal Service's Forever Stamp collection is full of "art" in every delicious sense of the word. Learn more about the design of the Forever collection at  Beyond the Perf, which features a video interview with the five USPS art directors who bring illustrative meaning to “decorative stamp.”

Ethel Kessler talks about the talents of the five people who work on the stamps. “Each of us has different passions, different strengths. And we’re relentless, [asking] what can we do at every level to enrich it.”

Phil Jordan, who created the USPS Civil War series, says his effort seeks to honor past acts of courage or accomplishment. Although the public may not understand every stamp, they can appreciate the beauty. “What evolved was a labor of intense scrutiny… I wanted to express what people were thinking and what the common person was doing, particularly the common soldier." Was all the research worth it? "What we have, we know will stand up to scrutiny,” says Jordan.

Kessler researched her Nobel Prize winners series just as diligently. She can't cite in depth what scientific achievement each winner was known for, but she was dedicated to capturing the essence of, perhaps, the world's most coveted award. “Ethel really did an amazing job says Derry Noyes. “She was working with murky photographs of scientists and complex formulas. This could have been a recipe for disaster, but everything went beautifully.”

Antonio Alcala -- who worked on the "Henceforth" stamp released today -- says his favorite series features industrial design from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Greg Breeding also loves the Pioneers of American Industrialism series that he says has inspired so many objects we use today, including the iPad, telephones, etc.

From Miles Davis/Edith Piaf's moody images ...  

to Major League Baseball All-Stars ....

to the Vanishing Species series ..
... the artists who work on postal stamps hit it out of the ballpark.

“We’re telling a story; we’re telling America’s story,” says Kessler -- and that story is complex in more ways that we can imagine. For example, the Latin Music Legends series is Kessler's favorite. “I worked with Raphael Lopez who is himself a musician and a brilliant illustrator. We decided what we were looking was ‘performance,’ that we could hear the music.”

Likely, only a designer can discern the many possibilities that comprise a powerful picture. “What is it that grabs you? Is it the title, the color, the graphics? Is it pretty, is it edgy? Designing stamps is more work than you think," Noyes concludes. "It’s a real collaborative effort. If the collaboration has worked well, then we have a great stamp.”

Kessel adds, “Our biggest success is when it looks easy.”

Note: USPS also is selling a 16" x 23" poster featuring the same art that is on the "Henceforward" stamp. Using the traditional letterpress printing process that makes each one unique, only 5,000 of these posters will be produced. Each poster also bears a limited-edition number. To add to their collectability, the first 1,000 posters will be autographed by graphic designer Gail Anderson and fulfilled with the lowest numbers first in the order in which orders are placed.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

“Marketing Is Dead.” Agreed?

Author Bill Lee thinks so and shares that view in his August 9 Harvard Business Review blog post of the same title.

The post, which has generated over 600 comments, laid out Lee’s case that, “Traditional marketing isn’t really working anywhere.” Lee says, don’t despair. “Actually, we already know in great detail what the new model of marketing will look like. It's already in place in a number of organizations. Here are its critical pieces:”

1. Community marketing via social media that replicates the community-oriented buying experience.

2. Participation of customer influencers who are given “something to talk about.”

3. Customers who advocate for the brand with an eye to building their own “social capital” (for example, access to special knowledge) via affiliation networks

4. Customer advocates who get involved in solution development via participation in a “peer-influence” effort.

Not surprisingly, Lee’s post drew some vivid disagreement. Winston Groom III complained, “Why is anyone even talking about this blog post? The headline has been done before. The author's strategic recommendations are stale. His writing style is distinctive and formulaic. The author's experience/background is unimpressive. I don't get it.

Others, like Chris W agreed that marketing is terminal. “If I go to make a major purchase on something such as electronics or a car I'm going to first go through multiple websites and see what the ratings are.  Next I'm going to talk to someone I know that has knowledge on such products and get opinions from them.  Also with online shopping being as big as it is you can look up what you're already thinking about purchasing and look at what others have to say that have already bought the product.  I don't think that traditional marketing will ever have a place with how technology has advanced in social media, and product research.”

But the aticle has many defenders, too Deniz Ayaydin says, “I think this article makes a good point and has some powerful examples.  I think the thesis is not that marketing is dead, but more acurately that *traditional* marketing is dead.  This is pretty clear by the end of the piece … The smart marketers get this idea and it's incredibly powerful.  Not to drop lingo, but in the marketing community there is a concept called 'Earned Media' -- this term basically referrals to endorsement from people you know and trust that are not associated with the company (the company earned their endorsement somehow, presumably through a positive customer experience That's what this article is suggesting is more important than traditional.”

Other commenters were amused. Howard Slow wrote, “I've just read all 573 comments... sparked terrific debate, that means a lot of marketers are probably scared! :) I remember the debate "IT is dead" created too. Well done peeing on the hornets' nest, Bill.”

Why not read it yourself?

Source: Harvard Business Review blog (, August 2012

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

"They let their data be their spin."

The headline above echoes Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News, talking election strategy -- and success -- today on Morning Joe.

Todd -- an admitted enthusiastic for the power of data -- attributed President Obama's re-election victory in large part to the data-directed dedication of Obama's top political advisers Jim Messina, campaign manager; David Axelrod, political adviser; and political strategist David Plouffe.

As Scarborough's panel noted, post-election results prove that this group of strategists and analysts knew they would win and they knew why. How could they have been so sure?

Marketing Lesson #1: Get the Data
In Obama's reelection effort, Big Smart Data did the trick -- big data that already knew where to find Democratic leaning constituents, including where they shop, what they buy, where their spouses/partners work, what magazines they read, what TV programs they watch, what moves them -- all of it.

Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time Magazine, also touted the value and impact of sophisticated data mining described in the magazine's November 7 story by Time White House correspondent Michael Scherer. A similar Poynter article quoted a senior Obama campaign official saying, "We ran the election 66,000 times every night," said a senior official describing the computer simulations the campaign ran to figure out Obama's odds of winning each swing state. "And every morning we got the spit-out -- there are your chances of winning these states. And that is how we allocated resources."

And so it went ... "All into one gigantic database," Stengel noted.

Marketing Lesson #2: Put Effort Where It Counts Most
Marketers call it the 80/20 rule. In the 2012 election, Big Data was applied to instructing Obama's reelection efforts -- particularly in the nine swing states -- exactly where and how to boost voter registration. In other words, the point wasn't to convert non-believers. The point was to grow and nurture the believer base.

The Obama campaign also took Big Data to an art form in areas where the Democrats were traditionally less strong, but where great potential lay. "[In Ohio, among labor] the effort was particularly helpful in targeting some of the more difficult demographic groups - white men, for example."

Marketing Lesson #3: Follow-up with CRM
From the gigantic database, relevant information was converted into "boots on the ground." In all nine swing states, for years before the election, committed volunteers worked to "get out the vote." They registered voters, of course, but it didn't end with registration. Many volunteers actually became friends with those they had recruited: they had coffee together, they stayed in touch, they practiced the proven tactics of customer relationship management (CRM). And, on election day, these volunteers made as certain as possible that their constituents actually would vote: they phoned, they visited, they offered rides, the followed up, close and personal.

Marketing Lesson #4: Don't Talk Down to Your Audience
To marketers, of course, Big Data is no mystery. "Companies like Proctor & Gamble, are accustomed to calibrating data against message," Stengel pointed out. The "secret," of course, is to spend money only on messaging that's targeted and effective.

Making this point, Stengel noted that some of the opposition's repetitive TV ads actually helped Obama. In particular, a Romney campaign ad playing in industrial Ohio that many viewers believed misrepresented Romney's position on the auto bailout, angered the well-informed viewers in Ohio's heavily unionized areas. "Watchers do become experts on ads," Stengel noted.

Having Said All This, If It Don't Work, It Don't Work
The Republicans had data, too, of course -- a huge machine they nicknamed Orca. Somehow, though, Orca went awry. An article by political columnist Paul Glastris that appeared in Washington Monthly sought to address the question, The Mystery of Why Republicans Were So Sure They’d Win.

Glastris wrote, "Orca, which was headquartered in a giant war room spread across the floor of the Boston Garden, turned out to be problematic at best. Early in the evening, one aide said that, as of 4 p.m., Orca still projected a Romney victory of somewhere between 290 and 300 electoral votes. Obviously that didn’t happen. Later, another aide said Orca had pretty much crashed in the heat of the action. 'Somebody said Orca is lying on the beach with a harpoon in it,' said the aide."

Just for the Fun of It, Remember: Anecdotal Evidence Also Counts
Rising Democratic star San Antonio (TX) Mayor Julian Castro explained how voters in his city were persuaded to approve a modest one-eighth of one percent tax increase dedicated to underwriting high-quality pre-kindergarten for thousands of children. Castro noted that -- contrary to the "no new taxes ever" mantra, people will accept taxation when they know its purpose. Voters understand the need for education for young children, understanding that "brain power is the currency of success," he said.

Incidentally, Castro predicts the effect of the Hispanic vote will take Texas to the Democrats in six to eight years.

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