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Welcome to the growing community inside the Monkey Shack. The business and marketing landscape is changing dramatically each and everyday, and this is where we come to discuss anything and everything related to business and marketing trends, observations, and strategy.

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Nehren Family Blog

Have to admit, my wife is the one who does a better job keeping the family blog updated. Want to know which child drew on the walls or emptied the cereal onto the floor? Then check out the Nehren Family blog. Its private, but send us a request on the main page and if you're worthy, we'll let you in!

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I currently work as the Director of Strategic Planning and Research at Richter7, the most creative and decorated agency in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Oct 31, 2008

Build a Beard

Love this site. Design studio atto has developed a microsite that lets you stick a beard on your face and they donate money to a great charity called Kiva.

Check it out and have some fun!

(my tribute to Bob Ross)

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Introducing "Generation We"

You often hear about Baby Boomers and Generation X, but growing up I would sometimes wonder what my generation was to be called. We've been called Gen Y, Millennials, Echo Boomers, or Generation Me. Years later it appears my generation has resolved its identity crisis or only added further confusion. Time will tell.

Generation We.

Industry exec Eric Greenberg has released a book documenting my generation called Generation We: How Millennial Youth are Taking Over America And Changing Our World Forever, which can also be downloaded online for free here. The YouTube video launched to promote the book has received just shy of one million views in less than two weeks, along with a website dedicated to the pillars of this generation's political movement.

Over the past few years, this generation of youth born between 1978 and 2000, some 95 million strong, has begun to emerge as a powerful political and social force. They are smart, well educated, openminded, and independent—politically, socially,
and philosophically. They are also a caring generation, one that appears ready to put the greater good ahead of individual rewards. Hence the preferred name for them: Generation We.

And they are already spearheading a period of sweeping change in America and around the world. As this period of change unfolds, Generation We will follow (if possible), lead (if necessary). And because of their huge numbers and their unique
new perspective, they will make dramatic changes happen, one way or another.

Generation We has risen to prominence recently and garnered a lot of attention, thanks in part to the rise of Barack Obama, the first presidential candidate to build a campaign largely on their support. But few people realize how unique Generation We actually is, and even fewer have recognized the incredible opportunities they have to transform society for the better, both here in the United States and around the world.

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Oct 30, 2008

Lessons from a 10-year-old

Lots of people, and brands, think they can't really create enough change, instead opting to do what has already been done or doing nothing at all. Too few "followers." Too little budget. Not enough time. If you feel that way, think about what a 10-year-old in Oil City, Pennsylvania was able to accomplish.

Tomorrow will be the first time Oil City will allow nighttime trick-or-treating in 16 years. Following the tragic abduction and murder of an 11-year-old a few days before Halloween in 1992, the town banned the tradition. This year, Elizabeth Roess decided it wasn't fair they always had to or trick-or-treating in another community, or go between 2 and 4 pm when Oil City allowed. She refused to settle for the status quo and instead mobilized support for change. She collected 175 petitions, wrote a letter, and presented to the city council.

Thanks to a 10-year-old leader who fought for change, trick-or-treating is now allowed again. If you think you can't create change, think again.

The full story from NPR can be heard here.

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Crisis Management in an Era of Consumer Control

Consumers are in control nowadays, which is a scary thought for some marketers and brand managers. No one likes to give up control, and in a way you do not have to. The top-down model of advertising is broken, but you can still lead your customers. Instead of selling products TO customers, develop products and services FOR customers. Listen and engage in a conversation with them, and provide tools for them to communicate with each other.

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Younger Viewers Transforming TV Watching

Having just finished Seth Godin's latest book, one of the themes he consistently brings up is the death of the TV-Industrial complex. His theory, based on the military-industrial complex, models how companies would buy ads to get more distribution, sell more products, make more of a profit with which they could then buy more ads.

That doesn't work anymore. Consider an article published this morning on TVWeek, which discusses how Millennials, those ages 13-29, exhibit significantly different viewing habits than previous generations. They are three times as likely to use DVRs and watch TV outside the home than young baby boomers, and are more likely to switch around during prime-time commercials or program breaks and watch TV with others in the room.

Another study suggests that approximately half of the viewers who watch TV programs online are using the web as a replacement for watching those programs on traditional TV. Recognizing the shift, TV Networks are scrambling to create their own measurements in a race to develop a standard for counting those precious eyeballs.

The old way is gone, and marketers who choose not to recognize it and long for the good old days are doomed.

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Oct 29, 2008

Just finished: "Tribes" by Seth Godin

I just finished reading, well actually listening to the audio recording of Seth Godin's latest piece, "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us." The audio recording of his book, read by Seth himself, can be downloaded from iTunes for $0.95, or free if you register for Audible.

The book points out how we as humans, and as consumers, are returning to "tribal-like" behaviors and looking for individuals who lead and can rally a community around a common identity and purpose. He also goes into detail about what it takes to lead a tribe in today's world, and that technology makes it easier than ever to build a tribe and create change. I felt the book was dead on, and reoriented some of my own thoughts and approaches to brand building. I'd have enjoyed some more discussion on what truly separates the "successful" tribes from those that fail, and whether or not we are truly craving tribal leadership as much as we more tech-fueled humanity itself. But overall the book was great, with tons of examples of tribes big and small, full of insights and challenges to step up and lead.

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Oct 28, 2008

Office Linebacker is Bringing the Pain Again!

One of my favorite campaigns from the past few years is making a comeback! Terry Tate, the office linebacker made famous in Reebok's 2003 campaign, has unretired to bring the pain in three new web videos for the upcoming election. Two of the videos show clips of Terry Tate sacking Sarah Palin during her infamous interview with Katie Couric.

When its game time, it's pain time. Believe that, baby!

“Get Out The Vote”
“Reading Is Fundamental”
“From Russia With Love”

Interesting note: Another former campaign made famous from the Super Bowl has reappeared just prior to the election, featuring the guys from Budweiser’s original “Wassup” ad from the 2000 Superbowl. The pro-Obama shot-for-shot “2008” parody shows just how hard the Bush years have been on them, and has chalked up more than 2 million views on YouTube since its Friday posting.

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How Effective is Advertising?

The answer to the question is that it is indeed effective. Without it, Nike wouldn't sell the number of shoes it does, Apple wouldn't have seen the same dramatic increases in market share this decade, and Obama wouldn't be leading in the polls. At work I've led studies the past few months that showed advertising in a major market brought in millions of dollars in increased tourism to the state, and an energy conservation campaign led to increased requests for in-home energy efficiency audits and appliance purchases.

But sometimes advertising has unforeseen effects. The question really is how effective is advertising in influencing consumers to act in the way you intended?

A recent study to be published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health indicates that that TV ads that ran between 1999 and 2004 as part of the U.S. government's $1 billion "National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign" do not appear to have dissuaded teens from smoking marijuana.

Instead, researchers discovered evidence that the campaign may have had the reverse effect. Among those teens between the ages of 12 and 18 who saw no more than four ads a month, 82 percent said they "definitely" had no plans to smoke marijuana. Greater ad exposure, however, seemed to lead to diminishing returns. Among those who had seen at least 12 ads a month, only 78 percent expressed intentions not to smoke marijuana.

Though this study leaves some questions unanswered, it does shed some light on the somewhat controversial findings discussed in Martin Lindstrom's recent book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. In it, Lindstrom discusses the results of the most extensive neuromarketing study ever using brain-scan technology to test how marketing stimuli affect the subconscious. A study of smokers in the UK concluded that exposure to warning labels on tobacco actually encouraged smokers to smoke.

Both studies seem contrarian to expected outcomes, and are evidence of the ever growing need for marketing research to better understand the drivers of consumer behavior. What makes the task so elusive at times is the fact that much of that which motivates us lies beneath our own levels of conscious thought, buried deep in the subconscious realms of our brains. In some ways its like yelling "Fire!" in a theatre. The intent is to save people, but instead it triggers a human response of panic and creates further harm.

So is advertising effective? It can be, but you'll never know for sure will rarely if ever have the desired outcome if you fail to carefully research your audience before you open your mouth to talk to them.

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Oct 25, 2008

Your brand is not your logo

One of the marketing/branding blogs I check regularly is written by Seth Godin, who had this post today. I just had a conversation with a client about this very same thing yesterday, so I thought I'd re-post it here.

Sure, a logo should be a proper representation of who you are and who you want to be. But think about some of the logos out there for very successful brands, such as Google's crazy colors, Nike's swoosh, the McDonald's arches, BMW's circular Bavarian flag. The designer's at work may kill me, but how you choose to position your company and how you deliver something unique and memorable for your consumers in infinitely more important than the graphic on your business card.

Your brand is not your logo

Freshfuel and the Dieline point to some new logos from big players.

Cluelessness on the half shell.

Smart marketers understand that a new logo can't possibly increase your market share, and they know that an expensive logo doesn't defeat a cheap logo. They realize that the logo is like a first name, it's an identifier.Pepsi

So, when Pepsi and BestBuy start 'testing' logos, and proclaiming that a new logo might change their market share, I get nervous. You can't test a logo any more than you can test a first name. Sure, you can eliminate Myxlplyx as an outlier, but given the success of the Starbucks mermaid and the Dunkin Donuts typeface (two outliers) you can see that this testing is sort of meaningless.

I guess the punchline is: take the time and money and effort you'd put into an expensive logo and put them into creating a product and experience and story that people remember instead.

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Oct 24, 2008

Update Thursday: Bush Endorsement

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Oct 21, 2008

Warning: This is a door (it may open)

I was speaking at the University of Utah this morning and saw this sign on one of the classrooms in the building. I still haven't made up my mind whether or not it is a legitimate warning, or a sad indictment of the students who attend there and thus, the future of our world.

It reminded me of this old Far Side classic.

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Oct 17, 2008

2008 Election Ad Spending

There have been a lot of economic and political posts on here lately because I've been working on a white paper for work, using the election as a marketing case study. The campaign has been a fascinating one to observe from a marketing standpoint, and it won't shock anyone to say that Obama has been the better marketer. Advertising Age even named Barack Obama as Marketer of the Year this morning.

Just one way to look at how Obama has been Coca-Cola to McCain's Pepsi is in the amount his campaign has spent on advertising nationally. From January 1, 2007 through October 6, 2008, Obama has outspent McCain more than 2:1, $199,193,533 to $96,811,821. Democratic-leaning interest groups and parties have also outspent republican-leaning groups.

Citing that election day polls have been wrong in the past two elections, branding and strategic consulting firm MotiveQuest has developed BrandAdvocacy08, an online site measuring naturally occurring advocacy for Obama and McCain occurring in online conversations across the web. Their theory is that online conversations are a better indicator of voting intent. To date, Obama is winning 57% to 43%.

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How you know who will win the 2008 election

While I was at Kinko's the other day waiting for some copies to get printed, I noticed a rack of birthday cards. If you had just emerged from a lengthy hibernation in a cave somewhere, all you needed to do was look at three of the birthday cards to know who is going to win this election.

(Sorry about the picture quality, I took them with my cell phone)

Obama = young, cool, personality

McCain = grumpy, confused old man

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McCain and Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Dinner

John McCain and Barack Obama both took a break from the campaign trail for a lighthearted appearance at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York, an annual charity fund raiser for Catholic Charities. Each took a turn roasting one another, and after watching both videos you have to wonder where these two guys have been this entire campaign. How different would the election be if these guys could show this side of themselves a little more often?

One interesting thing to note...notice the cable channels that covered each candidate's respective speech.

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Oct 14, 2008

The clock is ticking...

From Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times:

"Watching the beleaguered coach huff through humiliation reminded me of the last days of my childhood pet, Benji. He was a toy poodle, and for the unoriginal name, blame my parents. After my brother and I left home, Benji turned old and jinxed. My mother tripped over him once, dropping her coffee on him, scalding a patch of his black fur. A few years later, the neighbor ran his truck over Benji, breaking his pelvis.

"During his final years, I would visit home, notice Benji graying and limping and hairless in one spot and think to myself, 'Lord, please take him.'

"Which is the only way to feel about Willingham right now.

"Because of his own mismanagement, he's a suffering Dawg, and every game he limps onto the field, overmatched and overwhelmed, dying slowly and cruelly.

"Lord, please take him.

"End the pitiful play. End the trampled looks on the players' faces. End the fan outrage."

"Fire Willingham for his own good.

"For his health. For his sanity. For his family, which cannot be fully shielded from the public rancor.

"Every time you figure the Huskies have reached rock bottom, they fall lower. They don't even qualify as floundering anymore. There's not a word in the dictionary adequate enough to explain the bad state of this program. These next seven games will seem like seven years.

"Lord, please take him."

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Nike: Fate

For some reason I just can't get enough of this commercial.

Client: Nike
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland

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Oct 10, 2008

"The world is at severe risk of a global systemic financial meltdown and a severe global depression."

Nouriel Roubini, a renowned economics professor at NYU, has for years been warning of and predicting a looming financial crisis. The scary thing is how accurate he has been, pointing to the exact companies and institutions that have recently failed. Last night he sent out an email that was very grim. With how accurate he has been on everything else to this point, I thought it would be worth posting for everyone else to see.

Nouriel Roubini | RGE Monitor | 10.09.2008

The US and advanced economies’ financial system is now headed towards a near-term systemic financial meltdown as day after day stock markets are in free fall, money markets have shut down while their spreads are skyrocketing, and credit spreads are surging through the roof. There is now the beginning of a generalized run on the banking system of these economies; a collapse of the shadow banking system, i.e. those non-banks (broker dealers, non-bank mortgage lenders, SIV and conduits, hedge funds, money market funds, private equity firms) that, like banks, borrow short and liquid, are highly leveraged and lend and invest long and illiquid and are thus at risk of a run on their short-term liabilities; and now a roll-off of the short term liabilities of the corporate sectors that may lead to widespread bankruptcies of solvent but illiquid financial and non-financial firms.

On the real economic side all the advanced economies representing 55% of global GDP (US, Eurozone, UK, other smaller European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan) entered a recession even before the massive financial shocks that started in the late summer made the liquidity and credit crunch even more virulent and will thus cause an even more severe recession than the one that started in the spring. So we have a severe recession, a severe financial crisis and a severe banking crisis in advanced economies.

There was no decoupling among advanced economies and there is no decoupling but rather recoupling of the emerging market economies with the severe crisis of the advanced economies. By the third quarter of this year global economic growth will be in negative territory signaling a global recession. The recoupling of emerging markets was initially limited to stock markets that fell even more than those of advanced economies as foreign investors pulled out of these markets; but then it spread to credit markets and money markets and currency markets bringing to the surface the vulnerabilities of many financial systems and corporate sectors that had experienced credit booms and that had borrowed short and in foreign currencies. Countries with large current account deficit and/or large fiscal deficits and with large short term foreign currency liabilities and borrowings have been the most fragile. But even the better performing ones – like the BRICs club of Brazil, Russia, India and China – are now at risk of a hard landing. Trade and financial and currency and confidence channels are now leading to a massive slowdown of growth in emerging markets with many of them now at risk not only of a recession but also of a severe financial crisis.

The crisis was caused by the largest leveraged asset bubble and credit bubble in the history of humanity were excessive leveraging and bubbles were not limited to housing in the US but also to housing in many other countries and excessive borrowing by financial institutions and some segments of the corporate sector and of the public sector in many and different economies: an housing bubble, a mortgage bubble, an equity bubble, a bond bubble, a credit bubble, a commodity bubble, a private equity bubble, a hedge funds bubble are all now bursting at once in the biggest real sector and financial sector deleveraging since the Great Depression.

At this point the recession train has left the station; the financial and banking crisis train has left the station. The delusion that the US and advanced economies contraction would be short and shallow – a V-shaped six month recession – has been replaced by the certainty that this will be a long and protracted U-shaped recession that may last at least two years in the US and close to two years in most of the rest of the world. And given the rising risk of a global systemic financial meltdown the probability that the outcome could become a decade long L-shaped recession – like the one experienced by Japan after the bursting of its real estate and equity bubble – cannot be ruled out.

And in a world where there is a glut and excess capacity of goods while aggregate demand is falling soon enough we will start to worry about deflation, debt deflation, liquidity traps and what monetary policy makers should do to fight deflation when policy rates get dangerously close to zero.

At this point the risk of an imminent stock market crash – like the one-day collapse of 20% plus in US stock prices in 1987 – cannot be ruled out as the financial system is breaking down, panic and lack of confidence in any counterparty is sharply rising and the investors have totally lost faith in the ability of policy authorities to control this meltdown.

This disconnect between more and more aggressive policy actions and easings and greater and greater strains in financial market is scary. When Bear Stearns’ creditors were bailed out to the tune of $30 bn in March the rally in equity, money and credit markets lasted eight weeks; when in July the US Treasury announced legislation to bail out the mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie the rally lasted four weeks; when the actual $200 billion rescue of these firms was undertaken and their $6 trillion liabilities taken over by the US government the rally lasted one day and by the next day the panic has moved to Lehman’s collapse; when AIG was bailed out to the tune of $85 billion the market did not even rally for a day and instead fell 5%. Next when the $700 billion US rescue package was passed by the US Senate and House markets fell another 7% in two days as there was no confidence in this flawed plan and the authorities. Next as authorities in the US and abroad took even more radical policy actions between October 6th and October 9th (payment of interest on reserves, doubling of the liquidity support of banks, extension of credit to the seized corporate sector, guarantees of bank deposits, plans to recapitalize banks, coordinated monetary policy easing, etc.) the stock markets and the credit markets and the money markets fell further and further and at an accelerated rates day after day all week including another 7% fall in U.S. equities today.

When in markets that are clearly way oversold even the most radical policy actions don’t provide rallies or relief to market participants you know that you are one step away from a market crack and a systemic financial sector and corporate sector collapse. A vicious circle of deleveraging, asset collapses, margin calls, cascading falls in asset prices well below falling fundamentals and panic is now underway.

At this point severe damage is done and one cannot rule out a systemic collapse and a global depression. It will take a significant change in leadership of economic policy and very radical, coordinated policy actions among all advanced and emerging market economies to avoid this economic and financial disaster. Urgent and immediate necessary actions that need to be done globally (with some variants across countries depending on the severity of the problem and the overall resources available to the sovereigns) include:

- another rapid round of policy rate cuts of the order of at least 150 basis points on average globally;

- a temporary blanket guarantee of all deposits while a triage between insolvent financial institutions that need to be shut down and distressed but solvent institutions that need to be partially nationalized with injections of public capital is made;

- a rapid reduction of the debt burden of insolvent households preceded by a temporary freeze on all foreclosures;

- massive and unlimited provision of liquidity to solvent financial institutions;

- public provision of credit to the solvent parts of the corporate sector to avoid a short-term debt refinancing crisis for solvent but illiquid corporations and small businesses;

- a massive direct government fiscal stimulus packages that includes public works, infrastructure spending, unemployment benefits, tax rebates to lower income households and provision of grants to strapped and crunched state and local government;

- a rapid resolution of the banking problems via triage, public recapitalization of financial institutions and reduction of the debt burden of distressed households and borrowers;

- an agreement between lender and creditor countries running current account surpluses and borrowing and debtor countries running current account deficits to maintain an orderly financing of deficits and a recycling of the surpluses of creditors to avoid a disorderly adjustment of such imbalances.

At this point anything short of these radical and coordinated actions may lead to a market crash, a global systemic financial meltdown and to a global depression. At this stage central banks that are usually supposed to be the "lenders of last resort" need to become the "lenders of first and only resort" as, under conditions of panic and total loss of confidence, no one in the private sector is lending to anyone else since counterparty risk is extreme. And fiscal authorities that usually are spenders and insurers of last resort need to temporarily become the spenders and insurers of first resort. The fiscal costs of these actions will be large but the economic and fiscal costs of inaction would be of a much larger and severe magnitude. Thus, the time to act is now as all the policy officials of the world are meeting this weekend in Washington at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings.

Thursday midnite update: A few hours after I had written this note the market crash that I warned about is underway in Asia: the Nikkei index in Japan is down 11% and all other Asian markets are sharply down. This reinforces the urgency of credible and rapid policy actions by the G7 financial officials who are meeting in a few hours in Washington and the need to also involve in such global policy coordination the systemically important emergent market economies.

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