December 2015

Creative, Elegant Temporary Solutions To Problems

2015-12-03T15:03:23-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

There is construction taking place at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and a small leak has developed in the roof. They’ve put a plant in place to catch the leak. Not a mop bucket or 50-gallon trash can.

You almost wouldn’t notice there was a leak. The watervanger (water catcher) is attractive and the water gets put to use.

water catcher

Of course, addressing the symptom (water on the floor) isn’t addressing the root problem (hole in the ceiling), but temporarily this is a great solution.

January 2010

Out Of The Box (Literally) Mini Cooper Ads

2017-03-01T11:56:18-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

I invite you to visit the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog today, where I posted an article about a brilliant Amsterdam-based ad campaign for Mini Cooper cars. The ad was created locally by UbachsWisbrun/JWT.

Mini Cooper Christmas Box

In the article, I also share what I think are the ingredients for the best ads. That they are:

  • Attention Getting
  • Have a Clear, Memorable Message
  • Brand Appropriate
  • Locally/Audience Relevant, and
  • Remarkable

These ads do all of that! In a way, the old saying is true: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”

Have a great weekend. Enjoy.

August 2009

Friendly Falafel

2009-09-25T15:05:29-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Maoz Logo

For lunch today, I popped into Maoz Vegetarian restaurant for falafel. It’s really good. (Seth Godin raves about the place – calls it the best falafel in the world!)

They serve fresh hot falafel, on warm pita bread, with delicious hummus, and let you slather on your own toppings. Always delicious.

An aside…

In Europe everyone takes cash, fewer vendors take check cards (or the ‘PIN card’ as they call it in Amsterdam), and even fewer take credit cards.

…back to the story.

When I ordered, I asked the guy at Maoz if they take the PIN card. I thought they did, but didn’t see the card reader. He said, “No, cash only.”

“Whoops!” I said, “I’ll be right back I need to get cash.” There is an ATM around the corner.

“No, no… don’t worry.” He said, like a caring mom… “Why don’t you eat first?” He didn’t want my hot falafel to get cold.

To me this was remarkable.

  • (A)He trusted me. He treated me like a person, not like a random customer or potential thief. He didn’t hold my food hostage until I paid him.
  • (B)He wanted me to have a great, hot lunch. Though I would only have taken two minutes to get the cash, he wanted me to eat it while it was hot.

So I ate, left, and haven’t gone back to pay!!!


As usual it was delicious. However, three additional things happened with this visit.

  • Lunch was tastier served by a “friend.” I felt welcome.
  • I’ll visit Maoz more than I otherwise would have.
  • And I’m telling you about it! Spreading the good word.

April 2009

Bunny Meat And Rabbit Cheese

2009-09-10T16:25:19-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

I know the Easter Bunny has hopped along his bunny trail for this year… but I haven’t had the chance to post this image…

Our grocery store in Amsterdam, Albert Heijn, does a great job offering seasonal and holiday-related foods. Special foods for “feast days” or Feestdagen (in Dutch).

They’ll have special ready-prepared meals, limited-time baked goods, desserts, and.. in this instance… lunch fixins.

You’re looking at bunny shaped cheese and bologna slices.

If Stop-N-Shop had these back when mom was making school lunches for my brother and I, I’m sure she would have bought these for us.

Not sure you can read it, but the label on the cheese reads:

“Paashaas kaasplakken”

Or, “Easter Bunny Cheese Slices.”

  • Paas = Easter
    (Now you know where the the U.S. company PAAS – makers of Easter egg decorating kits – got their name 125 years ago. The founder of PAAS, William Townley, heard the word “Passen” – which means Easter – from the Pennsylvania Dutch).
  • haas = hare, or bunny (So, paashaas = Easter Bunny)
  • kaas = cheese
  • plakken = slices (looks like the word plank)

Goed! You’re on your way to learning Dutch.

May 2008

Fire Near Idea Sandbox: Amsterdam

2009-09-10T16:23:56-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

There was a fire today across the street from my office.

I was sitting working… looked out the window and saw flames erupting from the top floor of the building across the street.

I called 112 (the 911 of the Netherlands) and a few minutes later there was an explosion powerful enough to blow-out the windows of the floor above my office. Firefighters arrived swiftly and contained the flames before they spread.

Nobody was hurt, but the building is a mess. Demolition guys are out there now (10 pm) tearing down the loose, dangerous chunks of building.

[Here’s a shot during the fire.]

[And here’s what it looks like after demolition workers took down the dangerous and charred pieces.]

[Here’s what the roof looked like before the fire.
This is a compilation of a few images I had.]

Coincidentally, my street is named Jan van der Heijden – a famous Dutch Baroque Era painter and innovator who in 1672 invented the fire hose and improved pumps used for firefighting.

Here’s one of his sketches called “A Comparison of Old and New Firefighting Methods” I found (with caption) on the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam website.

Van der Heyden compared traditional firefighting methods with his new fire-hose. on the left in the foreground is an old fashioned pump: a large barrel filled with buckets of water. A fixed nozzle is attached to the pump to project water. On the right stands Van der Heyden’s invention, which pumps the water directly. The long hose enabled firemen to penetrate deep into the burning building. The insert shows two combined pumps.

Luckily no one was injured today, just property damage and a few people who had to spend the night in a hotel.

December 2007

Finding Missing Words

2009-09-10T16:23:43-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

I found out recently the Dutch don’t have the word whimsical in their vocabulary. How do you define that for someone who has never heard it?

The best way I was able to describe whimsical to a Dutch friend of mine was with an example… I made reference to bikes in Amsterdam that women decorate with plastic flowers. Happy. Lite. Fun. Easy Going. Amusing. Humorous.

We English-speakers don’t have the equivalent of the Dutch word gezellig. The closest I can think of is copasetic. But it is much more than that – more intimate. It means cozy, enjoyable, pleasant. The wikionary describes it as having company with a pleasant, friendly ambiance. Cozy atmosphere. An upbeat feeling about the surroundings.

Gezellig probably feels like what the people in these houses (below) feel.

It is fascinating when you talk about another language than your own. Some months ago, I did a post on the phrase “it is all Greek to me.” I pondered what do the Greeks say when they read something they can’t comprehend?

The Greeks have two words for time, chronos and “kairos.” Chronos refers to the measure of time – sequential. Kairos refers to perceived time. For example, customers waited in line for their latte for just under two minutes (chronos), but the lack of air conditioning and crying baby made it feel more like five. (kairos)

Having a second word to represent perceived time expands our vocabulary – and in this instance – how time has more than one ‘feel’ to it.

June 2007

Pop Stands Out In A Crowd

2017-08-19T18:35:35-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

I just started reading a book by Sam Horn called “Pop! Stand Out In Any Crowd” it is about creating messages that are Purposeful, Original, and Pithy… but I’ll be talking about that at a later time….

I thought it was cool that I came across a “can” of pop that stands out from the crowd.

Take a look…

Clear Soda Can
I’ve got my business card behind the ‘can, ‘ and you can see it is clear. Made of clear plastic instead of metal.

What a great way to package a beverage wanting to be different.

It’s flavored sparkling water. This was green apple; there was also an orange. It was delicious, crisp, and refreshing.

Using a clear package gives the impression that there is less “stuff” in it and that it is purer. It looked more refreshing than the other choices…

Now that you’ve seen it… this type package makes sense… It’s a common plastic bottle, chopped off at the top with a can lid put onto it… But, it isn’t something you’d immediately think of… change the metal package to plastic.

I purchased this in Amsterdam. It is produced and packaged in the Netherlands… Let me know if you’ve seen this package in your market…

Is it still a can if it is not a can?

DHL’s Creative Delivery

2017-03-01T11:57:06-04:00 Categories: grow|Tags: , |

I was really impressed with the delivery company DHL when I saw that they had a moving office in Amsterdam in the form of a canal boat.

Amsterdam DHL Canal Boat

What a great idea…

  • Canals weave all over Amsterdam (actually more canals than Venice),
  • The streets are too narrow for delivery trucks to be stopping for deliveries,
  • It is practical to move this office where you need it to be.

DHL is making the best use of a local resource – Amsterdam waterways.

Sandbox Challenge

  • What exists in your market(s) that may help you to better deliver products or services to your customers?
  • How do you turn what could potentially be considered an obstacle into an asset?

May 2007

Netherlands Queen’s Day – Games of Skill

2007-05-02T08:28:19-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

Monday was Queen’s Day here in the Netherlands… a national holiday… We all get the day off to party, drink, and celebrate. (if you’re into that kinda thing).

I mentioned that you’re allow to sell things without paying taxes… So people have created very imaginative games of skill to pay and play…

Here are a few highlights…

Just like any carnival-style game… they all sound and look deceptively easy, but are not!

Egg Hurling
Egg Chucking Throw an egg at the guy for €1 per egg. (Or 6 eggs for €5). That’s it. A fun looking and gooey game. We saw several of these throughout the city.

Wooden Shoe Egg Toss
Wooden Egg Toss A very Dutch appropriate game… For a price you got a few tries to toss the wooden egg into the wooden shoe. Very challenging.

Quick Draw – Rod Grab
Lucky Leuke “Are you faster than Lucky Luke?” the sign challenges… If you think you can move as fast as the Dutch cartoon character Lucky Luke can draw his guns, you may try to catch the wooden rods as they fall from overhead. You win if you could catch three of them before they fell to the ground. A very clever device allowed the operator in the rear of the machine to pull a string to release the different rods.

Bottle Hoop Challenge
Bottle Ring You have 30-seconds to use a long pole with a string and hoop attached to get the hoop over the neck of the bottle. Again, how hard could this be? But with long poles… long string… light wooden rings… and wind… These kids were cleaning up! And, these kids were very organized. They had kids who cheered… A timer… Whistles… all quite official!

and my favorite…

Knak de Worst
Knak de Worst Not only an imaginative game, but also cleverly named. For €1 you were given three tries to smash a hotdog with a small mallet as it slides out the orange chute.

The host would say… “Ready… Go!” and drop the wiener down the tube. Your job was to watch for it as it came sliding out and knock it. Sounds pretty easy, huh? It’s basically impossible! (The host of this game admitted he’s never been able to do it!)

These novel games would make great additions to a church carnival or perhaps even an Office Olympics!

The Business of Complimenting

2007-05-01T08:16:31-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: |

Yesterday, Monday the 30th of April, was Queen’s Day in the Netherlands… A national holiday and all-country celebration of the Queen’s birthday.

The best description of Queen’s Day I can convey is to imagine…

a 24-hour: home team victory celebration + an ALL street, street fair + an all country yard sale + boat parade + drinking

There are parties in the streets, bars, food vendors, bands and music playing… and we all wear orange!

Additionally, it is a day when citizens may sell items without paying taxes. What’s that expression? One person’s junk is another’s treasures?… Young and old drag their stuff to the curb and sell… treasures.

Finally… and the purpose of this post… enterprising Dutch kids, offer entertainment and games in exchange for a few cents or a Euro.

We saw a young woman playing the accordion like an expert. Drum players. Break-dancers. Several willing to be pelted with eggs for a buck a chuck. Several games of skill…

However, the most creative and uplifting of all were these two, cute girls offering personal compliments for 20-cents each.

Posing Here’s how it worked.

Pay a 20-cent piece… then they would thoughtfully take a look at you… together they formed the compliment… finally, you received your pronouncement…

Pondering“You have pretty hair!” was Shannon’s (she does).
“You are wearing a nice bracelet!” was Marijn’s (she was).
“You are wearing a nice hat!” was mine (it was).

What a positive thing to do. They provided smiles to all who stopped. And 20-cents is quite a low barrier to entry!

What a lesson for all of us, huh? Instead of looking for ways to make fun of others… look for the compliment. Sure, when we find someone interesting or attractive – we’re ready to compliment – but to judge a perfect stranger with compliments… how empowering.

I’m pretty sure that these young ladies aren’t getting too philosophical about what they were doing on this Queen’s Day, but I predict that this activity will have an everlasting impact on how they think about life, and view other people.

“You are a valued reader!”