November 2017

To Be Creative, Keep Feeding Your Mind

2017-11-07T09:33:02-04:00 Categories: create, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , |

To be and stay creative, keep feeding your mind new ideas and information. Try new things. Visit new places; different parts of the world. Take a different route home from work. Learn a new language. Read Wikipedia entries about topics you know nothing about. Meet and talk to people with different interests and backgrounds.

When you add new knowledge and ideas to your brain you create new neural connections. Our brains are the original world wide web.

The more you expose yourself to different ways of doing things, the more resources you have to solve your own challenges.¬†And, as a bonus, these are the very same behaviors believed to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

December 2011

Vindhek (Find Fence) Public Park Lost & Found

2011-12-11T15:46:21-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , |

If you drop your gloves at a restaurant or the mall, they probably have a lost-and-found spot at the customer service or security desk. But, what do you do when you lose something in a public park?

An innovative solution is the Dutch Vindhek or “Find Fence.”

[click to make bigger]

Designed and installed as an interactive art installation by Annemarieke Weber in 2006, the Vindhek is where you go to get something you lost in the park, and where to go to put something you’ve found. It is a “living work of art, created by its users.” This Vindhek is located within the “Central Park” of Amsterdam: Vondelpark.

In addition to being practical, as Annemarieke describes, it is also celebrating respect, honesty and trust. Simply seeing the Find Fence, one immediately understands its function.

The site has a gallery of some of the most recent items attached to Vindhek.

What a neat way to solve a problem and provide value to citizens.

February 2010

Environmental Integration: Satellite Dish Disguise

2011-04-14T01:53:45-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

Over the past several years, I’ve had the good fortune to be able travel around Europe. I’ve taken tens of thousands of pictures.

I love this shot below.

Terra cotta roof tiles, and lush, greens hills a patchwork alternating vineyards and olive groves. This is Vinci, Italy. Where Leonardo was born and grew up – you know – Leonardo da Vinci (of Vinci).

However, in the middle of this great shot – is a mark of the late 20th Century – the satellite dish. You can also see mid-century old-school antennas.

Vinci View

[Fig. 1 Vinci, Italy View]

You can click the image above for a larger view. Take out the tv equipment, convert to black and white, and you’d enjoy the same view from over 200 years ago.

Environmental Integration

While it’s not perfect, I spotted this solution to disguise dishes in Amsterdam. They’ve covered the dishes with a “picture of brick” to blend into the building. This is an apartment building above our grocery store. While not perfect – the dishes aren’t as obvious.

Disguised Satellite Dishes

[Fig. 2 Amsterdam Dish Disguise]

This reminds me of the “environmental integration” being used to conceal cell and communication towers are being decorated to look like trees.

Cell Tower Pines

[Fig. 3 Faux Phone Pole Pines]

I’ve had that Amsterdam shot in my pictures folder for a while – waiting to share it with you. Thought you’d find it interesting. However, there are business lessons these disguises and concealments may teach us. I’ll post another article tomorrow! Until then, take care.

August 2009

Upgrade Your Brain’s RAM With An Idea Journal

2011-04-14T01:50:10-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

The first and best tip I can offer to anyone wanting to be more creative and innovative is to start carrying and Idea Journal… Something to write your ideas on 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

This could take any form ranging from 3×5 cards tucked into a pocket or purse, to a computer-based system. No matter which system you choose, the secret is selecting something you can keep with you at all times that allows you to quickly write down thoughts whenever they come to mind.

An Idea Journal will accomplish a few of things for you…

First… and the point of this post… It’s going to allow you to capture the things you think, hear, see, learn, and all sorts of raw material for ideas.

Using an Idea Journal will re-wire your senses to be more receptive to information you may have previously overlooked. These notes are building blocks for new ideas. After you’ve written them, review your notes at a later time. Write a specific challenge in your journal and let it just sit there and incubate. After a few days, come back to that problem and see what answers you have hatched in your mind.

Second… You can write and store important notes to free-up brainpower. Since you’ll always have your journal with you, you’ll always have your important lists as well. Remembering lists and random thoughts uses valuable brain RAM. Just like an application on your computer running in the background, it can cause the other apps to be sluggish. Your brain is processing “I’ve got to bring home a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, and a stick of butter,” when it could be working on something more critical. Write it down in your journal.

Finally… your journal will come in handy to capture and recall a phone number, book title, website, or other reminders. You will no longer need to frantically pat yourself down or hope to find an old receipt in your wallet.

So, which tool is best? Whatever is best for your style. Perhaps your current planner can work as your single tool, or maybe you need to add something new. There is something in the idea, if you want to think different, act different.


Here are thoughts from personal experience…

  • Use permanent ink or pencil… something that won’t wash away if your Idea Journal gets wet.
  • Use something as accessible as possible. As excited as I was to have a Tablet PC… It isn’t convenient if you need to jot something down, say, in a restaurant with your family. You won’t want to use it in the rain, and sometimes the 20 seconds it takes to wake from hibernation-mode is enough to lose that great idea nugget forever.
  • What do I use? My tool lately has been the pocket Moleskine* sketchbook. I use the larger sketchbook when I’m working on a specific project and need more space. There are no lines, which allows free-range writing, and the pages are think enough not to allow ink to bleed.
    *By the way, Moleskine is pronounced moe-lay-skee-nay, not mole-skin as I once thought.

No matter which format you select, if you stick with it, I guarantee you will impress yourself with the thoughts you capture and the new ideas that are sparked!


Do you use some form of Idea Journal now? How is it working? If you start an Idea Journal… Please share your experience! Questions or reactions? Please leave them in the comments section.


A list of tools ranging from simple paper-based to electronics…


  • 3×5 cards, Small Assignment Pad, Composition Notebook – you can find these everywhere from office supply store, drug stores, to the grocery aisle.
  • Planner Systems – of course you can use your current Franklin Planner, Daytimer, or other calendar/notebook tool. Just get in the habit of having it with you always. Alternatively, carry a smaller pad and tape or transcribe notes you gather back into your planner. (See also the DIY Planner option below…)
  • Levenger – If you like the 3×5 size, but want your system to look more professional, check out the Levenger Company. They have an entire system with pre-printed cards, “shirt pocket briefcase” leather cardholders, the works.
  • Moleskine – These small black notebooks have been around for centuries and have been carried by the likes of Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Hemingway. A plethora of sizes and formats to choose from. Get inspired by other passionate users at the Moleskinerie site and images on Flickr.
  • Hipster PDA – The Hipster PDA, introduced a few years ago on the 43 Folders website, a stack of 3×5 cards held together with a binder clip. It’s a PDA requiring no batteries, never crashes, and won’t shatter if dropped.
  • D.I.Y. Planner – The DIY Planner is a do-it-yourself system of templates for printing. Hundreds of templates have been created and are available free. Check out the Hipster PDA templates you can print on 3×5 cards.


  • Digital Voice Recorders – If you prefer to take voice notations use this selection found on Amazon as a guide, or a voice recording add-on for your iPod.
  • Computer Software – I don’t recommend software as capture tools because of the lack of quick accessibility. However, digital scanners, handheld PDAs, and software such as OneNote for the Tablet PC and Curio for the Mac are nice for transcribing written notes into digital format.

March 2009

August 2008

Reducing Litter at Bank ATMs… and Brand Litter at Your Company

2008-08-04T11:17:56-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

Automated Teller Receipts (ATM) litter is a nuisance. More times than not, the area around an ATM looks like what’s pictured below… a carpet of discarded transaction receipts.

Do you even notice this anymore because it has become the standard appearance at ATMs?

The ATMs at my bank offer the option to view the balance via on-screen receipt without printing. Additionally, the machine asks at the beginning of the transaction “Would You Like A Receipt?” This way it doesn’t automatically spit one out at the end. I like that. It’s a great fix to the litter problem.

Check out the machine pictured below… Despite being in a high-traffic tourist area in Athens, there wasn’t a single receipt littering the ground. Not only does this machine offer the option of printing/not printing a receipt, but someone was smart enough to install a receipt trash can for immediate disposal Making the trash receptacle transparent, it is obvious that it is for receipts. Such a simple solution.

[click for detail view]

The Lesson

The dirt, trash, and clutter – realize it or not – affects the way we perceive the bank and/or the customers who use that bank. Just the same way your restaurant employee smoking in customer view, affects perception of cleanliness.

Marketing author, Tom Peters once said… “Coffee stains on airline seat trays make you wonder about airplane engine maintenance.”

As customers we agree with this.

But for some reason, as business managers, we pretend things like this don’t make a difference. They end up in our brand blind spots.

If you were to take a “fresh eye”s look at your business from the perspective of a first-time customer, what is your equivalent of ATM litter or dirty airline trays? Perhaps you can no longer perceive these things… Find someone who will be honest with you and will provide you with this perspective. It’s invaluable.

When they answer, don’t take it personally… just fix it.

May 2008

Italian Roulette

2008-05-06T12:04:51-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: |

I’ve just returned from my first visit to Venice, Italy or Venezia as it’s called locally.

Ah… Venice… The beautiful city built on water…

[required establishing shot here]

While I the entire trip was terrific, I was especially impressed with this advertising tactic used at the Venice airport (Aeroporto Marco Polo) by the company Casino di Venezia. (The Casino of Venice)


[click image for larger version]

Casino di Venezia
[click image for larger version]

I found this clever, eye catching, and memorable. What a great greeting for those heading to the casino. While I’m not a gambler, this ‘interactive’ ad let me know, in a remarkable way, that Venice has a place to gamble.

Casino di Venezia was built in 1638 and is the oldest gaming house in the world. In fact, Venice was once the Las Vegas of Europe.

February 2008

Super Bowl Ads, From Amsterdam

2017-03-01T11:56:50-04:00 Categories: grow|Tags: |

It’s listed in the official handbook of marketers, that for at least 36 hours after the Super Bowl, you must work as many references into your daily speaking and writing as possible.

I didn’t have the benefit of being able to watch the Super Bowl, so I also missed watching the commercials. Luckily YouTube AdBlitz has – I think – all of the key spots that were presented.

Since I only watched them once, and in sequence, and on YouTube… I was able to form an opinion and immediate impression.

I judge the quality of a commercial, especially during the Super Bowl based on…

    (1) Attention – Does it capture attention?
    (2) Engage – Does it entertain as it informs?
    (3) Recall – Do I remember the name of the brand and/or product being promoted?

The spots that do this best were…

Touch Downs

Tide Stain-Stick

(Actually called Tide To-Go). The talking stain was funny. Worrying of you’re making sense during an interview is a common concern. As you watched it you were drawn in to figure out what was going on.

At first I thought this was a ad. But the payoff at the end with the demonstration of the Tide To-Go product brought it all together. I didn’t recall that it was called “Tide To-Go” until I watched it again (for this post, so perhaps it would lose a point or two?). But, bottom line, I could go to my grocery store and easily ask for this product.

“Queen of Hearts” – You can feel her pain when you see the woman in the drab office, with a lobster-eating jerk boss, in a dead-end job. And then her heart rips out of her chest, makes its way to the boss’s office and quits on her behalf. The tagline “Follow Your Heart” is great.

The closing shot of the CareerBuilder logo crushing the typical office building. It worked for me. If I were searching for a job, I’d check out their site.


Either you think talking babies are funny or you don’t. I do in this instance. I think they way they put together this ad… obviously putting words to a kid just sitting there (of course digitally making the baby’s mouth move) is very clever and feels spontaneous.

I recall that it was funny. It was eTrade. That they have over 1000 sign-ups a day. Evidently it’s easy. Got my attention. Informed me how easy eTrade is. I can recall the product name.

They also captured the recent hubbub about the recent research stating how clowns are actually scary for most kids. Topical. Extra points for that. One of the spots is just below, the other you can view here.

Coke and Bud are such established brands… I can say Coke and Bud and you know what I mean. They have it a bit easier as product/brand recognition is already quite established for most Americans. So for these guys, getting my attention and engaging me are most important.


Coke did a great job with their “It’s Mine” ad. A few balloons from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade seem to come to life and fight over the Coke bottle balloon. Clever to use the popular Stewie character balloon (Family Guy) and Underdog (movie now in theaters). Priceless that the Charlie Brown balloon gets it. Charlie Brown always had trouble playing football – what with Lucy removing the ball last minute each time he’d run up for a kick. So it was ‘refreshing’ to see good ol’ Chuck be a winner.

I will also give Coke credit for the clever Jinx ad where Republican Bill Frist and Democrat James Carville – who during an interview can’t agree on anything – say the same thing at the same time, and Frist says to Carville. “Jinx, buy me a Coke.” Somehow the experience brings them together and they spend the rest of the day touring Washington DC sights and become friends. Even enemies can agree on one thing – the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola. Again, a very topical ad and clever. Also a clever way to bring the parties together. Nice work.


Bud was clever. Two of their ads feature the three benefits of Bud. (1) Refreshment. (2) Drinkability. And… (3a) the ability to fly and (3b) the ability to breathe fire. Then you see the problems with the third new benefits. Getting caught in airplane engines and accidentally burning the house down. I didn’t remember that they were for Bud Light. I guess they missed that mark with me as well.

These ads were fun, but didn’t leave me feeling better about the brand. To me Bud showed up. Entertained. But that was it. I didn’t feel better about the brand the way I did with the Coke ads.

From a marketing perspective, I thought the Jackie Moon spots that Bud did were clever. A bud commercial featuring “basketball star” Jackie Moon (the character from the upcoming movie Semi-Pro). Fun partnership.


The ads that fell flat for me were…

The car ads. I’m not in the market for a car, or perhaps not the right target audience. Two I recall… and interesting to me that they’re both targeting younger drivers.

First, the guy who wakes up in bed all greasy and the grill from his car in his bed. Nice spoof of the Godfather. The Audi R8 they showed was sexy, but I couldn’t tell you the brand or make. “Old luxury just got put on notice.” Targeting younger drivers.

Second, I thought the car commercial for Cadillac featuring Kate Walsh was provocative. Her line, “when you turn your car does it return the favor?” Clever. I recall that this was Cadillac because as a marketer I thought it was interesting that Cadillac is trying to appeal to young women (like Kate Walsh) versus older Italian men – like my dad. I haven’t seen Kate in any of her shows so her celebrity didn’t help for this viewer.

I enjoyed the ads, but forgot about them. I really liked the Bridgestone “Scream” spot, but it didn’t stick that it was Bridgestone advertising. Recall makes me think it was a promoting a car that handles well. (In re-watching the spot, YES it is obviously a Bridgestone commercial, I see that at the end… But as a consumer, I didn’t remember that.)

What about you? What’s your take?

September 2007