Francis Urquhart for Grey Poupon?

You very well might think that; I could not possibly comment.

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The Worst Migraine in L.A.

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Prevent Conceptus Interruptus: How Math Can Improve Your Creativity

This presentation is based on a post I wrote in 2010.

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Disruptive Challenger Brands and Names

I presented this simple deck to a client that had everything it needed to succeed as a challenger brand in its category, except a challenger brand name. Now they’re considering changing it.

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We played CBGBs 30 years ago today

art2Thirty years ago today, Government Issue—which at the time was John Stabb, Tom Lyle, Marc Alberstadt and myself—played CBGBs. It was an all-ages, Saturday matinée show because most of the kids who bought our records and went to see us play were—like myself back then—teenagers. That was the first out-of-town show of our US tour that summer. From there we were to go on to Boston and play a gig with Agent Orange, but we learned it was cancelled before we left NYC.

Other venues we played on the tour were Joe’s Bar in Ann Arbor, the Cubby Bear in Chicago, Goofy’s Upper Deck in Minneapolis, the University of Colorado in Denver, Vortograph in Sacramento, the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco, Sportsman’s Hall and Shamus O’Brian’s in Los Angeles, Danger Zone in Tuscon, Nightlife in Austin, Raw Power in San Antonio, and back in Washington, D.C. at Space II Arcade.

Some of the bands we played with that summer were Channel 3, Murphy’s Law, Suicidal Tendencies, Savage Beliefs, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Stalag 13, Otto’s Chemical Lounge, SS Decontrol, Jerry’s Kids and Heart Attack.

Maybe you were there? Or someplace like it? Most of these shows were back-to-back. Play the gig, sleep, get up early, drive to the next town, eat bad food (repeat steps one through five) with only four days off spread in between just to drive some more.

A tour bus? You must be joking. We drove a Buick Electra that belonged to John’s dad and hauled all our gear in a trailer. No roadies. No guitar techs. No drivers. No manager. Just us. Tom and I did most of the driving even though I had a license for only a year or two. John did not drive. And Marc we let drive only during the day, which meant Tom and I drove all the late shifts. It was during a long, late night stretch across the prairie that I first heard Mountain’s Theme from an Imaginary Western. It slowly drifted out of the Buick’s speakers, as one of Tom’s many cassette tapes transported a ribbon of rust over the sound heads, while I piloted the Buick Electra, that eight-cylinder Leviathan, through the night.

John Stabb and Rob Moss at King Kong, Adelphi, Maryland. Photo: Kim Gregg

John Stabb and Rob Moss
at King Kong, Adelphi, MD. Photo: Kim Gregg

At the time, many punk bands enjoyed provoking ordinary people at random and hippies. Hippies seemed comical in 1983 because by then the idea of flower children, Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury was irrelevant and as appealing as old wine gone bad, although just 14 years had passed since Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish went down to Yasgur’s Farm. But we found making fun of hippies too easy. So we turned that around and aimed it at the kids in the scene who took punk rock way too seriously—the ones who sucked all the fun out of it.

As far as visuals, you’d never catch us with a mohawk or in a leather jacket. Well, Tom, in a leather jacket, maybe, but only in winter. Marc wore a t-shirt and jeans behind his drum kit. John would get the most ridiculous clothes he could find at the Goodwill and I’d wear a Kibbutz Gezer t-shirt or something equally un-punk rock, which was far more punk rock than wearing a “punk rock” uniform of bomber jacket and boots. And this was long before Hot Topic sold Black Flag t-shirts in every mall in America. It was the same with the music. We didn’t play standard punk rock because we listened to all kinds of music, and we liked seeing how far we could push the audience. There were too many bands playing formula punk rock and we were not going to be another one of them.

L to R: John Stabb, Tom Lyle, Rob Moss and Marc Alberstadt at Space II Arcade. Washington, D.C. Photo: Jim Saah

L to R: John Stabb, Tom Lyle, Rob Moss and Marc Alberstadt at Space II Arcade. Washington, D.C.
Photo: Jim Saah

No hotels did we trash. Not just because we didn’t stay in any, it was simply something we’d never do. We slept where we could.  Often that meant the living room and basement floors of fans we met at the show. Or up in a dusty loft of the club we just played. One night we drove a long way out of our way, only to learn the girl—who only wanted to brag to her friends that we had stayed at her house—did not have her parents’ permission for us to spend the night. We arrived early in the morning, at that time that’s more night than day, and had to park the Buick and the trailer around the corner, sneak into her father’s house, unroll our sleeping bags in the basement and make not a sound. Most nights were better. A few less so.

Left to right: Marc Alberstadt, tom Lyle, Rob Moss, Tuffy. Shamus O'Brian's, Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Jordan Schwarz. Originally appeared in We Got Power!

L to R: Marc Alberstadt, Tom Lyle, Rob Moss and Tuffy
Shamus O’Brian’s, Los Angeles. Photo: Jordan Schwarz. Originally appeared in We Got Power!

It was not glamorous, but it was an adventure; and like CBGBs, itself, the possibility of going on such a tour—with little more than the equipment we brought on stage, a list of promoters’ phone numbers and coins for the pay phone—no longer exists. Just as the New York City of the 1970s and ’80s no longer exists. It was a time and place that  most people will never experience, and one I’m glad I did.

Hear us play Here’s the Rope or get the entire July 30, 1983 CBGB’s show at:

Rob Moss and Tom Lyle at Oscar's Eye. Washington, D.C. Photo: Jim Saah

Rob Moss and Tom Lyle
at Oscar’s Eye. Washington, D.C.
Photo: Jim Saah

Another favorite track from that gig is Dead Dog—an homage to Pentagram, a 1970s heavy metal band, also from the Washington, D.C. area, that deserved far more fame than it received.

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Find the fridge


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The Wire: Season 6, Jimmy and the boys work with the NSA to stop terrorism in Baltimore.

On season six of The Wire, the detectives trace an Islamist group in Baltimore, with links to Al-Qaeda, selling stolen bikes to finance their terrorist activities.

On season six of The Wire, the detectives trace an Islamist group in Baltimore, with links to Al-Qaeda, selling stolen bikes on Craigslist.

Jimmy McNulty and the rest of the detectives are back on the case. This time they’re tracking an Islamist group in Baltimore selling stolen bikes to finance their terrorist activities. Joined by consultant, Edward Snowden, and members of the NSA, they’ve set up a PRISM-like operation to intercept email and phone traffic between people selling stolen bikes on Craigslist and members of Al-Qaeda.

With a mountain of metadata to sift through, Lester Freamon, a re-hired Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski, and Edward Snowden begin the task of running the numbers: the time and duration of calls, minus the content. They uncover a trove of phone numbers and email addresses that connect Americans in Baltimore selling stolen bikes on Craigslist with overseas Al-Qaeda operatives. As the investigation unfolds, Jimmy McNulty and Rhonda Pearlman seek out Judge Phelan—who presided over the D’Angelo Barksdale murder trial—to get a warrant. Now with the authority to actually wiretap the phone lines of and to read the email between the guys in Baltimore selling the stolen bikes and members of Al-Qaeda, the investigation gets truly underway—including foiling a plan involving the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

Half way through season six, Edward Snowden has a change of heart. Edward claims Jimmy McNulty is abusing the investigation—drinking heavily and reading the email of young women buying stolen bikes on Craigslist—and so Edward bolts with laptops of evidence in tow. McNulty strongly denies the allegations. And in separate statements from  Detective William “Bunk” Moreland and Maryland State Police Superintendent William Rawls, each confirms that Detective James McNulty has been sober since the end of season five.

With Edward on the run, The Wire leaves Baltimore and travels the world. Scenes take place in Hong Kong, Russia, Bolivia, and Venezuela, providing an ironic twist, as Edward Snowden is welcomed or assisted by several of the world’s toughest dictators who rule countries where privacy and freedom do not exist. Just like episodes one through five of The Wire, it’s always follow the money. Only this time, you have to ask yourself, “What do Venezuelan president Nicólas Maduro and Bolivian president Evo Morales hope to gain?” Note: Filming planned for Ecuador was cancelled after story changes mid-season.

“You follow stolen bikes, you get stolen bikes and bike riders. But you start to follow the money… and you don’t know where the fuck it’s going to take you.” - Lester Freamon

“You follow stolen bikes, you get stolen bikes and bike riders. But you start to follow the money… and you don’t know where the fuck it’s going to take you.”  – Lester Freamon

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Is it about Abercrombie & Fitch? Or is it about us?


Abercrombie & Fitch is hardly the only clothing brand to not make plus sizes. If A&F CEO Mike Jeffries committed a faux pas, it’s for saying in public what many other executives privately think (whether in similar words or their own definition of cool):

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.

Did he get a reaction? Absolutely. But most of the comments online about #fitchthehomeless are more about bashing Abercrombie & Fitch than genuinely helping homeless people. And that reveals far more about some of the general public than Mike Jeffries candid comments say about himself or his brand. Something to think about.

Update: July 10, 2013

In what must be a slow news day, some people want to make A&F’s clothing color palette an issue. According to A&F:

“Abercrombie & Fitch does not sell black clothing and discourages wearing it at our home office and in our stores, because we are a casual lifestyle brand and feel black clothing is formal,” said the company in a statement. “We have nothing against black clothing and feel it is perfectly appropriate for things like tuxedos.”

And the problem is?

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What part of the Paleolithic Diet does DreamWorks and House Foods Tofu not understand?

What would Fred Flintstone eat?

What would Fred Flintstone eat?

Co-branding and co-promotions, when done well, can introduce new customers and bring energy and innovation to more established brands. I worked for a few years at an experiential marketing agency that often brought together automotive and like-minded brands in other categories, and I can claim personal responsibility for getting Scion to sponsor roller derby bouts across the country in 2006—a move that enabled Scion to venture beyond their constant hyping of house music, rap and graffiti art and reach a cohort of young drivers they previously ignored.

So I was interested to see DreamWorks’ co-promotions for its new movie, The Croods.  I understand DreamWorks faces pressure to do something healthier than Happy Meals. But  promoting tofu with cavemen is ironic.

Cavemen were hunter/gatherers. They could not have eaten tofu, nor French fries for that matter. And what they ate inspired the modern paleolithic or caveman diet, a diet popular at crossfit gyms and based on what cavemen likely ate: wild plants and animals caught on the run.

What do contemporary paleo diet practitioners eat? Mostly fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, vegetables, fruits, fungi, roots and nuts. What do they not eat? Grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar and processed oils. What’s tofu? Soy and soy is a legume, which, like Fred Flintstone, no self-respecting caveman would ever eat. But I’m sure the target of moms looking for inexpensive sources of protein could care less about historically accurate foodstuffs as long as their kids eat it. Hint: add tofu to mac n’ cheese. It’s delish and no one will know it’s there!

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I don’t Like a lot of stuff on Facebook

facebook-thumbs-downI’ve been thinking about Facebook’s Lookalike Audience targeting and how Liking something on Facebook doesn’t always translate into a purchase. A person on Facebook might Like Ferrari and drive a Ford.

What do I Like on Facebook (and what might this suggest about my buying habits)?

                  • Some bands such as Slade, Mott the Hoople and Sweet, and Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, which doesn’t have an avatar or a FB page and just 34 people out of the entire FB universe claim they “Like”
                  • Some books like Chesapeake, The Satanic Verses, King Rat, The Mayor of Casterbrige, The Last of the Mohicans (not the movie), Silas Marner, Lord Jim and Moby Dick
                  • Couple of movies: Atlantic City, Casablanca, Girl on a Bridge, When Father was Away on Business
                  • Some activities like boxing, traveling, hiking

What is missing is Liking any brands or products. But there are two things I own that I would not like to go without: a Traeger grill, which as of this second 26,686 people Like, and an Instant Pot, which is Liked by 1,138. Both of these are great products. Both do things in a ways nothing else can. Both should last a long time. If either were to break, I’d no longer like them (not unLike them on Facebook; I don’t Like either of them on FB), I mean, not like them. For real. But I don’t expect either of these to breakdown.

So if I were to Like on Facebook either my Traeger Grill or my Instant Pot—which I don’t Like, on FB I mean—what might that tell marketers? Maybe what stuff I might want to buy to put on my Traeger Grill or put in my Instant Pot? Probably not. We buy whole sides of grass-fed beef and hogs from ranchers we didn’t meet or Friend or Like on Facebook. Vegetables? We grow an amazing amount in our backyard. Recipe books? Recipe books! That way I’ll no longer have to look up recipes online. Actually, I love books. Hardcover books. I don’t like e-reading. But I’m talking about novels. Recipes are perfect for clipping into my Evernote. I like Evernote. Just not on Facebook.

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